The Heir of the Dragon
When Elly awoke from her long sleep she stared up at a familiar ceiling. She was in the infirmary. Her whole body felt numb and tingly, and her thoughts were a little blurry. The last thing she remembered she’d been trying to practice her Fireball spell for the test on Monday, but…
She sat up in shock, remembering what had happened. Derek Lyder had found her! She’d been trying to put those painful moments of her past out of mind and live a normal life like her mother had asked for, but he’d found her, and he’d…
Elly began to shake with fear.
“You’re awake,” a warm voice caught Elly’s ear, and she turned to see Nurse Leilandry sitting at her bedside.
“Nurse… That’s right, I…”
“Settle back down Elly, you’re not fully recovered yet. You were badly injured; I’ve been using my magic to heal you for over two days now.”
Two days? Elly leaned back in bed and looked out the night sky. “What… what happened…? I don’t… I don’t remember well…”
Wait, two days?!
“But… but my tests…” Elly gasped. It was Monday? Monday night?! Then she’d missed a whole day of classes, and her midterm-! She didn’t even create a single fireball!
“On my recommendation, the faculty has excused you from your midterms until you’ve recovered,” Nurse Leilandry assured her. “In the meantime, I suggest you take the opportunity to study. Don’t try any magic, though, altering your mana flow while my healing mana is still working through you could delay your recovery.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Elly said, staring sadly up at the ceiling in resignation.
Nurse Leilandry raised her hands and placed them above Elly’s chest. They began to glow, and Elly felt a soft numbness fall over her, making her drowsy. It was a blissful experience, and a familiar one. She’d felt healing magic before, but not to this level. It was hard to focus on what the nurse was telling her as she felt the magic going to work, but she heard some of it, and remembered the rest. Sabine and those girls had come to pick on her, and then Derek Lyder had…
And the prince… her half-brother… Lance had saved her. He’d attacked Derek, beaten him bloody until Audrey pulled him off. Elly didn’t understand why he’d done it. Didn’t he hate her? He’d treated her so coldly all her life. When she just wanted to be alone, he would always force her to spend time with him, no matter how much she hated it. And the way the queen would look at her, the hatred in her eyes…
The prince had to hate her, how couldn’t he?
“Derek is in another wing. We thought it best to keep you two separated,” the nurse said, shaking Elly from her thoughts. The light on her hands dimmed, and Elly felt the strength returning to her body. “In the meantime, you’ll need to stay here for another two days, so I can finish your treatment. Your face has healed, but you still have several broken ribs that will take time to mend.
She smiled warmly. “In the meantime, you have some visitors. Shall I let them in?”
Elly must have still been under the effects of the healing magic, because she could swear Nurse Leilandry had just said “visitors”. That didn’t make sense. Back home, no one ever came to visit her whenever Derek had hurt her before.
The nurse must have taken her silence as a yes, because Elly heard the door to the infirmary swing open and the sound of footsteps pounding against the floor. Soon, the faces of people filled her vision.
“Wendy? Melody?” Elly gasped, pleasantly surprised. “And Blake? Reed Rivers?!”
“Elly! Are you okay?!” Wendy cried, her face twisted in worry. It was an unusual look to see aimed Elly’s way. “We heard what happened and we’ve been here since classes ended!”
“Us too!” Reed said, smiling. “Now come on, we’re crowding her. Give her some space.”
Elly sat up in bed, looking at the four of them. She wasn’t sure what to say.
“You guys… came to check on me?” She asked hopefully.
“Of course we did,” Wendy’s kind smile assured her. “You’re our friend, aren’t you?”
“Definitely!” Reed agreed, placing a hand on Elly’s shoulder. It was warm.
Blake was less friendly. His face was hard, and his eyes made Elly shiver. Right now they reminded her of Lance’s eyes, cold and furious. She had vague flashes of the crazed expression on her brother’s face when he attacked Derek, and she quickly glanced away from Blake, shivering at the thought.
“I’m so sorry about what happened!” Melody wailed. She was practically in tears. “When you asked me to help you practice magic on Saturday, and I told you I needed to study other subjects… I had no idea… if I… if I had been there, then…!”
“It’s not your fault,” Blake growled, the anger in his voice causing Elly to flinch. “It’s my fault.” He slammed his hand against the wall. “If I had been there, then none of this would have happened! That piece of trash would be charcoal right now!?”
“Keep your voice down!” Nurse Leilandry snapped, startling everyone. She was glaring at Blake. “Can’t you see you’re terrifying the poor girl?! She needs to rest, not be scared by you yelling angrily!”
Elly gulped. She… she wasn’t terrified, right? A little startled, maybe, but not terrified! She glanced down at her hands. They were clutching the blanket and shivering.
Startled. Frightened, maybe. But not terrified!
Even if Blake DID look like he wanted to break something.
“It’s not anyone’s fault,” Elly said sadly, shaking her head. “It… it was my fault. Because I’m so pathetic.” When Elly had seen Derek’s face that morning, she had frozen. And before that, seeing Sabine and her posse, she had frozen then, too. Her fear had kept her from escaping, and even though she could have used her barrier magic to block Derek’s blows, she hadn’t even thought to do so. She was a total failure of a mage.
“Elly, you’re not pathetic,” Wendy’s sweet words softly tried to comfort her, and she placed her hand over Elly’s. “Why would you say that? Your mana levels are just a little lower than average, that’s all.”
“The only thing I can do is make shields, and I couldn’t even protect myself,” Elly muttered. “I’m just a pathetic excuse for a mage who shouldn’t even be here. Derek and Sabine are right. I’m worthless.”
“You’re not worthless!” Melody exclaimed.
“No, you’re so sweet!” Wendy agreed.
“I am!” Elly wailed, the comforting effects of the healing magic having worn off, leaving her with just the feelings of soreness and pain, both physical and in her heart. “I’m worthless and weak! Derek attacked me, and I froze up like I always did!” She looked enviously at Reed. “I’m not like you…”
Reed blinked. “Me? What do you mean?” She asked, tilting her head to the side in confusion.
“Back when we were playing that hunting game, Melody, Wendy, and I… we were watching you, fighting against Prince Lancelus,” Elly said, the image of Reed’s fluid movements filling her voice with awe. “You were so cool… even though he had that staff you didn’t flinch, you just smiled and fought him, and you won. You were as amazing as I’d always imagined, just like a hero in a story…”
Nothing like me. Elly wasn’t some hero. She was no warrior princess or mage queen, she trembled at the sight of a raised fist coming her way. She could never imagine being so brave and cool like Reed.
“And I’m just… just a weakling who can’t do anything right!” Elly wailed, feeling the familiar tremors of crying begin. “I can’t be cool or brave, what am I even doing here?! I’m no mage! I can barely use any magic! Not even Fireball! Sabine’s right, I don’t belong here! I should just go, before I get hurt again!”
Elly looked down at the blankets, tears falling from her eyes.
Wendy and Melody tried to comfort her, but their sweet voices were hollow to her ears. Then a kind hand landed on her head. Elly turned to see Reed River’s smiling face.
“Just because you’re weak doesn’t mean you don’t belong here,” Reed warmly assured her, dropping her hand. “Lots of people are weak, you know. Even me!”
Elly sniffled, “liar.”
“I am,” Reed said. “I use many forms of magic and martial arts, I’m quite the artist, and sure, I’ve created my own form of magic, and I’ve been awarded the title of Sky Crest Scholar…”
Elly wasn’t feeling better.
“…But I don’t have any friends,” Reed added. Elly’s ears pricked up in surprise. Reed’s voice almost sounded… sad.
“It’s true,” she continued, her tone solemn. “My cohort thinks of me as rather odd.”
Elly couldn’t imagine why THAT would be.
“And because they think I’m so strange, I’ve never been very good at making friends,” Reed admitted sheepishly, turning her eyes upon Wendy and Melody. “I’m not the kind of girl who anyone would visit in the infirmary, or show concern over. Right Blake? We aren’t friends either, right?” Her tone of voice was oddly playful as she swung her head back to laugh at him, and Blake looked uncomfortable.
“So yeah, I think the fact you’ve made some great friends here is wonderful. It’s not worthless at all.” Reed confidently stated.
Elly was surprised at how she felt to hear that. Reed Rivers, the cool, talented, gorgeous Reed Rivers, had something in common with a girl like her? Reed didn’t have any friends. And months ago, Elly would have said the same. But now she had Wendy and Melody.
“So Elly, you definitely can’t drop out!” Reed insisted. “You’re my first friend, after all, and I’m not going to let you go so easily.”
Had Nurse Leilandry started her healing treatments again without telling Elly? Because that was the only excuse she could think of for why her body felt so numb and floaty. Reed… Reed Rivers had just called Elly a friend?
Ah. So that’s it. The nurse was wrong. The attack did more damage to me then she realized, my brain got all messed up and I’m seeing and hearing things that aren’t here. Or perhaps I’ve died, and this is what awaits me in the heavens. Yes, I’ve become part of the Chorus of the Sky, just as the ancestors spoke of…
“Why is she drooling?” Melody’s worried voice shook Elly out of her reverie, aided by the surge of pain in her side. Nope. She was really here and really awake. The nurse came over and placed a gentle hand on Elly’s stomach, easing the pain.
“Sorry, I was just… thinking,” Elly murmured. She looked hopefully at Reed. “You really… think of me as a friend?”
“I’m always looking for friends,” Reed smiled. “And I couldn’t do better than my number one fan! So what do you say? Friends?”
Pain and agony were what had pushed Elly into her dreamless sleep, but it was joy and acceptance she had awoken to. She had never felt something this wonderful before, being around her friends. The tears just weren’t stopping. So many times she’d cried in her life, to be crying tears of joy now was an odd sensation.
“It’s okay… if I stay? Even if I’m weak and worthless?” Elly asked hopefully.
“You’re neither,” Reed warmly assured her. “No one here thinks that at all. But if you want to be brave and cool like me, well… when you’ve recovered let’s see what we can do about building up that confidence of yours, okay?”
That brought the smile back to Elly’s face. If Reed believed it was possible for her to be brave, then maybe she could.
“I promise Derek Lyder isn’t going to lay a hand on you again,” Reed continued, her voice gaining an edge.
Elly gasped. She’d almost forgotten. “What about Derek? Is he okay?”
“Why would you care about that scumbag?” Blake growled. Elly hung her head. Was… was it so bad? Lancelus had hit him a lot…
“What is going to happen?” Wendy asked curiously. “I mean, he really did a number on Elly, surely that can’t be allowed, right?!”
Elly glanced at Nurse Leilandry as her pleasant smile faded.
“You’ll both heal up, and return to your cohorts. Derek will get a citation in his record, that’s all.”
The way she’d said that made Elly tense. She could see a flicker of bitterness in the nurse’s eyes. Of course she wouldn’t be happy about treating a bigot like Derek, Elly realized.
“That’s it?!” Blake exploded, turning to the nurse. “That’s nothing! For what he did?! He brutalized her! She’s been asleep for two days! And you’re saying all he gets is a CITATION?!”
“That was what the faculty determined was appropriate this afternoon,” Nurse Leilandry calmly replied. “Believe me, I don’t approve of it, either. But there were certain… circumstances that were taken into consideration.”
“What? Because she’s half elf?” Blake demanded. Nurse Leilandry’s eye twitched and Elly was tempted to jump back under the covers. But knowing Reed thought she could be brave kept her from running.
“…An interested party interceded on behalf of one of the students,” Nurse Leilandry said, taking a moment to gather herself. “Taking their recommendation, as no one used any magic and there were no permanent injuries, the Chancellor thought it was better for all parties involved if we treated this has just a squabble between some excited first years.”
A pit began to grow in Elly’s stomach. She had a good idea of who that interested party was. Before, she wouldn’t have been brave enough to ask, but she could now.
“Was it… Queen Rienne?” So, it came out as more of a choked whisper. She’d have to work on her “confident” voice, it had gone a good 15 years without use. Nurse Leilandry’s wince confirmed it.
“The queen?” Melody gasped.
“Prince Lancelus was involved, of course,” Elly murmured. “If word got out he had attacked the son of a duke, then there might be trouble… she would be perfectly happy with pardoning Derek of anything he did to me, after all.”
It wouldn’t have been the first time the palace had turned a blind eye to the cruelty of her bullies.
“The prince again,” Blake growled, rolling his eyes in disgust.
“But that’s not fair!” Wendy cried. “He hurt Elly so much, and doesn’t get punished at all?!”
“Fucking nobles,” Blake seethed.
“I can’t imagine the queen would do something like that,” Melody said. “I’d always heard she was just, and fair.”
“The queen doesn’t care about someone like me,” Elly muttered, trying to keep from sounding bitter. “In fact, she was probably happy that I had gotten injured.”
“Why would that be?” Wendy gasped. Elly looked down, her ears drooping.
“Because her husband… is my father.”
That was her final secret. She didn’t know why she was letting it out, giving it up. Maybe because of the aftereffects of the healing magic, or maybe because she was too tired of keeping it any longer.
Maybe she just wanted her friends to know her completely and tell her it was okay.
Blake nodded, and glanced at Reed. Elly knew that he’d known, and Reed had probably overheard in the library before. But Wendy and Melody were stunned.
“Wait, Elly… you’re… you’re a princess!?” Wendy gasped in shock.
“So that’s why you were enrolled here,” Melody sounded amused.
“No, I’m not a-!” Elly gasped, shaking her head quickly. “I’ve barely met my father! Just… he just… you know. Did stuff, with my mom. And now here I am.” There were a bunch of missing parts there. Elly didn’t want to fill them in.
“So that’s why the prince saved you!” Wendy swooned. “How sweet! Protecting his precious sister!”
Wendy kept misunderstanding. “No, Prince Lancelus definitely doesn’t think of me as a sister, let alone precious!” Elly insisted. “How… how could he? I mean… Because of me, he…”
Elly never felt like the prince’s treatment of her was unwarranted. She might have been scorned for her status as a bastard, but the prince… She would never tell her friends this part. It wasn’t hers to tell. Prince Lancelus, her half-brother. Rumors had circled the castle that the prince was not, in fact, the son of the king at all. That, enraged by her husband’s infidelity the queen had had an affair of her own, which beget a child. It was nonsense, of course. One only had to look at their eyes to know Elly and Lance shared a father. But the rumors still spread, and when the prince failed to develop the Lightning of the King as his elder brother did, they only gained more weight.
It was all her fault. If not for her no one would question Lance’s status. He had to hate her, he just had to. That’s why he kept bothering her, of course.
But then why did he save her? Elly couldn’t understand.
“Hey, don’t worry, it’s going to be okay,” Reed said, reaching up and wiping Elly’s face. She’d been crying without realizing it. To have someone else care for her tears… it made her feel like she wasn’t alone, for the first time.
Elly might not have wanted to be a mage, but coming here had made her friends. She’d found a new life here.
Hopefully it would give her the strength to hold her head high and thank Lance in person.