Onyx Dreams Ch. 22bykitazkitten©
"Thank you to all the devoted readers who have avidly followed this story. Sorry it took so long for this chapter. --Sincerely, kitazkitten & smegger_29
Chapter 22: The Proposal
Kennice stopped her work on the flowerbeds and wiped away the trickle of sweat that ran down her face. It had been two months and true to his word Rhys had left her alone. He still talked to her but he didn't harass and hurt her like he use to. She was beyond relieved but she puzzled too. What had brought on the change of heart? Lately he had been leaving her a different type of flower outside her room. And the surprise breakfast a week ago had been a shocker. She lovingly patted a flower and tried to sort out her thoughts. She still thought about Cyrus but now it felt more like a memory sometimes. Not once had he come to see her or try to contact her. Her only thought was that their night of sex had left him finding her lacking and it hurt. She had believed he truly was the one and only for her.
Rhys smiled to himself as he watched her from a shadowy window, all was going to plan and soon Kennice would be his. That peasant Cyrus would be left out in the cold and his heart would be shattered. His face darkened for a moment though. Erykia had visited him two months before and told him to act this way, that she had plans for Cyrus and that the best way to turn him from the light would be to seduce Kennice kindly. This was far from what he wanted to do, he preferred to show his mate how superior he was and recently he had found himself having to restrain himself significantly lest he feel Erykia's wrath. Why she didn't just kill that fool Cyrus and let himself fulfill the prophecy he didn't know. He knew inside that he could easily fulfill the words of the prophecy better than that lowlife Cyrus.
Kennice put the gardening tools back in the bucket and stood up. She stretched and her pale lavender shirt stretched tight against her body, outlining the curves of her breasts. The pants she wore clung enticingly to her legs. She fanned herself once before picking up the bucket and heading for the shed.
Rhys was so deep in his brooding that he almost missed his chance to build himself up more in her eyes. He straightened his shirt, put on a pleasant smile and quietly walked into the warm sun with a package behind his back. He made his way across the grass and called out for Kennice in a jovial tone as if he had no idea where she was.
She turned and gave him a smile. "Rhys! I didn't know you had come back from your errands. I was just finishing up the weeding and replanting," she told him as she pointed at the garden.
His smile widened and he rocked slightly on his heels as he put on an air of happy secrecy. "I wanted to surprise you with an early return and a special gift..." He left the last part open ended, waiting for her to take the bait.
"Gift?" This surprised her. He hadn't given her any real gifts, just flowers and the breakfast. Her eyes were bright with curiosity as she looked at him.
He nodded and smiled wider, bringing the package from behind his back. It had the label of an expensive and high-class dressmaker upon its surface. "I must apologize but I had to have the maid sneak a look at your size so that I would get it just right for you."
Kennice blushed but she took the package and opened it. The glittering silver gown flowed out and spilled over her fingers. She gasped in happy delight as her eyes devoured the silk's finely made design. It must have cost him a small fortune. She blinked and then gaped at him when she noticed who had made the gown. "You managed to get Madame Naway to make this!" she squeaked.
He nodded and beamed at her delight, "Of course, only the best is worthy enough for such a beautiful flower as you Kennice. I was hoping that perhaps you would wear it tonight for the dinner with Erykia? She has missed your company so much recently and wishes to apologize for the ill treatment she foolishly used upon you. She finds it hard sometimes to remember that her own training was not the correct way to train a high priestess, she also wished me to pass this on to you as a token of further apology." He took out a small package from his right pocket and opened it. The light glinted brightly off the antique, ornate looking ring. It was the ring symbolizing that her training was almost complete.
Kennice gave him a wary glance when he had mentioned Erykia but when he showed her the ring she stilled and stared at it for a long moment. Her training might be complete but she wouldn't become high priestess until Erykia stepped down or die. And she couldn't picture her doing either of those two things any time soon. She didn't take the ring but she did hug the gown to her chest. "I will be at the dinner." She handed him the package with the expensive dress. "Please can you see that it gets put in my room? I don't want to get it dirty."
He nodded and bowed to her, "Of course, Kennice. I will make sure that not a speck gets upon it. I look forward to seeing you tonight." He turned away and headed indoors, being careful to not let the dress touch anything.
Kennice quickly put up the gardening tools and headed inside. She would shower first and then rest. She was going to need her strength for the dinner.
Erykia waited impatiently in her study for Rhys to return. She hated doing things the nice slow way because it took forever. They didn't have time for that. But she had to grudgingly admit that doing things by force hadn't got them far and her old mentor had always said a good leader should always be able to switch tactics at the drop of a hat.
The sound of boots in the hallway echoed a few moments before Rhys sharply rapped upon the door. His patience was wearing thin and he was becoming annoyed at Erykia for not trusting him with fulfilling the prophecy. The voice in the back of his head was protesting that he could easily do the job, even better than even Erykia if only he was given the chance.
"Come!" She could feel his impatience and smirked. The one talent that had nearly driven her mad as a child was very useful now. She couldn't fully hear thoughts but if they were accompanied by strong emotion then she could hear them. And Rhys was too eager to lead. But he did have a black heart but was riderless. No dragon had chosen him and thus he could not be the one of prophecy. Foolish boy didn't wish to acknowledge that bit of truth.
The door was pushed open harder than he intended and bounced loudly off the doorstop as he walked inside, "Erykia why are we doing this? I can barely stand letting her think she is equal to me! She must know that her place will always be BELOW me!"
"Calm yourself. She is like all high priestesses, at least the good ones. She has fire. If she doesn't have fire the dragons and other such creatures will not respect the pair of you. It will be up to YOU to tame that fire enough to appease the dragons and still keep her in submission."
"I WAS taming that fire easily enough until I was told to be nice to her! How can I possible show her, her proper place if I am denied the right to beat the fact into her?"
Erykia resisted the urge to roll her eyes at his denseness. "BECAUSE as the saying goes you catch more insects with honey than you can with vinegar. We were using harshness and it was getting us nowhere. She just ran into that whelp's arms. But now that we are being kind, see how drawn to it she is. See how easy it is to deceive her. She is all too willing to turn to you now that the boy is gone. Her feelings of confusion have worked to our advantage. Remember, Rhys, to defeat an opponent you must understand and anticipate all their weaknesses."
"Then why can we not simply have him eliminated? It would save us a lot more trouble than we currently have, he is not the only one who can fulfill a prophecy!" Rhys was becoming agitated. The voice in the back of his head was egging him on more and more, building up his ego.
"Because our allies don't wish him eliminated. You can try to if you like but you will die by their claws. I prefer to stay alive," she countered and watched his face. "Did she take the bait? And do you have the other ring ready?"
His face twisted with frustration and he crossed his arms, "Fine but as soon as the prophecy is fulfilled I want first shot at him, and yes I have the other ring ready."
"I agree to your terms," Erykia said as a brush of her power lashed over him and then dissipated. "Dinner will be ready in two hours. The staff has been instructed to leave so it will only be the three of us."
He shivered a moment as he felt he power move over him. "Fine, is there anything you want me for?"
"Not at the moment. Just make sure what they are cooking for dinner is what you want served," she advised.
"All right then." He turned his back on Erykia and headed for the door, muttering to himself about having to be nice to an inferior woman.
After taking a needed shower Kennice decided to sleep. Working in the gardens could be tiring but it was very soothing to her nerves. It had been two months and no word from Cyrus. Maybe Erykia was right. Cyrus had just used her for a quick fix. The thought hurt but she couldn't argue with the evidence. With those thoughts rambling through her head, she drifted off to sleep.
She fell into the dream and for a moment felt threatened but then that voice that had been haunting her mind of late, whispered her name and she felt safe.
"Do you delight in drawing me in like this?" she teased lightly as she looked about the room. This time it was a great hall with candlelight and soft music playing in the background. Usually the dream took place in a sunny field.
"It is always a delight to draw you in, my dear Lady Kennice, for your sharp wit and intelligence makes my lonely existence bearable. When will you join me, my dear Kennice?"
Kennice sighed as she came and sat down, the long, elegant lavender evening gown swirling about her ankles. "I told you before. I have enough male problems without adding another."
"You say that so firmly but your heart is not certain. Do you want to talk about it? I can be a very good listener."
She considered his words. "I will tell you if you will do one thing for me."
"I will not promise anything but I will do my best for you, my dear lady."
"I want to see you. Not just hear your voice in my dreams. You've been talking to me for months now. Don't you think it's time to stop playing games?"
"You are right. The "games" as you call them are at an end. I will come to you at the midnight hour. Then I will reveal myself. Is that acceptable to you?"
Kennice smiled and nodded. She blushed when she realized she hadn't answered aloud. "I will meet you down by the brook. Do not be late," she warned as she stood. "Now I must go. I have a dinner date."
"Eat heartily and I hope it is more pleasant for you than past dinners."
"So do I, my mysterious friend. So do I."
She closed her eyes and when she blinked she was once again in her bed. Sighing she rose to get ready. It took her a half hour and even then she didn't feel completely together. She studied herself in the mirror and nervously smoothed the silver silk gown. She had to admit it looked lovely on her. She had washed her hair and with the help of one of the local girls, had pulled it up into an elegant twist with a few wisps falling down her face to curl around it and frame it so that her high cheekbones could be shown off effectively.
"Ready or not, here I go," she muttered. She left her room and headed for the dining room.
Rhys was already there with Erykia, chatting quietly and pleasantly as Kennice entered. He turned and smiled warmly at her, his eyes taking in her form. "My word Kennice, you look absolutely divine tonight." He moved to her chair and drew it out for her to sit.
She blushed but then slid gracefully into the seat. Nervously she fiddled with her fingers and looked down at the table and not at Erykia.
Erykia noticed Kennice's reluctance and almost laughed. "Now that we are all here, let's eat." She clapped her hands and an elderly man wheeled in a cart laden with food. "Thank you Jose, you may go." She waited until he left to nod to Rhys. "If you will do the honors."
He bowed his head in agreement and lifted the lids from the various trays. Each lid that was removed unleashed a mouth-watering scent of Kennice's most desired meals. He had, however, made sure that they were things he himself would gladly eat. Slowly he began to dish up the meal, dealing out equal shares to everyone.
"Rhys, thank you," Kennice told him, her eyes brimming with tears of happiness and the beginnings of some thing else.
He nodded slowly and gently brought her fingers to his lips, softly kissing them in a very chivalrous gesture. "It is the least I can do Kennice." He poured her a glass of perfectly aged wine and quietly took his seat. He smiled at her one last time before beginning to eat his portion.
The room now had a comfortable feel as all three ate their meal. Erykia waited until they were completely finished before clearing her throat.
"I would like to first apologize to you Kennice for the mistreatment I have heaped upon you. I should have remembered how I felt when my mentor did the same things to me. I thought I was doing what was best but even us older ones can be wrong. Can you forgive me?"
Kennice stared at Erykia. Was this a trick? She searched Erykia's face for some sign that the older woman was lying but she found none. "I accept it. I am sorry too for being so difficult and headstrong," she replied with the utmost sincerity.
Rhys smiled and gently took each of their hands as he spoke, "Let us thank the Creator for giving us the guidance and wisdom to overcome the foolishness we have all suffered from before this date."
"So mote let it be," both women said at the same time.
Erykia was the first to break the handclasp. "Now, I do believe, Rhys, it's your show. I'll just leave you two for now. Good night," she told them as she swept from the room.
Kennice looked at Rhys in puzzlement as she waited for him to explain.
Rhys managed to force himself to blush as he watched Erykia leave and turned to Kennice. "Kennice, there is something that I have been meaning to ask you properly since we first met. I believe that now might be the correct time to rectify that." Slowly he got down on one knee and took out another small package, opening it. Another ring glimmered in the firelight, however this ring looked new and expensive, like a proper engagement ring.
"Rhys," she said and started to back up but froze as she stared at the ring. Her throat was suddenly dry.
He looked up at her with a soft look, one showing hope that she would say yes. Quietly he spoke with a heartfelt voice, trembling with a subtle vulnerability. "Kennice Davenport, angel of my heart and apple of my eyes, will you marry me?"
She suddenly couldn't breathe as what he asked her raced through her mind. For a brief moment she thought of Cyrus but then she looked at Rhys and knew that Rhys, unlike Cyrus, wouldn't just up and leave her. He would stay. He also obeyed the rules, once again unlike Cyrus who broke rules with impunity whenever his own sense of right and wrong didn't mesh with what everyone else thought. She suddenly straightened and held out her left hand. "Yes, Rhys, I will marry you."
With trembling hands, he slid the ring on to her finger and stood up, pulling her in to a tight, caring hug. "Thank you my love, thank you so very much."
Erykia came back in the room, clapping and smiling. "Splendid! I'll make sure to contact your parents in the morning. In two more weeks we'll go to the monastery and have the wedding. That gives the seamstress time to finish your wedding gown."
Kennice looked at her in surprise. "You're having a gown made? You didn't even know if I would say yes!"
"I hoped and prayed and took a risk and look, my instincts were right," Erykia said soothingly.
Kennice almost said something but she looked at Rhys and held her tongue. She would not fight over a silly gown.
He was beaming brightly and gently kissed his future wife. "I promise you that I will do my best to make you as happy as possible Kennice, you have my word."
Kennice smiled at him, and in that moment, she forgot about Cyrus. All she thought about were her upcoming nuptials.
****** After the dinner, Kennice returned to her room her mind in a whirl. She was going to marry Rhys. For a brief moment the small part of her heart that was hopeful called her traitor to Cyrus but she firmly pushed that inner voice back. She had to make responsible choices, choices that would benefit the people. Cyrus had been a poor choice and she had to move on from it.
When she heard the clock chime fifteen minutes to midnight she gasped in shock and raced from her room. She was going to be late! She hurried down one of the secret passageways and out into the night. The comforting sounds of the insects and the animals calmed her somewhat as she neared her destination. Her heart was pounding. She felt guilt that she was this excited about meeting her mystery dream visitor but this evening was turning out to be full of surprises. The moon was full and its light bathed her with its rays. She heard a whoosh of air and her gaze snapped upwards. Her mouth formed a perfect 'O' of surprise as she hastily backed up.
In front of her was a gigantic black dragon. She felt a flash of fear. Cyrus had been with a black dragon. Was this the evil one who had nearly incinerated them all? Without thinking she flung her hand outward and immediately an amethyst glow surrounded it. "Be gone evil beast!" she ordered.
~Now is that anyway to talk to your friend?~ the very familiar voice of her dream visitor asked in her mind.
Her disbelief was complete. The glow around her hand died out and it dropped to her side. "You, you're a dragon," she stated flatly, wariness making her defensive.
~And? Is that a problem, future high priestess? You would, after all, have met me eventually.~
Her confusion was evident. What did he mean when he said she would have eventually met him? Things were not making sense and she didn't like it.
~I can sense your distrust. I am not Kaie and I will not harm you. I have been waiting for you for a long time, my rider.~
"Rider!" No, she couldn't be a rider! She was to be high priestess and no one in living memory had ever been both. "There must be some mistake! I can't be your rider."
He chuckled. ~Yes, you can. Search your heart, priestess, you know the truth. And it is not just any dragon you speak with, my dear lady. I am Hayden, King of the Dragons.~
The ground rumbled with his announcement and she felt the truth vibrate through her soul. She felt words bubble up from her heart and she stated loudly and clearly, "I, Kennice, accept you, great King of the Dragons as my protector, life and friend."
The clap of thunder startled her but it was Hayden's excited bulge that made her jump and give him a sideways glance. She felt her magical center shift and settle. The bond was complete and it could not be reversed. For the first time in years she felt at peace.
Hayden's eyes shone brilliantly as he lowered his head to the ground in front of Kennice. ~You may touch me if you like.~
Tentatively she reached out and lightly laid her hand on his muzzle. "You are softer than I expected. And I'm sorry for the mistrust. I've not had good experiences with dragons."
~It is only natural. And I do not hold it against you. Kaie is not to be trusted and the fact that she is disrupting the bond between Cyrus and Brenna is not acceptable. She is violating draconic law. But that you will learn in time. You will still be high priestess. The only difference is that you are a rider as well. Do not worry. You will be trained in being a rider. We both are rulers who wish to keep our peoples safe. Our bond will be strong and we will accomplish many things. For now, however, speak of this to no one. Not even to the current high priestess. I must return to my people but I will be in contact with you, my rider.~ Hayden nuzzled her gently and Kennice laughed.