Here’s a new chapter 🙂 Find previous ones here.
Leala blinked. That was a question she had not anticipated.
“N-no,” Ancel stuttered, for once without a steady flow of words.
“Why?” Leala asked.
To the Princess, Garrin said, “It was worth a try.”
To Leala and her husband, the Princess said, “It just has to do with a prophecy about me. If I don’t see color in the next…what, seven days now?” She looked at Garrin, who touched his fingertips with his thumb and nodded. “I’ll be killed by a dragon.”
“I know the prophecy,” Ancel said. Every knight these past eighteen years does.”
Leala’s brow knit together. “My dear—forgive me, I meant your Highness—you truly haven’t found your beloved yet?”
The Princess shook her head.
Garrin’s jaw twitched. “And we’re running out of time. When we saw your home, we hoped…”
“But why are you even here?” Leala asked. “Surely it makes more sense for the Princess to be in Jerrett’s capital, surrounded by other people. We easily go months without seeing another living being.”
When the Princess opened her mouth, a yawn came out instead of an explanation. Leala’s maternal instincts took over. “Forgive me—how rude, to keep you standing, when you’re weary. Come, your Highness, sit yourself in this chair here,” she patted the crocheted afghan draped across her upholstered chair. Princess Noemi let the bag she carried drop to the floor and lowered herself into the chair.
“And you, young Garrin,” Leala waved him over to Ancel’s old chair.
The boy’s brown eyes swept the cottage. “Oh, I’m fine,” he said. “I’ll sit on the hearth.”
What a respectful lad, to notice there were only three seats in their home and to put others’ comfort before his own. Leala decided she liked him. “Very well. Now you just rest yourselves. I’ll put on the kettle. You’re in luck, I just baked muffins earlier. Ancel, see what extra blankets you can find.” Ancel finally leaned his crossbow back against the wall.
When the tea was brewed and the muffins warmed, she reclaimed her seat at her spinning wheel and took her spindle and thread ball back up. Ancel cleared his throat. “So,” he said, “what brings you out this far from the castle?”
The Princess took a sip from the mug she held in both hands. “The dragon in the prophecy is after me. We received advance warning from Sir Lamarr, another knight of the eagle.”
Ancel frowned. “How d’you know which dragon is in the prophecy?”
Garrin muttered something Leala couldn’t hear. Princess Noemi frowned at him and answered Ancel. “She’s not like other dragons. She doesn’t just breathe fire. Her voice renders the hearer unconscious, and when they have died of dehydration, she returns to eat them.”
Leala’s heart stopped. The spindle slipped from her hand and clattered on the floor. Ancel breathed, “A Lull Wyrm.”
Garrin perked up. “So you know of it?”
“But they’re extinct,” Leala denied. It was not possible. This was grievous news, indeed.
Princess Noemi leaned down and picked up the fallen spindle. She flinched. A bright spot of blood bloomed on her finger. “Ouch,” she frowned. She wrapped a handkerchief around the wound. “Apparently there is at least one Lull Wyrm left.”
Leala turned her eyes to the bookshelves. “Ancel,” she said, harsher than she intended. “An Historie of the Feates of the Lion Knights.”
He pushed himself up from his seat. “Right. Chapter Six, I believe.” He shuffled back to the shelves and drew out an orange volume with a lion’s head emblazoned on the front, then he shuffled back to his chair. He flipped slowly through the crackling pages.
Leala tapped her foot, waiting. Then Ancel’s finger stilled on the page. He lifted his head. “There may be a way to save you,” he told the Princess. “This book says that gobs of wax, inserted into the ears, can block out the song of the Lull Wyrms and save their victims from mortal sleep. Other than that, the only things of import that it says are, ‘Beloved sight awakens the mind asleep,’ and, ‘Where swords fail, the song of the roused turns sleep back on the creature.’”
Garrin frowned. “That’s it? It can’t be that simple,” he grumbled. He said to the Princess, “Don’t tell me we’ve come through all of this when we could have stayed home with some bits of wax.”
The Princess hushed him. “No one likes it when you gripe, Garrin. Sir Ancel—” Leala saw her husband’s cheeks turn pink under his gray beard—“do you suppose we might trouble you for a bit of wax?”
Ancel hummed. “Well, uh, um, sure, I mean, of course. Certainly. Anything for the Princess.”
When the wax was found and made into ear-sized balls, Leala made beds out of blankets for her, Ancel, and Garrin and showed Princess Noemi to the small bed she and Ancel usually shared. “If you need anything tonight, please do not hesitate to ask,” Leala urged.
The Princess relaxed into the mattress with a sigh. “Thank you, but I’m sure this is more than enough after a week of sleeping outside. Leala—” a yawn interrupted her—“I want to thank you for you and your husband’s hospitality and aid. Garrin won’t say anything, but we both truly appreciate it.”
The way she spoke made Leala wonder, despite what had been said earlier. “Forgive the impertinence of an old lady,” she said softly, “but is he your…are you sure you don’t see color together?”
The Princess breathed a laugh. “Oh, no. He’s just a very dear friend. But anyways, I wanted to be sure to thank you, in case we’re gone in the morning. We really shouldn’t linger and put you at risk.”
For just a moment, the look in her eyes was of a young girl scared for her life, not of a Princess of prophecy keeping a calm face for her people. Leala’s heart ached. “There now, dear,” she smoothed the Princess’s black, mussed braid. “Don’t you worry about us. Rest yourself. We’ll be fine till the morning.”
Princess Noemi’s eyes fluttered closed. She sighed. In a moment more, she was asleep.
The next morning, Leala’s back and neck ached from sleeping on the floor. Still, she was sad to see the two young people leave, their bags now stocked with her homemade biscuits and Ancel’s smoked meat. Beside her at the door, Ancel said, “She’ll make it, all right. She’ll best that dragon. See if I’m wrong.”
“Hm,” Leala agreed. She turned into the house. “Well, I suppose we should wear wax in our ears and watch the skies for the next week.”
“Yes, dear, I suppose so.” Ancel shut the door behind him.
With wax wedged in her ears, Leala sat down to her spinning wheel in deafness. She could not hear it, but she knew from memory the repetitive hum of the wheel spinning fibers into thread.
A little while later, Ancel stuck a slip of paper under her nose. Dear, it read, have you seen my Illustrious Past of the Clachan Line?
She pointed to the wall of books. It’s in its place on the shelf.
Let me know what you think! Hopefully I’ll be getting you a new chapter next week 🙂