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       Frostbite, p.29

           Adrienne Woods
 

  “Shhh.” She put her index finger softly on my mouth. “They’ll have to kill me first and a couple of other dragons before that will ever happen. Sir Robert isn’t the kind that can be tamed. That was your father’s specialty.” She winked and I giggled.

  “He’s sure changed a lot in the past few weeks.”

  “What did you expect, Elena? You are his rider’s daughter. The one true ruler. They can strip you of the title and they might come to a verdict that you aren’t who you say you are, but you are their child, their blood runs through your veins and remember, there is nothing anyone can do about that.” She gave me the same explanation Master Longwei had.

  “See, told you so,” he said nonchalantly and read today’s paper which carried all the news of tonight’s big verdict.

  Constance and I just smiled.

  “I don’t know how you can read that,” she said to Master Longwei.

  “What? I like to know what is going on inside Paegeia.”

  “It’s filled with people who are trying to prove Elena is a fake,” Constance scolded.

  “It’s funny,” he joked.

  “It’s not a joke.” She sounded irritated.

  “Constance, why does this bother you so much? We both know who Elena is.”

  “It’s just that the one who is behind this was one of Albert’s best friends.”

  “When someone is out of the light, and out of grace, they tend to harden. Caleb is just lost, Constance. I’m sure he’ll find his way back soon.”

  “It’s going to take a miracle for that man to see the light again,” she mumbled and everything became silent.

  It would not take a miracle. It would only take a couple of seconds, my father lives. If he really cared for my dad, he would fight to save him.

  We stopped at Elm’s port and more flashing lights went off in my face as we climbed out. Sir Robert waited for me by the carriage door and led me into the port. Reporters wanted to know how I felt, and what I would do if the outcome was negative.

  I stopped, turned around and looked at all of them.

  “Whether the outcome is negative or positive, they can’t take away the blood that flows through my veins. I know who I saw while I was ascending. It was your king, the greatest man that fought for the rights of dragons. I don’t have to prove to anyone who I am. You either believe it in your heart or you don’t.”

  I turned around. My heart was beating like crazy and it was a miracle that I didn’t end up stuttering. Sir Robert smiled at me as he led me to the elevator that led to Areeth.

  “What?” I asked him.

  “You may look like your father, but what you just said back there, was exactly the type of thing your mother would have said.”

  I smiled at him. Ever since I found out who I was, he was the first to show me what type of person my mom was. She didn’t take shit from no one.

  I didn’t cringe anymore as the elevator teleported the four of us to Areeth. Becky was right, it would become exactly like the carriage ride. Besides, my fears were eliminated the minute Cara showed me how fun everything could be. I missed her so much and would give anything just to feel her again. But she was gone. I was once more alone.

  In Areeth, more reporters wanted to know the exact same thing. But it was a completely different crowd, one that didn’t believe a single word I was saying. One that knew me as the person standing between their princess’s happy ever after. One that thought I had killed their beloved prince and one that would never believe that I was the true ruler’s daughter.

  Millions of bystanders with protest boards stood around the cab that was going to take us to the palace. Sir Robert grunted when he saw the yellow car. “No respect.”

  “Let it go, I’m not that type of royalty.”

  “Yes, you are.”

  “You know what I mean.” I climbed in the cab and looked outside the window. Areeth was really a rich and beautiful part of Paegeia. We crossed a bridge and I tried to see if I could find any buildings. I only found stars. The city reminded me of Dragonia.

  I would be scared too if I was King Caleb. To lose all of this would drive me insane. I wondered what he would do if he discovered the truth about my father being alive. Would he really change his mind as I thought he would, would he change his mind about me?

  You promised, Elena, my dad’s voice played inside my head.

  I know, I replied silently, but it was a hard promise to keep.

  Ever since that piece of information was revealed to me, I’d been wondering about him constantly. What he must be going through. If he was still alive.

  I held my head up high and was brought back to reality when Sir Robert opened the cab’s door for me. He mumbled something about this not being a princess ride again, but I waved it off. I was used to this, and it didn’t bother me as much as it bothered him. It didn’t matter if I was transported in a limo or on a dragon’s back. Just as long as I got to this stupid meeting.

  I’d made up my mind, Master Longwei and Constance were right. I had their blood flowing inside my veins, it didn’t matter who they said I was. They could strip me of my title, just like they denied me my name on that brass plate with my mom’s when I exited the cavern. Both of them were just stupid titles, but I refused to let them take away who I really was. My mother died protecting me and my father still fought to protect everything, not just me, from the evil that lurked inside Etan. I am Elena Malone–Squire Watkins and nothing they said tonight would ever change that.

  HE MAIN CITY of Areeth was beautiful. It was called Vicali and was built of white stone. We had to take a carriage to the entrance as Vicali was built high in the air. It almost seemed as if it was supported on a thousand pillars, if not more. The houses were huge, beautiful double stories with a modern Victorian structure. The streets were linked with bridges running between them. Cobblestone marbles lined the surface and I couldn’t stop looking at the street. When the path grew too small for the carriage we had to climb out and walk the rest of the way.

  About a mile from the hall where the meeting was going to take place, people were lined up. They were more protesters.

  Most of them spat in front of my feet, which riled Sir Robert. They started to spit at him too and words like ‘Traitor’ filled the air.

  If only they knew the truth.

  “Ignore it, we know it’s not the truth.” I tapped him on the arm and we carried on walking.

  Some even yelled out the word ‘Blasphemy’ and said it was impossible to be who I said I was. One even said I looked nothing like either of them. Sir Robert walked faster and I had to run to keep up with him because my wrist was lodged inside of his grip.

  More people who were protesting waited on the million steps that led up to the huge building.

  I ignored them as I walked next to Sir Robert through the doors.

  Constance and Master Longwei both kissed the side of my cheeks twice but the fear of what they experienced with us was lodged on their faces.

  “Be strong, Elena. It doesn’t matter what they say, you will always be my princess.” Constance said and Master Longwei just smiled.

  “This ought to be good,” he replied before he followed Constance to one of the hundred seats that were on both sides of what resembled a courtroom.

  “I’m right here,” Sir Robert took one of the chairs that were stacked behind us against the wall.

  I took a seat next to him. My eyes found five thrones way in the front, slightly elevated. I huffed thinking that everyone in this world wanted to be more important than the next, no wonder they treated me this way.

  “Here, let me help you with your coat,” Sir Robert said, tugging on my sleeves and I took it off gently.

  “Thank you for not doubting me.”

  He chuckled. “Elena, I saw your father that first time I laid my eyes on you inside my kitchen. It was just hard to think of why he’d never said anything to me. He used to look at Sammy with so much love but regret always followed shortly, and
then the tears. I never understood that emotion until now. I might not have known about your existence, but I can tell you this. Your father loved you more than words can describe. Never forget that. Your mother was a completely different story. Their relationship went downhill and none of us knew why.”

  “It did.”

  “She’d gotten angry with your father because he didn’t find who was behind all of this. Now I know why.”

  It was because he was keeping me away from her. I closed my eyes and wanted to tell him so badly about his rider being alive, but my father was right, he would kill himself trying to find a way through those Creepers. That was who this man next to me was and it was hard to imagine that his son was the one supposed to be here, to clear this all up.

  The place filled up quickly with members of the council. I could feel all of their stares as I sat beside Sir Robert.

  I found Constance’s eyes and she smiled at me. Master Longwei winked and both of them leaned closer to one another to discuss something.

  I jumped as five very old people took the five thrones in the front.

  The first had golden blond hair and golden eyes. He was a Fin-Tail dragon. The one next to him had white-grey hair. His face was wrinkled and his eyes a deep sea-blue color. I didn’t know whether he was a Moon-Bolt or a human. There was another man with a copper glint in his white hair and copper eyes. Dragon, and the other two looked like humans.

  “This is the hearing of Elena Watkins and the decision of whether or not she is the descendent of the Malone bloodline.” The one who read the words started to frown. All of them looked my way with grey eyebrows knitted together.

  “Stand up, child, come closer so that we may see you.”

  I did what he asked and walked to the middle of the room. Keep your chin up high, you are the daughter of King Albert and Queen Catherine.

  “Is this true, do you claim to be their daughter?”

  “Yes, your honor,” I answered as Constance had told me to. All of them looked at me but the one sitting on the fifth throne squinted. It made me slightly uncomfortable.

  The one on the third throne kept a pair of goggles in front of him and I could feel his eyes boring into me.

  He mumbled something about not this happening again. The one side of the court room snickered softly.

  “What is stopping this child’s claim?”

  King Caleb stepped forward. “With all due respect your honor there is no proof. The queen died before she could produce an heir and so did the king. If this child is who she says she is, she had to find a way to go through the Wall. I know for a fact that she is a dragon, your honor. She changed a couple of months back when the prince of Tith was killed.”

  “A dragon?” three of the ancients said in unison.

  “It’s true, your honor.” Sir Robert came to my defense. “She was a dragon, the child was sick as a baby and the king and queen let a young dragon waiting for her human form soak up her essence in order to protect the infant.”

  “Robert, we didn’t think we would see you here.”

  I clenched my jaw as they showed him no respect.

  “She is the daughter of my rider, and my son’s rider. It’s my responsibility to keep her safe, until Blake can fulfill that responsibility.”

  “Your son’s rider? She’s a Rubicon, Robert. We all saw it. It’s the only way she claimed him,” King Caleb spat. “She’s pretending to be a human now and making this preposterous claim. You of all people should know better.”

  “No, Caleb, you should know better. She looks just like him, not to mention the queen, may her soul rest in peace. You knew how depressed she was, and yet we all thought it was because of Tanya. That wasn’t the reason. We all know why you are making these claims that she’s not who she says she is.”

  “Enough!” The Ancients roared.

  “Is this true child, you are a Rubicon dragon?”

  “I was, your honor. It is true what King Caleb says. I turned into a dragon, but it was because of my host that sacrificed herself years ago still lingering inside of me. I promise you now, she doesn’t exist anymore.”

  “Another Rubicon, how could this be?” The first Ancient asked.

  Didn’t they hear anything I was saying to them? “I didn’t use to be one,” I spoke again. “When I turned I was a Thunderlight, but because of what I really was, and the bond I already shared with my dragon, I changed into his form. I’m neither anymore, your honor. She died a couple of weeks ago.”

  “How could you kill her, and still be alive?”

  My eyes started to tear up.

  “Your honor, maybe it’s better that you ask Tanya Le Frey that. She was the one that sacrificed her daughter in order for Elena to live,” Sir Robert spoke on my behalf.

  King Caleb laughed again. “Didn’t you hear? Tanya is dead. The scouts found her body on the borders of the Acker Woods.”

  I cried out and Sir Robert caught me before I fell in a heap on the floor.

  “Silence.”

  “How do you know this, King Caleb?”

  “I can answer that, your honor.” King Helmut stepped forward. “I sent out scouts to where Elena said she found the queen’s dragon. We have a witness that can tell you the exact same story as Elena.”

  “That witness doesn’t count. Without Tanya Le Frey’s evidence, Elena has no truth to her story.”

  “What happened to you, are you so blind that you can’t see who she is?”

  “So she claims that she looks like them. She isn’t the first, Helmut. Many had their eyes or the queen’s beauty. None of them turned out to be the Rubicon’s rider or their child.”

  “Except for this human right in front of you. Blurting out that Tanya was dead like that, was inhuman and cruel.”

  “She didn’t know her.”

  King Helmut shook his head. “How much more must she prove? She claimed Blake.”

  “That doesn’t count if you’re a Rubicon yourself.”

  “I think we’ve heard enough of this. We’ll have our decision in a couple of minutes. Just remember child, what we say is final, unless other proof can be brought forward.”

  I nodded, still clutched inside Sir Robert’s arms.

  He took me back to my seat.

  “How can she be dead, she was alive when we left?” I asked him.

  “I don’t know, Elena. I’m so sorry.”

  “I’m screwed. A few minutes doesn’t say much does it?”

  “You can’t say that.”

  The minutes felt like hours and the scenarios of Tanya’s death consumed my mind. She couldn’t be dead.

  When they finally came back, they called me to the middle again. The one on the fifth throne who kept glaring at me was missing.

  “Elena Watkins, we have heard your claim, we see the resemblance and we can tell most of the time what is lies and what is the truth.” My heart started to jump with joy as he said all those words.

  “But we can’t approve your claim. There is no evidence and without real evidence, we are sorry to come to this verdict. You aren’t the child of King Albert and Queen Catherine. No human can leave through the Wall and no human can survive inside a dragon. Your claim over Blake doesn’t count and it’s broken from this day forward.”

  I froze as the hammer’s head hit a wooden board, hard.

  “You can’t do this!” Sir Robert protested. “She is my king’s daughter and you know it.”

  “Contain him,” one of the Ancients said and guards came out of nowhere and took him away.

  “No, please, don’t.” My voice was merely a whisper. I fell onto my knees and shifted to my butt as the truth finally sank in.

  I didn’t just get stripped of a title, I got stripped of my dragon too.

  “Your honor, now that the Rubicon doesn’t have a rider,” King Caleb started to speak again.

  I shot him a glare. How dare he do this in front of me?

  “By law if a claim is interfered with, that dragon automatically
belongs to the rider that first tried to claim it. Elena interfered with my daughter’s claim and I’d like the Rubicon to be returned to its rightful owner.”

  The air in my lungs disappeared as he said those words. It felt as if I’d gotten hit hard on the back and couldn’t breathe.

  Constance found me and helped me from the floor. “Let’s go, you don’t need to hear this.”

  “That’s my son he’s talking about.” Sir Robert came out of the building they’d just taken him through.

  “How did… Contain him!” another Ancient yelled.

  “There are no guards to contain me.” He laughed a sadistic laugh. “I killed them all.”

  The crowd gasped.

  “I’m the king’s rider. I’ve been called traitor and prosecuted for a crime I never committed. The only crime I ever committed was caring too much for the king, obeying him when he told me to leave his side. I will not let my son’s fate lie with someone that can’t control him. He has a rider and a dent for that matter. Giving him to Arianna Kingsley would be breaking the law.”

  “Robert!” Constance hissed.

  “My daughter is of royal blood, traitor.”

  “Royal blood. Elena’s grandfather gave your father Areeth, you are nothing but a commoner just like the rest of us.”

  “Enough!” The hammer hit the board a couple of times.

  “Robert Leaf by the power vested in us, you are sentenced to death. Taking guards lifes and disrespecting royalty in public is against the law and you will die for the crimes you committed here tonight.”

  “No! Please, your honor. You cannot do this. He is my father’s rider,” I yelled out and ran to Sir Robert’s side.

  “He is not your father,” King Caleb said.

  “With all due respect, King Caleb. I know what I saw, who I saw when I ascended.”

  “You didn’t ascend, you are a dragon,” he roared.

  I looked at the Ancients again. “Please have mercy. He’s given an oath to protect me and that oath means killing everyone standing in his way when he feels that person is in danger. I promise you I will find solid proof of who I am, and then you are going to ask me for mercy. I’ll give Arianna my dragon if that is what it takes, and I’ll give up the right to call myself a princess, but I’m asking you to let this dragon come home with me tonight. And I promise you when the time comes, this will be forgotten.”

 
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