Dracia leaned against Prince Fannar as she watched the group from Lanoxan leave. She stared at Roderick as he held Leal while Roderick stared at her. She wished she could assure him better somehow that she was well. She had felt the Navalian magic flow to her from both the king and Fannar, but she had been able to absorb it and destroy it easily. She only acted as if it affected her to fool Lady Belleth into thinking she was weakened by it. She would bide her time into the evening and maybe even night to give Roderick a chance to get everyone to safety, then she would make her own escape.
“Your highness, your intended seems weak and tired, perhaps you should see her to her room so she can rest,” said Lady Belleth. “Actually, she should be closer to all of us now. Put her in the room next to Lilith. I will see that her things are moved.”
Prince Fannar nodded and moved Dracia to his side, holding on to her as he walked from the dais.
“I will make sure there are guards on the fifth floor close to her room in case anyone thinks to come back for her,” said Belleth to Fannar as they passed.
Fannar again nodded as they walked down the stairs of the dais and to the floor of the throne room. They walked in silence, Fannar holding on to Dracia as they exited the throne room and walked to the main stairs. She looked up at him to see he looked as though he was almost sleepwalking. Dracia moved slightly and placed her hand in his.
“Are you alright, your highness?” asked Dracia as they walked up the stairs.
He shook his head a little and looked down at her, seeming almost confused. “I think I am. You shall be mine, which is all I want. I will see you very happy, my lady.”
“Lady Belleth seems to have an enormous amount of control over the king and your family,” said Dracia as they came upon the third floor. It seemed strange to her, they had not met anyone on the stairs.
“Does she?” asked Fannar seeming to slow down as they walked up the stairs. He stopped on the fourth floor landing and looked at Dracia. “Do you really think she does?”
Dracia turned to him and took his other hand. “I do, your highness. Something isn’t right and you know it. She is controlling you and your father when she wants.”
“What do you mean? That doesn’t make sense, my lady. How would she control me or my father?” asked Fannar.
“I am not sure how she does it, but I know she does. You can fight it. You have powerful magic. You could do away with her, Fannar. She is going to destroy your kingdom and mine,” said Dracia.
“No, it will be fine,” said Fannar. “You and I will rule together, and we will see everything is made right,” He let go of one of Dracia’s hands and pulled her up the stairs.
He took her to the fifth floor, past the double doors of the old ballroom, and down a hall to a large door. He opened it, and pulled Dracia into a set of rooms.
“You can rest here, my lady. Your things will be sent to you, soon. I imagine you will eat in here tonight. I will come visit you after you rest,” said Fannar. “Do you need anything before I leave?”
Dracia looked around. She supposed this was as good of a place to wait as any until she could escape.
“I shall be fine. I will rest here until you bring me dinner,” said Dracia as she walked over to the fireplace and raised her hand to start a fire.
“Good,” said Fannar as he walked over to Dracia. “I do want you to be happy, you know. I shall see you happy.”
Dracia smiled at him. “I shall be happy, your highness. You don’t need to worry about it.”
Fannar looked like he wanted to say more, but he only grabbed Dracia’s hand and kissed it before he turned and left her room. Dracia looked around the sitting room at the front of the space. There wasn’t much there except a small sofa, two chairs, and a tiny desk. She saw a door that she assumed led to a bedroom. She walked over to the far wall, and felt against it sensing the stone led to the outside. It would be a perfect way to escape in a few hours. She should probably wait until after her meal had been delivered and Fannar had left her.
Dracia settled in on the sofa in front of the fire, thinking she better rest while she could. She worried over Aarit a bit, but knew her horse would take care of itself if need be. He should be safe where she had told Ethen to leave him, well-hidden inside of the city. She hoped the others would get enough of a head start before the Navalians had figured out she was missing. She could ride hard through the night and catch up with them all by morning. They would try to get back to Winsdell to rally the Sentinel and guards, to prepare for war.
Dracia sat by the fire until the fifth bell rang. She had been there for barely fifteen minutes when she heard a commotion outside of her door. Fearing that something had happened, such as Roderick or Leal coming back for her, she walked quickly to the door and looked out. As she looked down the hall, she saw some guards dragging someone into the old ball room.
Dracia hesitated for a moment, but decided she had to see what was going on. Walking out into the hall, she found that there were no guards around. She supposed they had all gone into the ball room. Hoping they didn’t hold anyone she loved, Dracia snuck down to the double doors and listened. She couldn’t hear anything as she leaned close to the door. What was going on in there? She had just decided to walk down to the fourth floor and go up the back stairs, when the door opened and two guards surprised her, dragging her inside the room.
The guards threw her forward, and she landed on the floor in front of her. She quickly got on her feet and turned to face the guards who had grabbed her when she heard a voice.
“I wouldn’t do anything foolish, High Captain,” said Lady Belleth from across the room on the small dais. “Not unless you want us to hurt these people of your kingdom.”
Dracia turned feeling nothing but dread as she looked to the dais. There in front of the raised platform stood Lord Nest, his wife, and young Lord Martin. Dracia walked up to them, seeing Lord Nest and his wife looked very confused, while Martin had nothing but fear on his face.
“Why do you have them here?” asked Dracia looking up at Lady Belleth, seeing her standing next to King Arnar, with Lilith by her side. Prince Fannar stood next to his father, looking tired and unconnected to what was going on.
“For you, my dear,” said Lady Belleth with a laugh as she walked forward close to the edge of the dais. “Do you think I am stupid. I knew exactly what you were doing, offering yourself up to us. You don’t think I actually thought you would go through with it, do you?”
Dracia felt the dread that had been filling her, explode to every part of her body. She shook her head, not knowing what to say.
“Don’t worry about your prince and the rest. I have someone seeing to them as we speak. Someone you know quite well,” said Lady Belleth gleefully. “Your Darron did get off alright with the Navalian soldiers, didn’t he?” Lady Belleth turned to look at Lilith.
“Oh yes, I just saw him off with a kiss. He is quite ready to rid this land of all the Cassendars. He seemed very happy to be done with his fellow second as well.”
“No,” whispered Dracia thinking of her small group of Elites, Roderick, Galen, and a weakened Leal facing what she guessed was a sizeable force led by Darron. The had Lady Maia and Ethen as well. She knew they could all fight well, but could they withstand what was coming for them? Her parents were out there, the king, Lexine. She had to find a way to help them.
“But what to do with you? I knew killing you wouldn’t be easy. See, I know who you are. I think I know it better than even you do. Last night, I could see who you were, and I knew I had to get rid of you.”
Dracia looked around her, thinking how she could get out of this room. The back wall with the balcony was opened to the front, and the far end of the left wall was opened to the side of the palace. She could fight her way through the guards that lined the walls, and pass through the stone, to land outside, but she would have to leave the Nests to the mercy of the Navalians. Would they really hurt them? She knew she should leave the Nests up to their own fate. Her duty was to the Cassendars and to her Elites, but looking at poor Martin Nest as he trembled in fear, she didn’t think she could just abandon them.
“You think you can kill me, Lady Belleth? You think I can’t destroy all these soldiers you have lining your walls with a push of my hands? I am afraid you might underestimate me.”
“No, I do not underestimate you. I know you could destroy this whole room if you wish. I can see the powers you withhold, but I also see your weakness. You care too much. You actually care about what happens to these simple people in front of you. If you didn’t, you could have already fled from here, well on your way to help those you are pledged to serve.”
Dracia moved even closer to the Nests. She needed to see what was under them. She needed to feel the spaces below all the way to the first floor, but how? She looked inside herself, feeling her new Cassendar power churning within her. Could she really do it? It was the only way this would work.
“That is close enough, High Captain,” said Lady Belleth. “Now, you will stand there while our guards take you, or I will have them kill this pathetic family right here.”
Lady Nests gave a very small cry, and her husband actually reached out to her to take her hand. Dracia had never even seen them stand together for more than five minutes, but here in what they thought might be the end, they stood as one. Dracia felt her power surge as she saw Lord Nest place his hand on his son’s shoulder. She worked to manipulate her power to cover the Nests for what she knew would be coming.
“Stay still,” she said to them as she threw out her hands. A torrent of wind flew around the room, knocking soldiers against the walls, as Lady Belleth crouched down, holding on to the edge of the dais to keep from being pushed away. King Arnar fell into his son, and Princess Lilith flew to the back of the raised platform.
Dracia kneeled down, putting her hand to the marble floor, and found her way through all the floors below her. She looked up at the Nests. “What is about to happen will be strange, but you will be safe. When you get to the first floor, run from this place. Get out of Port Venala, and run away from Navalia. Get horses if you can, leave everything here. Find somewhere safe to go.”
Dracia closed her eyes for one second and concentrated. When she opened them, the Nests were gone. She stood up to see Lady Belleth walking towards her.
“You think you are very clever, but I shall do away with your myself,” said Lady Belleth in fury as she reached out for Dracia.
Dracia put out her hand sending fire Lady Belleth’s way, but Belleth raised her hand and pushed it away easily. Lady Belleth smiled as she reached out and grabbed Dracia’s arm, pulling her close with strength she did not look like she possessed. Dracia felt a pain run through her, some sort of power go through her body that felt nothing short of pure evil. She felt as though she would break into a million pieces as the power ran through her as Lady Belleth gave her a vile smile.
Dracia almost fell to her knees, but she felt something else inside her ignite. It mixed with the Cassendar power she had grown to understand and formed something else. She felt it run through the pain that had engulfed her, destroying it as it moved through her body, and to her arm, where Belleth held her. Dracia moved her arm, and pushed Lady Belleth away, causing the woman to fly backwards as she cried out.
Belleth quickly stood up and looked as though she was full of rage. She walked back towards Dracia as Dracia held her hand out. The woman circled around Dracia seeming to not be able to come near her.
Dracia turned and started backing slowly towards the corner of the room, so she could leave. She kept Belleth in front of her as the woman seemed unable to come near Dracia. Dracia kept backing up until she hit something solid. She looked behind her to see King Arnar standing over her. He grabbed her, pinning her arms to her side as she struggled.
Dracia concentrated and ran fire up her hands and arms, but Arnar did not let her go. She knew he had to be feeling the pain of the fire as it pressed against his hands, but he did not seem to register anything. He only held on to Dracia with a placid look on his face. Dracia moved her arms as much as she could as Arnar held her even tighter, feeling as though he would crush her while Lady Belleth watched. Belleth turned her head, and Dracia saw Fannar start to walk towards her as he unsheathed a sword he wore at his side.
She felt panicked as she moved her arm as much as she could, trying to get her hand close to the pocket in her cloak. She increased the fire in her arms, feeling it burn against her and Arnar. He moved slightly in reaction to the new wave of heat, and Dracia struggled just enough to wrap her hand around the small dagger in her pocket. She brought it out and thrust her hand backwards, burying the silver dagger into the side of the king who held her.
Arnar cried out and let Dracia go as she pulled the dagger from the king. She looked in front of her to see that Lady Belleth had fallen on her knees as though in pain. Dracia pushed her hand out, and Belleth flew across the room and hit the wall. She looked over and Fannar had dropped his sword and staggered forward.
Princess Lilith stood up from where she had fallen on the dais and ran towards her father as Dracia gathered her strength to walk to the corner of the room.
“You have killed him,” said Lilith as she knelt down by her father.
Dracia looked over to see a large pool of blood forming by the king’s side as he lay still. She was surprised to see so much damage, but she must have hit him in just the right spot. She closed her eyes for a second and then walked towards the corner of the room to be met by Fannar who had picked up his sword. She looked at him her hands up.
“What are you doing, Fannar? She killed our father, end her,” said Lilith from the ground.
Fannar looked at his father, and then Dracia. He spoke as though he was in great pain. “Run, Dracia,” he whispered. “Run.”
Dracia saw Belleth getting up from across the room. She looked at Fannar. “You could come with me. I can keep you safe.”
“I can’t,” he whispered. “You have to go, now.”
Dracia felt awful leaving him here amongst these women, knowing what they would do to him, but she had no choice. She walked past him with her hands out, blasting away stone, causing a great hole to form into the wall. She ran forward and jumped out, using wind to slow her decent to the snowy ground bellow. She hit the ground and rolled to her feet, running to the front of the palace.
She took out guards that were along the front, not even giving them a chance to come at her. She threw some into the water that surrounding the front gate, others she made fly hard against the wall. Running across the stone bridge, she could see the gate was closed. It was no matter, she made a new hole in the wall next to it, throwing out her hands as she ran, creating a barrier of wind and fire around her, so no one could get close to her, and no arrows could reach her as she fled through the wall.
She moved along the stone road of the city, running past manors with impressive snow covered lawns. She came to a side street that led to a pretty grouping of evergreen trees that stood between two large houses. Running into the trees, she went to the place she knew Aarit would be waiting, where she had hoped Ethen had understood to leave her horse.
She walked up to the tree to not just see Aarit, but another horse as well. Next to the tree by the two large horses, sat Ethen with his back against the trunk. He stood quickly as he saw Dracia come near.
“What are you doing here so soon?” asked Ethen as he stood. “It shouldn’t be until at least the eighty bell, should it?”
“Why are you here, Ethen? Why aren’t you with the others?”
“I could not leave you, Dracia, you must know that by now. You know who you are to me.”
“I do though I don’t understand it,” she said quickly. “We have to get to the others. Lady Belleth knew my plan all along. She has sent Darron and a group of soldiers to ambush them all. We must go now.” Ethen handed her belt and sword to her, and she put them on in haste.
Dracia moved up to Aarit and launched herself into her saddle, pulling herself up to sit on the large animal.
“You will have to run faster than you ever have, my friend,” she whispered into Aarit’s ear as Ethen mounted his own horse.
“They should have made it to the base of the mountains by now,” said Ethen as he pulled his horse towards the road.
“Try to keep up,” said Dracia before she urged Aarit forward, and all around her became a blur.
Aarit moved so fast through the city, Dracia barely registered what they passed. She saw people move swiftly away from her horse as they flew by. They weaved past wagons and simple carriages, between buildings and trees. Dracia had no idea where Ethen was behind her, but she didn’t care. All she could think of was getting to the others and helping them.
When she reached the outskirts of the city, she moved towards the mountains, following the road they had come in on all those days ago. Aarit did not let up. She kept crouched over him as they flew forward, the mountains looming closer and closer. They reached a straight stretch of road when she first saw them. A large group of soldiers in many lines, moving forward. Up ahead, Dracia could see fire being thrown around. She could hear the cries and shouts of people fighting.
As she approached the large group, she slowed Aarit slightly. She threw out her hands and harsh wind blew out and swirled around. It threw soldiers against one another, and slammed others into the ground, taking out half of the back two lines. She rode on through the group, throwing two rotating columns of fire at each side, sending them on their way with wind, to ravage the group around her.
A few soldiers turned to her as they saw her coming, figuring out what was happening behind them. Dracia pulled out her sword and slashed to one side, taking down a man who had turned. She pushed her free hand, sending more wind and fire as she rode through, just trying to get to the front, to join her fellow Elites who were fighting.
She finally broke through the front line, taking out a man on each side with her sword as she rode by. She looked over to see Roderick and Galen standing on the ground close to each other. They had their swords out, sending fire, wind, and throwing stones where they could. Galen had sent a large bank of snow at part of the front line as she rode up to them. She slowed down Aarit, and looked to her right. She saw Leal, Lexine, and the king gathered together with her parents behind them. Malven was with them and stood close to his prince. She could feel power coming from Lexine as she shielded the group the best she could. Dracia whispered to Aarit before hoping down off his back, and running up to Roderick and Galen.
Roderick turned to her as she joined by his side, her sword out. She plunged it forward at a soldier in front of Roderick.
“Dracia,” said Roderick in some relief. “What happened?”
“She knew what I was up to. I was foolish to think I could trick her. I am so sorry, Roderick. I never should have left you alone.”
“It is no matter,” said Roderick as she moved out of his way so he could take out a solider next to her. “You are here now. We will get everyone to safety.”
Dracia looked over to her right to see her other Elites fighting, some on foot, some on horses. She saw one lying on the ground, and she felt her heart clench. They would not lose anyone else, they couldn’t. She felt her anger surge, and she raised her hand, piling up the snow around them into a large bank that rose above them. Roderick and Galen converged on her, keeping others away, as she formed her snowy weapon. She threw her hands out, and it moved to land upon the soldiers in front of them, taking out over half of the group.
She looked at Roderick as she saw Maia run over to them, Ethen following her. They both seemed well, as they joined their small group. Dracia looked over at her Elites who were still fighting, they had been pushed back some as the large group of soldiers still left, surrounded them. Some of the soldiers circled around the Elites moving towards Leal and the others.
“Ethen, take Maia and Galen and cover the Cassednars and my parents. Roderick, you come with me and we will join our fellow Elites and see if we can end this” said Dracia loudly.
Ethen, Maia, and Galen ran to the Cassendars, Maia and Galen throwing out their hands, sending large piles of snow and some fire at soldiers close to them. Roderick nodded at Dracia and they moved together towards their fellow Elites who stood in the middle of the large group of soldiers. Dracia slipped as she ran, hitting an icy spot. She fell onto one knee as Roderick kept running. She made to follow him when she felt herself be thrown to the side.
She looked up to see Darron walking towards her, his sword and free hand out, as he grinned at her.
Dracia stood up quickly, grabbing her sword that had fallen next to her.
“High Captain, I am surprised to see you here. I thought you would be entertained much longer in the palace,” said Darron as he circled around her.
“There was nothing to keep me there, not really, though they did try. I had to make an early exit,” said Dracia as she followed Darron’s movements keeping herself in front of him.
“I should be sorry to hear it, but I am rather glad you are here. I can finally take that sword from you, and I can do it the right way.”
Dracia laughed. “You don’t really think you can defeat me, Darron. You want to keep me busy while the others fight without me, but I believe you will find I can defeat you quicker than you think.”
“We will see, Captain,” said Darron as he moved forward.
Dracia threw her hand out, sending a blast of fire straight at him. He blocked it, but Dracia followed it quickly with a blast of wind, which threw him backwards. She rushed towards him, swinging her sword at him as he sat on the ground. He just got his own sword up in time, blocking her powerful move. He pushed back with his sword, and she moved back slightly, keeping her sword up as she pushed out again, causing a large amount of snow to fly at Darron. He crossed his arms with his sword in one hand, causing the snow to break up and fly all around him. Dracia was again on him, thrusting her sword at him.
He moved his sword down, again just blocking her thrust. He pushed out his hand and a hard wind hit Dracia, causing her to slide back as she struggled to keep her footing on the slick, icy ground. Darron used her momentary slip to stand up. He looked at Dracia with a nasty smile, standing with his sword before him.
“I don’t know why you are smiling. You know you can’t beat me,” said Dracia
“You are probably right, though I would like to see for certain someday soon under better circumstances,” said Darron with a slight laugh. He looked over his shoulder at the soldiers fighting. “Now!” he screamed.
Dracia watched as over half the soldiers stopped fighting and move their hands up. A loud noise erupted from the mountain behind them. She could see the snow from the top start to move and then start falling down the mountain directly towards the Cassendars and her family, as well as all those fighting in its path.
Dracia saw Darron move out of the corner of her eye as she watched the snow. She moved backwards just as Darron slashed out at her. His sword caught her in her side, cutting through her uniform, causing a hot flash of pain across her body. She moved her hand over her left side, and could feel the warm blood start to flow. Darron whistled and his black horse trotted up to him.
“Leave,” he said loudly towards the Navalian soldiers as he mounted his horse. He took one look at Dracia and rode off, leaving all of them including many of his retreating soldiers to certain death.
Dracia straightened up, ignoring the agonizing pain in her side. “Elites, to the Cassendars,” she called as she started moving towards the small group who stood with many of the horses they had brought with them.
She saw the avalanche of snow moving down the mountain, almost to its base.
“Galen, the snow,” she called as she saw him moving close to her. “We have to keep the snow away from the group.”
Galen nodded and stepped to her side holding his hands up as she did as well. As the snow got closer and closer, Dracia used her water Mystics to feel the snow coming towards them. She threw wind through it to send it where it needed to go away from her group. She could tell Galen was doing the same.
It was so much snow, and she wasn’t sure how long either of them could keep this up. It took so much energy, and she knew eventually she and Galen would falter. She closed her eyes, keeping the wind moving through the snow, and ignoring her pain, trying to think of what to do. How could they get everyone to safety? She suddenly remembered the stone tunnels she had felt in the city. Did they run all the way out here?
Dracia knelt down, keeping one had up as she put her other hand on the snowy ground. She felt her hand heat up as she ran some fire through it to melt the snow under her palm so she could feel the ground. She finally got to the point she could sense the ground underneath her, feeling through the small stones and rocks that made the base of the mountain. She looked deeper and deeper until she felt it. A huge cavern underneath them.
She could send everyone there. She would have to bind them somehow together and then to the stone. How to bind them together? They weren’t dressed alike. None of them all had similar characteristics, varying in hair, eye, and skin color as well as sex. The only thing they all had in common is she cared about them all in some way. The Cassendars had her loyalty and love, even the king. She was also one of them now. She loved and cared for her parents. Her Elites were her responsibility. Ethen and Maia were her family though she didn’t understand how.
Dracia closed her eyes and binding them all together, using her feelings of love and devotion. She could move the horses that was easier, animals always were. She left out Galen for a moment, she would need him to keep the snow from the others as she worked. Once she had it all worked out, she took a deep breath and moved both of her hands down, manipulating the stone beneath them, binding her large group to the stone underground.
She felt energy drain out of her as she worked. It was exhausting. Her side was on fire, she felt weaker and weaker by the second, but it was working. She finally opened her eyes and saw the group was gone in front of her. Only Galen remined still manipulating the snow. She gathered the last of her energy and grabbed Galen, sensing the snow all around them as she moved through the stone in the ground, to the cavern below.
She hit the stone under her hard with Galen in her arms. She let him go as she rolled away until she lay still. She was aware that every part of her body hurt. She heard someone say her name, it could have been Leal or Roderick she wasn’t sure. She felt arms grab her, and then she felt darkness take her.