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Rated: 18+ · Book · Fantasy · #2175359
Evil plans to destroy Etias. The king, known as the Reaper, must save the realms.
#950992 added October 19, 2019 at 1:30am
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Chapter 7
Chapter 7

Thick, red velvet curtains lined with gold hung in generous folds around a mullioned window beside a small wool bed. The warm morning sunlight filtered through Melina's thin eyelids, which caused the sleeping woman to stir. With eyes still closed, her groggy thoughts came to as flitting memories of her battle with the dragon.

Melina jolted to a sitting position, her eyes wide as she whirled her head to take in her surroundings. Nothing around her appeared familiar, with the dark rustic furniture, a walnut-colored wooden floor, and high vaulted ceilings. Even the bedsheets underneath her were of fine silk, Melina realized.

Thick, red velvet curtains lined with gold hung in generous folds around a mullioned window beside a small wool bed. The warm morning sunlight filtered through Melina's thin eyelids, which caused the sleeping woman to stir. With eyes still closed, her groggy thoughts came to as flitting memories of her battle with the dragon.

Melina jolted to a sitting position, her eyes wide as she whirled her head to take in her surroundings. Nothing around her appeared familiar, with the dark rustic furniture, a walnut-colored wooden floor, and high vaulted ceilings.

The door opened, causing her to jump with surprise. The knight from the earlier battle strode in the room. He noticed her awake and smiled.

"Ah, glad you awoke, my lady," said the dark-haired man, bowing before the confused woman.

"Where am I and where is Bleiz?" she asked, wasting no time to get straight to the point.

"First, please allow me to introduce myself. I am Sir Casimir Armond, Knight of the Reaper's Royal Guard. You are in Haerton Castle. Fear not, for your brother is fine. He is in the throne room, awaiting an audience with the king."

Slack-jawed, Melina stared dumbfounded at the royal guardsman, at a loss for words. She closed her mouth, re-opened it, and closed it again. Casimir chuckled at her stunned silence.

"I brought you both here after the battle in SilentForest. Your injury needed medical attention right away. Your brother hesitated at first, but he understood the gravity of your condition. After I informed the king of the fight I witnessed, His Majesty demanded to speak with both you and Bleiz."

"I'm going... To speak with the Reaper... Here in Haerton Castle?" Melina clarified, in the belief she was still dreaming or dead.

Casimir nodded in confirmation. "Correct. Now, the servants placed fresh clothes out for you." Casimir gestured to a well-ordered bundle of clothing set on the chair beside her bed. "You must be dressed as a proper lady before you speak with the king. Lady Aneira shall come for you when you are ready."
He bowed before turning to leave, shutting the door behind him. Melina stared at it for a long moment before looking again at the pile of clothes. She took in a deep breath and slid out of bed to get dressed.

A few moments later, she stood in front of a full-length mirror in the room's corner. Her refined gown flowed from top to bottom with a jewel neckline. The exquisite fabric covered her stomach where the continuous flow divided by a small cloth band worn around her waist.

Under the belt, the dress opened to the left to show the silk material beneath it. The linen concealed Melina's feet while the back continued a decent length behind her with a narrow-ended curve. Her sleeves long and slim, broken up well above the elbow where thin, modest bands divided it, The brunette never enjoyed dressing up like most women her age. She felt restricted in her ability to move. A knock on the door interrupted her thoughts as she turned to spot a qheilae female in the doorway.

Straight, shoulder-length light blonde hair framed a delicate-featured face while striking green eyes looked back at Melina as the woman gave a bright smile. Her skin was a smooth dark brown, which contrasted against her light blonde hair and eyes. The female was short, standing no taller than Melina's nose, but the human knew better than to be fooled by the qheilae's minuscule stature.

"Greetings, Mistress Melina," said the woman, giving the human a polite curtsy. "I am Lady Aneira Bevan, palace woman to Lady Syllia. Please, follow me to the throne room."

Before Melina responded, Aneira turned to leave out the door. Melina paused before following her, not enjoying how cautious she stepped to make sure she didn't trip on her dress.


Melina stared around with stupefied eyes as she stood beside Aneira, in shock at the elegance of the throne room.

"I know. It's exquisite," Aneira grinned at the human's expression.

Melina noted her brother, kneeling in obedience before the seat of power. Her eyes raised from him to the being he was bowing before, and her heart leaped into her throat.

Seated in the middle throne was a shrouded specter, dressed in long, pitch-black robes that covered his entire frame. The large hood overshadowed his visage, but two red points of light glowered from underneath the shadow the cowl cast. An arm rested on each armrest, and Melina saw the white-bone of his skeleton hands poking out from beneath the sleeves of his robes.

Melina gulped as the blood drained from her face. It was him - their king, the Reaper. Her knees weakened for a moment, and it took everything she had not to let them buckle underneath her. Aneira stepped forward, saving Melina from her thoughts. She followed the qheilae and kept her eyes to the ground in respect.

Before the Reaper, Aneira bowed in greeting with her head lowered and eyes closed. "My king, before you are brother and sister, Bleiz and Melina Dawnshade. These are the humans who fought against the dragon in SilentForest."

Melina kneeled by her brother, bowing as her heart pounded in her ears. A long silence followed Aneira's introduction, and Melina sensed the Reaper's red eyes scrutinizing them both.

"You may go, Lady Aneira," said the Reaper. His voice was gravelly and dark, which enhanced the sinking plop in Melina's stomach. Aneira bowed again, turning to leave without another word as she departed, leaving the siblings alone with the king.

"Rise," commanded the Reaper. The siblings stood at attention as they faced the king, waiting for him to continue. He leaned back further into his seat, placing the tips of his bone fingers together in contemplation.

"I congratulate you both on your efforts against the dragon. You have done the people of our world a great deed by killing such a beast who will not follow our laws. This isn't the first time, and it will not be the last."

Melina and Bleiz glanced to one another with raised eyebrows.

"More reports are coming in of dragons no longer following the ordinances set forth by the Equinox Concordat centuries ago. I intend to send a small group out to investigate the reasons behind the hostility from dragons." The Reaper leaned forward, staring at them both. "I want the two of you to join this expedition. Being only humans, the fact you faced the dragon is impressive. I believe you will be greatly beneficial to this task.”

"Y-Your Highness, it's such an honor to be considered for this. But we are not of any importance. I-I don't know if we could offer you much aide—"

The swinging doors interrupted Melina as another person stepped into the vast chamber. By instinct, the two turned to see a young man walk in with a determined stride, even and quick-paced. Dressed in the trappings of royalty, it was plain he was a person of high importance.

The man's attractiveness was indisputable, and Melina noted it right away.

He stood a tall six-foot-two and of slender build with wide-set shoulders, emphasizing his tapered waist. He brushed away short, jet-black hair from his brow, displaying his robust features with a defined sharp jaw, chin, and angular cheekbones. The most striking feature was his unique eyes of a hypnotic ghostly blue. His eyes did not have any definable pupils, but rather a faint circular white center where the pupil should be.

It took Melina a moment to realize she was gawking at the man. Bleiz glanced at his sister before rolling his eyes at her gaped expression. The man didn't acknowledge either of them, stepping past them to give a bow before the throne. The Reaper was unperturbed by the interruption.

"Grandfather, I come with news of leads to information about the recent dragon attacks," said the man. His voice was silvery and euphonious, and Melina felt her swoon at the sound.

"Good, you will brief these humans on the matter."
The man paused for a moment before turning to regard the two siblings behind him as if only now realizing they were present. He stared at them before he turned back to his grandfather.

"Excuse me?"

"You heard me, Prince Kyvan," said the Reaper in a calm but firm tone. "I am assigning them to the investigation. They will be your responsibility now."

"Grandfather... they are humans!" Kyvan blurted, his face twisting into utter disgust at being near anyone of the race.

"Correct, and these humans defeated a dragon. I will hear no further debate on this issue."
The prince stared in shock at his king. There was nothing more he could say. With a huff, Kyvan snapped to attention.

"Very well, I will await the humans' presence in the briefing room with Sir Casimir," said the prince. He gave another curt bow and spun on his heel. He brushed past the siblings, his shoulders pushing Bleiz's as he did. Melina furrowed her eyebrows, not impressed by Kyvan's behavior. The corners of Bleiz's mouth twitch as he held his fist in place. The Reaper once again turned his intimidating gaze on the pair.

"That was my grandson, Prince Kyvan Andurth," explained the king. "He is the heir to my throne. I assigned him to be the leader of this investigation. But, he is inexperienced in the ways of the realm outside of this castle. That is where you two will be of value, so do not disappoint me." The Reaper waved them off then as he finished, "Aneira will take you to meet with Sir Casimir and Prince Kyvan, who will inform you of the details."

The siblings nodded at their dismissal, gave the king one more bow before they turned to leave. Aneira waited for them outside the room. She led them to a small side chamber where Casimir stood over several maps on a large desk. The prince stood beside him, his hands folded behind his back as he gazed at the parchments with half-lidded eyes. The knight lifted his head at them while the prince didn't acknowledge their presence.

"By the look on your faces, I can assume that His Highness informed you of your mission," said Casimir with a smile, understanding why the two appeared so displeased. "Fear not. He will compensate you both."

"Who cares about compensation? I want no part of this!" snarled Bleiz, slamming his hands on the tabletop. Melina hissed at him to stop his behavior, but Casimir raised a hand to silence her.

"You have no say in the matter," Casimir informed the tempered ranger. "Should you refuse, I will charge you with treason."

The threat simmered the fuming man, but his glare did not diminish. Kyvan lifted his head at the two. He declined direct eye contact with anyone.

"And... who are you?"

Bleiz reached out to stop Melina from speaking, earning an annoyed expression from his sister.

"Nothing but strangers from the forest that need not concern you," said Bleiz as he passed the prince a cold expression.

Kyvan scoffed and cracked a wry smirk. "Everyone in all the realms is my concern. Let me guess, judging by the looks of you two, you are rangers, I take it? Or should I conclude that you are nothing but bandits? Is that why you won't tell me who you are?"

"He won't tell you who we are because he's an unfriendly person," Melina said. "My brother sometimes forgets he doesn't answer for me," she added, giving her brother a warning side glare. She glanced back towards the prince before bowing her head in reverence. "My name is Melina Dawnshade."

Kyvan gave her a nod, looking from her to Bleiz. "Are you going to tell me your name, or must I send you to the dungeons before you show respect to your future king?"

Bleiz opened his mouth to spew another snide comment, but a glare from Melina made him stop short.

"Bleiz," he said.

"Who else will be a part of this group?" asked the brunette, having accepted their fate.

"Prince Kyvan and I, as well as Lady Aneira," the knight pointed to the well-dressed woman beside them, who gave a slight curtsy at her acknowledgment.

"A bedchamber woman? What could she do to help us?" growled Bleiz.

"Aneira is well informed of the bureaucracies of the country. It is important to have a thorough understanding of the inner dynamics of the cities we go to if we need to interrogate someone. She is an excellent potion-brewer and healer," Casimir replied with narrowed eyes, a warning to Bleiz to keep his mouth shut. Bleiz scoffed as he folded his arms over his chest.

"When do we leave and where are we going?" Melina asked.

"We leave the morrow," Casimir gestured to the maps sprawled out over the table. "My sources believe useful information resides in the city of E'athkadi, to the far north." He placed a gloved finger on the map.

"That is where the cryo-giants reside," said Aneira as she leaned over the map to study it. “The Astral Athenaeum? Is that where we are going?”

"What is the Astral Athenaeum?” asked Melina with a raised brow.

“An ancient library, rumored to have the oldest of Etias’s knowledge hidden within,” said Aneira as she straightened. Kyvan reached out to pick up the map, rolling it up as he looked at the group.

“Be prepared to leave at dawn.”
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