Long black spines clawed at the seams of the backdrop. As far as Drykar remembered, more memories grew in this forest than trees. From the time he had coming ranging into these woods for the first time as a seven-year-old because he wanted to glimpse the tiger that had wandered into the outskirts of the woods, to his most numerous visits to meet Cedra the entire of the last year till she had died. This forest was alive and humming with scenes from his life.
And yet, here he was again, back after an year to wait for his lover. For Miraea. Or was it Cedra? He wasn’t sure that he knew anymore.
The king had convinced Miraea of her need to leave back to her own state in the south and offered to book her ship himself. It was a little brusquely done, but done, all the same. With the waking of the sun the next morning, her ship would unfurl her sails and depart from these lands for good.
And then, where would she go? She had no real home in the south and neither was King Wyman her true father. He had agreed to play the part for an year only hoping to share the gains and gold that he would earn from this farce. But if she went back without a crown? Would he still accept her then?
She couldn’t stay back in this state in guise either. The king was intent upon seeing her fare himself and to bid her goodbye.
Drykar’s mind had been wrecked ever since the talk with his father the previous night, and after hearing his father pronounce her departure order, he felt like a lone ship lost at sea. Helpless and desperate. No, this wasn’t the way it was all supposed to go; he wouldn’t accept it.
She would help me sort things out, she would, I know, he thought as he scouted the perimeter of the woods, looking for his lover.
Dark, lean shadows crisscrossed the loose Earth, a single long finger alone moving amidst the sea of blackness – his own shadow. For a heartbeat, he felt a pair of eyes singe his neck; unwelcome eyes. He spun around immediately, tripped over a boulder and went flying headfirst into the soil, breaking the fall just in time with his hands.
Someone chuckled behind him – a sweet, soft sound like water rolling over marbles. A pair of hands slipped over his eyes, covering them. Drykar found himself grinning, and groped for a strand of her hair to pull. For once, she had caught him by surprise. It was I who was distracted, he consoled himself. But I felt someone on the other side. Nonetheless, nothing mattered now. She was here.
“You’ve grown sly,” he observed, sliding her hands down his eyes and rising to his feet.
The uneasy feeling that a pair of eyes were following them still burned at his back. But around them was only the forest in the indigo evening light; dark spikes of tree barks, soft rustling of leaves and the loud hush that pervaded the woods. There is none that can harm me; or her, when I am here, he thought, conscious of the sword that hung from his waist. Anything goes amiss, it would be out and gleaming in the paltry moonlight in less that a blink.
“Is something wrong?” the woman in front of him asked.
Oh my God! Women, yes, he noted.
The one who stood in front of him wore a black full shirt with silk harem pants, a sly shade of purple, drinking in and retching out the darkness. The only thing missing was her veil. In its place smiled a lovely olive face with stars trapped in midnight hued oceans for eyes. Where once glinted a feminine softness, there flashed a fierceness of a fighter now.
This was not the Cedra that had left him an year ago to become King Wyman’s daughter. She was only a nip on the verge of womanhood then, yet a girl and playful. But this was a woman, a queen. This was… Miraea.
Drykar caressed her cheek with his hands and cupped them. “Miraea,” he breathed, drinking in her affectionate face; Fierce, yet soft.
She smiled, shaking her head. “I am done being Miraea, Drykar. Miraea is dead and Cedra wakes again, the way Cedra died to birth Miraea a year ago.”
She slid her arms around his neck. First slowly, then firmly.
And then his doubts returned. He shook his head. “Our plan failed. My father wants to send you back. After all this trouble… what now?”
She sighed and drew back her arms. “Maybe it’s Eira the state needs.”
“NO!” he argued, “No way. She is hollow and self centered. I neither want her for a wife nor a queen.” Then he pulled her close and kissed her forehead. “Only you.’’
“In that case, there is just one more thing we could do.” She whispered hesitantly into his ears.
Evening faded and night rose. Beasts growled from deep inside the forest, ravens screamed, phantom eyes itched at Drykar’s back, watching.
When she was done, Drykar looked at her, a strange determination burning in his brown eyes.
“But this could get rebellious. It hasn’t been done for so long.” She warned, looking uncertain.
But he shook his head, resolute. “Then it’s time we do it again.”
To be continued…
© 2019 Sahana Narendran