I am the last one along with Amadahy to leave the play den. All the other girls were quick at getting ready and just ran out the door to the celebrations below. I had stayed in the pool until the last minute, which meant I was in the water for hours. Amadahy is busy applying white intricate war paint all over her cheeks and forehead to match the shaved sides of her head. This means she is lagging behind with me.
“See you girls down there!” Ethne swirls out of the room in a twirling flurry from her white sparkly dress, slamming the door shut on the way out.
I was still in the pool.
Amadahy sits by a messy dresser, her light blue Dragon eyes watching me skeptically from the mirror as she halts to stare at me. I just stare back.
“You coming or what, Luvenia?” she asks, dryly, “Are you going to hide in the pool all night and avoid the chaos? I guess that’s what Rogues prefer. Silence and being alone.”
I wait and just continue to stare, wondering what she meant by such words. Insults or perhaps just a passing comment?
“You and Minx would know,” I choose to respond with a raised brow and I don’t expect her anger to spike so quickly.
She slams her fist down on the table in response.
"What are you trying to say, princess?” she asks. She only used the term ‘princess’ when she was really angry with me.
I do not answer, I just watch her, wondering when she will leave. Eventually she just scowls and looks back in the mirror, applying more white paint. It seems she will never finish, and I get anxious as I feel Hael prodding at my mind, checking in on where I was located.
I had to get down to Deep Cavern and soon, I couldn’t avoid it forever. I stand up, the water dripping off my creamy coloured perfect skin as I hurry out of the water towards the wardrobes and the dresses. Many of them are scattered on the floor, but there are a few hanging which the fledglings never touched.
Yes, fledglings. Dragons were always known as fledglings, until they were at least thirty years old.
I head to my untouched black dresses. Two of them remain, the ones I always wore. One with a green ribbon belt and scrappy ends as the style. One longer and plainer, which I reserved for family dinners when Hael wanted me looking respectable for guests.
I go for the one with the green ribbon, because it is prettier.
I jerk my head over my shoulder to see Amadahy standing and stalking her way over to me without a moment’s hesitation.
I stand back as she stops beside me and reaches in for a white dress, instead, stashed in the corner.
"No,” I snap.
“Yes,” she takes it out and shoves it at my naked body so I have to clasp it to me before it falls to the floor, “Wear it or you’ll regret it.”
“Regret what?” I ask, as she stands back with her hands clasped behind her back, her chin raised and a smirk plastered over her sly face. She looks me right in the eye, and doesn’t look away.
“You’ve been a sour bitch at times in the years I’ve known you,” she speaks, honestly.
“Excuse me –?” I ask, with a monotone. No one ever spoke to me like that.
"At times,” she repeats, “I noticed why. I noticed when.”
I do not answer I simply look down at the white pretty dress, not my style at all, and I frown.
She is more than happy to continue.
“You have two mates waiting for you,” she says, quietly, “thinking about you, wondering... is our mate as beautiful and innocent as we once left her? War changes a man. Human or Dragon. And I know you’re anxious about meeting them again.”
“You would know?” I ask, trying not to lose all my patience.
“Mmhmm,” she looks me over, pausing, wondering if she should continue with what she wants to say. I do not speak and she decides to add, “I told all the girls where Minx and I came from... but not you – you were too prissy for my taste. I didn’t want to tell you anything,” she snaps, and I’m shocked into further silence by this admission, “Minx and I were born in the eastern lands, princess. We ran when the war started. Zayda was their chant as the war drew closer. Zayda’s sister, Zwenka, was my mother... and Minx was my pet,” she smirks, “I was a princess too.”
“Why did you come to the West lands?” I ask, instantly suspicious about her whole grand story. However, she seems all too happy to tell me now.
“My life and Minx’s life was in danger. I knew I had family here, family I had never met but knew lived on the sun-drenched land; in the West,” she explains, “Cousins. My age; and I have told you but you do not believe me... I amolder than you,” she unclasps her hands from her back and she points at her face, and the war paint, still unblinking, “In memory of Tempest winds, the gods that rule my land and my people.”
“There are no rulers in the Tempest lands,” I say, slowly.
“Oh, really? My father was an old, wrinkled, ancient Dragon with a sharp old tail he use to beat me with if I spoke out of line. My mother paid no attention to me. Shai; a great mage from a rare line of blood... Blood Ravens. She returned. She started blood magic as soon as she heard her little baby sister was murdered by Althor, the Dragon Lord of the Horde of Fortune. No one cared about me in all the drama,” she shrugs her shoulders, “Minx and I were just more females for the males to rape if they ever got their filthy hands on us. We never left the mountain temple, ever. Then one day I did leave, with Minx, I didn’t want to risk our safety with the war. And, the whole point of me telling you this, is, this is the reason why I don’t like you, Luvenia. I’m a princess too, I’ve been there. But you’re spoilt and you’re loved and you’re stuck up. Sorry. It’s true.”
I just stare at her, feeling confused and confronted by her blunt words. Where the hell did this all come from?
My eyes question her, but I do not speak.
This irritates Amadahy further and she glances at the dress once again.
“You’re too stuck up and full of it, for my taste, okay? You think because you’re a princess, you’re entitled. I’m a princess; and I have nothing,” she finds it hard saying this but she gulps and glances from the dress back up to my quiet, enraged eyes. I didn’t know what she wanted me to make of this. However, I was also offended by her words, “...wear the pretty dress, Luvenia. Take my advice. Please.”
“Prove it,” I drawl, mocking her with the sarcasm in my tone, “‘Princess’... that’s an awfully creative... story... you concocted,” I use my best evil-eyes, hoping to intimidate her back.
With age, it wasn’t that I got more... ‘stuck-up’ per-say... it was more I became cooler. Colder. More calculating like my father, Lochness. It was in my blood to be a Rogue, to be independent. To not care about certain things or emotions as much. Even if I was admittedly in denial about a few certain emotions that did bother me, deep down.
“Please, excuse me, princess,” she steps away from me, utterly offended by my reaction to her apparently truthful admissions, “I have family I have waited four years to meet. Whether you believe me or not, who I am is apparently, not important to your damn selfish interests. See you down there.”
She turns from me and I jerk when I hear the door slam open and I spin to see Minx has opened it for Amadahy.
“Twinker!” Minx hurries Amadahy, it was her ‘big sister’s’ nickname for her. Basically, because Amadahy’s brilliant white scales twinkled and blinded other Dragons in flight. It was damn irritating on sunny clear days.
“Let’s go, Minx,” Amadahy looks over her shoulder to glare at me one last time before she slams the door shut.
I push the white dress back into the cupboard and slam the wardrobe doors shut as soon as they’re gone. I walk to the wardrobe just beside the first one, and I open it to find more clothes to my liking. I take out the black corset, which came with a black silk train and black, provocative stockings and black, thigh high boots.
This outfit was a gift from Ethne. She said it suited my style.
Before I put it on, Amadahy’s words keep at the back of my mind, bothering me the more I think about what she’s said. I had never bothered to dig into her mind before. I didn’t make a practice of ripping out everyone’s secrets... but now I prod her. I want to check the authenticity of her words.
The front most passions are buried under the first layer.
And indeed, her true identity was all too easy to see.
She was indeed who she said she was; which meant she was Thaddeus and Sylvan’s cousin. It makes sense, her mother being the sister of Zayda. But there was one other piece of information I found that I had no idea about.
Until I read it, so clear, so honest, so true... it suddenly makes so much sense.
Amadahy was in love.
And under the third layer, which I reach and pry apart, because I am too curious now about it; I find pain, abuse and fear.
Her father use to beat her; because she liked females over males. What else is exposed is what she didn’t tell me. She ran from home because she was scared of what others would do when they found out.
I feel her pain and a tear abruptly leaves my eye as I slowly put back the outfit from Ethne. The pain and feelings of abandonment were so raw, I could suddenly understand why she hated my easy life so much.
I go back to the cupboard of dresses; and sucking up my pride, I pull out the white dress.
I slowly get dressed into it, thinking too much.
I feel guilty for peeling apart so much of her private life I had never been interested in prying into. Now, I am both glad I am enlightened and sad I was so hard on her when she told me the truth.
I check myself once in the mirror, surprised how well the white and gold embroidery suited my black midnight hair. She was right that I would regret not wearing it. It was beautiful.
I put on some red lipstick to top it off and then I feel both my father’s prodding at my mind, my presence, wondering why I’m still so high up in the mountain.
Get down here, Luv, Hael tries to sound patient but clearly he is annoyed I am delaying the celebrations.
Don’t you want to see the look on Madeline’s face as I surprise her? Lochness drawls through my mind and I grin at his words.
I’m coming! I turn and hurry out, making my way down to Deep Cavern.
I stand briefly at the entrance of Deep Cavern as my eyes scan the hustle and bustle of talking and dancing Dragons and slaves. I see so many familiar colors of Dragons I haven’t seen in five years. My heart is already warm with happiness at their return.
I can’t spot the princes and I don’t want them to spot me first so I quickly make my way down towards Hael and Madeline. They are standing by the corner of a makeshift stall, talking closely together. My mother is wearing a beautiful red dress and no collar tonight, but instead a silver choker with a green emerald. Her feet are wrapped in a red ribbon.
Hael is... well... he is dressed in his famous leather pants and nothing more.
I almost mistaken him for Lex, who is further down in a crowd of female fledglings. It looks like he is drowning in them as they all ask him questions at once. His irritation couldn’t look anymore real.
I stop in the crowd as it becomes immovable at a bottle neck near the dance floor. I side step to the edge of the crowd until I am near one of the side caves. I lean on the rock while a familiar, light, brunette smiles at me with recognition.
“Luvenia?” she asks and I look her up and down.
“You never age,” I blurt out, shocked by Summer’s still young appearance. She was my mother’s older cousin. Mate to the Dragon Lords Dane and Aneurin from the Dusk Horde. I only saw her very rarely on occasional visits.
“It’s so exciting, we came straight away when we heard the news in the morning,” Summer clasps her hands together, “My mates are... drinking with the Tempest warriors, they call them,” she rolls her eyes, “You probably haven’t seen Jules in five years now, is that correct?”
I gawk as I did not realize, a tall, lanky, beautiful goddess was hiding in the shadows by her mother. Her stand out features are her long golden ringlets, flowers entwined in her hair like a crown and pink natural lipstick.
"Jules?” I can’t believe how tall she has grown, at least a foot taller than her mother.
Her green-blue eyes look over me nervously.
“Luvenia,” she greets me politely and quietly.
Last time she was a slave, being taught discipline in our Horde. Now, she was... she was a proper princess.
“How old are you?” I ask, with a raised brow.
“19,” she answers, her eyes nervously also scanning the crowd. I see her nervous eyes focus on one section. On the opposite side of the dance floor. Of course, she is focused upon Lex.
Just as I see him, and think his name, he looks up to meet my shocked gaze. Next thing he does is freeze entirely as his eyes recognize the girl standing opposite me.
“Oh, my,” Jules almost falls a step back and I watch in amusement as she hides behind a rock pillar, “There was a bu... a bug... on the floor,” she begs me to believe her and Summer just gives her daughter a raised eyebrow.
“You love bugs,” Summer gives Jules a suspicious look.
She doesn’t want to look like she is hiding so she peeks her head around the corner, for only a moment.
“I’m going to explore, mother,” Jules blurts out again. She quickly finds her grace and disappears past both of us into the crowd. I prod her mind and I read what I expect; she is running and trying to hide.
When I look up, Lex is no longer drowning in the other females.
“I know it’s Lex,” Summer admits, “The joy of young love, there is nothing more exciting. ”
“Do you think they’re mates?” I ask her.
“If they are. I pity Lex,” Summer smiles, nervously, “Aneurin will eat him alive before he let’s any male put a hand on his baby.”
“I wish my fathers were like that,” I mutter.
“Like what?” I nearly jump out of my skin as Lochness puts a hand on my shoulder. He had snuck up behind me. I glance over my shoulder to see him eyeing Summer with confusion.
“Dad, what the hell?” I complain while glaring, he scared the living daylights out of me.
“Is this... Lochness? I have never met him personally,” Summer asks me, while glancing over him nervously. He nods at her, unblinking as he looks her up and down and she does the same to him, “I almost thought you were my mate, Dane,” Summer adds.
“Dane? Yet my eyes, sweety, hide a much more monstrous soul...” Lochness does not blink as he stares her down, “The immoral things I imagine could not compare to what he has done to you, what I can only imagine he has done... you and my little mouse look quite alike in some regards. I can’t stop my mind from thinking what it does. Vile things are in my nature,” Lochness takes a step forward and grabs her hand, lifting it up to place a kiss on the back of her hand.
She jerks her hand away and glares at him. She is so shocked, and seems about ready to go off at him for his words, but she controls her breathing and keeps her calm.
“It is a pleasure to meet your acquaintance,” Summer stumbles out, “...D-Dragon Lord?” she shakes her head to herself, confused about what to address him as. I couldn’t deny, my father gave off quite a murderous vibe. One not to cross.
“Wrong. I’m not a Dragon Lord,” he reaches over and grabs a hold of her chin, watching her cower in fright, “I’m something far worse than that, sweety,” she pulls away, looking flustered.
“I have to be... somewhere,” Summer swings around the corner and disappears, fast.
“Did you have to?” I ask Lochness as he turns to face me with a sly smirk.
“It’s been a while since I made a woman squirm,” he admits. I cringe up my face but he is not looking at me, he has his eyes focused upon another now, “Don’t fret, baby girl, your mother is still my sole aim, my only focus is to torture her... too much information baby cakes?” Lochness sees my discomfort and he smirks some more, “Summer was just practice.”
“That’s great, didn’t you have a gift for me?” I ask, trying to change the topic.
“Yes, a souvenir,” he reaches into his back pocket and takes out a sparkling, grey coloured scale the shape of leaf. He passes it to me and I take it with eager hands, “A Tempest scale off the War-Lord commander, fallen in battle, do you like it?” he turns to me, with a raised brow.
“I love it,” I nod and pocket it at the top of my dress, in between my breasts, “Thank you...” I have not finished and he is already making his way through the crowd.
I watch from where I am, curious about what exactly he is planning. Hael is welcoming home warriors. Madeline is standing to the side, looking distressed. One prod to her brain and all she is thinking about... is her other mate. My father.
However, Lochness is not in her line of sight, in fact, he is no longer in mine. I’ve lost track of him.
I watch as my mother fiddles with her hands, her eyes look pained as she looks up and still cannot find her mate.
Mother, I connect with her, gently and she instantly looks up to meet my gaze. Always able to find mine in the room if I connected with her, do not fear.
You look stunning, Luvenia, she beams with pride, do not worry about me.
Just don’t worry about Lochness, I assure her.
Have you seen him? she asks, a knowing spark in her eyes, Where is that god-forsaken father of yours? I am going to knee him right between the legs. I don’t care how hard it hurts. That bastard has been avoiding me all –
Her gaze from mine is blocked and my thoughts dissipate as a tall, giant, black haired Rogue, comes right out of the crowd.
Neither of them move as they come face to face.
“Can I have everyone’s attention?!” I hear Ethne call out from the stage and I look around to see her standing with her arms out, “Please! Hello! I need your attention, come on everyone! Please be quiet!” she almost has to scream it and I roll my eyes and look back to my mother and Lochness instead.
A silence slowly descends about the Cavern, finally, and I know, as I watch Madeline and Lochness, that they are communicating through their mental connection.
I see a tick in Madeline’s cheek and I know I never dared to prod and see what the conversation was about, but...
... – I will boil your stick and balls before I take them back again, you sly, sly monster!
Watch it, sweety, where’s your collar?
In a hole I dug. I buried it. What the hell is that scar on your chest?
A Tempest female Dragon didn’t like how gentle I was, so I paid the price.
I know my father is joking. Anyone would.
Now, however, plays out the greatest event of the day.
I except Madeline to bow her head, exhale slowly and give in.
Instead, she pounces forward and slaps him as hard as she can.
“You ungrateful, pitiful, bastard mate!” she screams it, and literally everyone in the Cavern, instead of turning to Ethne, now turn to the rulers of the Requiem mountains, “You! Argh –!”
I watch in awe as Lochness simply grabs her, spins her around and spanks her ass as hard as he can, just once, in front of thousands of witnesses.
“What the hell have you been teaching her?” Lochness snarls at Hael, who raises both his hands and roars his laughter.
“You bloody try and teach her obedience! I’ve been trying for twenty-three years!” Hael grins as Lochness jerks up my mother, spins her around and runs a hand through her long red hair.
He glares down at her.
He shakes his head.
And starts dramatically dragging her out of the Cavern.
I cringe and raise my hand to my eyes, choosing to hide behind the nearest pillar. I pretend in that moment my blood ties to my parents do not exist.
“Uh, um,” Ethne coughs loudly from the front stage, “Please, can I have everyone’s attention? I would like to welcome everyone back! This is one massive night to celebrate and congratulate our Horde on our victory in the war.”
I just listen as I face the side-cave wall, biting my lip, wondering if it’s safe to face the crowd again. Instead I focus on a thin, lanky man who steps into view. A meer foot opposite me, he tilts his head and my eyes widen.
The young bandit.
“What a pretty whore I see,” he whispers, leaning forward with a smile on his lips.
I snarl at his presence, raising my chin. But before I can lean off the wall and question him, he hurries off into the crowd.
“Please welcome, our Dragon Lord, Hael up to the stage, so he can say some formalities,” Ethne steps aside and I watch in confusion as the young bandit is pushing his way through the crowd.
It takes me a moment to realize where he is headed off too.
But his direction is purposeful enough.
My eyes widen as I work out what the young bandit was planning to do. He was going to tell my father I was posing as a whore while out in the forest.
My heart beat races as I stand there, about to run after him. However, there is a rolling in my guts and a wave of heat from the bottom of my spine as two familiar presences hit me, hard, in that same moment.
I freeze and stay where I am, near my pillar of rock as protection. This time my eyes scan towards the entrance of Deep Cavern and about ten feet from where I am. I see two, scared, handsome princes.
I almost drop to my knees.
Not because Thaddeus, with his cobalt, long hair, tied behind him with a leather strap, is far taller than I remember. Not because Sylvan has blue-black hair, just as long, flowing freely about his shoulders... and there is a black patch on his left eye... so he is blind in one eye.
Not because of any of that.
But because of what was about to happen.
“Wait, wait!” I die a bit inside as I hear the young bandit calling out from the stage, “I have to tell you all something! Something about the princess! Listen! Listen to me! I beg you, Dragon Lord, Hael, hear me. Hear me. I beg you. You must hear it. I fear for her safety. I came this whole way to seek you out, just to tell you.”
“I can hear, out with it,” Hael snarls at the boy, impatient with his rambling.
The princes haven’t seen me yet, thank god, but I watch them. They are looking far too curious with what was about to happen.
The wait for the bandit to accuse me of my actions seems to never end.
But I know how it will end... for him... at least.
The bandit didn’t know, he would never be rewarded for his admissions. It would simply taint and sour the beginning of the welcome home and he would lose his life.
I smile to myself, bitterly.
What better way, than to start the celebrations with a bloody death and being called a whore in front of every member of the Requiem mountains. Including my mates.