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       Poison, p.11

           Adrienne Woods
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  “So I killed her too.” I wanted to cry again.

  “Don’t think like that. You didn’t kill her, okay? She left you when she wasn’t supposed to, Elena. She made a promise to your mother. She should’ve stayed.”

  “It doesn’t matter anymore.”

  “Yes, it does. What she gave me, is something extremely special. Something to make up for what she’d done.”

  “What?” I asked feeling a bit annoyed and I just wanted to go back to the academy.

  “Close your eyes, and don’t be afraid.”

  I squinted at him.

  “Trust me Elena, I won’t hurt you.”

  I closed my eyes and after a while I felt two human hands resting on my temples. He must have transformed back.

  Images flashed through my head. Images that wasn’t mine, or were but I couldn’t remember them.

  First of me yelling, I remembered this day, but it disappeared and a younger version of me, much younger, was giggling as my father tickled me, images of the life I couldn’t remember flashed through, stayed with me a couple of seconds and then disappeared again. I couldn’t make any sense of it, and then with a jolt it just stopped.

  It opened on a bed. I was about seven years old and my father told me the story about Princess Katia, who was a princess of Paegeia and her mighty dragon, the Rubicon.

  “And then the dragon swooped up with his princess on his back and flew into the sunset.”

  “No Daddy,” a seven-year-old me said. “It’s not how it goes. You forgot to say that the Rubicon gave his dragon oath to love her forever and ever and then he swooped up with her into the sky and flew into the sunset.”

  “Oh, is that so, my little cub?” He started tickling me and my laughter filled the entire room.

  I listened to all the stories he told me. From the age of five up to the age of ten. It was about me, but he’d named me Katia and it was about my life, how Tanya escaped with me, leaving the king and queen with broken hearts. But his version of real events were quite different. I went back and I took my place as the princess, it was filled with Creepers, and fighting side by side with the mighty Rubicon who had the ability to turn into a prince. Fighting to get past Creepers to free her people. His stories carried much of Paegeia’s history and he was a master at telling them. There was even a part where I was flying.

  It wasn’t in my dragon form, it was on top of a huge dragon, Herbert’s figure. He laughed, but didn’t say a word as I clung onto his back like a monkey. The scales and everything were huge through my childhood eyes. I was three, maybe four, and it was the last night he flew with me like that. It was a memory I wouldn’t have known even if Tanya hadn’t erased my memories. I was too small.

  When Cheng’s hands left my temples, my cheeks felt warm; after the tear and pop sound, I opened my eyes and looked at his big scaly figure again.

  “She gave them back?” I asked and wiped tears from my eyes.

  “She thought that it was something you needed to know. Herbert loved you, Elena. He always did.”

  I nodded.

  “He tried to tell you what it was you were going to do, in his own not so scary way. He really tried to keep Tanya’s promise.”

  “So he did.” But the stories were wrong, well the Rubicon would never give his dragon oath to love and protect the Princess of Paegeia.

  I remembered them all now. How important a dragon oath was, more important than a stupid promise, and I even remembered the night my father told me that I was Katia, that Paegeia was real and that dragons and magic did exist. He wanted to take me back then, but I wasn’t ready.

  And now that I was, it was too late.

  “It’s not too late, Elena.”

  I looked at Cheng. “You can hear my thoughts too?”

  “No, but that look on your face speaks a thousand words”

  “It is, Cheng. Blake despises me, he will never dent and to be honest, I don’t think I want him to either.”

  “Why do you say that?” Shock pulled his dragon face.

  “Because the dent is not real. It’s a spell and one that will enslave him to me for eternity.”

  “Elena, you can’t say that.”

  “Oh but it is, Cheng.”

  “It’s not. I know it’s not as evil as you’re trying to make it out to be. Didn’t George and Becky show you how strong their bond is?”

  “Cheng, they showed me exactly that. George hated Becky’s guts, and then all of a sudden he just became gaga over her. It’s not real.”

  “It is, Elena. And something tells me when the right time comes you will see it the way the rest of us do. That foretelling, you should hold on to that, as Irene can see past enchantments and spells. She would’ve said something a long time ago if a dent was like that. She was part of one too, and it’s not a spell.”

  I remember the foretelling Cheng and all the rest were speaking about.

  The leaves of change will come at last, when the fate of two hearts’ bond is cast. Souls intertwined and hearts no longer torn, through their love Paegeia will once again be reborn.

  I guess time truly would tell how this story, about me and Blake and whether that foretelling was about us or not, will end.

  LENEA,” SIR EDWARD called and I cringed. Shit, not paying attention in these classes was surely going to make me fail all of them.

  I cleared my throat and looked at him questioningly.

  “You’re free to go,” he said and I narrowed my eyes, not knowing where it was I should go.

  “For heaven’s sake,” Becky spoke softly, but everyone laughed, as the entire class had super hearing abilities. “Master Longwei, the Ancients.”

  “Oh.” I started to pull all my stationery with my books together and put them into my backpack, closed the flap, and got up.

  “Thank you, Sir Edward.”

  He gave me that look, the one that said he was seriously concerned about my lack of concentration lately, and nodded.

  I walked as fast as I could out of the Magical Variances class and ran to the office where Master Longwei was waiting for me.

  I pulled hard at the oak door. I remembered when it felt like a regular door, but it was one of the first things that had left me when Cara died and also one of the things that I’d never got back after I claimed Blake. I missed my strength.

  Master Longwei was already waiting for me at the dragon statue inside the lobby.

  There was no time to change into something more adequate to meet the Ancients, but they needed to get used to who I was.

  Ever since that horrible three weeks of summer, learning everything about Paegeia—no, let me rephrase—having it forced down my throat, I’d refused to become this dressed up doll whenever the Ancients or the Council wanted a word with me.

  Master Longwei gave me a slightly raised eyebrow and glanced at his watch.

  “Yeah, I know. I’m late. Sorry. I forgot about the Ancients.”

  “Elena, you cannot—”

  “I know.” I sounded irritated. I just hated everything about being a princess. I really still sucked at it.

  HE CARRIAGE FLIGHT felt like it took five minutes and we descended in front of the Town Hall in Elm where the Ancients were going to meet with only me and Master Longwei.

  Since my dragon refused to dent, we had to come up with something to keep our connection at bay in some cases.

  In the history of Paegeia, no dent, or before that bond was even made, was the connection between dragon and rider this strong. Whenever Blake got beaten, as he was still dark and had evil urges, a process that was on hold until he dented, I automatically went through the beatings as well, ending up with slashes as long as the width of my back.

  The connection was messed up, but it was one I had to deal with.

  I didn’t like the beatings, and I hoped that when it happened again, I wouldn’t feel it like the last time. As much as I hated them, I had no choice but to let his father beat him if the evil in him overpowered him again.

/>   The last time, I thought I was going to die, but luckily for me, Master Longwei had put two and two together really quickly and it stopped right before I passed out.

  This was why we were meeting with the Council. A plan for how to block our bond in situations like this was their number one priority.

  A part of me hoped that they hadn’t come up with a plan, then the beatings would stop. But another part wanted me to have something that could block me from this, as I know for a fact that Sir Robert, Blake’s father and my father’s dragon, would never stop fighting for the good that was still deep inside of him.

  He loved his son too much and refused to give up.

  Me, I wasn’t that sure that he owned a good side anymore, otherwise he would’ve been here, at Dragonia Academy, trying to fight this.

  “You are awfully quiet today, princess.”

  “I told you not to call me that, Master Longwei.”

  He smiled. “It’s what you are, the minute you own up to it, is the day that you are ready to handle your responsibility.”

  I wanted to roll my eyes, but a princess never rolls her eyes. Every time I wanted to do that, Stanley’s voice shrilled inside my head, like a horrible alarm.

  “You are right. Sorry, Master Longwei,” I said.

  It made him laugh. “Elena, you are also still Elena Watkins to me. You never have to pretend.”

  I giggled too but it turned into a sigh as I looked out the window, upon my world. “It’s all still so confusing.”

  “Which part?”


  “Then maybe you should speak to someone Elena, one who was part of a dent, a long time ago, but lost her rider.”

  I rolled my eyes, even with Stan’s stupid voice in my head.

  “I’d rather die before I take one step up that tower again.”

  “She can help you, Elena.”

  I shook my head. I guess it wasn’t just my dragon who was stubborn. Every time Irene’s name, our Viden, was mentioned in my presence, I would remember her harsh words from the first time she’d given me that horrible foretelling. I guess a first impression was really that strong.

  She told me that I, along with King Albert and Queen Catherine’s daughter didn’t belong. That my mark was just a birth defect, that I would never ascend and I would never be a true Dragonian. For someone that had the ability to see into the future, she really sucked with me.

  I would never see her as anyone that I could confide in, even if Blake spoke highly of her.

  Yes, there was a time he was super sweet to me, it was the only time too, and a part of me had fallen head over hills for him, but it wasn’t real. He’d only tried to lure me in to do the most horrible thing ever, to kill him when the right time came, since my dragon form…since Cara changed into a Rubicon herself.

  In some sense, killing him would’ve probably been easier than what he had to do now.

  Even if Irene’s very first foretelling when she was like 30, was about me and Blake and how our love would change this world, a foretelling which I don’t believe belongs to us, I would never trust her.

  I would rather free Blake than hear what she had to say ever again.

  I saw dents as evil, not the way the rest of this world saw them.

  Dragons had to do what their Dragonians tell them, no matter how sinister their requests. Cheng’s father couldn’t break from his rider, who according to Cheng, was just as evil as Goran.

  Becky was controlling too, and it was disgusting how George just did whatever she wanted. He actually loved that part of her with all of his heart.

  No, our love would never be real. Not in the way Lucian and I had shared love. We fought, we laughed, fought some more, it wasn’t easy at times, but it was the real deal.

  Blake would become like George, and I would know that none of it was real. I would never do that to him, ever, and nothing was going to change my mind. Nothing.

  We stopped in front of the Hall and Master Longwei climbed out first. Flashing lights reflected off his face and into the carriage and I took a deep breath.

  Ever since the truth came out about who I was, everywhere I went the cockroaches with their cameras were there.

  I hated each and every one of them, as the time when I’d really needed them, the time when I’d wanted to break free from all the learning how to be something I was not, none of them ever revealed what I truly was going through. They made it look like I was having a royal time without my two best friends, who I almost lost in the process.

  These people with their cameras were all for the money, and Stan or one of his gang, would throw bags at them to not print what was really going on.

  They would do anything to earn that penny. It was disgusting.

  I climbed out, and flashlights blinded me.

  “Princess, what will you do if there is nothing that can protect you from the Rubicon’s bond?”

  Yes, that piece of info had been in all the tabloids over the past few weeks. How I’d felt Blake’s beating, every single slash of it.

  “Mr. Brody,” I answered. “Then I guess I just have to deal with it, like I have always dealt with things, and pray that he will come to his senses.” The last part made a couple laugh softly and I moved through all of them, with a couple of guards at both mine and Master Longwei’s side.

  More questions came but I only had time to answer the one and I think I answered it well enough.

  Mr. Brody, or Kevin, was someone I’d met on a regular basis. He was one of the idiots who’d gotten paid off on numerous occasions, and I knew that he was the last one I should probably answer, but he was also the most demanding one, and always said horrible things about me when I didn’t answer at least one of his questions. His famous line was how I didn’t care and didn’t have a heart or the time to address my people’s concerns, and whether I was really a princess worthy to worry about.

  All things that weren’t true, but things that would make everyone believe that it was the truth, especially the people of Areeth, Arianna Kingsley’s father’s kingdom.

  We entered the hall and the Ancients were waiting on huge thrones that they’d brought in. It always reminded me of a court, a court with thrones.

  My Pappi was the first face that I saw and he had a twinkle in his eye as he winked at me, and caught mine. He smiled and nodded a greeting in my direction.

  “Good Afternoon princess, Master Longwei.”

  We both took a bow in front of the five thrones and sat on the two seats that were placed right in front of them.

  “I hope we haven’t made you wait too long, your honors,” Master Longwei said.

  “Not in the least. We know the princess’s education is of importance, now more than ever.”

  I hated the way they spoke down to people, especially the speaker.

  He was a dragon, and it was as if he loathed royalty. Well at one stage I would agree with him, but we weren’t that bad.

  My Pappi stared at him, but just took a deep breath and closed his eyes as if he passed his afternoon nap, turned his head and stared at the two of us again.

  “We might have found an old incantation that has been placed on a charm, a bracelet, that the princess should wear at all times. It will protect her from the lashes. It wasn’t an easy spell to come by, but in some cases, it’s necessary to look in darker places.”

  That piece of knowledge made the hair on my arms and the back of my neck tingle.

  The Black Market.

  I looked at my Pappi and he closed his eyes once lovingly in my direction and eased my worries with a soft smile.

  My heart still beat hard as it was one of the places I would gladly close down in a second if they gave me the chance of ruling this world. They still used dragon parts, parts that kept them alive, as the most valuable potions couldn’t function without them, like the coward potion.

  A potion my mother had once asked Goran to make her so that she could pretend to be dead and reunite with me.

bsp; She wrote about that in her journal, something she did on a daily basis after she gave me up. If I hadn’t already relived what pain she went through giving me up that day, her words of what life was without me would’ve done it.

  She really wanted me with all of her heart, so much that her and my father’s relationship turned into dust because he couldn’t find the person who was going to betray them, a love I thought could never die.

  The Ancients still spoke in the background. I didn’t hear a single word they said and was brought back to reality as a short little fat man with medals sewn onto his black suit came running in with a wooden box.

  He came to a halt in front of me and opened the lid.

  Inside was a beautiful round bracelet with a small heart charm that dangled from it. There was a dark blue stone in the middle of the heart.

  The guy with a big belly and beautiful black suit with golden medals nodded once and I just stared at him and then at the Ancients.

  “Princess, you are the only one that can touch it. The spell will start when it comes in contact with your skin,” my Pappi said.

  I reached out with slightly trembling hands as if it was a snake that was going to strike at any moment.

  I took a deep breath to calm my nerves and took the bracelet.

  I awkwardly tried to clasp it on and by the fifth time, with a couple of annoying sighs coming from the thrones, I finally got the clasp to connect with the link.

  “The dark stone will turn into a soft blue when the spell is busy protecting you from whatever pain the Rubicon is going through,” the speaker said.

  My Pappi cleared his throat. “You can’t take it off, Elena. If you do, the spell will lose its power and the bracelet would be just that, a bracelet.”

  I nodded and took a deep breath.

  “I understand.” I stood up and Master Longwei followed my lead.

  “I thank all of you for finding something so rare to protect me from danger.” I smiled. It didn’t sound anything like me. The old Elena would never have said anything like this.

  “Thank you, your honors and we appreciate this dearly,” Master Longwei added and all of them got up and made their way, without a hint of it’s a pleasure, through another door.

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