The Sentinel of Cassendar: Navalia

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Chapter 25

Leal was exhausted. That is all he knew. He didn’t know what day it was. He barely registered he was at supper. All he knew was he was so tired he could barely keep his eyes open. He looked out from the high table at the people in the banquet hall. She was there before him, sitting next to Roderick in a Navalian gown. When was the last time he had spoken with her? Why couldn’t he remember?

It seemed so long since he had kissed her, and he wanted her so badly. At night as he lay in his bed, he would yearn to have her lying next to him. He would wake up in the middle of the night from dark dreams and reach for her, but she would not be there. Why hadn’t he been with her? Had they fought? He couldn’t remember. She was staring at him, and he could see the pain in her eyes. What was wrong with her? Why did she look on the verge of tears?

“My prince, you shouldn’t stare so,” said Lilith next to him. He looked at her, and she nodded. He looked to his other side to see Lady Belleth.

“You should look only at your bride, your highness,” said Lady Belleth before she took a drink of her wine. “She is your future.”

“My future?” Leal heard himself say as he stared at Lilith. What did that mean?

Leal closed his eyes and felt his power roll inside of him. It seemed to be upset with something, but he couldn’t tell what. It made him nauseous and jittery. He swore he could hear it whisper to him. “Dracia,” he heard himself whisper out loud.

“What was it you just said, my prince?” asked the princess as Leal opened his eyes.

He tried to say Dracia’s name out loud, but the word would not form.

“You should eat, your highness,” said Lady Belleth.

Leal picked up his fork and started eating the meal in front of him, though he did not taste his food. He stayed silent through the rest of the meal. He looked at Dracia a few more times. He would go to her when he was done eating. He would go to her and take her straight to his room or hers; he didn’t care which. He could not be without her another second. He felt a physical ache inside himself as he thought of not being near her.

The meal was soon over, and Leal moved to get up from the table, when Lilith’s hand grabbed his arm.

“You should walk with me tonight, my prince,” said Lilith as she smiled at him. “I think a nice long walk would be perfect.”

“A walk?” asked Leal.

“Yes,” said Lady Belleth as she put her hand on his other arm. “Go with Princess Lilith, your highness.”

“It looks like my brother is going on a walk of his own,” said Lilith with a giggle. “Look he is meeting the High Captain at the main door.”

Leal looked and saw Fannar take Dracia’s arm and lead her out of the room. She should not be going with him. She was not safe with Prince Fannar.

“No,” he whispered.

“I am sure she will be his wife eventually,” said Lady Belleth with a smile at Leal. “What a fine thing for your friend.”

“His wife?” asked Leal with confusion. “Dracia will marry Fannar? She cannot do it.”

“She can, and I am sure she will,” said Lady Belleth. “But do not worry about it tonight. Go on with your princess and take a long walk.”

Leal nodded and stood up as Lilith did the same. He offered her his arm, and she took it with a smile. She guided him through the room and to the back door. Leal could not say where they went as they moved through the palace. She talked to him of certain rooms and portraits on the wall, but he could not repeat any of it. He felt as though he moved in a fog. His power moved through him, wanting to get out, but it could not. It felt trapped inside of him. He felt disoriented and wrong as he walked with Lilith on his arm.

“Isn’t this lovely, my prince,” said Lilith happily. “We can spend many happy nights like this, walking together through your palace, and then eventually we will go back to our rooms and enjoy ourselves.”

Leal nodded, but the rest of him revolted. He couldn’t imagine spending nights with Lilith walking with her or anything else. He definitely didn’t want to imagine her in his bed. He wanted only one woman in his bed. His eyes closed as Lilith led him down a hallway. He searched his memories for nights he had spent with Dracia. He could almost taste her lips, especially when she had been drinking her favorite wine. He could feel her smooth skin against his hands and lips. He could hear her saying his name as he pleasured her.

What was he doing walking with this evil, little woman by his side? She repulsed him. He had to get away from her, but found he could not leave her. What was drawing him to her, making him feel tapped by just her presence? He opened his eyes as Lilith stopped in front of an open door.

“This is our music room,” said Lilith as she took her arm away from Leal. “I have always loved this room. I used to play this piano very well, but it has been too many years.” Lilith walked into the room as Leal stayed in front of the doorway.

“Your highness,” whispered a voice to his right. Leal looked to see Malven standing in the shadows.

“Malven?” whispered Leal. “Where have you been?”

“You sent me away,” said Malven in an urgent whisper. “You need to fight through whatever they are doing to you, because I know they are doing something.”

“They?” asked Leal.

“Yes, Princess Lilith, and Lady Belleth. They are controlling you somehow.”

Leal looked at Malven confused.

“Think about it, your highness. You have pushed all who care about you away, including the High Captain. She is very upset with how you have treated her.”

“Dracia is upset?” asked Leal as Malven nodded.

“My prince, what are you doing?” asked Lilith from in the room.

“Run away, your highness. Go to your room or the High Captain’s. Do not stay here.”

“What is the matter, Prince Leal?” asked Lilith as she stepped out of the room.

Leal looked over to where Malven had been to find he had already gone.

“Nothing,” said Leal with some confusion.

“There is something else I wish to show you. It is a favorite room of mine,” said Lilith, taking his arm.

Leal walked with her up the many stairs until they reached the top floor of the main building. Once they were on the fifth floor landing, Lilith took him to a set of double doors and opened them. They entered a large, dark room. Leal looked down at the marble floor and then up at the glass dome that showed the night sky. His heart skipped a beat as he felt his power surge within him. It wanted to be unleashed but something was holding it back. He felt himself shake as Lilith moved him to the center of the room.

“This is the old ballroom. We have a much larger one now on the first floor, but I do think this one is rather lovely. I took dancing lessons in here as a girl,” said Lilith.

Leal looked around the room, wondering how he had gotten there. Why was he willingly there in the dark with Lilith? He did not want to be there, not with her.

“Do you remember when we danced together, my prince,” asked Lilith as she grabbed his hands and pulled him to face her. “It felt so nice to be in your arms. I long to be held by your again.”

“You do?” asked Leal feeling a fogginess come over him.

“Yes, I want to be held by you and kissed by you. We haven’t even had our first kiss.”

“Kiss? asked Leal feeling a weariness settle over him.

“Yes, You should kiss me now, my prince before you miss your chance,” said Lilith looking up at him.

He didn’t want to. He had never wanted to kiss her, but he found himself unable to stop. He bent down and pressed his lips against Lilith’s, quickly deepening the kiss as their lips meet. He was lost in some strange world as he felt her cold lips move against his. Her arms wrapped around his neck, and he put his around her, pulling her against him. This wasn’t right. It didn’t feel right, but he couldn’t stop. His hands moved up her slender body as she moaned against his lips, causing him to fall deeper under her spell.

He smelled a sweet, floral scent, and he was reminded of spring. It was his favorite smell. It was Dracia’s scent. Leal suddenly felt very sick. He opened his eyes and pushed Lilith away from him, wiping his lips with the back of his hand, trying to get the taste of her off of him.

“My prince, what is wrong?” she asked

“I don’t want you. I could never want you,” he said angrily.

Lilith laughed and walked up to him, putting her hands on his chest. “Of course, you want me. Who else could you possibly want?”

Leal took her hands and pushed her away again. “I want her, you know I do. She is the only woman I could ever want.”

“No, that is ridiculous,” said Lilith as she grabbed his hand. “You are marrying me. Now, come and kiss me, or we could go to my room. It is very close.”

Leal ripped his hand from hers. “I will never marry you. Everything in me forbids it. I don’t want to even touch you again, let alone kiss you.” Leal started to turn from her. “I have to go to Dracia.”

Lilith laughed again. “What makes you think she wants you? She just saw us, you know. She saw us kissing. I doubt she will even let you speak to her again.”

The feeling of horror filled Leal, making his knees buckle for a moment. “She saw us?” he asked.

“Yes, she was out on the balcony with my brother, I believe. They walked in and saw us kissing,” said Lilith happily. “You might as well accept you have lost her. Perhaps she was sharing her own kiss with Fannar before they came in. I can make you happy, you know, and she will be safe with Fannar. Now, kiss me again.”

“No,” said Leal as he turned from her.

“Where are you going?” asked Lilith angrily. “Do not walk away from me. Come back here and kiss me.”

Leal kept walking. He had to get to Dracia and let her know that kiss meant nothing. They only thing that meant anything to him was her. In his mind, he heard her name over and over again. He whispered it to himself as he walked, feeling as if the sound of her sweet name gave him the strength to keep going. He would go straight to her room. He would fall on his knees and apologize to her. He would beg her. He would not lose her.

He got to the stairs and walked down to the fourth floor. He turned to go to her room when a hand grabbed him and jerked him against the wall.

“What in the two dark hells is wrong with you?” asked Roderick as he stood before Leal, his arm against Leal’s chest pinning him to the wall.

“Roderick?” asked Leal. “What is the matter?”

“You think you can treat her the way you have, and get away with it?” asked Roderick hotly. “I told you if you ever hurt her in a way I found unacceptable, I would call you out. What you have done is beyond unacceptable.”

“I know,” said Leal sadly. “I don’t know why I did it.”

“Which part? The part where you pushed her away, the part where you told her off, or the part where you kissed that woman?”

“All of it,” said Leal pitifully. “I don’t remember some of it. I don’t know why.”

Roderick gave a cruel chuckle. “That is all you are going to say? You don’t know why?”

“I say it because it is true. Roderick, I think there is something wrong with me,” said Leal weakly. “I can’t remember most of my days, and I don’t know where I am most of the time.”

Roderick dropped his arm and looked at Leal. “What do you mean?”

Leal shook his head. “Maybe I am ill, or maybe I am going mad, but something is wrong. I don’t want to hurt her. I never have. I have to see her, please. Let me go to her tonight. You can say and do whatever you want to me tomorrow, but I have to see her,” said Leal pleadingly.

“Why should I let you go to her? How do I know you won’t hurt her?”

“I won’t. I promise. I will never hurt her again. Just let me go. I need her.”

Roderick turned away from him. “Do you know how fortunate you are at all? Do you know how the king’s gods have smiled upon you for you to gain the love of such a woman? Almost every man in the land would give anything to have her love him as she loves you.”

“I know,” said Leal as he felt a tear run down his cheek. “I have never deserved her, but I do love her. Please, let me go to her so I can beg for her forgiveness.”

Roderick sighed. “Go, but if she throws you out, you will leave her be.”

“I will,” said Leal. “I will try to gain her forgiveness, but I know it might be impossible.”

“Go now before I change my mind,” said Roderick with pain in his voice. Leal watched as Roderick walked away from him and down the stairs.

Leal collected himself and stood up straight. He had not felt so awake in a long time. His head almost felt clear. He walked to Dracia’s door, prepared to knock all night if he had to so she would answer. He found her door slightly ajar. Concerned, he knocked lightly on it before opening it.

“Dracia,” he said softly as he entered the room.

He closed the door behind him and looked at her bed. She was not there, and the covers had not been disturbed. He looked around the room to see it was mostly dark, except for the fireplace. He walked closer to the fire and glanced at it. He almost missed her as she was covered in her dark cloak, but the flames from the fire, reflected off the silver clasp that hung loosely by her side. It caught his eye, and he felt his stomach drop.

“Dracia,” he said in dismay as he kneeled down beside her.

He moved her cloak and flipped her over to see her eyes were closed, and she was still. He thought her dead for one terrible moment, before he saw her chest rise and fall.

“Dracia,” he said again, urgently as she touched her cheek. It was so cold it made him draw back. Lilith must have been very angry when he left.

Leal picked up Dracia off the floor and held her in his arms. He felt something in her dress hit his leg, and he reached into her pocket to find his locket. He pulled it out and looked at it in the light of the fire before pressing it against her chest.

“My love, please wake up,” he said softly as he bent down and kissed her forehead. He felt his power break free and rush to destroy the Navalian magic that covered her. He let it surround her as he pulled her to him, resting his forehead against hers.

“Leal,” she said softly as her eyes fluttered open.

“Yes, my love,” said Leal. He felt tears run down his face. He pulled back and looked down at her as she reached for him.

“Are you really here?” she asked in wonder as she touched his cheek. “I am not dreaming again, am I?”

“No, I am here,” he said with small smile. “I am here, and I will not leave you again.”

She sat up slowly as Leal helped her. She looked at him with tears in her eyes as she sat in front of him.

“I am so sorry, Dracia,” he said softly. “I am so sorry.”

She shook her head. “None of that,” she said quietly. “I know you have not been yourself. We are going to figure it out, starting tomorrow. Tonight, I just want to be with you.” She leaned forward and kissed him, placing her arms around him.

“I broke my promises to you,” said Leal sadly as he pulled away. “I didn’t want to, but I know I did.”

“It is alright,” said Dracia with a smile. “You can make them again to me. I told you no matter what, I would always love you and want you. I meant it.”

“I don’t know why the gods gave me you, Dracia, but I will not question it.”. He didn’t want to deny who she was to him anymore. He said the promises again he had made to her in that small chapel over two years before. “I promise before the gods and men to love none but you with my heart and body. I promise to keep you by my side as I walk by yours. I promise that nothing will come before you in this world, not my duty, not any titles I hold, any lands I own, or even my own life.”

Leal ran his finger along the edge of the locket, and it popped open. He reached in with two of his fingers and pulled out a solid gold ring with a C etched into it. He put the locket to the side and took Dracia’s hand, placing the ring on her finger.

“You are my wife, Dracia. I should have told the whole kingdom and beyond the day we were married. To the two hells whatever my father or anyone would else would say.”

She looked down at the ring on her finger for a moment before looking at Leal with tears running down her cheeks. She leaned forward and kissed him as he shifted and pulled her into his lap. “Will you say my name?” she asked against his lips. “Tell me who I am.”

He smiled and whispered, “Dracia Cassendar, the High Captain of the Sentinel and princess of Lanoxan.”

“And you are the Crown Prince of Lanoxan, Leal Cassendar. You are the next king of our kingdom, and you are my husband. We will not be defeated by these Navalians. We will leave here and save our kingdom.”

“Yes,” said Leal before he kissed her. He laid her down in front of the fireplace and made love to his wife on the soft rug. He whispered her name over and over again, as though it were some litany or magic incantation that would heal him and absolve him from all he had done wrong.

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