Princess Charming Ch. 04byladyofdark1981©
I hope this was worth the wait, mum things got in the way but I'm getting back on track now :D
A special thanks to my editor, Jen, without her this probably would have taken longer to write and it would be filled with the most embarrassing spelling and grammar mistakes.
Chapter 4: Nothing Mythical About That!
Athanasia dove to the side, avoiding the jet of nacatat flame aimed at her. Her training kicked in and she rolled to her feet, reaching for her sword and shield. Axel lunged at the beast, swinging his blade at the dragon's leg. He felt the full impact of the strike, the force reflecting back up his arm. "Its hide's as hard as ..."
"Dragon Scales!" Athanasia called out, "Nothing can penetrate them."
Axel dodged the razor sharp claws intended for his head. "How do you know that?" He cried out, landing in a snow drift. The creature turned its head towards the Princess, who now had her shield and sword at the ready.
The dragon shot another burst of fire at her; she blocked it with the silvery shield. "I read!" She yelled. The power of the fiery breath hit the near by trees. She tried to remember her lessons, though nothing could have really prepared her to be fighting such a magnificent creature. She knew that apart from the hardness of the scales that the colour indicated how old it was, but her brain reasoned that it did not matter how old the thing was, as it was trying to kill them.
The Knight could not let the dragon harm his woman; he jumped at it to distract it, "Athanasia, RUN!"
"I am not leaving you," she yelled angrily, "You will die if I leave." She threw a stone at the dragon as it raised one of its deadly claws to swipe at Axel's head. The dragon turned and huffed a plume of noxious gas at her. She rolled to the side to avoid the green cloud, the dragon screeched angrily at her evasion. "We need to kill this thing!" She yelled.
"How?" Axel asked angrily, the hopelessness of the battle only served to invigorate his determination, "We cannot penetrate its hide with all those scales in the way!"
"I'm thinking!" She snapped. Their current tactics of distracting the beast so it would not kill the other would not save them for long, eventually they would tire and the dragon would finish what it started. The Dragon howled and attacked the Princess again, swiping its spiked tail at her, knocking her back against a burning tree, the branches crashing down on her in a puff of golden embers.
Axel growled, torn between digging Athanasia out from the burning branches and killing the dragon that caused the situation in the first place. He was distracted enough that the dragon knocked him back into another snow drift. He quickly dug himself out to see the dragon flick the branches away from Athanasia, remarkably she was unharmed. Her tenacity overrode her fear, striking the foot of the creature with her sword and drawing blood. Blood! How did she do it?
Athanasia was just as shocked as Axel was, her blade coated in the bright crimson of the beast's blood. Her eyes bulged in disbelief as she examined the sword, "How ...?"
"Princess!" Axel called, breaking her out of her momentary stupor, "Hit it again!"
"You jest!" She called back holding the sword before her when her eyes met the golden irises of the dragon, "Or not." She sliced at the dragon's eye, hoping to blind it to give them an advantage. She hit her mark, but the victory was short lived. It shook its head, knocking Athanasia off her feet again, her sword flying from her hand.
The sword landed out of Athanasia's reach in a snow drift. The Princess did not see where, but Axel did; he dove for it while the dragon was approaching her. Athanasia scrambled to take her two smaller back up swords. She tossed the shield aside and stood facing the beast with both fury and fear in her eyes. Axel, with Athanasia's sword in hand, jumped onto the creature's back. The Princess watched her fiancé try to stay atop the dragon, she could not watch for long as the dragon attacked at her distraction. She slashed at the gapping maw filled with deadly serrated teeth. If she could distract it from another fiery breath, she would be safe.
"Athanasia!" A distant voice cried.
"Castor?" Athanasia's face dropped.
Castor's eyes must be deceiving him; a gigantic black dragon looked to be ready to eat his sister. "Athanasia!" He called, panicking at his sister's imminent demise.
"Castor?" She sounded surprised to see him.
"Look out!" He dismounted his horse and ran as fast as he could, pushing his sister out of the way as the beast let a blazing plume loose. The flame engulfed him in an instant. Axel saw the dragon was distracted enough for him to slash at its neck. The fiery breath stopped and Castor fell onto the now bare ground.
"What were you thinking Castor?" Athanasia asked her now unconscious brother as she dragged him to the nearest snow drift. The cold shock woke the injured Prince. "Stay here," Athanasia ordered and took off to the fight again.
Axel had bloodied the creature's neck, but had not slowed it down. "How do I kill this blasted thing!" He cried in frustration.
"You need to sever its head from its neck!" Athanasia answered, jumping back into the fight.
"And how do I do that?" He asked between slashes.
"Drive the tip of the sword under the scales and sever the spine," she explained.
"How do you know that?" He questioned.
"I read!" She yelled impatiently, "Now be ready."
"For what?" His answer came as Athanasia dove for the dragon's feet. The dragon bent down to capture her in its jaws; causing the scales on the back of its neck to lift. Knowing what to do, Axel drove the point of the sword in with all his strength, severing the spinal column in one smooth motion. The dragon fell dead with an earth shaking thud.
Athanasia crawled out from the hollow under the dragon's neck, "I knew you could do it," she beamed up at Axel as he climbed down.
"Don't you ever do anything that stupid again!" The Knight scolded her, "What were you thinking?"
"My brother is over there," she pointed to the dark shape in the snow drift, "He is burned to a crisp, but alive."
Axel's heart dropped, he found Castor with his eyes. The Crown Prince was trying to get out of his armour with little success.
Athanasia crouched by his side and helped him. "What are you doing out here?"
Wincing, Castor allowed his sister to aide him out of his armour. It was hot to touch, but the longer it stayed on Castor the more damage would be done. "I was sent to bring you home," He explained as his breast plate fell away from his body.
"I'm not going back until Jelena is safe," she argued.
Castor grunted, he was not as badly injured as he felt; the padding of his armour protected the majority of his body. The right side of his face was another story, it was charred and blistered. "Axel volunteered to rescue her," he ground out through the immense pain he was feeling.
"You did not go yourself?" She shook her head, "One would wonder if you actually loved her at all."
Castor seized her wrist, squeezing it hard. "I was unable to rescue her myself," he snarled. "Our father commanded me to stay and not to order anyone to go in my stead. I believe I now see the man you have always seen, a man who cares only for his own power. However, I also know my place in the kingdom, so I obeyed his decree, but do not take that as a sign that I do not love Jelena!"
Athanasia pulled out of his grasp, "Point taken," she sneered, "But I will not go back with you!"
"You must," Castor stressed, "Father will kill us both if you do not!"
"And how will he know?" The Princess challenged, "Who will tell him?"
Castor's rebuttal died in his throat, she was right. No one in the vicinity would tell the King anything; they were close to the Duchy of Anata, Axel's title, and the people here were not fond of the King. Athanasia pressed some snow wrapped in a silk handkerchief to his burn, jolting him from his thoughts. "Ow!" He cried, the sensation of the ice cooling his burn was a strange one; it relieved the heat, but it hurt in its own way.
His sister smiled warmly at him, "You have decided not to take me back," she spoke as though reading his mind, "Haven't you."
"You know me too well, Athanasia," he gave her a lopsided grin, "And three have a better chance of rescuing Jelena than one."
"I would embrace you if you were not so sore," the Princess patted her brother's arm instead; "We will deal with father upon our return."
Axel had recovered their dinner; remarkably it was only scorched on the outside, still edible. He looked over at the Prince and Princess as they conversed and Athanasia treated Castor's wounds. His heart still pounded from the fight with the dragon, never before had he been so frightened, he nearly lost Athanasia and Castor. He should be over there, helping Athanasia treat Castor's wounds.
He looked around at the now ruined clearing, "We should move," he called out to his companions, "It no longer looks safe here." He pointed to the smouldering trees and debris.
Athanasia looked up, "Castor's hurt so we should get him to the nearest village," she informed him from her brother's side.
"I'll be fine," Castor argued, "I'm just a little tender." He gave both his sister and friend a lopsided smile. "How are the horses?"
Axel had forgotten about them in the heat of the battle, anything could have happened to them. As though reading his mind the three horses waltzed back to the demolished encampment looking bored with the random fires burning near by. "I think they're fine."
Castor's horse wandered closer and sniffed his wounded face. "Leave it," the Prince playfully chastised his mount, slapping the curious nose away.
Axel moved closer, carrying the rabbit that would be their dinner, "I think Athanasia is right," he said upon seeing the burn on Castor's face, "We will head to the nearest village so you may recover." He took advantage of the embers near by and placed the rabbit in them, "But first we eat." Both Castor and Athanasia scrunched their noses up at the remains of the rabbit, but did not complain. Axel laughed at their expressions and shook his head. "I am not letting this rabbit go to waste," Axel explained with a smile on his face, "You have had privilege all your lives, and this is how we commoners think: waste nothing." The Prince and Princess begrudgingly accepted his choice of food. Axel laughed again at their reaction before helping Athanasia tend to Castor's wounds.
Castor whimpered when his shirt was cut away, "That was silk," he complained, not worrying about the large bruises appearing around his torso.
Athanasia averted her eyes at the sight of her brother's bare chest, "Darling," Axel called, "This is no time for modesty; he needs to be checked for injuries."
Castor smiled at Axel's term of endearment for his sister, "Perhaps you should take over, my friend," Castor suggested.
"She needs to learn," Axel said seriously, "I am guessing you are accompanying us in our endeavour to rescue your beloved?"
"No," the Prince began, "Not at first. I was to bring my sister home, however, she refuses to go and I am in no shape to argue." Castor sounded more amused than angry at the outcome. "If only I had been more careful, I would not be the burden I am now."
"You are no burden," Athanasia reassured him; "After we eat that char-grilled rabbit we will get you into a proper bed." She finally looked at the black and purple splotches that covered his body. "By the gods," she blasphemed and gave his ribs an explorative prod.
"Athanasia," Castor moaned as a sharp stabbing pain radiated from the point she touched, "That hurt."
"Sorry," she apologised. Looking up at Axel she queried as to what to do next."
"Stop poking him," Axel explained, "Use the flat of your hand to check how his ribs feel, if it feels bumpy, then they are broken."
She did as instructed and Castor cried out. "You don't press that hard!" He exclaimed in agony.
"Well I established that they are broken," she said a little louder than necessary at her brother. Calming some what she turned to Axel again, "How do we fix them?"
"Are they bumpy?" Axel asked.
"No, but he is very insistent I leave them alone," she replied dryly.
"We bind them firmly with bandages," Axel nearly laughed at the indignant look on both their faces.
"And where would we get said bandages, Sir Knight?" Athanasia asked him arrogantly, placing her hands on her hips.
"In my pack, gorgeous," he replied patronisingly, flicking her nose playfully before getting up to move to his pack.
As he walked away the Princess turned to her brother, "Tell me brother," she began, "Why did you want me to marry him?"
Castor smiled as best he could, "I have my reasons."
"If you want him to control me, you will be disappointed," she quickly argued.
"More like someone I could trust to treat you right," Castor disclosed honestly, looking off into the distance, a shining flicker catching his eye, "We have company."
Athanasia looked in the same direction; her eyes bulged at what came into view. "AXEL!" She cried, pulling her two blades from their scabbards. She stood in front of Castor, ready to protect him if she had to as the two gigantic golden dragons flew towards them.
Axel had just found the bandages when he heard his beloved call, he saw what she did and ran back to them with Athanasia's sword in one hand and a bandage in the other. The two beasts were much larger than the other one, but there was something different about these two, something he could not pin point. Standing with the Princess, they stared wide eyed at the dragons as they landed next to the dead black one. They were unreadable as they appeared to be talking together. "Did you know they could talk?" Axel asked Athanasia.
The dragons both shot their heads around to look at the source of the sound. "No," she answered quickly, adjusting her stance for the impending attack, "Good hearing too it seems."
The dragons stopped and both laughed at her comment. "Yes, we do have good hearing," one said jovially.
"They speak?" Castor asked, "Then why didn't the other one speak?" It was a valid question.
"Canan suffered a great loss," the other dragon spoke, the voice was like thunder and it was assumed by the group that it must be male. "She lost her mate and brood."
"That is no excuse to kill random people," Athanasia argued, much to the displeasure of the others. Axel felt his stomach drop out as he was sure the arrogant Princess had not helped their vulnerable situation.
"No, it is not," the female agreed, "I am Rhetta and this is Tivada, my mate. We were assigned to kill her for her crimes."
"Pleased to meet you," Athanasia gave a courteous bow, "Canan attacked us without provocation while we were settling down for the night."
"She was dangerous," Tivada spoke again, "She began killing hatchlings, eating them when their parents were not watching." The two dragons sat back on their haunches. "Who delivered the killing blow? And how?" He sounded surprised that a trio of humans could defeat a magical creature like a dragon, particularly a crazed dragon like Canan.
"I did," Axel admitted, "With Athanasia's help."
"Is that the weapon you used?" Rhetta asked him, looking at the sword he still held defensively. "It has dragon blood on it."
"It is," the Knight lowered the sword so they could see it.
The dragons studied the blade with great interest. "It is difficult for two gold dragons to kill a black dragon, but for a human to kill one is unheard of," Tivada uttered as he considered the blade, "The metal is not of this world."
"The blade is nothing without skill," Rhetta added, "You made Canan's death quick, by doing so you showed her a great honour, one she should have given you." She looked at Axel now, "What is your name, my good Knight?"
"Sir Axel Fletcher," he replied.
"Duke of Anata," Castor called out, reminding Axel of his full title.
"Duke of Anata," Axel repeated nervously.
The dragons grinned, "A recent title," Rhetta correctly guessed, "More proof of your gallantry and honour." She stood up and moved to the body of the black dragon, "Come, Sir Axel Fletcher, Duke of Anata."
Doing as he was told, Axel followed the dragon. "Axel," Athanasia stopped him, "Be careful, we just killed one of them; this could be a ruse to enforce justice."
Axel kissed her passionately; if he was going to his death he would taste her mouth one last time. "I will be careful," he reassured her as their lips parted.
Athanasia was breathless and blushing, she turned to see her brother looking away. His wounded side facing her, so she could not see his expression.
Castor did not like seeing Axel kiss his sister in such a way, the way he had done just the day before with the Knight. He would speak with the Knight later, once the dragons had gone.
Axel now stood by the body of Canan with Rhetta. The dragon was tugging scales from the corpse and piling them at her feet. "By our laws, Sir Axel," Rhetta spoke once she finished removing the scales, leaving the dragon's body bare, "The scales must be removed when one of us dies, letting our bodies return to the soil from which we are born." Axel did not understand the sentiment. "Our scales are too hard to turn to soil and they do not burn, normally we give them to the fae, however, you have earned these scales as being the first of your kind to kill a dragon, let alone a black dragon."
"Ah, thank you," he kneeled down and picked up a scale, blood congealing on the ends. He hoped he was not offending the large beast next to him.
"The smell of blood is offensive to you," Rhetta chuckled, "It is calling to the beasts of the forest to come feed."
"Oh, you don't bury or cremate your dead?" Axel could not understand where this was going, Rhetta was talking about returning to the soil, but then she says that the blood calls to the beast of the forest.
"Flesh of the dead gives life to others," She explained, noticing the confusion on his face, "Canan will give life in death where she gave death in life, everything in balance." She turned from the body completely and began walking back. Axel began to pick up the scales, collecting as much as he could to take back to the others.
"You," Tivada addressed Castor, "Canan injured you."
"She did," Castor responded cautiously, "I was saving my sister."
"You will be happy to know your appearance won't be damaged," Rhetta informed him as she approached, "You will also have a higher tolerance of fire now."
The two dragons looked at each other. "We will bid you a good evening," Tivada bowed his head as he spoke, his mate coming to his side. Rhetta did the same and both began to beat their wings and took off into the night sky. The fires around the clearing had died away leaving them in darkness.
A few moments passed as they watched the gold dragons fly away, their scales reflecting the moonlight. "Axel," Athanasia called out, "I'm going to need you to show me how to start a fire again."
If it were not for the pain in his face and body, Castor would have been laughing at his sister's obscenities as she tried to light. Axel wanted to take the flint out of her hands and strike to ignite the kindling, but she would not let him. "I can do it, Axel," She glared at him, "I am not a child."
"I can see that," he responded with a cheeky grin, "You have all the bumpy bits I like." While Athanasia stared at him is disbelief, Axel snatched the flint out of her hands.
"Hey!" The Princess protested, "I thought I was going to do it!" She pouted childishly at her betrothed.
Axel looked over to Castor, who refused to meet his gaze. "Your brother is cold," he told the Princess, "Look, he shivers." Athanasia looked over at her brother and sighed. "He may be burned on his face, but his body still needs warmth." Still looking at Castor, Axel smiled, "Go to him and hold him until he stops quivering from the cold, I'll light the fire and retrieve the rabbit."