Kidnap a princess, they said. It will be fun, they said.
Whoever invented the notion of fun certainly couldn't have accounted for how incredibly annoying kidnapping Lydia, the princess of the Airedale kingdom, would prove to be. Typically, based on the stories he heard coupled with his limited experience in the field of abductions, most princesses would desperately struggle in an attempt to free themselves from his grasp. The weaker ones, which were his favorites to hear about, would collapse on sight and proceed to sleep on for hours. Now those princesses he felt were fun to abduct, it was all quiet on the way and their families would rush to pay up anything asked of them. But this one proved to behave on a completely different scale than what Axell was used to.
The red flags basically jumped in his face from the second he introduced himself to her. Quite frankly, her reaction had puzzled and froze him in place for a second. If you entered someone's room and locked the door behind you, that alone should be enough to instill fear in their hearts. But add to this the fact that Axell unveiled his true nature to her, via flashing his fiery red eyes and growing a large pair of scaly and pointy wings while retaining humanoid form, pure terror should've struck her to the core. Instead of that, the silver haired royal just casually looked him in the eye as she spoke. "Could you perhaps give me a minute to pack a few things?" There was a glimpse of excitement mixed with a shadow of surprise painted on her face.
But the fierce man just stood there, unable to figure out his next words. So many things were wrong with her question that he couldn't even begin to formulate an answer. It all made no sense, what kind of person asks their soon-to-be captor this kind of question? Fumbling with his words, Axell straightened himself. "Well yes, I allow it." But she already had gone ahead and was rummaging through her closet, almost like his answer wouldn't have changed a thing to her plans anyway.
Now that he had the chance to analyze her from up close, there was simply no denying that she was vastly different from the other princesses he had encountered so far. Her hair, though carefully brushed, was not done in any extravagant manner as a simple ponytail kept her silver strands together. What struck him more however was her dressing style. You'd expect a princess to enjoy the extra perks that came with her rank and go all out to fill in their wardrobe but that was not Lydia's case. In fact, you could even describe her as plain in that department. The clothes that she wore mostly suited active young men as her closet was overflowing with leather pants and padded shirts that did a good job at hiding her curves.
"Oh, by the way, I have an idea to get us out of here unnoticed in case you need it." She said as she peeked her head out to have a look at him. Now enough was enough for the old dragon, things needed to be set straight.
Drawing his longsword from the sheath on his left hip, Axell looked at her menacingly. "Do you not realize that I'm trying to kidnap you here? Now hurry along before I change m-" But the girl didn't allow him the pleasure of finishing his sentence as she ran up to him to examine his sword, as if it were a shiny piece of jewelry that had drawn her attention.
"Oh wow, that's definitely not regular steel there. What is it made of?" She observed a quick pause before continuing, pointing to his sheath that was considerably smaller than the sword it was meant to hold. "And how the hell does it fit in there?" It was proving to be quite hard to threaten someone who was too fascinated by you to find you scary. This went against the fact that most people found him to be intimidating without even trying. After all, Axell was a bit on the tall and bulky side. That was without mentioning the fact that smiles weren't particular his forte. Coupled with the fact that she couldn't see his face nor his ebony skin, both hidden under the heavy set of armor customary to royal guards, the princess should actually be frightened. He was basically a winged stranger who could snap her in half even though she was no dainty flower herself. If that wasn't enough, what else could be?
"Are you even listening? I mean I'm in half draconic form and threatening you with a sword here."
"Oh yes, that reminds me of something I've been meaning to ask since you got here. Can you fly with those wings? Because I've always wanted to fly, it must be so nice!"
By now, she was questioningly poking at his wings. A sigh escaped his mouth as he internally admitted defeat. It was just impossible to scare her into submission at this point in time. "Can't we just go back to the part where I'm kidnapping you? You know, the part where you're scared and you have to do what I ask? I'll answer your questions after."
Reluctantly, she nodded and agreed. "But you'll have to follow my lead, I don't want anyone getting killed today. That's my only condition." What kind of person even set conditions to have themselves captured? He should've known there'd be a catch somewhere. Gathering information and sneaking into the castle went too damn smoothly to not have a huge catch waiting to slap him right in the face. Mumbling a muffled 'Fine', he sat down on the edge of her comfortable bed to listen to her plan as best as he could while battling the temptation to just take a nap on the soft material. Dragons were known to love their sleep and Axell particularly loved to sleep his problems away. There were very few things a ten years long nap couldn't defeat, as he had come to realize over the ages.
As she finished exposing her plans, and filling her black bag that bulged against her waist, the young man -or old dragon, up to interpretation- retracted his wings and tilted his head to one side. "I haven't done that in a while but shouldn't I be the one guiding you away? You're a victim, remember?" Her hand softly tapped his shoulder pad. "Sure thing, friend. Now cover your back
and off we go!" Handing him a used brown cloth to hang over the two holes on the back of his armor, she then headed straight towards the door. A very dumbfounded guard of Her Royal Princess followed her to the door which he proceeded to unlock.
From this point on, Axell followed her lead as she held onto his arm. No one seemed to find that the least bit strange, neither the actual guards nor the many servants they encountered paid more than a second glance towards them. Apparently, the princess was known to be a very cheerful and outgoing person who got along with everyone. Maybe smiling often had some perks but he definitely wouldn't admit that out loud. Their cover up would be that he was merely accompanying her to feed animals at the lake, something that she did very often. And it actually worked, to his utmost surprise. This was certainly turning out to be the easiest yet weirdest abduction in history. It did beat his initial idea of destroying part of the castle and flying away with her in his claws. The lesser the effort, the better it was!
But something was bound to go off at some point because since when could he just catch a break? And it wasn't any simple complication either. The head of the royal guard himself happened to stumble upon them. So much for using the less crowded pathways, he thought as he glanced over to Lydia. You could easily distinguish him from a basic soldier with a simple glance at his armor. The polish and attention to detail was amongst the finest in the human kingdoms. It struck Axell as odd that someone would use such expensive equipment to merely make rounds in a castle. Unless you were expecting heavy fighting against skilled opponents, it was simply overkill. A mere armor like the one the dragon actually donned would've done the trick but no, a highly ranked official had to stand out with an intricate piece of armor. Poor guy must undoubtedly be feeling exhausted and sweating like a pig under those layers of metal. But, as people demonstrated these days, looking cool was much more important than being practical.
The General seemed to look surprised. Well, it was true that his face couldn't be seen but surprise was apparent in the slight gestures of his reaction. There was a faint 'Oh you're there' escaping the General's lips in the form of quiet muttering. Then they stared each other down, both sides unwilling to take the first step away from the other. While it made sense for Axell and the princess to be standing still, devising the best course of action, it was weird to have General Huxley so undecided. This was supposed to be a man of high strategic intellect and bravery, being in doubt couldn't possibly be a trait in his character. Unless that very man had already figured him and his intentions out, maybe his mind was already at work on a plot to get the princess safely out of harm's way. That could be the only reason for his behavior, nothing else made more sense than that. Feeling foolish to have believed they could simply escape without being seen, Axell started to remove his hand from Lydia's grasp. No human could best him in a contest of reflexes and he was confident about his ability to swiftly cut down on flesh despite the heavy armor.
But then it hit him. Everything hit him all at once. Oh god, the unbelievably horrific stench that emanated from the General's armor. The urge to run away in defeat sprung onto him as it turned out no human could best his sense of smell either. How could one person generate this amount of power? Lydia was next to take in the nightmarish odor and her facial expression quickly gave it away. Thankfully, that was the General's cue to make a move. "Well..." he started, clearing his throat out. "Keep up the good work soldier and hmm, protect the princess with your life." No matter how mighty one man might be, diarrhea was still an insurmountable enemy that had them at a loss for words. As suddenly as he appeared, the General was gone down the luxurious halls adorned by antique torches and painting. To be able to walk this fast despite his burdened state, Axell could only have respect for the man.
That minor hurdle aside, the lack of questioning continued to the stables where they would try to acquire the two steeds necessary to their journey. As expected of the establishment tasked with providing horses for the high society, beautiful specimen were everywhere to be found. You couldn't even smell or see a trace of horse dumping, which was no small feat when you knew how dirty the animal was. Everything was polished to be shiny and aesthetically pleasing, from the beautiful oak wood that made up the various enclosures to the dangling chandeliers that provided light with their scented candles. Undoubtedly, the upkeep of this place certainly matched that of the horses. Speaking of which, they were definitely much more alluring than Axell would've appreciated. Indeed differences could be observed between various breeds. Some horses were bred simply to look superior through their bigger stature yet they lacked the speed and stamina of a common horse. It was truly a shame that showing off had become such a staple of society. Everyday spent roaming the cities of men, sights of people trying so hard to impress their peers plagued his eyes. It was as if they had never learned that the only approval that they truly needed was their own. You could spend your life trying to please others that they would still find a way to criticize and bring you down.
"Hey, choose your horse already. We can't stay too long here before they get suspicious."
Snapping out of his thoughts, Axell realized that she was already on her horse, bags laid on each side. Looking at her posture, you could tell she knew how to actually ride and not just parade like most princesses did. It felt refreshing to think that maybe they weren't all useless damsels in distress crying in high towers like he had heard. But it was still unsettling to see how easily Lydia had come to terms with the situation at hand. "Hm, yeah, I'm picking this one." His right index was pointing towards the nearest horse, a large one coated with the most beautiful brown hair he had seen on a living being.
Looking at him, her expression was dumbfounded. "Are you seriously choosing the one closest to you?"
"Do not judge me." Too late, she already was right in the middle of just that." My whole life has been guided with random, impulsive decisions and I'm still breathing so I must be doing something right."
That was just the laziest excuse someone had ever used to justify their questionable decisions but, deep down, Lydia knew that there were just no arguing with this logic whatsoever. The "sure, why not?" mentality had also gotten her this far and, although there definitely had been some hurdles along the way, she couldn't complain too much about it. It was not everyday that a dragon came to whisk you away from your boring home and towards the discovery of exciting new worlds. Or at least, that was how Lydia had decided to view the whole situation. Sometimes even the dangers of the unknown sounded better than the four walls of your home, if you could still think of it as such.
So, with a simple shrug, she was giving him her answer. "That's actually a very fair point, I'll give you that."
With the matter closed and their horses all set and headed towards the outside of the vast capital, the improbable duo finally allowed themselves the gift of relaxation. Now that they were off to their merry way and scrolling through the city, bothered by nothing else than the odd waving of its inhabitants, there wasn't anything that could possibly go wrong. At least, it could not be worse for Axell than the earlier situation. Surely, she would not prove as worse a companion as her first impression led him to believe.
"Oh I forgot to pack underwear, do you happen to have any in your home? Now that I mention it, where do you live? Is it a cave, a dungeon or a huge domain? You owe me some answers now!" With just a few words, Lydia managed to crush all his remaining hope of a quiet travel. The disguised guard sighed once again, mentally preparing himself for the huge task ahead. Turns out that not all princesses out there were fun to kidnap.