Sovereign of the Dragon (Part 3)
by J.J. Massa
"Well?" Lionel demanded when Grace stopped.
Rupert looked up quizzically. "I can't make this out," Grace said, her tone puzzled. "I mean, there are words there, and I can almost see them…"
"Let me have it." Rupert stood and held out a hand, his voice brusque. Some part of his mind catalogued the uneasy glances exchanged between his four associates. Their disquiet was of no concern to him presently. "Give me the letter now," he ordered, a ringing note of incontrovertible command in this tone.
Grace hurriedly handed him the letter before slipping around to sit next to Antonio. Rupert paid little attention to her, however, as his mind was fixed on what looked like uneven and faded woodcut print. One could almost make out the letters, but not quite.
This was a message meant for him, as the Prince Regent to the Sovereign of the Dragon. Nadya wouldn't know this method of communication, or even know of it, most likely. Her father most likely had hoped she would live out her life in obscurity, perhaps as a librarian in some backwoods pastoral utopia.
If he followed through--if he took the steps to accept this communiqué, everything would change. The magic would act; others would feel it. This would be a commitment. Closing his eyes in resignation, Rupert expelled a heavy breath.
He lifted his left hand, raising it to just above shoulder level. Concentrating on the image of the ring he once wore--the ring his sister still wore, Rupert began to chant. The words were ancient--archaic even, and he couldn’t have translated if he'd wanted to. Of course, he didn't want to.
A breeze stirred in the room and music could be heard, rising from a whispering strain. The words seemed to echo those spoken by Rupert, the choral notes contrasting high and melodic, then deep and somber.
Suddenly, the air thickened, making breathing difficult. Light flared before a resounding crack shook the building, leaving a ringing silence in its wake.
Rupert felt the weight of the monarchial ring on his finger, expanded to fit his more masculine hand. Running the fingertips of his right hand over the crest, the shape of a dragon newly overlaying it, he heard the murmur of a familiar voice.
"Spasibo, brat. My svobodny . Pozabotʹtesʹ o nashyeĭ docheri."
"What the hell was that?" Lionel demanded, no doubt speaking for all four of them.
"That was Russian. He said, "Thank you, brother. We are safe. Take care of our daughter."" Rupert translated.
"Not that!" Antonio snapped. He waved a hand wildly at Rupert and indicated the room, "That!"
"Quiet," Rupert growled, surprising the group.
A blue mist filled the room, coalescing into the form of a young man with blond, wavy hair, and dark blue eyes, standing beside and in front of the overlarge head of dark blue dragon whose brow and crest feathers graduated from dark blue to nearly green. It was an awe-inspiring sight.
When the young man and dragon spotted Rupert, the human bowed deeply and moved as if to drop to one knee.
"Rise," Rupert ordered. "Do not kneel before me. I am not your king."
The teen stood straight but told him, "I offer my respect, Your Majesty. You will always be my king."
One of the young people situated behind him snorted gracelessly. While he could appreciate how foreign this entire situation was to his staff, Rupert knew the young man, and more importantly, the dragon would not take such disrespect lightly.
Sure enough, the dragon slowly raised his head and scanned the room, a burst of flame seeming to caress the walls. Though Rupert knew it was essentially a hologram, dragons were ancient, magical creatures, and no one knew the extent of their powers. The heat of the eruption seared the air.
"Honored old one," he began, intending to ask the dragon for indulgence, for some form of understanding toward his younger guests.
"Sire, you are no longer a university professor," the boy interrupted. "You are the Regent of the Dragon." His tone was nearly reverent, reminding Rupert of himself so many years ago. The Sovereign of the Dragon was a very big deal indeed.
"Enough. My niece?"
He needed to know, of course, and the change of subject just might direct the dragon's attention elsewhere. He could see, looking into the dragon's iridescent eyes, that the creature had not been fooled, but would be tolerant.
"I am Tikan York, sire. The princess was…called to retire," the blond supplied, assuming that Rupert would understand. He did, of course. This young man would share knowledge that she could not. "Her dragon…" the blond paused as if listening to a distant sound. " She needed rest, sire. I am to tell you what happened."
"Then be about it, boy," Rupert bit out, grinding his teeth. Before Tikan could respond, he held out one palm to stop the young man, pinching the bridge of his nose with the other. "My apologies, Mr. York…Tikan." His use of the boy's name brought a flash of a smile before Tikan sobered and nodded his understanding. "I know little of her…she is my last living relative and I…" he breathed in deeply, and exhaled slowly , lest he embarrass himself.
"The princess is…"he paused, apparently deciding how to frame his words. A slow smile spread across the teen's handsome face as he began to speak. "Nadya is ecstatic to have found you, your majesty. She has lived a very solitary life for many years. Velikiy Knyaz Rasputin dared not stay in residence. And you must agree, Sire, that he is not a welcoming man." Rupert snorted in agreement. "In you, she has found a link to her mother and a more welcoming link to her family." Tikan looked at something in the distance for a moment, before turning back with a besotted smile. "She has blonde hair, much lighter than mine--and straighter, too," he grinned. Rupert found his heart pounding now. She sounded like his sister all over again. "Her skin is pale, her lips full and pink. Her eyes are so very blue, like a…" Rupert lifted a brow, wondering if the young man would go on. Tikan flushed to his ears, "She's very pretty," he mumbled.
"I'll take your word for it," Rupert agreed dryly. He wanted to know every detail about his niece, including the color of her eyes. What he didn't want was to listen to a besotted schoolboy wax philosophical about the shading. of those eyes. "Now then, please tell me what happened to scare my niece so."
Tikan's face paled, but he nodded. "Of course, Your Majesty. The ship did fire a second shot, but my dragon spun away. We were more or less in front of Nadya and the girls. I didn't realize that we were blocking them from view. The second we moved, the ship's guns seemed to fix on her. They fired several shots rapidly, one shot came so close, Sire, that it put a tear in her shirt." He gulped, looking nauseous."I wanted to go to her, but my dragon felt a smaller target would be better, and that she would risk herself in an effort to save me. She--her dragon--climbed higher and higher, but they continued to shoot." The memory of the event seemed to frighten him even now, in retrospect. "I guess the survival instinct of our phoenix companions finally kicked in," he said, his voice growing thick with irritation at the memory. "Suddenly we were gone from the fight. It took them long enough," he grumbled. "Now we are on a small island. I think it is either Mykines, or a hidden drift of land in the Faroes. It must have been the nearest land. Our Leviathon companion did finally make it here as well." Tikan's head jerked around, as if something had surprised him. "I must go, Your Majesty. We are safe for now." He bowed and asked, "With your permission?"
Rupert watched intently as the nebulous hologram of Tikan and his dragon faded away. When it was no more, he turned, acutely aware of his audience. An explanation would be expected.
March 1, 2012