The Sentinel of Cassendar: Navalia

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Chapter 3

Leal woke up alone in his bed, and he saw that the light in the window indicated it must be at least almost the eighth bell of the morning. He looked over next to him and wondered why Dracia did not wake him before she left. He did feel dreadfully tired. Perhaps she had tried and was unsuccessful.

Princess Lilith had attacked Dracia last night. Leal had been woken up by the power within him, angry and unsettled. He remembered the sinister magic he could feel pulsing through Dracia as he held her. His power wanted to draw it out, and destroy it, but Leal was afraid to let it go too far. He was worried that Dracia’s life was somehow tied to the Navalian magic in her. He worried if he let his power truly have its way, she would perish with the magic.

Instead, he tried to lessen its hold on her, and to send a message back to the Navalian princess. If she was going to try to hurt Dracia, he would try to hurt Lilith as well. Leal wondered what would happen if he went to Navalian and killed Lilith. Would the bond be broken without any danger to Dracia, or was Dracia’s life truly bound to Princess Lilith? Also, Lilith had mentioned she could share the bond with others who had Navalian magic. She had threatened to share it with her brother. Leal did not like the idea of Prince Fannar having any control over Dracia, especially not after what he had done to her.

“Prince Leal,” said Malven walking into his room. “You are in bed rather late for you. You usually rise by now. Are you ill, or did you stay up late in more agreeable circumstances?”

“Neither, Malven,” said Leal as he threw off the covers and stood up. “I need to get dressed and see what I can find in the library today before making my way to the Fortress later.”

Malven looked concerned. “Was the High Captain attacked last night?”

“Yes,” groaned Leal as he stretched. “I have to find a way to end this control the Navalians have over her, and until then I can’t be away from her for long. I can’t leave her unprotected.”

“The king wishes to speak with you this morning after you eat and change. He said to come as soon as you can,” said Malven.

“When did he start getting up so early?”

“He is a changed man since you agree to marry the princess form Navalia. He is attending to kingdom business and keeping regular hours,” said Malven.

“At least something good is coming out of this awful time. I wonder what he will be like when he realizes this alliance can never be,” said Leal as he found a shirt to pull on.

“I can’t imagine he will take it well. He seems to think the kingdom and your family’s prosperity depends on your marriage to Princess Lilith,” said Malven. “There is something else as well.”

“What is it?” asked Leal as he walked out to the sitting room, Malven following behind him.

“Your father has received several messages from the oracle who visits here periodically. I believe he also received a large box.”

“Do I want to know how you know this, Malven?” asked Leal.

“I know who to bribe and how to hear about the king’s business. His attendants are not so loyal as yours truly,” said Malven as Leal sat down to eat the breakfast laid out in front of the sofa. Malven sat down in the chair close to the sofa, leaning forward to take a sausage off the platter in front of the prince.

“I doubt his attendants are so familiar with their king as you are with your prince,” said Leal giving Malven a look.

“What would your rather have, loyalty and all my skills, or decorum?”

“Can I not have all three?” asked Leal as he ate some food from the platter.

“I’m afraid not, your highness. Besides, you would grow bored with me if I were always bland and respectful. You would excuse me from your service.”

“And you don’t think I will excuse you if you continue to show such flippant manners?”

“No, because I have the goodwill of the one person you cannot say no to, and she would not let you dismiss me.”

Leal couldn’t argue with that, so he ate his breakfast and then dressed for the day. He walked down to his father’s study and knocked on the door. He heard his father ask him to enter so Leal opened the door and walked in to find his father sitting behind his desk.

“Good morning, Leal, come have a seat,” said the king, smiling at his son until Leal got closer. “Did you not sleep well last night? You didn’t overindulge at the festival, did you?”

“No, I didn’t drink much during the banquet. I just didn’t have a restful night,” said Leal. “I haven’t slept well at all lately.”

“I know you are not exactly looking forward to your marriage, my son. I understand it will take some time for you to get used to the idea, but I am sure you will find some consolations from having such a beautiful bride.”

Leal made no comment as he sat down in front of his father.

“I had a talk with the High Captain last night. You will be happy to know she has no plans of leaving the Sentinel any time soon. I am very glad she is planning on staying,” said the king.

“Are you? You don’t wish for her to step down now?” asked Leal as he rubbed his eyes.

“No, she has shown her worth. I know we would not have won without her leadership and skills. I understand she was very impressive,” said the king.

“She always is in every way. She always has been,” said Leal.

“You should remember who you owe her life to, maybe that will help you think well of your future wife,” said the king.

“Why did you wish to see me this morning, father?” asked Leal, too tired to speak of the Navalian princess.

“Your birthday is coming up in a few weeks,” said the king. “I would like to do something to recognize the day.”

“It is not necessary,” said Leal.

“Perhaps, not, but I want to do this. The weather has been nice lately, not too cold yet. I think we should have a hunt out in the hills. The ladies of the court who do not wish to hunt could have a picnic to end the day. We can have a feast later that night.”

“I do not wish for so much bother just for me,” said Leal.

“You are the future king, and you are taking a large step to take your place by marrying. I think we should do this. I insist that we do,” said the king.

“Fine,” said Leal. “Do as you please, and I will come. I’m not much for hunting, but I will ride out with the party.”

“I will have the invitations sent out. A few weeks after that, we will be leaving for Navalia,” said the king. “It is almost a ten day ride with the carriage and wagons we will have to bring, if we want any comfort. We will have to leave early to arrive in time for the Navalians plans. They want to hold two weeks of celebrations before the blessing.”

“Two weeks of celebrations?” asked Leal. “I hope that doesn’t mean some event every night.”

“The uniting of our two kingdoms is a momentous occasion. It is being talked of all over Lanoxan, Navalia, and beyond. People high and low born are rather excited,” said the king.

“I don’t see why,” said Leal. “Besides the excitement of a few fancy events with people who think too much of themselves, I don’t see why my wedding would draw so much attention.”

“A handsome prince from the largest kingdom in our land, finding true love and marrying a beautiful foreign princess is a good story, Leal,” said the king.

“But the princess isn’t my true love. I can barely stand the sight of the woman,” said Leal.

“You shouldn’t say such things out loud. It will do you no good if the wrong person was to overhear it. You are tied together with the Navalian princess now. You have made a promise that you must keep.”

“I did promise her,” said Leal carefully. “But I have made no promise before the gods to marry Lilith. I think the celebration and excitement might be a little premature.”

The king looked at his son carefully. “I hope you don’t think you can find a way out of this, because it is impossible. Breaking this promise between our two kingdoms could be catastrophic. You don’t want to go to war with Navalia do you?”

“I don’t want to go to war with anyone unless it is the only way to accomplish what is right.”

“Well, we won’t have to go to war with Navalia if you will keep your word. We can form a partnership with them and live peacefully with our neighbors to the north.”

Leal sighed knowing arguing with his father at this point would do no good. The king would have to face the reality of what was going to happen at some point.

“Who is going with us on our journey to Navalia? Some of our court will be attending, won’t they?” asked Leal

“I expect Lord Arwel, his wife, and oldest son to join us, of course. Lord Nest is talking of coming. He is uniting his son with a woman who has ties in Navalia. A few other high lords on the council are mulling it over.

“The Sentinel will have a presence for our safety. The King and the Prince of Navalia have both written to me to assure them our High Captain is coming with our party. I believe they are both still hoping for some sort of match with the prince and the Captain.”

Leal sat up straighter and opened his mouth as his father put his hand up.

“I will not force the High Captain into anything, and I doubt her father will either. She can make her own decisions on any matters between Prince Fannar and herself. It should not cause problems, the princess will be the queen of Lanoxan, that should be enough for our alliance.”

Leal closed his eyes and rubbed his head. He was definitely not in the mood for this talk today. He wished Dracia did not have to travel with them to Navalia, but she could not stay behind with the power the Navalians had over her. He hoped he could find some way to break or at least lessen the bond before they arrived in Navalia and faced the prince and princess.

“Was there anything else you wanted, father?” asked Leal, hoping to leave so he could go see what books he might find about the Navalians before going to the Fortress.

“I hope you are being careful with your behavior, and not leaving room for people to misinterpret things. I would not like it if any reports of your indiscretions whether real or imaginary got back to Navalia.”

“Have you seen any of my behavior that is not acceptable to you?” asked Leal.

“No, I have no complaints of your public conduct. You have never given me much grief in that regard, but I do know you could be tempted to carry on as you had before with your friend.”

“You know I am nothing if not discreet. I am very good at keeping secrets,” said Leal.

The king sat forward a little. “Do not play games you cannot win, Leal, especially if you wish to protect those you care for.”

“I am not playing games, father. I can promise you I am conducting myself honorably in every way,” said Leal standing up. “If you will excuse me, I have a busy day planned, and I need to be going.”

His father nodded. “I will wish to speak with you soon about some kingdom business. Supplies and medicines have been sent to villages that have been hit hard with sickness. I have sent messages to see what I can learn about any uprising, but I have not heard any news back as of yet. I plan to meet with the High Captain soon to see what she may have heard. I imagine you will want to be a part of the meeting.”

“Yes, of course,” said Leal. “I am glad you are seeing to the welfare of our people. I am sure if there is anything to find out about the uprisings, the High Captain will be the one to discover it.”

“I agree,” said the king as he pulled out a small silver flask. “I will let you know of a meeting date.”

Leal bowed and left the room as his father took a drink from his flask. He could use a quiet day in his rooms to replenish his energy, but instead he walked over to the Royal Academy. He knew classes were not being held due to the festival last night, so he expected the library to be empty. He walked through the large doors of the academy, nodding to the guards stationed there. He walked down the hall to a set of double doors, opening them and stepping inside.

The library of the Royal Academy was a very large, windowless room. It was three stories tall, filled with books from all over the land. There were books of all subjects, some in ancient languages that only a few people in the land could read. They were all well-organized due to the many wisdom keepers that worked there.

Leal walked up the stairs to the second floor, over towards the area he knew the history of the kingdoms of the land were kept. He was meet by a wisdom keeper who was shelving books.

“Your highness,” said the older woman as she put up her last book and gave a curtsey. “Is there some way I can assist you today?”

“I am actually looking for a few books on Navalia, particularly about the royal family and their history,” replied Leal.

“You are wanting to know about your future bride’s family and kingdom, I see,” said the wisdom keeper with a smile. “It seems you and the princess had the same idea this morning.”

“Oh,” said Leal as he cocked his head. “Is my sister snooping around the shelves today?”

“She says she is preparing for a year-end report for one of her classes, but I thought perhaps she was wanting to know about our future queen,” said the wisdom keeper. “The Princess Lexine is in the upper right hand corner over there.”

Leal looked where the wisdom keeper had pointed and thanked her before heading off and looking for Lexine. He found her sitting in a high backed wing chair that was located in a small, cozy sitting area that included two other chairs, a small table, and a few candles burning to give light.

“Good morning, sister,” said Leal as he sat down next to her, eyeing a large stack of books on the table in front of her. “I came to look for some information on Navalia, but it looks like you might have already found every book in the place.”

“Hardly,” said Lexine looking up from her book. “There are plenty more to find, but I had to start somewhere. I am meeting Galen later today, and I wanted to be able to bring him a few books and information so we could get started.”

“Is this about the report you are doing, or did you inform Galen of our troubles?”

“Both,” said Lexine quietly. “I did tell Galen about Dracia’s attacks, but you know you can trust him. He is very clever, and I think he might be able to help.”

Leal didn’t want too many people talking about the hold the Navalians had on Dracia. He had a feeling the Navalians had some people in Lanoxan who were spying for them. He would rather it not get back to Lilith, her brother, or her father, that they were working hard to break the bond they held over Dracia. Still, Lexine was right about Galen. He was trustworthy, and he might be able to help.

“Just make sure you both are very careful about your work. We do not need the wrong people finding out about this.”

“I know,” said Lexine looking back down to skim her book. “You must know I would never do anything to hurt Dracia. I love her, too.”

Leal smiled. “I know you do, and I don’t think Galen would do anything to jeopardize her safety either, even if it is just to appease you.”

Lexine blushed a little. “He respects his High Captain very much, and does not want her to come to harm. He also knows how important she is to his brother, and I suppose me as well.”

“You will let me know if either of you find out anything, won’t you?” asked Leal.

“I will,” said Lexine. “I hope we can find something before we leave for Navalia. If Dracia can be this affected by their magic so far away, I would hate to think what they could do to her if they are able to touch her.”

Leal closed his eyes and nodded, not wanting to think about it.

“You look quite done in for it being so early in the day,” said Lexine looking up at Leal. “Did you not rest well last night?”

“No, not at all,” said Leal, looking around and then leaning forward. “Dracia was attacked last night as she slept. I was awoken when I sensed it. I think my power was able to fend off the attack, and maybe even send a message back, but it took a large amount of energy.”

“So, our powers do offer some protection to the Navalian magic,” said Lexine. “That is something Galen will want to know. I wonder if there is a way to extend it somehow to Dracia. It should be possible shouldn’t it?”

Leal shrugged. “Perhaps, but I am not sure. I had hoped to do some research, but if you and Galen are seeing to it today, I might go on to the Fortress to keep watch over Dracia.”

“Do you even have the energy to glamour yourself today?” asked Lexine.

“No, at least not for long. I will have to go as myself, but father talked today about the uprisings and what the High Captain might know. I plan to go officially meet with her about it. I also haven’t checked in with the Disciplines in a while.”

“Try to find some time to rest as well, Leal. You won’t be any good to her if you don’t take care of yourself.”

“I will. I would just like to be close to her as often as I can. I will rest easier if I can see she is safe.”

“Go on then, I will find what I can here and visit with Galen this afternoon. I don’t expect to see you this evening for dinner. I assume Malven will make excuses for you,” said Lexine.

“He will say I am resting. I doubt father will question it, looking the way I do today.”

Leal soon left the library and made his way to the Fortress. As he approached the large old stone building, he spotted Dracia dismounting her horse in front of the west entrance. She was chatting with Roderick as Leal walked up to greet her.

“Good day, High Captain,” said Leal with a small bow.

“Hello, your highness,” said Dracia with a curtsey as Roderick bowed next to her. “What do we owe the honor of your visit today?”

“I have been speaking with my father about some kingdom matters, and I find that I have things to discuss with you. I was also hoping to observe some of the Disciplines, but I believe I have missed my chance this morning.”

“You have, but we will start again after lunch. If you would like, we could meet in my rooms first. I can have some food brought up. After that you can observe the Disciplines with Roderick and myself.”

“That sounds ideal, High Captain, and I thank you for your time.”

“Roderick, go on into lunch. If you don’t mind, can you have some attendants send some food up to my rooms. I will meet you out in the fields after,” said Dracia.

“Yes, High Captain,” replied Roderick as he walked away, following some novices towards the hall.

“Come along, my prince,” said Dracia as she started to walk into the Fortress.

Leal followed her as they climbed the stairs to her rooms. She put her hand on her door to take down her wards, before opening it and stepping inside. Leal followed her, taking off his cloak and throwing it over a chair before sitting down immediately on her small sofa.

“You look exhausted,” said Dracia as she closed the door and turned to Leal. She took off her cloak and put it over Leal’s before turning to her fireplace, and sparking a fire with her outstretched hand.

“I am exhausted,” he said putting his head back against the sofa.

“Why didn’t you stay in and rest today? I feel awful about this. I know this is my fault,” said Dracia as she walked over to the sofa. Leal took her hand and pulled her so she would sit down next to him.

“None of this is your fault, my love,” said Leal as he raised her hand to his lips, kissing it. “You did not ask to be attacked by the Navalians.”

Dracia sighed, reaching up and cupping Leal’s cheek. He leaned into her hand, closing his eyes. “This is all too much,” she said quietly. “Perhaps, you should keep your distance from me for a while.”

Leal’s eyes flew open and he grabbed Dracia’s hand on his cheek pulling it down. “I will not be parted from you, ever. I will certainly not leave you alone while you need me. You think I can just stay away from you knowing what that horrible woman is doing to you?”

“It is usually not so bad,” said Dracia. “I can get through most of her reminders very easily. It is only occasionally when they are like they were last night. No matter what, I will be fine in the end. She will not kill me, not when she knows she needs me to get you to do what she wants.”

“I cannot stand to see you suffer so. We have to find a way to break this bond, especially before we go to Navalia. Until then, I will be with you as much as possible. You are wearing your locket, aren’t you?” asked Leal.

“Yes,” said Dracia as she pulled it out from under her dress. “I try not to take it off unless it is necessary.”

“Good,” said Leal as he grabbed the locket and held it in his hands. “I do think it offers you some protection, though I’m not sure how much.”

“I will wear it either way,” said Dracia as Leal let it go. She tucked it back under her dress. “It makes me feel close to you when we cannot be together.”

They sat in silence for a moment as Leal took Dracia’s hand and held it, rubbing it slightly with his own.

“You said there was a reason you wanted to meet with me,” said Dracia.

“My father will call you to a meeting in a couple of days to talk of the reported uprising in the kingdom,” said Leal as he yawned.

“I haven’t figured out much,” said Dracia. “We didn’t get any good information from the soldiers we captured this summer, at least according to Darron. They were done away with before I was in condition to question them myself. I have scouts sent out, but nothing has been found, yet. My father wants to meet with me this week. I will try to go before the king ask to meet with me to see if my father has had any other messages.”

Leal nodded as he felt his eyes grow heavy. A knock at the door made Dracia release his hand. She stood up and went to the door, accepting a tray from an attendant. She brought it to the sofa and sat it down on the low table before them.

“Would you like some food?” asked Dracia. “Perhaps it will help with your energy.”

Leal nodded and took some food from the tray as Dracia poured them two glasses of wine. They ate mostly in silence. When he was done, Leal laid back on the sofa and looked at Dracia.

“I will have to leave soon,” said Dracia. “I need to go oversee the Disciplines.”

“I will come with you,” said Leal as he felt his eyes grow heavy. He felt so sleepy in the small warm room after eating and drinking a glass of wine. The presence of Dracia soothed him.

“You can barely keep your eyes open, Leal,” said she quietly. “I would say you should go back to the palace and get some rest, but I am not sure you would make it. Why don’t you stay here and rest a bit before going back?”

Leal nodded, finding it hard to even open his eyes. He sunk deeper into Dracia’s sofa.

“I do have to go,” said Dracia softly. “You rest here as long as you like. I hope you will try to stay until I can come back. I can excuse myself early before the late afternoon break.”

“Take your time,” muttered Leal. “I have no plans today, and no one is looking for me. I will stay here the rest of the day and evening if you don’t mind.”

“Of course, I don’t mind,” said Dracia. He felt her bend over him and kiss him on his cheek before he succumbed to sleep.

He was sitting in his room on his large sofa in front of the fireplace. Dracia was sitting next to him, laying against him as he held her in his arms. Her beautiful brown hair was down and laying against her shoulder, giving him access to place small kisses on her neck over and over.

He closed his eyes for a moment, breathing in her sweet spring scent, when suddenly he felt himself grow cold. He opened his eyes, to find that Dracia had disappeared, and the room around him had gone dark. Leal stood up and turned around, looking for Dracia everywhere. His room had vanished around him, leaving only an empty black void.

It felt hard to breath as he moved around the space, only wanting to find Dracia. He finally spotted her ahead in the distance. He picked up his pace, running towards her, when he hit some kind of barrier. It was clear, and it was impossible to break through. She was there in front of him, staring at him, but he could not go to her.

He stared at her, and he could see she was shivering as she folded her arms across her body, rubbing her upper arms with her hands as thought trying to get warm.

“Dracia,” he whispered, trying to reach towards her.

She slowly reached out her hand towards him, when Leal saw two people walk up behind her. They came into view, and he saw that it was Princess Lilith and Prince Fannar. Lilith smiled at Leal. and Fannar put his arm around Dracia’s waist, pulling her to him.

“No,” whispered Leal.

He tried to get past the barrier, but he could not do it. He watched as Fannar started walking backward, dragging Dracia with him. She did not struggle; it looked like she was frozen in fear. Fannar took her further and further away from Leal as Lilith watched. She then turned and looked a Leal, pulling a small, pointed dagger out of the pocket of her dress. The handle looked to be made out silver and had winter roses etched in it. She smiled widely at Leal before she turned and followed Fannar and Dracia. Leal watched as fear and hopelessness washed over him. He stood helpless watching Fannar walk away with Dracia. Lilith walked up to them as she raised her dagger. She paused for one moment and looked back at Leal before she plunged it towards Dracia.

Leal sat up quickly on Dracia’s sofa. His breathing was fast and irregular, and he felt sick and terrified. He looked around to see himself in Dracia’s room. He could tell by the fading sunlight coming through the windows, that he had been asleep for some time.

It had been a dream, but it was more than just a dream. It had felt so real. Leal realized how cold he was suddenly. The fire still burned brightly in Dracia’s fireplace, but he felt like he was outside in the middle of winter. It hadn’t been just a dream, it had been a message sent by Lilith and Fannar. They had managed away around his defenses. It must have been retaliation for what he had done the night before. Being so exhausted, he had left himself vulnerable to their attack. He wondered if he had absorbed some of the magic in Dracia the night before, allowing them to form a temporary link with him.

However they did it, it worked. Leal was terrified. He had to go find Dracia and make sure she was well. He hoped they had not attacked her because of what he had done the night before. He stood up and walked towards the door when it opened and Dracia walked into the room. Leal immediately grabbed her and pulled her too him, holding her tight.

“Leal, are you okay?” asked Dracia with concern as Leal held her.

He only responded by holding her even tighter, feeling her warmth against him, letting it bring him comfort. They had to find a way to destroy this bond between her and the Navalians. He worried no matter what he gave them, she might never be safe until they found a way to break the link.

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