Chapter 32 - Dragonflame
May 24, 1645
The Sea Serpent
Somewhere in the Ocean
“What is it? You know you can tell me anything princess...” I whispered to her and touched her cheek lightly with my lips. I tilted my head to the side and I was able to catch a whiff of her intoxicating scent. She always smelled of lavender and it always reminds me of the lavender fields at Amaranth.
Right now, in a faraway place, she reminded me of home...
The home we both lost because of that King...
She started sobbing harder and there was pain etched all over her face. I rubbed her back in small, soothing circles... “Hush... It’s alright...” I told her. She composed herself and lifted her tear-filled eyes to gaze at me directly.
“Duncan... You have to take me back...” she whispered in a hoarse whisper.
A brief flash of irritation crossed over me.
“Haven’t we discussed this a while ago, princess? I can’t bring you back. I’ll not let you suffer again with him...”
“Don’t argue with me on this. It’s not going to happen.” I cut her off.
She sighed and looked across the room to the maps that hung on the walls. She was silent for a long time as if she doesn’t know what to say. A myriad of emotions crossed over her beautiful face but what stood out most of all was pain and indecision.
I stood up and knelt on the floor before her. I cupped her chin and forced her to look at me.
“Princess. Whatever it is, just say it. Direct to the point like how we used to do when we were little and we were caught with our little mischief. You remember how the queen punished you? If you told her the truth right from the start, she punished you less... If you lied or prolonged the story, the punishment is greater...” I said.
A sad smile crossed over her features. “Yes... I remember. I miss mother and father...” her words trailed off with a sad sigh.
I hugged her tight and gave her all the comfort that my arms could give.
“Whatever you have to say to me, just say it outright.” I told her when I saw the she was struggling with another internal war. Tears poured from her eyes when she looked back at me.
“Duncan, I love him...”
And with those words, my world tilted upside down.
Her words were like an ice-cold bucket of water being poured over me. My entire body stiffened and I was sure that I did not breathe for a few seconds. When I was able to breathe again, it was as if there was this empty feeling inside my chest...
Wait... Maybe I just heard her wrong?
I lifted my gaze and she was sobbing quietly on the bed.
“What did you say?” I demanded.
“The King... I love him.” She repeated. Another bucket of water was poured over me. It was cold and it chilled me to the bone. It was so cold that it stiffened my entire body. It was so damned cold that I felt numb.
“No...” It was the only coherent word that came out of my mouth.
“Duncan, it’s true... He’s not what you think he is... Underneath all that exterior is a good heart...” she whispered.
“What do you mean?” I asked hysterically. I clasped her hands. “This could not be true. What about us?” I asked.
The numbness and the chill inside of me was slowly replaced by incredulity... And then anger. It left a bitter taste in my mouth and an unquenched fire in my veins.
“This is hard to say... And I know this will cause you pain. If I could take it away, I would...”
“Don’t you love me anymore?” I rasped.
“I love you, Duncan... But I love him more..." she said.
“Don’t say that! Don’t you ever say that!” I growled and then stood up and paced across the room.
“He did something to you didn’t he? Maybe he made you drink a potion or bewitched you with a spell! Forced you to love him! I refuse to believe that you would throw away what we had that easily! No! This can’t all be real.” I said through gritted teeth as I paced back and forth.
“Duncan! Please! Listen to me!” she begged.
“No! You listen to me! I failed you! This is all my fault. If I didn’t leave you in Durnham that day, none of this would’ve happened. You never would’ve known that King! What you’re feeling for him isn’t real Adrienne. None of it is real! Do not ever speak to me of him again!” I shouted and ran my fingers through my hair in frustration.
“Duncan... Please don’t be like this...” she whispered softly.
“No. It’s you who shouldn’t be acting like this!” I growled and she flinched. It snapped me out of my fiery daze. I sighed and knelt before her once more.
“Is this for spite? For revenge? Are you doing this because I failed you?” I asked.
She pried my fingers away from hers. “How could you say that to me?” her face was a mask of pain.
“I am sorry, Adrienne. I’m sorry for leaving you unprotected that day at Durnham. I’m sorry if I failed at protecting you. I’m sorry you had to undergo the training of a slave. I’m sorry you had to be sold. I’m sorry you had to belong to the King. I’d spend my lifetime apologizing to you... Please... Just stop this nonsense.” I begged. My voice broke, showing my distress at the situation.
Adrienne touched my cheek. “Duncan... I know how painful this must be for you... But you deserved to know the truth.”
Pain? Is that what I’m feeling right now? Is that the emptiness inside me that won’t go away? Is that what this numbness is? Is that why I want to go and challenge someone to a fight just so I could distract myself from this feeling?
“Stop. Do not repeat those words to me again. It is not real, Adrienne! You’re just saying that because you were with him for a long time! In a few days all of it is going to fade away again and you will remember what we have.” I replied.
“Not another word. We are done talking about this. I refuse to hear anything more about that King!”
“Duncan please... Don’t be like this...”
“How do you expect me to act when you tell me you love another man? Huh? How? Is there an etiquette I should follow or a set of guideline on how I should act? Adrienne! You agreed to marry me! We were in love! We are in love! I loved you so much I did everything for you! All of this is for you!” I shouted and indicated the ship around us.
“You are all I have left, Adrienne! You’re mine! And he stole that! I’m stealing you back and you will never speak to him again of what you feel. Never!” I cupped her cheeks and forced her to look at me.
“You do not really love him. It’s a lie. One I will rectify. Nothing’s going to change, Adrienne. You’re mine. I’m yours.” I growled.
“Duncan... P-please... Listen t-to m-me...” she sobbed.
“No. We shall talk again another time when you are not convincing yourself of some silly notion that you are in love with that bastard.” I said and made my way towards the door.
“Duncan!” she shouted.
My anger got the better of me. I wanted an outlet.
I lifted my fist and punched the wooden wall near the door. My fist left a dent in it and the wood splintered. There was a trail of blood in the wall and there were also drops of it on the floor when I dropped my fist back to my side. I clenched my fist and more droplets of blood fell.
Surprisingly, there was no pain... The pain inside me was greater than the pain from the wounds in my knuckles... It overrode everything else and dominated my body.
“Duncan... You’re bleeding... Allow me to tend you... Please...” she begged.
“No. And not another word about him, Adrienne.” I said and without another look at her, I opened the door and exited. Then I slammed it as loud as I could.
I went up the stairs and into the deck for some much needed fresh air only to find that all my men were looking at me. Another surge of anger captivated me.
“What are you all looking at?!” I bellowed and they flinched and instantly scampered back to do their chores.
I climbed one of the thickest poles and settled myself on the highest point near the sails. I sat and leaned back on a solid wooden pole. And then I bowed my head.
How could this happen? How could Adrienne love that beast?
How can she say that to my face?
This can’t be. What she feels for that King isn’t real. She was just forced to spend time with him and act as his queen. She married him for Amaranth after all. But before I left, she told me that her heart would always belong to me.
Where is that promise now?
How could our lives turn around like this? How did we end up like this?
Before I went away from Durnham province to go to Harrow and report about the threat to the King, we were so happy. She has just agreed to marry me. I was to go and ask her father for her hand in marriage. An honor which I worked my entire life for.
I made my way to the ranks just to be deemed worthy of marrying a princess. I amassed riches from various raids just so I could keep her in the lifestyle she was used to. I gave up everything for her. And never have I thrown this back to her face...
But now, it seems as if she never understood me. She never knew my sacrifice. Never knew how much she meant to me...
She’s my everything. Take her away and I’m left with nothing...
I can’t let this happen. No way will I return her to that King. She’s going to live her life with me. She loved me once, I’m sure she’ll love me again...
The Ports of Ivaris
DragonFlame (The King’s Ship)
-King Seth Liam Ivaris XV-
“The repairs to the ship, is it done?” I asked the head engineer of my ship, DragonFlame.
“Yes, sire. It was completed at the earliest possible time. I hired more labourers to get everything finished quickly.
“Good. You used the best materials?”
“Only the best for my king.” Came the reply.
I turned to the man on my right, the weapons master who outfitted my ship with cannons and stacks of gunpowder.
“All the cannons have been cleaned and readied?” I asked.
“Yes, your highness. The barrels of gunpowder also have been stowed away safely.”
“Good, I want you on alert always. We must prepare for war the moment we reach the ship that holds my queen.” I replied.
“Anything more to report?”
“No your grace.” The men around me said.
“Good. I expect we shall be leaving soon. Go back to your stations and await further command.
When they left, I went back to my cabin below deck. On one side of my room lay the trophies that this ship has won me. I smiled as I recalled those events. DragonFlame is an undefeated ship when it comes to speed.
No one even came close to beating me when it came to a race. I employed the best crew of sailors and they all worked very efficiently and effectively. Every year, a race is held at Virlinn, hosted by James Murray. He boasted of a wide array of his ships yet he still hasn’t beaten me. His kingdom is scattered throughout islands and being near the ocean is a way of life for his people. Yet every year it’s always the same. I win and he loses.
Just a few months ago, I hired a team of engineers and weapons expert to outfit DragonFlame with the latest technology in combat and warfare. They had cannons and barrels of gunpowder delivered from across the land. It was very expensive but I know that it is worth it.
I wanted DragonFlame to be the ship that would take me and my queen back and forth from Ivaris to Amaranth. Of course, it must be loaded with weapons. Many would take it as an opportunity to assassinate us.
Now... After all the repairs have been done... DragonFlame is not only the fastest ship in all of the land. It is now also the strongest and it shall be undefeatable and no cannons shall sink it.
I never knew I’d be using this ship of mine to chase after men who have taken my queen...
I sat on the bed and placed my head in my hands... My head felt heavy and I felt the faint stirrings of a headache coming on. I stood up and went to the corner of the room to pour myself some tea. I placed some powder on it and it shall cure this headache.
Suddenly, I felt heaviness inside my chest. It was pain... Not physical pain but some kind of heavy emotional pain. It hurt so much that my knees buckled for a second before I stood up and went over to the bed.
I sat down and tried to settle these troublesome feelings inside me...
What could this mean?
Just as I was pondering, another wave of pain assaulted me. And my thoughts drifted toward her. Adrienne.
Wherever she is right now, she’s hurting. I could almost taste her tears. Right now, she’s somewhere hurt and frightened. I also felt a faint sense of hope.
I stood up and stopped myself from punching the wooden cabin just to ease this tension inside of me. I swear. Whoever has Adrienne would pay for what they did to her. Whoever made her cry will know my wrath.
I walked outside and still the ship hasn’t moved.
I encountered the lead sailor and held him by the scruff of his clothes.
“What is taking so long?” I growled in a menacing tone. The man in front of me broke out in a sweat and stammered.
“We’re nearly ready, your grace. One of the ropes holding the sails got tangled. The sailors are working to unravel it...” the man said nervously. I released my hold on his clothes and he almost tumbled backwards in his haste to get away.
I sighed. Some people just did not understand the gravity of the situation.
My queen has been taken from me and here they are acting like a bunch of slow turtles. How will we ever catch up to her in this pace? I’ve already lost a good day’s chase!
“A little more patience wouldn’t hurt.” Malcolm said behind me. Quick as a flash, I retrieved a dagger from one of my belt and threw it toward him. I didn’t mean to hit him, of course. I just wanted to do something to ease the tension in my body. The dagger hit the wood beside his cheek , barely missing the skin.
He rolled his eyes at me.
"I never miss. If I really intended to kill you, your blood would already be staining the wood."
“Not nice.” He said and pulled the dagger from the wood and returned it to me. I grunted and turned my back to him to study the maps laid out before me. General Halley, the general assigned at the ports of Ivaris, followed the vessel that they suspected contained Adrienne. He sent word that they looked to be on course to Virlinn.
Damn that James Murray, he’ll suffer my wrath the moment I lay eyes on him.
“Your grace, a raven just arrived! It’s for you.” One of the soldiers said and handed a scroll to me.
“It’s from Halley.” I told Malcolm as I saw the note on the scroll.
“What does it say?” Malcolm asked. I took a few moments to read what was inside.
Then I pounded my fist on the table. Maps, charts, instruments, ink and quills scattered everywhere as the table split neatly in two.
Malcolm looked dumbfounded. The other soldiers stood in shock for a few moments. Their jaws were open and their gazes alternated between me and the broken table
“Are you going to stare or are you going to move to get this ship seaworthy?!” I growled. It snapped them out of their trance and they scurried away. Some went to clean up the mess I made. The table was lifted and dumped into the water. It was beyond repair.
“I take it the news isn’t good?” Malcolm asked.
“Halley has lost sight of the ship. He says they were too fast to follow and were no match for the vessel Adrienne’s captors had.” I told Malcolm.
He sighed and then turned around and barked orders to the sailors and soldiers on board DragonFlame. They moved faster and I saw the sails being unfurled bit by bit. A new table was brought in front of me and the maps and charts were replaced.
“The moment we catch up to them, their bloods will coat the blade of my sword. Heads will roll and the sharks will feast on their lifeless bodies.” I ground out.
“Spare some men for me to behead. You can’t have everyone. I have to have some fun too.” He quipped.
I grunted in reply.
“Let me tend to your hand, Seth.” Malcolm said in a calm tone.
“I’m fine.” I replied and pulled over a few charts.
“You wrecked a table and split it into two. Something’s got to be broken.” He persisted.
“I said I’m fine!”
He lifted my hand and glanced at it. There was no blood, no pain, not even a little bit of redness. Malcolm dropped it and looked at me with a curious expression. “Since when have you become that strong?” he asked.
I shrugged. Lately, I’ve been feeling stronger. It was as if a different kind of magic ran through my veins. Adrienne being taken away from me unlocked something inside me. It unlocked my primitive sense of possessiveness and thirst for the blood of whoever took her away from me. It also unlocked something else. I just do not know what it is.
I was saved from answering when Malcolm got called away by the sailors.
“My king, the ship is ready.” One of the sailors told me. I looked up and the sails were fully unfurled. There was a loud sound of metal as the anchor was being hauled upwards to get ready for departure.
“Adrienne... Hold on... I’m coming to get you.” I whispered.
I rolled the maps and charts and made my way towards the ship’s mast. The boat glided softly over the waves. I smiled for I was very proud of this ship. I’m coming for my queen soon...
But it seemed as if the wind did not agree with us. The seas were very calm and there were no winds to help us gain speed and fly over the tides.
“This kind of situation will only get them further away from us. Blasted winds.” Malcolm whispered beside me. I sighed again. This is getting more and more difficult.
“A little wind would be nice and helpful right now.” I whispered.
“You need only ask, Aiken!” a child’s voice whispered inside my head.
At first I thought I heard it somewhere on deck so I looked around. There was no trace of a child.
“Who are you?” I answered inside my head.
“You do not remember me?” the child’s voice answered and judging from her tone, I knew she was pouting.
“No... I don’t.”
“My name is Kaori. I want to help you. But you know we are still trapped in Ilyia right? My powers are limited. I could only send you a bit of help. If I was there, my winds could float your ship right towards her... But me being trapped here, I could only give you a little push. You need only ask...” Kaori explained.
Here it is again. Voices inside my head. Voices, explaining things to me. Voices calling me Aiken. What does everything really mean? What has all of this got to do with me? Why do they keep on calling me Aiken?
Are we connected?
What? How? Why?
I snapped out of my thoughts and decided to humor the child. Asking for help wouldn’t really hurt and there’s nothing I’m giving up. Even though I was so frustrated and angry at Adrienne being taken away from me, I pushed those thoughts back and asked Kaori for help.
“Alright, sweet girl. Please help me find my queen?” I answered. I heard a childish giggle.
“Look up!" she answered.
I looked up and a suddenly a strong gust of wind blew. It made the charts and maps fly off the table and the sailors scampered after it. The sails bulged out with the force of the wind and I heard the wood of the ship creak at the sudden force.
With a sudden lurch, the ship burst forward and then glided smoothly across the tides with the aid of the wind. I heard the sailors laugh and cheer for our good fortune. I smiled.
“Are you looking up?” Kaori asked.
“Yes, child. Thank you.”
“Anything for you, Aiken!” she shouted and with another giggle, I felt the connection between us sever.
“Make way to Virlinn!” Malcolm shouted. A resounding “Aye, captain!” echoed around the deck as sailors took up the cry.
I gripped the wooden edge of the ship and looked out at the vast expanse of ocean behind us. Then I turned my head back and looked at the sight of the port of Ivaris and the sight of my beloved kingdom as we left it behind.
A large part of my army remained behind to guard Ivaris and I know I really won’t be gone long. I really do not want to leave my kingdom but the life of my queen is at stake. I clenched my fists at the thought of Adrienne.
I hope she’s safe. I hope that whoever has her did not touch or harm even a hair on her beautiful head. I planned for their deaths to be swift but if they as much as touched her, they shall know a torture unlike any other.
They would die slow painful deaths and they will be made example of those who’d plan in future to kidnap my queen.
Kaori= the goddess of the winds. She is centuries old but always keeps the form of a little girl. This is why the winds are considered to be playful. It’s always random and unpredictable.
Kaori has a twin brother named Raijin who controls the weather. Together, the twins create the fiercest rains and the most powerful hurricanes and lightning storms.