Tahlmus groaned as he slowly woke up. It had been two days since Karia chased after Felazair. She hadn’t been back. Tahlmus sighed as he pushed himself to a sitting position. “We miss little mate,” Andrekaon’s voice came to Tahlmus’s thoughts. It was the first time Andrekaon had said anything since Tahlmus had admitted to not having any ideas on how to help Karia.
“I know,” Tahlmus whispered to his inner dragon. “I miss her too, but I also miss my wife, Coral,” he finally allowed himself to admit. She had been so close that night in the dining hall. He could still remember how beautiful she looked in the emerald green dress.
“Do you love her the way we love Karia?” Andrekaon’s voice came across with both a sad and jealous tone.
“Yes,” Tahlmus replied without hesitation. “Normal elves and humans don’t get the intense feelings that we’ve been feeling with Karia because those species don’t have mate bonds, but the feelings Coral stirs up in me are very strong.”
“What about mate?” Andrekaon’s voice was just sad as he spoke.
“If, after all of this, she will still have us, we will mate with her,” Tahlmus replied. He picked up the book she had been reading to him, for what seemed like the hundredth time. Karia had left her things in the cell when she had run after Felazair. Tahlmus had gotten in the habit of picking up the book whenever he felt Andrekaon start to feel sad or agitated. The book still had her scent on it and it calmed his inner dragon.
This time, as he held it, Tahlmus studied it. The story, while titled the same as the book he’d read after learning about his true origins, did not tell the same story. The book was worn. It had been read a lot. As he opened it, he noticed that there were markings in it. Paragraphs were underlined and notes were written in the margins. He got to the bookmark and smiled. They were on the last chapter. Tahlmus moved the pages so that he didn’t read any of it. He wanted her to finish reading to him.
A small gasp escaped his lips as he read what was written on the inside of the back cover. “An… Andre…” Tahlmus only managed to get out part of his inner dragon’s name. Andrekaon growled at him. “You need to read this.” He could hear his inner dragon grumbling, but relinquished control, so Andrekaon could read what as typed out on the back cover.
The purple eyes scanned the writing. The Gold Dragon’s son will be more powerful. He will be young when he comes to you; young and stubborn. You will have a year to break him. If you have not broken him to the point of giving you his power by the year mark, kill him. To kill him, chain him down and slowly drain his blood. Once you’ve collected his blood, find Lili, he will be able to safely remove your blood and replace it with the boys. You will have the full draconic power he possesses, but this is a last resort as it is dangerous, and the power will be hard to control. If the boy lives past the one year mark …
“Where’s the rest of it?” Andrekaon asked as he relinquished enough control so that Tahlmus could be looking at the book as well.
“I don’t know,” Tahlmus replied. “We need…”
“Mate,” Andrekaon interrupted. Tahlmus could hear the footsteps and the scent of flowers and new books hit his nose. She was so close.
“Put the book back, and give me full control,” Tahlmus whispered.
“But we want to meet mate,” Andrekaon growled.
“Not yet,” Tahlmus replied as he took back full control. “She’s conflicted about us,” he continued sensing her emotions as the footsteps drew closer. “And we have to keep her safe.” Tahlmus felt his inner dragon sigh before agreeing.
Karia had spent all evening trying to talk with Felazair. He had been very upset, and Karia hadn’t been able to calm him down. The conversation had ended with him telling her that he’d give her two days to figure things out. If she didn’t at least use her feelings for the prisoner to get the information the King wanted, then he was going to the King and telling him about her feelings.
Felazair’s words had made Karia feel ill. She had spent most of the next day in a half in bed. No matter how hard she tried, no ideas came to her as to how to extract useful information. She didn’t see him as a bad guy. She just wanted to be near him. “Is it wrong of me to love him?” she wondered as she made her way down the dungeon stairs.
Karia still felt ill, but she knew if she didn’t try to get some personal information from Tahlmus, Felazair would go to the King. There was no telling what the King would do once he knew that she was falling in love with the prisoner. “Creator’s why is this happening? I’m so close to being free,” she whispered.
She tried calming her nerves as she approached the cell. The guard had just given her the key, but as she approached she saw that the cell door was not completely closed. Karia ran to the cell. Looking in she saw Tahlmus sitting against the wall. He smiled at her. “Thank the creators, he’s still in there,” she thought as she stepped inside the cell. She noticed all her stuff was still where she left it. “No one has checked on him.” The thought crossed her mind as she approached him.
“I’ve missed you.” The words were low and raspy. They brought a tear to her eye.
“How… how long have you been awake?” Karia asked. She watched him shrug.
“I’m not really sure; a while.” He coughed after he spoke. Karia dug through the bag she had brought with her. She had borrowed Felazair’s bag since she had left hers in the cell, that night she chased after him. Karia found the bottle of water and handed it to him. “Thank you,” he whispered.
Karia felt the sparks from his hand brushing hers. This time she didn’t pull her arm away. She found herself wanting to feel more, so she sat down next to him. Despite how cool the dungeon was, she could feel heat radiating off his body as she sat within inches of him.
After drinking almost half of the bottle, he turned his gaze on her. Karia felt herself blush as his bright blue eyes met hers. “You’re very cute when you blush,” he said softly. His voice sounded so much better, but his words made her turn even redder than she already was. Karia had started thinking of how it would feel to kiss him, when Felazair’s words about going to the King, came back to her. She closed her eyes trying to hide the sudden appearance of tears.
“I… I’m sorry Karia. Did I… did I say something wrong?” The worry and concern in his voice made it hard for Karia to stop the tears, as they continued to flow from her eyes.
After almost a full minute of silence Karia shook her head. “It’s nothing you said. It’s just… Felazair, the boy that’s been with me… he’s threatened to tell the King that I’m in love with you if I don’t start doing what the King asked.”
“What did the King ask you to do?”
“He wants personal information on you. Something he can use to get you to reveal your hiding spot,” Karia stated hanging her head. By doing so she missed the look of confusion on his face.
“Why don’t you read me the last chapter in that book of yours,” he stated. “I really want to know how it ends. Afterwards we will talk.” Karia smiled a small smile as she picked up her book and started reading the final chapter.
Coral sat on a bench in the center of the royal gardens. The gardens had always been her favorite place to hide when her parents had started training her in proper etiquette. She had hated every minute of it, and the gardens had always been peaceful. With Altair now hounding her every minute she was awake, she needed the escape. “He’s such a jerk,” she whispered as her hands started to shake in anger.
Coral turned as she heard the sound of giggling. “Auntie Coral, the King isn’t going to be happy if he hears that.”
“Solas, what are you doing here?” Coral asked as she saw her nephew come out from behind a hedge.
“Looking for you,” he replied simply, sitting down next to Coral. The two sat in silence for a few minutes, just listening to the birds chirp and the gentle rustling of the leaves.
“Why were you looking for me?” Coral finally asked. Despite now being in the palace and no Tahlmus around to help, Ardeszeld was still trying to teach the boys how to properly use their magic. Solas should have been in a lesson.
Solas looked at Coral, guilt written all over his face. “I overheard Uncle Kanes talking to the others. He told them he was worried about you because of Altair’s persistence on you taking him back. Uncle Kanes is worried you might get depressed, or that Altair could turn violent, especially if he learns…” Solas trailed off with his words.
Coral just looked down at her folded hands. She knew it would be worse for her if Altair found out that she was actually married to Tahlmus. Tears stung her eyes as she realized her son Kavan would also be in more danger. “I hate this,” she whispered.
She turned to look at Solas, who had taken hold of one of her hands. “Please don’t be sad Auntie Coral. We all miss Uncle Tahlmus, but I promise I’ll protect you and cousin Kavan.”
“That’s sweet,” Coral started to speak.
“I mean it Auntie Coral. Uncle Tahlmus taught me a lot. I’ll protect you from Altair.”
Coral wrapped Solas in a hug, and smiled. “Thank you, Solas. Let’s go back inside the palace.” Solas nodded as they both stood and started walking back through the garden towards the palace.
Atargatis frowned as she walked out of the bathroom with Kynes. She had hoped that some time alone would help Mystic calm down. She had carefully cleaned Kynes, changing her and putting her in fresh, clean clothes. It had taken a bit of time, but as she stood in the doorway holding Kynes she saw that Mystic was still pacing in front of their bed. Atargatis had not been fond of the idea of staying for an indefinite amount of time at the palace. She, also, definitely didn’t like the idea of Mystic trying to get Tahlmus’s power again, but she couldn’t deny that it wasn’t a bad idea to try and help Tahlmus. Seeing how weak Tahlmus had been and the bandages covering his torso had brought back the bad memories of finding him in the forest.
“Sweetheart, please, you’ll wear a hole in the floor.”
Mystic stopped pacing for a minute to look at Atargatis who was holding Kynes. He smiled. The two were so beautiful together. “I’m sorry. I just… it’s been two days and as far as we know Tahlmus isn’t up yet,” Mystic sighed. “I didn’t mean to knock him out that hard,” he whispered.
Atargatis walked over, forcing Mystic to wrap his arms around her and Kynes. “I’m sure he’s fine,” she whispered. “Altair is probably just forcing you to wait because he’s not one to play fair.”
Mystic sighed. He knew she was right. His cousin had cheated at every game they’d played as kids. No reason for Altair to have changed at all; especially with this. It wasn’t just a game. It would be life changing. “I just have so many questions and Tahlmus is the only one who can answer them.”
“Do you think he’ll answer them once you tell him what you’re doing?” Atargatis asked. Mystic stayed silent. He really had no idea how Tahlmus would react, but it was the only way he could think of to try and help. It was the only way he could get a private audience with the elf. He felt Atargatis’s lips against his cheek bringing him out of his daze. “Let’s go meet with the others. Maybe they’ll have some information.” Mystic just nodded and let Atargatis pull him out of their room and down the hall.