As I left my room Aiska was by my side almost instantaneously, jogging to catch up with my anxiety fueled strides. I begrudgingly slowed down to allow her to catch-up.
"Is there anything you need Myr?" She asked as she matched my now slightly slower pace, staying just behind me so I was only seeing her face out of my peripherals.
"I understand that this is your job, but I really don't need...or want to be waited on like this," I let out a sigh, slowed to a more comfortable speed, and turned to look at her, "I get that there are decorum and rules that must be adhered to in a position like this...but seriously cut it out." I realized that the last bit had come out harsher than I had intended.
"If you-" she started, but I cut her off.
"I'm sorry, that was so rude," I said, "I just...I just need at least one person treating me like a person right now..." my voice trailed off as memories of being nothing more than a puppet for weeks came flooding back into my head, that tingling on my skin came back to. Aiska smiled kindly at me, but there was something else in her eyes...a sadness that wasn't pity per say, more of an understanding.
"Of course," she said as she fell into step beside me, "but in all seriousness, I'm gonna be asking you that whenever I see you for a while. Force of habit and all that." She lightly punched my shoulder. I laughed a little at the stark contrast between her earlier attitude and the current one.
"If I ever do need anything you'll be the first to know," I replied, feigning pain in the shoulder where she punched it.
"Well I think I should let you know something since we're dispensing with formalities..." She started to say but hesitated.
"Your face...is kinda fucked up...like I should take you to a healer to help with the swelling." I reached up and gingerly touched where Yen had punched me. It had been throbbing slightly but I hadn't really been focused on it since my side ached more and the tingling kept coming back randomly.
"You're probably right," I said through a wince, "plus my side is still killing me to...Yen is really strong." I hesitantly lifted my shirt and saw the bruise had gotten a bit darker. Aiska gasped when her eyes locked on to the large black and purple mark on my ribs.
"Yeah...I'm taking you to the healer's chamber now," Aiska grabbed my arm and dragged me through the castle, down three levels, and into a room that smelled of herbs that were distinctly not for cooking. When we entered the surprisingly well lit room the smell became much stronger. I glanced around for the source but all I saw in this room was a large fireplace, complete with a roaring fire, a wooden...bed or table that was angled as if to be sat upon or in, and another door that led deeper into the castle.
"Hello?" An elderly male voice called out from the back of the room, "I'll be right there!" There was a crash followed by some cursing, another crash, more cursing, and then the elderly gentleman who was the last face I saw before passing out in the cart after being rescued shuffled out with a scowl on his face. I heard him mutter something about storage space and a lack of organization before he looked over at myself and Aiska.
"Healer Asharn, you remember Myr?" Aiska asked, the old man, Asharn, nodded and made his way over to us.
"Mmmm yes, the captive of Lord Coran," he mumbled, "well let's get to it. Take off your clothes and any glamorous you are maintaining. Go stand by the fire so I can examine you, Aiska you may wait outside."
"Are you sure..."Aiska started today but Asharn lifted his wrinkled hand and made a shooing motion towards her.
"I need to do this privately, my dear," Asharn said with a grouchy tone that contrasted with his smiling face, "I have found that patients are much more likely to be honest with me about such things if we are alone." Aiska hesitated but walked out of the room and closed the door.
"Do you use Magic to heal people?" I asked as I began stripping, attempting to avoid touching my bruises.
"No no dear boy," Asharn chuckled and began collecting things from around the room, "Magical healers are rare. Being able to manipulate Magic with such fine precision as to facilitate healing is a rare gift. Just because I look like an old wizard does not mean I am one."
"Ah, I see," I replied even though I already knew this, I had just assumed that the Royals would have the best of the best in their employ. I had removed all but my small-clothes at this point and moved towards the fire.
"Those too," Asharn waved at my undergarments, "no need for modesty here, nothing i haven't already seen anyway."
"You've seen me-" I started, but the old man waved his hand as if to swat the question out of the air even as he gathered more items.
"Of course," he sounded exasperated but his voice became kind and soft, "when an individual is brought to me after enduring what you have gone through I examine all areas that have been treated poorly." He walked over and nodded at the remaining clothes and I acquiesced, dropping them to my ankles. Asharn looked me up and down, his eyes narrowing when this gaze was on my face.
"What?" I asked, moving my hands to my hips defensively...before quickly removing them as I had forgotten about my bruises.
"Glamour. Off," Asharn stared very pointedly at my eyes. I was confused for a few moments before remembering that he would've seen my eyes after the...fight. I sighed and let the Magic fall away from my face.
"Better?" I asked, having my eyes on display made me feel more exposed than being naked.
"For me, yes," he began examining my face closely, bringing up magnifying glasses of various sizes to get closer looks, "that eye trick was masking the extent of some of the bruise. Does this hurt?" He gently tapped what must've been the edge of the bruise because I sucked in air through my teeth, making a hissing sound.
"Yes," I almost growled.
"And here?" Asharn poked another spot on my face and I made a similar noise, and this repeated for a few more spots until the healer was satisfied, "alright now the ribs." The process repeated with many pokes and prods and pained noises escaping my mouth.
"Are we done yet?" I asked as he stood up and looked me over once more.
"Yes," Asharn said, "go ahead and get dressed."
"Weren't you going to check-" I started to ask, but was again cut off with a hand wave.
"There's no blood on your ass or your inner thighs so unless you notice something I don't think any extra examination is necessary," Asharn explained as he returned his tools to their proper places, "however, should you notice any other issues inform me at once."
"Of course..." I said with less conviction than he was apparently hoping to hear.
"I mean it young man," Asharn said as he placed a small clay pot in my hands, "apply that to the bruises each night and it should help the swelling go down faster."
"Thank you," I was almost to the door when he said something else.
"Your eyes," I froze, "how long have they looked like that?"
"Most of my life," I replied in what I hoped was a light hearted manner, "but most people find them unnerving so I use the glamour to make them brown."
"Ah, I see," I couldn't tell if he believed me or not. I reapplied the glamour to my eyes and walked out of the healer's chambers.
Aiska led me back up through the castle and asked if there was anywhere I wanted to go. I mentioned the garden and she immediately altered our course and led me outside. We sat under the tree for quite some time, chatting about mundane things until the sun was high in the sky.
"I think I'm going to go for a walk in the city," I said, looking out over the shops that had people milling about and going about their daily lives.
"Want me to come with?" Aiska inquired.
"No, I'll be fine," I shook my head, "but thank you for offering." I stood up and walked over to the gates to leave, I saw two guards talking for a moment before one jogged off towards the training grounds. I shrugged to myself and moved towards the exit, but instead of opening the side door next to the grand gates the guard stopped me.
"I'm sorry Sir," the woman said, "but we are under strict order to not allow you to leave the castle grounds unaccompanied. Your escort will arrive shortly."
"Who gave you these orders?" I asked, my eyes narrowing as I began to suspect I knew the answer.
"Prince Aiden," she replied, "but Captain Mathers was also vehement about the orders being followed, no matter what." I rolled my eyes and glanced behind her, if I had really wanted to I could've just shadow stepped behind her and out the gate...but I didn't want her getting in trouble.
"What's your name?" I asked, crossing my arms over my chest and leaning my weight on my back foot as we waited for my babysitters to arrive.
"Una, Sir," she replied.
"Una..." I let her name fall from my tongue, "that's a beautiful name. Where does it-" She held up a hand to stop me.
"Stop right there Bard," she smiled though, "we were told to ignore, and I quote, 'any honey drenched words that come out of that Bard's pouty mouth' and that punishment would be moderate if we failed."
"My mouth is not pouty," I complained, pouting slightly as I did so. As soon as I saw the smirk on Una's face though I straightened up and removed the pouting expression from my face.
"I'm sorry Sir," Una laughed, "but Mathers isn't wrong about that." I felt the heat radiating off my skin as I blushed.
"Which part am I right about?" The familiar voice of Mathers called out over to where we were standing.
"The pout, Captain," Una snapped to attention as the captain arrived.
"Stand down," Mathers waved his hand and Una returned to a more relaxed position, "so, you want to explore the city?" The question was directed at me.
"Yes," I said, "and I don't feel that a platoon of guards is necessary for a quick stroll." I actively tried to keep my face from pouting even slightly.
"Unfortunately for you then," Mathers said as he walked out of the gate with me, "the higher powers disagree, and their orders supersede yours I'm afraid."
"You mean 'his' orders," I said, "don't worry, I'll be fine."
"I know you will," Mathers said solemnly, "because this time I'll be paying attention." I hadn't thought the Captain would blame himself for the...incident.
"It's not your fault," I replied, because I knew it was mine. I had interacted with Mast...no Lord Coran. I had let my guard down, something I hadn't done since I started running from the Guild. I had let myself foolishly believe for a moment that happiness was something I was allowed to have.
"I know, but I'm still going to be keeping you safe," Mathers responded, "for today at least. Yen's on Bard duty tomorrow, then it's..."
"How many soldiers are going to be hounding me each day?" I asked, letting out an exasperated sigh.
"At least one, possibly two depending on who's on duty that evening," Mathers said matter-of-factly. We had walked into what appeared to be a main square, full of shoppers, merchant stalls, stores, and guards. Every guard we passed immediately stood at attention and saluted Mathers which got me thinking...
"Mathers," I began, "how old are you?"
"Thirty one," he answered, "why do you ask?"
"Isn't that a bit young to be in charge of the entire city guard?" I asked, glancing over at three obviously older guards.
"Depends on who you ask," he smirked a little at that, "want to hear the story now or later?" He nodded his head towards a tavern.
"Hmmmm," I thought for a moment, "later. I still want to look around a bit while the sun is out. Speaking of..." My voice trailed off as my gaze fell to a merchant selling fruits, some particularly red apples. Immediately my mind went back to being with Aiden in the grove by the stream, on my knees in front of him as his manhood pointed straight up, the taste of his cock mixed with the apples we had shared...damn it. I shook my head to clear the images out of my mind's eye. I shouldn't reminisce about something no longer attainable.
"Would you like some, my boy?" The vendor asked enthusiastically, holding out a particularly scrumptious looking example, "Just 13 silver for five!"
"No...thank you though..." I muttered as I turned and walked quickly in the opposite direction. The tears threatening to spill from my eyes were infuriating. I had never cried this much before meeting that stupid Prince, with his gorgeous face, that perfect smile, his infectious laugh, his eyes that I wanted to get lost in...fucking infernals. I stood up straight, forced the impending tears back, slapped a smile on my face, and turned back to Mathers who was just catching up with me.
"Are you alright?" He reached towards me as if to comfort me, but pulled his hand back before he made contact.
"I'm fine," I lied, "just felt a bit...overwhelmed."
"Would you like to return to the castle?" Mathers inquired, his eyes looking over my face for any hint of distress.
"I said I'm fine," I reiterated the lie with more force than I meant to, I took a breath and continued with a smile, "where to next?" I looked around the main square and my eyes were drawn to a large spire not too far away. Mathers followed my gaze and a smile spread across his face.
"That's the Temple of the Dragons," he informed me, "wonderful building and worth seeing even for the most blasphemous of heathens." He chuckled at his own joke and started walking towards it. I quickly followed after.
We crossed the market square and made our way down one of the main thoroughfares that was lined with shops and houses and a few more luxurious courtyards. The houses seemed to get fancier and more elaborate the closer we got to the temple. I glanced around at the manors and began to casually assess how easy it would be to break into them. There was one that had the front door wide open to let the warm breeze in that had my eyes rolling, way too easy, there must be some magical defenses as well. The next one had an imposing iron fence with each bar coming to a sharp point to discourage intruders...but a glance towards the back of the estate showed the fence connecting with hedges about halfway back. Maybe that should be my new profession when I get bored with being a Bard, telling nobles how their security sucks and proving it would be fun...
"Hey, we're here," Mathers' voice brought me out of my daydream of a civilized life of humiliating nobles by stealing their underwear to show them how ineffective their "security" is. I craned my neck to gaze up at the grand temple. Where gargoyles would perch on castles there were a myriad of carved dragon statues in various states of roaring, glowering, stalking, or growling. It was intimidating and glorious all at once. The steeples towered above the rest of the buildings in the immediate vicinity, casting large colorful shadows across this section of the city as the sun streamed through the stained glass. The soft multicolored light was shading a small park to the north of us where I saw families sitting and enjoying the slightly diminished late afternoon sun.
Mathers escorted me inside through a large wooden door and my jaw almost dropped. It was even more amazing inside than out. There were massive statues, one for each of the Dragon Deities, that were carved and colored to perfection. I stared at each of them, a work of art in their own right, and each seemed to be of a different style than the others almost like each statue was carved by a different artist. The seven gods were arranged in a semicircle around the front of the temple. I started on the left and made my way around to them all, inspecting each closely.
Shaethra, Dragon of Shadows, was seated on its haunches with its tail curled around its feet. Its eyes were made of Jet and its dark purple scales were carved from tinted obsidian. Shaethra's wings were tucked against its back, but the elegance was not lost because of it, in fact the wings seemed to accentuate the shape of the Dragon's back.
Xenan, Dragon of Passion, was lying down on all fours, its silver scales shining brilliantly in the sun, it's eyes carved out of emeralds. Its neck stretched up to the sky, its mouth was open in either a yawn or a moan, I wasn't entirely sure. Its gorgeous wings were spread out behind it in a brilliant display of silver and pearls.
Vixori, Dragon of Storms, the red Dragon glowered down at everyone who approached. Its spiraling horns had viens of sapphires embedded in them that resembled lightning, its slightly unfurled wings also had the bright blue veins coursing through them. The storm Dragon's eyes were solid sapphires and seemed to glitter menacingly in the sunlight.
Tathrie, Dragon of Justice, standing up on its hind legs and clawing at the air as if to rend evil from the very sky. The golden Dragon's wings were outstretched upwards and its mouth was open in a mighty roar to the heavens.
Kajra, Dragon of the Sun, its bronze scales seemed to absorb the sunlight and shine it back into the Temple. Lain down on its plinth the Dragon appeared to be sleeping but its massive wings were outstretched to catch the sun's beams.
Centiri, Dragon of Nature, its autumnal colored scales shifted between oranges and yellows depending on how the sun hit the statue. Set in a crouched position as if about to pounce, the Dragon's emerald eyes had a mischievous glint as it was poised to leap on an unsuspecting worshipper.
Leydarmel, Dragon of the Sea, seafoam green scales shimmered and wavered as if being viewed from beneath the waves. It was posed to appear as if it was swimming, further adding to the theme of underwater play.
"It's amazing..." my voice trailed off, I seemed to be doing that a lot recently, as I caught sight of a group of nobles entering the temple. I recognized a few but the one I was focused on was wearing green with gold trim with shackles around his wrists and legs. The tingling sensation crawled across my skin as Lord Alexander Coran was brought into the Temple with four armed guards escorting him to the front of the room. His eyes met mine as he passed, and I froze in place as a smirk grew on his face and he winked at me.
"Fuck... what are they doing here?" Mathers hissed as he grabbed my arm...but his hand clamped down on nothing but air as I fell back into the shadows and vanished.