The Sentinel of Cassendar: Navalia

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Chapter 29

Leal woke up with a start, his breath catching in his chest as if he were falling. Dark dreams had haunted him all night. Dreams where he couldn’t find Dracia, and dreams of seeing her in trouble but unable to help her. Dreams where he was forced to hurt her. He reached over for her to find her side of the bed empty. Panic filled his body as he looked around the room. He finally saw her lying on the sofa, wrapped up in a robe.

Leal got up out of bed, trying to ignore the weariness that still plagued him even after sleeping all night. He could see by the light coming through the window that it was still very early, but he had gone to bed so soon after eating dinner. With his naps yesterday, shouldn’t he feel more rested? He stretched and realized his shoulder was very sore. He rotated it a few times, trying to loosen it, supposing he slept on it wrong. He walked over to Dracia and looked down at her, seeing that her eyes were open, the light of the fire making her usual brown eyes appear almost gold.

She looked up at him and stared, as though trying to check him over. After a few moments, she sat up and shifted, so he could sit beside her.

“Why are you up so early?” asked Leal. “Have you slept at all?”

“I slept earlier in the night, but I have been up for some time. I needed to stay awake, so I came over here as it was too tempting to fall sleep curled up next to you.”

“Why did you need to stay awake, Dracia?” asked Lea as he sat down.

“What do you remember of last night?” asked Dracia as she sat up further, putting a little distance between them.

“Besides eating dinner, being annoyed by Malven, and then going to bed early, nothing,” said Leal as she closed her eyes for a moment. “Why?”

She looked back at the fire and took a breath.

“Did something happen last night?” asked Leal trying to remember his dreams. He looked at her, sitting apart from him, wrapped up in her robe as though she was shielding herself. “I didn’t hurt you, did I?” His voice sounded shaking and fearful.

She turned to look at him, but her eyes would not meet his.

“What did I do, Dracia?” asked Leal. “Please tell me.”

“I would rather not speak of it,” said Dracia, Leal seeing her shudder slightly.

Leal searched his dreams and his mind, trying to think what could have happened. He had to know. His thoughts had to be worse than the truth, at least he hope so.

“I need to know,” said Leal.

Dracia leaned forward and put something on the table before them. Leal looked and could see it was a small silver dagger. It was the same one Lilith had given him for his birthday.

“Where did you get this?” asked Leal, picking up the small dagger.

“You had it last night,” said Dracia looking back at the fire. “I woke up and you were holding that dagger.”

Leal looked at the dagger in his hands and then at Dracia, realization hitting him, making it feel as though he had swallowed a stone. He threw the dagger down on the table and moved closer to Dracia, trying to look her over.

“You aren’t hurt, are you?” he asked in a panic.

She finally looked at him and gave him a small smile. “You did try, but I am very good at defending myself. It didn’t take much to disarm you, though I hope your shoulder isn’t too sore.”

“You mean, I really tried … I tried to..,” said Leal unable to get the words out.

Dracia nodded. “I woke up and you were standing over me. I just managed to roll out of the way before you stabbed me. After that, I tried to talk to you, but you wouldn’t answer. I disarmed you quickly, trying not to hurt you. I didn’t hurt you badly, did I?”

“What would it matter if you did? I tried to kill you, Dracia. You shouldn’t have held back.”

“You weren’t yourself. I could tell you weren’t yourself,” said Dracia as she took his hand. “This is probably more my fault that yours.”

Leal took his hand away from her and shook his head. “How can you say that? When it was I who almost killed you. What would have happened if you hadn’t woken up?”

“I think they woke me up, Leal. I don’t think they actually wanted you to kill me, not yet anyway. They were just sending a message. I provoked them last night. I couldn’t help it. They came up to speak with me, and I couldn’t hold back. So, you see, it was my fault.”

“You stayed up almost the whole night, watching me, didn’t you?” asked Leal.

“I think it was just half the night. I did get some rest,” said Dracia as she took his hand again. “I didn’t do it because I was afraid of you. I was scared for you. I didn’t want them to be able to hurt you.”

“You shouldn’t be alone with me now,” said Leal quietly as he looked at their hands.

“No, when I am with you and aware, I can shield you. I can feel the power within me cover you. I know you are tired, but as their connection lessons, I believe you are able to defend yourself as well. It is only when you or I are asleep that they can control you.”

“I will have to move into my own rooms, then. Have someone else watch me, you cannot watch me every second. You have to sleep at some point.”

“There is no point of you moving. You will be leaving today,” said Dracia in a matter of fact way.

“What do you mean?”

“Just what I said. I am getting you, and everyone else I can on our side out of Navalia today,” said Dracia.

“How?”

“I do have a plan, but there are parts of it I am still working out.”

“Does this plan involve you leaving Navalia as well?” asked Leal.

“I hope so. That would mean everything went perfectly. Problem is, it is a rather tricky plan,” said Dracia.

“Will you tell me your plan?” asked Leal.

“No, because that would ruin the plan. You are going to have to trust me. You do trust me, don’t you?”

“Of course, I trust you, but I also know you. I know how far you would go to save me and everyone else.”

“I don’t want to argue, please don’t argue with me. I don’t have the strength to do it and still managed to do what I need to do today,” said Dracia as she scooted closer to him.

“What do you expect me to do? Do you expect me to just stand aside and let you put yourself at risk for me?”

“You are not well. I cannot have you around Lilith or Belleth, not for long. I will keep you and everyone else safe. I will even see to my own escape from Navalia, but you cannot resist no matter what you see,” said Dracia as she reached up and touched his cheek.

“I don’t like the sound of this,” said Leal.

“What if I promise you, I will get out of Navalia today as well,” said Dracia as she leaned towards him.

“I would say you were lying,” said Leal as she brushed her lips against his.

“I would not lie to you,” she said softly.

“I think you would do anything to save the people you love.”

“I would, but I am not lying to you. Perhaps I am a tad too confident, but I really believe I will leave with you today,” said Dracia as she kissed him softly.

“You are trying to distract me, aren’t you?” asked Leal with a small smile.

“A little, but I also am desperate to love you,” said Dracia as she kissed him again.

“You don’t have strength to argue, but you have strength for this?” he asked before kissing her.

“Yes, in fact, if you want to ensure I leave with you today, remind me of our love, even if I don’t really need reminding.”

“Will you rest for a while after, if I promise to stay awake?” he asked as he stood up, pulling her up with him.

“If there is time after, I will rest. I do have a full day planned, managing the escape of the entire court, and destroying the plans of two very evil women,” said Dracia as she pulled him towards the bed.

“It’s rather intimidating being married to you. All I have planned today is to not be controlled by two evil women,” said Leal as he kissed her, both of them collapsing on the bed.

Leal sat up in bed as Dracia dozed beside him. He looked over at her, wondering what she really did have planned to get them all out of Navalia. He wasn’t sure he believed her when she said she planned to make sure she got out as well. He hated that he was so weak and tired. He felt like a burden on her. A husband and prince who couldn’t avoid getting into trouble, and now she would have to save him and his whole kingdom.

He wanted to be strong for her. He wanted to be able to protect no matter how much she persisted she didn’t need it. She had been fighting for so long, defending others. He knew how strong she was, but at some point, he was afraid she would break. He knew he loved her beyond description. If he lost her, he didn’t know what he would do. It would be so unfair that now, having truly claimed each other as husband and wife, for him to lose her. They had waited for so long to live together as they should.

A knock at the door caused Dracia’s eyes to fly open as she sat up quickly and looked at Leal.

“It is probably Malven with breakfast,” said Leal getting up out of the bed finding his shirt nearby and slipping it on.

“Good, I am hungry, and I need to speak with him,” said Dracia as she too got out of bed and retrieved her nightgown and robe from the floor.

Leal waited for Dracia to dress before he walked to the door.

“Who is there?” he asked.

“It is Malven, your highness.”

Leal opened the door, and Malven entered quickly with a tray. He put it on the table in front of the sofa as Dracia walked over an sat down.

“Do you need anything while I am here? I can bring you some fresh clothes this morning, your highness,” said Malven.

“Sit down, Malven. I wish to speak with you,” said Dracia as she took some food off the tray in front of her.”

Malven sat down and looked at the High Captain. “What is it you wish to speak of, High Captain?”

“Do you remember that dagger Prince Leal received on his birthday?” asked Dracia after swallowing some bacon.

“I do. He asked me to get rid of it so he would never see it again.”

“What did you do with it?” asked Leal.

“The king’s head attendant saw me with it. I gave it to him in exchange for him continuing to feed me information about the king. The threat of exposing an affair with a lord’s middle daughter only goes so far,” said Malven.

Leal and Dracia looked at each other. “Well, this can’t be good,” said Leal with a loud sigh.

“Why are you asking about the dagger?” asked Malven looking at them both.

Dracia stood up and walked over to the vanity, where she had laid it earlier. She picked it up and placed it on the table before Malven as she sat back down on the sofa.

“Where did you get this?” asked Malven, picking up the silver dagger

“It showed up in our rooms last night,” said Dracia. “Somehow Prince Leal ended up with it.”

“What do you mean you ended up with it? Did you find it in a drawer or on a table?” asked Malven.

“I am not sure,” said Leal. “I have no memory of even holding it.”

“I woke up and the prince had the dagger. I managed to get it away from him, but what I want to know right now is how it got into my room,” said Dracia looking at Malven. “Do you think the king’s attendant put it in here? Is he working for the Navalians?”

“Oh, the four heavens, no,” said Malven with certainty. “He is a coward and would never stick his neck out. He is also a careless idiot. I imagine he left it in his own room or the kings, easy to find.”

“You are sure?” asked Dracia.

“Yes, very sure, High Captain. He likes his position and all the opportunities it brings. He would never do anything to compromise it.”

“So, I guess that means Lady Belleth and Princess Lilith can get into my room,” said Dracia. “That settles it, we are all leaving today if it is at all possible.”

“Today?” asked Malven with surprise. “I am not opposed to leaving Navalia, but how to you plan for us to leave today?”

“I am still working it out, but I do have a plan. I need you to make sure you pack as light as you can for the prince, and have the king’s attendants do the same. We will have to leave on horseback as a carriage will make anyone too big of a target,” said Dracia.

“What of the rest of the court?” asked Leal.

“A few of the lords with us seem to have been marked on Belleth’s map so they can stay here for all I care. I have already sent my brother away. I will see what I can do about my parents. I am hoping to make arrangements for a few of the other families. I don’t know what to do with the Nests since they have tied themselves to the Isadels who I have no doubt are in on this whole thing.”

“I believe they are, and it is no wonder,” said Malven looking at Dracia. “They did buy your mother’s family land, and you know all about your grandfather, don’t you?”

“What do you mean?” asked Dracia.

Malven hesitated.

“Go on, Malven, tell me what you know. My mother does not speak much of her family. I know they have all passed, and she was the only surviving child. I knew she had sold off her family’s land.”

“Her father, the last Lord Callum’s mother was from Navalian. I believe he was very close to his mother and had close ties to Navalia. He was almost considered a part of the court of the Navalian king before Arnar even though he was a lord of Lanoxan.”

“How do you know this, Malven?” asked Dracia.

“It is my job to know things, High Captain. Your family is an important one, almost as important as the Cassendars.”

Dracia stood up and paced in front of the fireplace. “Do you think my mother is with the Navalians?”

“I have seen no evidence of it. She has been rather quiet on this trip, only watching you and strangely enough Roderick Ellis,” said Malven.

“I have too much to do today. I need to think through some things,” said Dracia muttering to herself. She stopped pacing and looked at Malven. “Would you fetch Lord Ethen and Lady Maia for me. Tell them to come here directly.”

Malven nodded. “I can go to their rooms directly,” said Malven.

“After that, order some water up for a bath. A bath helps me think, and I am due one anyway,” she said as Malven nodded again. “Leal, you need to dress. You will go on a walk with Ethen. I know you must be dying to get out of this room.”

“I do not want to leave you here alone, Dracia,” said Leal.

“I will not be alone. Maia will stay with me,” said Dracia as she raised her hand to revive the dying fire.

Leal got up and walked over to her, and took her hand. “I don’t want to leave you at all. I am afraid to let you out of my sight.” Not only was he leery of what Lilith or Belleth might do to her if they caught her in a vulnerable moment, but he was afraid at any moment she might do something to put her in harm’s way to make sure others were safe.”

“We will not be apart long. I will just take a bath while you go out for a short walk. You will bring Ethen back here, and we will all talk together,” said Dracia leaning up and kissing his cheek.

“I will go see Lord Ethen and then have some water brought up. After that I will wander the halls and see what I can find,” said Malven as he stood up. “Would you like me to dispose of the dagger for good this time?”

“No, I would like to keep it,” said Dracia as she let go of Leal’s hand and went over to pick up the dagger.

“You would?” asked Leal, surprised.

“Yes, it is a very nice dagger, perfect size. It is not its fault it is from Navalia,” said Dracia walking over and placing the dagger in a drawer of the vanity.

A short while later, Leal walked with Ethen outside to the side of the palace, Leal savoring the fresh air even though it was terribly cold.

“I am tired of looking at this place,” said Ethen as he gazed up at the palace. “I know it is thought to be beautiful, but it is rotten inside. I’ve had a headache since I have gotten here.”

“Why did you come?” asked Leal. “I appreciate you being here, but why come and put yourself at risk.”

Ethen smiled. “I could not leave her alone here. My grandmother has worried about her since we left Lanoxan, and when we received Dracia’s letter about your mother, my grandmother could not settle. She talked of nothing except worry for Dracia.”

“Why is your grandmother so attached to Dracia. I know all of Dracia’s merits, and she is an easy person to love, but they have not known each other long.”

“We are all attached to the High Captain, my whole family. We are more attached than you know. Whatever the reasons, I am here, and I will not leave without her. I promised my grandmother I would see Dracia safely out of Navalia, and I will.”

“I am afraid Dracia may have other plans,” said Leal as he kicked up some snow. “You know her well enough to understand she will do anything to save the rest of us even if it means sacrificing herself.”

“She is brave, fierce, and stubborn, but I am rather stubborn myself,” said Ethen with a grin.

“I can’t lose her, but I don’t know what I can do to help her. I feel like I am nothing but a liability now with Lilith and Belleth able to control me. After what happened last night, I don’t know how I can protect her, when I can’t even protect myself.”

“What happened last night?” asked Ethen.

Leal quietly told Ethen what had happened. When he was finished, Ethen walked in a small circle before turning back to Leal.

“I think Dracia is right, and they did not intend for you to kill her. They were sending a message that you are still under their control, at least for a while. You shouldn’t blame yourself.”

“But I do. They may not have intended for me to kill her, but what if she had not woken up in time, or she stepped wrong when disarming me. What if I had actually done it, Ethen? I couldn’t have gone on. Roderick probably would have killed me anyway. I wouldn’t have blamed him.”

“You didn’t do it, so there is no sense in thinking over it. We need to leave here as soon as possible,” said Ethen.

“Dracia is planning for us to leave today. She believes she can do it,” said Leal.

“I do not doubt it, but I still want to hear her plan. Let’s start walking back, she should be done bathing by now.”

They walked back into the palace to be met by Princess Lilith coming down the stairs.

“Prince Leal, I hope this means you are feeling better,” said Lilith happily as she walked up to him. “I have missed you. I was hoping to see you after our very interesting visit the other night.”

Leal shook his head and tried to walk past her with Ethen, but she stepped in front of him.

“We should talk, my prince. Our betrothal blessing is in two days.”

“Are we still pretending that will happen?” asked Ethen with fake excitement. “I believe we are rather old to play pretend, princess.”

“You should mind your own business, my lord,” said Lilith venomously. “You and your wife should leave here today.”

“Nothing would please me more, and as soon as those I care for are able to leave as well, I will be happy to quit Navalia and never come back.”

“You can take that High Captain you seem so fond of now. She has outstayed her welcome, and if you don’t find a way to see her out of my presence, I will make sure I never have to see her again, and you will not like how I do it.”

Leal grabbed the princess’s arm tightly, feeling his power surge within him. “You will never get a chance to even touch her. I should end you this moment,” said Prince Leal with a hiss.

“You know what will happen to her the moment you harm me, so stop with your idle threats,” said Lilith as she yanked her arm away from him.

“Leave her be, your highness, she can do nothing to Dracia. I believe this spoiled little princess is rather scared of the High Captain,” said Ethen smiling at Lilith as he walked slightly closer to her. “In fact, I know for certain she is. While you believe Prince Leal’s threats to be idle, you know the High Captains are not. She does not make threats, she makes promises that she keeps.”

Princess Lilith’s eyes grew large, and she stepped away. “Leave, Lord Ethen, leave today,” she said angrily.

“I will leave when I am ready. We both know there is nothing you can do to me or Maia,” said Lord Ethen. “Come away, your highness. I believe the High Captain will be ready for both of us.”

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