After one magic potion and a couple hours later, Mystic was taking Atargatis and Kynes home. They approached the house to find Royal Guards waiting at their door. Before Mystic could say anything the guards handed him a folded piece of card stock. “We will be back to escort you tomorrow afternoon.” The guards then left before Mystic or Atargatis could say anything.
“What is it?” Atargatis asked after they had gone inside and Mystic had locked the door. Mystic turned the folded piece of card stock over and over in his hand. He knew who it was from. He wanted to just throw it away, but since the guards were coming back he’d have to read it. His fingers started to tremble as he unfolded it.
I know you went against your father and are no longer seeking the power of the Black Dragon. I think it’s time we reconnected. I have some news I wish to share with you. We can discuss it over supper, Sunday evening. I will also have some other guests that I think you’ll be interested in meeting.
P.S. I won’t take no for an answer. My guards will be there to escort you to my palace. It is quite a long trip and I wouldn’t want you getting lost or sidetracked.
Mystic read the note to Atargatis. “Sounds like we don’t have a choice,” she whispered.
Mystic shook his head. “You don’t refuse a King’s request.”
Mystic nodded. “After rejecting the Duchess he was married to because doctors said she was barren, Altair poisoned his older brother, so he could take the throne.”
“But if he poisoned…” Atargatis’s words trailed off.
“It was never proven,” Mystic paused, “And he threatened to harm Kaonna if I ever told anyone, after he told me what he had done.” Atargatis’s eyes went wide. “He rules over the Kingdom that had once been ruled by the Gold Dragons.” Atargatis gasped, covering her mouth. “And if he wants to see me, I can only imagine that he’s gotten his hands on Urytemil.”
“Do you think he has any of the others?”
Mystic shrugged. “I don’t know. I guess we will find out,” he paused as he saw the fear in Atargatis’s face. “Let’s just eat a little something and snuggle with Kynes. We’ll worry about what my cousin wants when we get to the palace.” Atargatis nodded in agreement. She just hoped that everyone was ok.
Coral turned back to look at the clearing they had called home since leaving the Sirens. She had enjoyed living in the forest. It had offered a lot of freedom. She wasn’t ready to go back to a more civilized area, let alone end up back in a palace. “At least we are far from my old home,” she whispered to herself. “No one should recognize me.”
To be on the safe side though, Coral wrapped a scarf around her head. She hadn’t told Celestial about her lineage, or who she had been married to. She also hadn’t told Tahlmus about it after he had broken the curse and her memories had returned. “Not that it matters,” she thought. “I was disowned as soon as Altair rejected me because the doctors said I was barren.” The sounds of the city disrupted her thoughts. It was busy, but she could tell it was the poor part of town. She noticed that Urytemil seemed to know quite of a few of them as she saw him talk to several people along the way.
As they got closer to the palace, Coral had expected to start seeing more wealth, and more important people, but this was not the case. The architecture she saw indicated that there had been wealth at one time, but the people suggested that the wealth was no longer there. Stepping onto the palace grounds inside the gate, Coral noticed the difference between the city itself and the palace, was drastic. It hadn’t been that way where she had grown up.
Walking into the palace Coral noticed another significant difference from her childhood home. This palace was dark, cool and had a very sad, depressing feel to it. Yet it had a familiar feel to it. She just couldn’t put her finger on what exactly that familiarity was. Some servants came forward showing everyone to their rooms. Coral was glad hers was right next to Lillianna and Kanes. If she had any problems with Kavan they would be able to help.
Once she was settled into her room, she met the others at the top of the stairs. They were to go to the palace boutique to find suitable clothes for that evening’s supper. Coral cringed as she looked at dresses with Lillianna and Ardeszeld. The other two were chatting excitedly. It had been a long time since they had gotten to dress for a special occasion.
Coral frowned as she listened to them. She had always hated having to dress for supper. She had never liked wearing dresses. The exception had been the night Tahlmus proposed to her. He had, in a sense, made the dress specifically for her. It had fit perfectly and she had felt beautiful by his side. Something her parents had never made her feel.
“Oh Coral, you just have to try this one,” Ardeszeld came over to her excitement in her eyes. Ardeszeld was holding an emerald green dress out to her. Coral studied it. It had sleeves which she wasn’t fond of but could appreciate as the palace was cold. It was also floor length, which again she could appreciate, but it wasn’t what she liked. The only thing she did like about the dress was the color. It made her remember Tahlmus’s smile and the desire he’d held for her in his eyes the night he proposed. It brought a small smile to her lips as she handed Kavan to Ardeszeld, took hold of the dress, and went into the fitting room to try it on.
The dress didn’t fit as nicely as the one Tahlmus had given her, but she could imagine Tahlmus’s reaction if he saw her in it. She knew he’d like it. “Come on Coral, let us see it.” Lillianna’s voice broke through her thoughts. Coral shook her head slightly to clear it then walked out of the fitting room. Both Ardeszeld and Lillianna stared at her as she walked out.
“Coral, you are gorgeous,” Lillianna said. Ardeszeld nodded in agreement. She had no words. Ardeszeld now saw, why her elven brother had fallen in love with Coral.
“Are you ladies ready?” Urytemil’s voice came from the doorway of the boutique. “We should be heading to the dining hall if you are. King Altair doesn’t tolerate tardiness well.”
“Coming father,” Ardeszeld turned towards the door and replied. Lillianna had turned towards the door as well, which gave Coral a few seconds to get over the shock of hearing her ex-husband’s name.
He had only been a duke when they married. His older brother was to inherit the far away Kingdom that the family had been granted. “How did he get it?” Coral wondered as she forced a smile as the two women turned back to look at her. She left with them silently hoping that Altair didn’t recognize her.
Karia looked up from the chapter she had just finished reading. Tahlmus was looking at her. As she met his gaze she noticed that his eyes were a bright blue, with a light gold ring around the iris, and there were small silver specks that seemed to enhance the blue color. They mesmerized her. As she stared into his eyes she could see a hunger them. They were soft. They were gentle, but they were hungry. It was the same hunger she had seen before, but there was more. There was desire, and it made her feel like she had butterflies in her stomach and her heart ached for his touch.
“Is that the end of the chapter?” he asked softly. Karia just nodded as she continued to look into his eyes. They hadn’t looked this way before and she wanted to memorize every detail of them. “Come here,” he requested softly as he patted the floor next to him, his eyes never straying from hers. She wanted to say no, but found her body moving over to him. The closer she got, the faster her heat beat, and the more she longed for him.
His arm wrapped around her shoulders. Warmth spread throughout her body. “Thank you,” his hot breath played over her ear making her shudder, before she felt his lips against her cheek. It made her breath catch in her throat.
“You’re welcome,” she managed to whisper. Karia was glad Felazair had been too busy with training to have tagged along. He would have had so much to say. No doubt letting it slip to the King the closeness that seemed to be developing between her and the prisoner. If the King knew, he’d push harder for information. “Or he’d throw me in prison for falling in love,” she thought as she heard footsteps. She quickly moved away from Tahlmus. “That has to be what it is,” she thought as a guard appeared. “I’m falling in love.”
Karia watched two guards come in. They went straight to Tahlmus, yanking on his arms to pull him to his feet. She watched as Tahlmus grimaced in pain. They put cuffs on him and started to lead him away. “Wait,” Karia raised her voice. “What are you doing? He’s not healed enough.”
“King Altair wanted him to meet a couple of the dinner guests,” one of the guards replied as he tried to help hold Tahlmus who had started to struggle against the restraints.
Karia shook her head. Tahlmus wasn’t ready for this. She ran out of the cell, ahead of the guards. She ran all the way to the door of the dining hall. She took a couple seconds to catch her breath, smoothing out her clothes before she opened the door and walked in. Karia froze for a few seconds as she saw how many people were sitting with the King. She knew Urytemil and his wife. They sat opposite the King who was at the head of the table. To the King’s left were two young boys, three young human women, and one male elf who looked similar to Tahlmus. Behind them were two cribs. To the King’s right was another man and woman. There was a crib behind them as well.
“Is something wrong Karia?” The King’s voice pulled at Karia’s attention. She turned and looked at him, bowing.
“Your majesty, I was with the prisoner when the guards came…”
“Yes, I sent for him,” The King interrupted her.
“But your majesty, he’s not…”
“Don’t worry yourself Karia. In fact, why don’t you sit next to my cousin’s wife.” Karia followed the King’s gesture with her eyes to the right where only the one man and woman sat. She slowly made her way over to the seat he’d asked her to take. She sat down, folding her hands on her lap under the table to hide her nervous energy. She was worried about what would happen when the guards brought Tahlmus in.
Tahlmus grimaced as the guards yanked him to his feet. It didn’t hurt as bad as it could have. The couple minutes he’d had touching Karia had filled his muscles with warmth, relaxing them. “Wait, what are you doing? He’s not healed enough.” Karia’s voice sounded desperate to him. He longed to tell her that he’d be ok, but he couldn’t let her know he could still use his magic. Not yet.
“King Altair wanted him to meet a couple of the dinner guests.” As the guard spoke Tahlmus started to struggle. He could tell from Karia’s expression that she wanted to speak to the King first. He continued to struggle as he watched Karia disappear up the dungeon stairs. He had to give her time. The guards drug him up the stairs.
As they got closer to the dining hall door, Tahlmus closed his eyes and focused on Karia. He could see her sitting at a long table. “What is Mystic and Atargatis doing here?” he wondered. He had also seen the rest of his family, Ardeszeld, Lillianna, Kanes, Coral, Solas and Anders. “I don’t understand,” he thought. Not wanting his family to be worried, he closed his eyes and sent a thought to them, “Do not be surprised to see me.” He could tell they were a little surprised to hear his voice, though as he kept his eyes closed so he could see them, none of them showed the surprise on their face. Then something in him willed him to speak to them again. “Coral is not my wife. She belongs to Kanes.” He wasn’t sure why he said it, but as he tuned into their thoughts, he heard Kanes reply, “We’ve already played that card. Don’t worry, I will keep her safe.”
Tahlmus smiled a small smile as he heard Kanes’s words in his head. He felt relief as he tried to mentally prepare himself for what might come. He didn’t have much time to prepare though as the guards threw open the doors to the dining hall, and shoved him through.