A lull falls over Deep Cavern as the young bandit approaches the top of the naturally formed rock dais, “This concerns her safety,” he bows to Hael and he turns to face the crowd, “I need to bring this matter to your attention! The princess came to me, this morning while my family were intercepting a thief who stole our cart. She approached us, half naked, proposing to my father and my little brother that she wanted our hands on her dirty body, after she had just been used in the forest – is this any way for a princess to act? She claimed to be a whore! She took off her top, half naked before us – Eep!"
I’m watching the interaction take place from behind the pillar, waiting for my father to kill the young bandit. Hael has his hand slapped over the bandit’s mouth while he holds him back against his inhumanely large body. The tall lanky boy barely comes up to his elbows.
“Luvenia,” Hael growls out my name, very quietly.
My whole body freezes in place behind my rock pillar as he does not immediately snap the boys neck.
“You lying, thieving coward!” I hear Amadahy protect me from somewhere in the crowd and I watch as she jumps up onto the stage. I’m surprised she immediately comes to my defense, but there is a quick uproar from the male Dragons in the cavern.
“Why is wearing Tempest war paint?”
“It’s a she-bat –!”
I had almost been ready to run from Deep Cavern after Hael exercised some belief in the bandit’s words. However, now I see the male warriors coming towards the dais, crowding around the base, offended by Amadahy’s presentation.
Hael is glancing at Amadahy in confusion concerning her face paint. Minx jumps up next onto the stage. She squats in her human form, in her purple dress and growls at the warriors with gritted teeth.
She truly looks like a little monster; if a little silly. The warriors are even more offended by Minx’s presence.
“What the hell is this?”
“Is this what our welcome home looks like?”
“She’s a crazy little pest!”
“Stand aside,” Hael warns Amadahy who was at first angry at the young bandit but now she is looking at the crowd with both fear and courage, “Both of you, stand aside,” Hael has to snarl at Minx for her to listen. She quickly pounces up and runs to Amadahy’s legs, “Luvenia!” Hael has now connected to my mind to feel out my location and his anger is beyond evident within his tone.
He looks up to see me skirting around the edges to quickly get to the rock dais.
“One issue at a time,” Hael sounds fed up as he shoves the bandit forward to face me, but not without keeping a firm hand on his shoulder so he doesn’t run.
Everyone goes quiet about Amadahy as all eyes turn to my back-stage approach to the dais. I slink through people and quietly step up onto the dais, eyeing off the young bandit with unblinking eyes.
“Tell them,” he smiles, nervously.
“It’s true. I pretended to be a whore,” I raise an eyebrow at him, and a shocked gasped silence descends about the cavern. All 250 Dragons and the 6,000 slaves present stop breathing. I glance at Hael to see his deadly, curious gaze. He wanted to know more, ”For a purpose,” I’ve had my own sick satisfaction at letting the crowd wonder of my morals, before I bother to explain the rest. I also feel my princes’ eyes on me, but I’m too afraid to see what their expressions entail, “These last five years, the Requiem mountains have been filled with bandits, cut-throats and robbers. We had the threat of Hael, my father, our Dragon Lord. But executions were not cutting it – forgive the pun,” I smirk as Amadahy nods at me with a smile on her face. She had said the joke awhile back. I guess all was forgiven, “The female fledglings and I, decided to take matters into our own hands –”
“Princess,” Hael cuts me off, one of his brows rising high, “And who gave you the authority to enact a scouting group to protect the Requiem forests?” he asks me, curious. Ahem – I mean, dangerously inquisitive.
But, as others trembled in fear before him; he was my father. I was not in true fear of him, I was simply in awe of his baffled mind on the matter.
“Let me finish,” I ask, politely, “Ethne, Pagan, Sen, Kali, Amadahy, Minx –” I point towards them and everyone almost starts into another uproar again so I continue louder, ”and on my authority – as a princess,” I stare at Hael now, in a challenge, “I gave them authority to come protect the forests with me and make them safer.”
“Get to the part you ‘acted’ as a whor–” the young bandit tries to speak, and he sucks in a breath as Hael squeezes his shoulder so hard I hear something crack.
“The girls and I found three bandits robbing and planning to kill a fair-man trader, he was helpless, defenceless and completely at your mercy,” I speak plainly to the bandit, straight to his pained, stressed, vein-popping face, “I entranced you with my tits while my girls saved the trader from certain death. Amadahy came out with two swords. One for I. One for her. This is after your thoughts suggested you’d take me back into Haven, cut my throat, throw me aside, after you had used me as the whore I was pretending to be at the time.”
“Finally,” Hael nods at me and I watch as a few seconds later, his fist is buried promptly in the young bandit’s face, “That’s an interesting story, Luvenia,” Hael ignores the crumpled bloody mess that collapses to the floor and I do not wince, either. I simple meet Hael’s gaze as he shakes off the blood on his fist with a quick flick, “Your adventures are no longer needed, sweetheart, we have enough patrols back to take over those duties. Does that satisfy you?”
“If it pleases you, father,” I nod and take a step back, “But I have one more thing to say, Amadahy is my friend and counsellor. Minx – argh,” I try to think of something nice to say and she continues to look up at me from Amadahy’s side with puppy-dog eyes. I settle on, ” –she’s fierce and –”
“Regardless, Amadahy will wash off the war-paint in respect for this Horde’s five year sacrifice,” Hael cuts me off, clearly hiding his true anger for the sake of the celebrations.
“Who is she?” the question ten-times over is asked from the crowd, by many of the warriors. Many were still infuriated by her presence.
“She came to us, a mere child, 4 years ago, a run-away from nowhere, fully welcomed and then she dedicated to this Horde,” Hael promises everyone, “Don’t let a bit of paint taint the celebrations.”
The crowd finally calms down.
Until Amadahy steps forward.
“With all due respect, I am not nobody,” she growls at Hael and faces the crowd with Minx at her side, ”I am from the Tempest lands. But, I hated it there, I ran to find peace in the West. I stand with you. Not against. Never against. My war-paint is not to spite your victory, it is to please my gods. The Sky Gods. You don’t need to defecate yourselves in your shit and piss because you saw some bloody make-up,” she smirks and then jumps right off into the fro of the warriors.
My heart is in my throat, I almost believe they’ll tear her apart.
“Excuse me, but I have some family to be reunited with!” she calls out in the middle of the warriors, who cannot quite believe either that she’d insult them, then suddenly jump in and walk amongst them. At the same time, it seems to buy her some quick-won respect for her bravery.
“What family, Amadahy?” Hael asks in a dry tone, rolling his eyes. He is simply over trying to bring peace into the cavern when it was slowly seeming impossible.
“I’ll gladly explain,” I raise my hand, “Her family. Well. It’s the princes of the Lost Horde. The half-tempest filth – oh, excuse me,” I pretend to cough into my closed fist, “Excuse me, kindly. I meant half-breed princes, half-tempest cousins, of our welcomed new member of the Horde,” I can’t help myself. The sudden desire to insult the princes in defence of Amadahy’s breed, riles me up.
They could all slam down a girl they didn’t even know for being a Tempest breed, yet my princes also had the same ‘tainted’ eastern blood and were welcomed in their midst just for being Althor’s nephews.
I look up and see the princes now. They have moved forward further down the line.
“Luvenia,” Hael speaks low and the warriors are looking up at me like they can’t quite believe my audacity to be rude after everything they had done.
I turn to face my father, mouth open, but I close it at the glare Hael is now passing my way.
“You’d like to patrol,” he says, “Go patrol. Now. I’m sure the mountains will need another pair of eyes to defend us from petty bandits and thieves,” Hael takes his turn to take control of the mountain – by insulting me.
“You’re clearly not interested in welcoming home the Horde. The Rogue nature of your scales is changing you. Luv. It is in your nature to be independent, perhaps it is time you left the Requiem Horde, to fulfil your nature.”
"Father,” I drop my tone.
I can’t quite believe this is happening.
This was not how the night was meant to go.
“In a successful Horde,” Hael speaks loudly now, his tone echoing across the cavern to be received by all those who are listening, “Coherence, obedience and respect is what ties us all together. Even the slaves here, have a symbiotic relationship with us. Dragons. We protect you, provide you with shelter and food. You in return, help us maintain a beautiful mountain complex and have respect for the specific needs of Dragons. While Dragons, treat other Dragons, with respect for their elders, respect to the more wiser and the more experienced... with life,” Hael now turns to me, “My beautiful daughter, is a Rogue. She is my heart but my Horde’s integrity is my business. Luvenia... you have failed to cohere to what it means to be a part of a Dragon Horde. You were not made for it. You were born to pursue your own desires, on your own. It is best you leave the Horde. Explore elsewhere.”
“You’re kicking her out?” I hear Ethne from down the dais, she has run forward and she now looks up at me with worried eyes.
“Rogue’s are very rare breeds,” Hael speaks to Ethne, kindly explaining, “White Dragons are consumed with Heart Magic like Silver breeds. All the coloured scales in the middle have a range of specialties. Rogues on the other hand, have one need. To be Rogue. Luvenia will never be controlled and my daughter’s safety is paramount to me as it will be to any father who has children. That is why, it is important I recognise her nature. A Rogue being restricted in a Horde’s formalities will suffer, and strike out with strange, abnormal behaviour. Dressing up as a whore, for one point, is not what I know you as, Luv,” Hael warns me not to talk back with one raised hand, “Disrespecting the warriors of the Horde is not what a Horde requires to stay strong, either. Luv. You. Need. To. Leave.”
I raise my chin, feeling flooded with an all consuming numbness.
I knew the tears would come, but not yet.
Am I no longer welcome? I ask Hael, through our private mental connection.
Indulge in what it means to be a Rogue, and when you find out, you will come back to me and my Horde and know exactly what I was talking about. However, you won’t truly know, until you learn, Hael is firm and immovable, I can hear it in his tone.
My mates? I ask him next, curious of his thoughts.
Not my bloody issue, Hael snarls this at me, what the twins and you do, is your life, your fate. Don’t tell me any future details. Dragon Gods forbid, or I’ll have to cut your tongue out.
Funny, but not so funny, considering you just kicked me out, I reply, dryly.
“You’ve always begged me to let you roam,” Hael points out, speaking loud and clear across the cavern, “I’m giving you your freedom. Be graceful about it.”
“Yes, but, what would my father do?” I ask, wriggling my brows, hinting at Lochness.
“He would say something sly like that, then turn and while walking out, he’d be plotting how to kill some innocent who looked at his mate or daughter the wrong way,” Hael sighs, “You should be jumping for joy, Luv. I’m giving you your freedom.”
I shrug, and Hael can’t help but smile at my smirk and my smirk in return, changes to a smile.
He was trying so hard to be the ruthless Dragon Lord; but he couldn’t quite cut it with his daughter.
But, finally, he looks relaxed again. Because peace has finally settled over the cavern.
And so I turn and prepare to leave, embracing my given freedom.
It wasn’t so bad.
I had always craved it and begged for it.
Now it was given to me, with my father’s blessings.
"With all due respect... Hael,” I completely halt, as my ears prick up and hear a graceful, masculine drawl. A drawl I had heard every night in my dreams for the last five years, “Luvenia is not just a Rogue,” I pause and turn, my eyes narrowing on a midnight-blue headed beast of a man, currently swinging himself up onto the stage with one arm, effortlessly, “She’s my mate.”
My mouth is literally hanging open as Sylvan dares to not just approach Hael.
But he comes straight up – nose to nose with my father. They are now, not just, almost exactly the same height.... it’s that...
Sylvan is an inch taller and he shoulders are at least two inches wider.
My heart is already beating in my chest, running away with itself, adrenaline unnecessarily spiking.
Sylvan continues to keep close-acquainted with my father and to me it is clearly threatening of his position in the Horde. Hael is simply eager for more words, happily so, he was not as hot-headed as he use to be and it seemed he was enjoying the young, fresh passion in Sylvan’s stance and gaze.
“You gave the princess her freedom,” Sylvan smirks and turns to face me, reaching up and pulling off his eye-patch – I see he isn’t blind.
He is actually perfectly fine.
I gasp at the prank he pulled on everyone. What the hell? “She is not free. But let’s just pretend she is. She is now free to be rightly punished by her two mates. A father has no say, when his daughter has two princes to watch over her as fate should have it.”
I quickly turn, from curiosity, to see where Thaddeus is located... but he is no longer in the crowd.
It is then, I feel the hairs on the back of my neck tingle and when I glance over my shoulder I see him blocking my nearest exit; nonchalantly. He is completely relaxed. He leans back against the heavy wood doors, arms crossed over his chest, lazily watching me.
Unfortunately, I would say he is even taller than Sylvan.
Which, all I can really say; is it bothers me.
A great deal.
Hael literally bursts out laughing, making me jump in shock. His laughter is a loud, robust and mocking noise.
“Did I challenge that fact, boy?” Hael asks, “You know what you want, why have you come to me? She’s right there!”
“Dad, really?” I complain.
“Holy, Dragon Gods!” Everyone pauses to hear a warrior in the crowd scream at the top of his lungs. Everyone then turns to see the crowd near the dais quickly part and give space to the warrior in pain. From my position, it is clear that Minx has her human teeth lodged into a Dragon’s human ankle.
"Let him go! Minx! Get. Off!" Amadahy yells at her pet Fire-Spitter while everyone is in shock or has started to laugh, “What did I say about biting?”
Everyone is distracted.
And I’ve taken the brief moment to my advantage. To disappear.
I’ve taken a few sly steps forward and jumped straight off down into the crowd. Quickly now, I burrow my way through the warriors and slaves, keeping my shoulders and head down.
I tentatively search for my mate’s minds and I feel their presence close by. They had hurried off the stage, clearly, to follow me. The bastards could probably see over every damn head in the room.
“Let the celebrations begin! Ha, ha, ha!” Hael is still laughing while I just roll my eyes.
He found too many things amusing nowadays.
What... exactly... do I need punishing for? Okay. I’ve finallydared to do it.
I’ve connected to my mate’s minds and let them seep into my own usually heavily fortified head-space.
The irritating thing is...
...they don’t answer.
I run and I finally make it out of the crowd to the main entry point of Deep Cavern.
I leave swiftly and my plan is to get out of the cave system, as quickly as possible, so I can fly.
But I’m truthfully terrified.
Because I know, no matter what, there is no way I can outrun, outfly or possibly even outwit either of them.
They had suffered and learned through a five-year war.
I had simply waited in luxury for their return.
I then insulted them in front of thousands, including their comrades.
And now, I was running.
“Oh, Luvenia?” I hiss at myself, “What have you done?”
I grit my teeth, shaking my head at myself. I was so impulsive. Too impulsive.
I round an empty crooked cave corner and take a breather to look over my shoulder.
I can’t see them.
When I reach out to feel for their presence I’m shocked to feel... distance?
They had dropped off.
My mouth slowly hangs open.
I know exactly what they’ve done.
When I realise, I feel embarrassment, loathing and above all... my temper dramatically spikes...
...because the bastards were giving me a head start.