The gangly, curly haired youth bursting through Violet’s door nearly made her drop her book. She glared at the boy, telling him with her eyes that it was more than a bit rude to walk into a house uninvited and to do it in a way that nearly knocked pictures off the wall was even more reprehensible. The look took him by such surprise that he seemed to forget what he had been going to say and stood there frozen for a moment opening and closing his mouth like a fish on the bank of a pond.
Violet marked her place, closed her book, then took a deep breath to calm herself. “Can I help you?” She asked and he seemed to snap out of his sudden daze.
“Uh, ma’am…yes ma’am, sorry.” He collected his thoughts, wheels turning as he put words together to form a full sentence. “A dragon ma’am, there is a dragon and the mayor asked me to get you.”
She sighed, putting her book irritably down on the coffee table. “Of course he did.”
“Sorry Miss Violet, so sorry.” He bowed and then bowed again.
“Oh stop, how annoying, do I look like a princess to you?” She stood, straightening her dress. No, she thought as she moved around the coffee table to the coat closet, rather I look like someone took a witch and a librarian and mashed them together.
“No ma’am, sorry ma’am.”
She rolled her eyes. It was hopeless after all. She yanked open the door and pulled out her cloak and boots, shaking them both out before putting them on. “Come on then.” She walked past the young man and he quickly followed, head down. “Oh stop moping, I shouldn’t have snapped at the messenger.”
“Yes Miss Violet.”
“Where is this dragon then?”
“Outside of town ma’am, in that old cave ma’am.”
She walked on, ignoring the turning heads and whispered words of “Do you think the witch is gonna…” and made her way out of town and over rolling hills to the now occupied cave. She knew it was occupied because she could hear the breathing of the beast and noticed faint smears of blood here and there.
“What are you going to do ma’am? Turn him into a toad? Kill him?”
“How absolutely barbarous.” She said and picked up a large rock. When would they learn that she had as much magic as a thimble, unless the thimble had been enchanted, then that was a whole other story. She pulled back and threw the stone as hard as she could into the cave, hearing it make contact with something and then the breathing stopped. The boy cowered behind her as a roar echoed out from the cave, the ground shook dramatically and a red wedge shaped head detached itself from the darkness soon followed by a large scaled body.
“Oh shut up you annoying thing.” She snapped and the creature shut its mouth, seeming shocked. “Now go on and get.” It lowered its head and started to open its mouth when she slapped the tip of its nose. It drew back, shaking its head. “I don’t think so you very bad dragon. Go! Now! Find another place of residence and stop scaring the villagers. They come to me when things like you turn up and it can be quite nerve racking so go on, find sheep or cows elsewhere.” It opened its mouth again as if to protest and she planted her hands on her hips, glaring at it with death in her eyes. Its jaws shut and it launched itself into the sky, kicking up dust and knocking the young messenger boy over with the force of its wind. “There, now someone else can deal with him.”
The messenger looked in awe of her and she sighed. No matter how often they saw her handle things without any magic at all they still thought her a mystical being. If the others were braver they could handle these situations too. Violet walked away, happy she was successful again and not that dragons snack. Violet hoped that maybe she could finally finish this book when she arrived home. Maybe this town and the magical creatures around it could afford her the hours needed because she was incredibly into this book. Once inside her shoes were off again and she lifted her book before settling back into her chair. She was instantly taken right back in, not coming back to reality at all until she closed it.
Upon looking up she noticed it was night and smiled thinking this was the perfect time to get a walk in. The sky would be gorgeous and the villagers would all be resting. Gleefully she set her book back down and slipped back into her cloak and boots before going off into the cool night air.
It was always so peaceful at night, as if the countryside itself decided to relax. She breathed in deeply and let her breath out in a sigh. Even with all the trouble, she still loved it here. The road branched and she turned off onto the left path just as someone came tumbling out of the woods and into her. “Sorry.” He said, grabbing her to steady her. “Are you alright?”
It took her a moment to regain her equilibrium, but when she did, she looked up at him. He was tall, really tall and his eyes were a shocking shade of blue. “Uh…yeah…uh…”
His head suddenly jerked up and he looked at the woods then back down at her, his eyes searching hers for a moment. He then lifted her hand and smiled at her. “Hold onto this for me.” He let her go and took off running.
“Wait, who are you?”
“Dian,” he called back, “be sure to tell them where I went.”
“What?” She was confused and it took her a moment to realize she was holding something. She opened her palm, studying the silver medallion that rested there. It had beautiful, intricate designs carved into it inlaid with blue and gold. She had never seen anything like it before. The sound of snapping twigs pulled her back to reality and she turned to face the woods, her hand sliding into the pocket of her cloak as three more men came stumbling out of the woods.
Violet wondered what problem she had gotten herself involved in now but she wasn’t worried, even as she realized how tall these men also were. She faced down dragons, trolls and many more much more formidable creatures than simple men. “Has anybody else run by?” a man with red hair and incredibly intense green eyes asked. She didn’t skip a beat answering “No, I have been out here awhile clearing my head and haven’t seen a soul until you three.” Violet didn’t know who the unsavory party was yet but going by gut feeling she trusted the man who had given her medallion.
The man looked at her a short while, long enough for her to take in more of his face. He had light scars but they weren’t unattractive. In fact they probably served to get more women in his bed “You wouldn’t lie to me would you?”
“Why would I? I don’t know you so I’m certain I don’t know who else you’re looking for. I’d like to be left alone”
“we don’t have time to waste, if the broad says she ain’t seen him she ain’t seen him” the man to his left said. The word ain’t almost physically hurt to hear but while she wasn’t scared of them she still didn’t want to piss them off by correcting anyone. The men left her and she was glad to see they didn’t go the same way Dian had. Medallion in pocket she resumed her walk, knowing if she went home now she’d only pace anyway.
She turned back around when she reached the end of her walk, her eyes and ears open, listening for anyone approaching. When her home came into view, she was surprised to find that there was a soft orange light coming from inside. From the way it danced, she was sure it was from the fireplace. Someone was in her home. She approached as quietly as she could, moving around the back of the house and grabbing the wood ax propped against the wall there. She knew it wasn’t one of the villagers, they would have just left. She moved over to the back door, being careful not to stomp on the back porch. She gripped the door handle and pushed it slowly, glad when it didn’t squeak. She listened, not hearing anything but the crackling of the fire. She gripped the ax as she stepped in and gently closed the door.
She readied herself as she came closer to the living room, the ax pulled back, ready to strike if someone attacked her. She froze when she saw him, Dian, sitting on the floor in front of the fireplace. He gave her an exhausted smile. “You’re safe, that’s good.” He said.
She lowered the ax. “You…how did you find my house?”
“It’s a gift.” He pushed himself to his feet. “I hope you don’t mind me resting here.” He crossed over to her. “May I have it back please?”
She moved the ax to her other hand then reached into her pocket and pulled it out. “Tell me why those men were after you.”
“I stole this.”
His amused smile at her questions lit up his eyes. “Because I’m looking for the rightful heir to the throne.”
“If it’s so important why did you hand it off to me? They could have taken it” His smile lifted a little again “I knew you were too intelligent and brave for them to figure out you had it. I was worried they would catch up so handing it to you was the safest thing to do”
“But you don’t know me”
“If you sit with me by your fire I will explain everything and answer any follow up questions” His stomach growled and she said “Maybe I should feed you first. I have some leftovers that will be quick to heat up”
“Thank you” He began explaining as she heated up food. He was exhausted, would have been able to fall asleep that second if he laid down but he wanted to explain everything to her. Even if he didn’t want to explain she had given him a place to rest and helped him by hiding the amulet, he owed her an explanation. “so you’re descended from a powerful witch and you read my mind earlier which is how you knew you could trust me”
“Yes but don’t worry, I have to be touching you to do it” she shrugged “Not worried, I don’t have much to hide and nothing really embarrasses me” He looked so amused again “How are you so cheerful when you’re being chased and have such a big job to do”
“I enjoy every moment of life, always have and I’m enjoying your company. You’re a beautiful and interesting person” She seemed more surprised by his comment than anything as she asked “so, what gave you this job?”
“I worked for the previous king and queen before their deaths and doing this for them is only right. Their son deserves to rule”
“And where is he?”
“North. His parents thought if he’s in the snowy, icy reaches then it would give people less of a reason to go after him. He was put on a ship and put under the care of a merchant and his family.”
“I can’t imagine going from a prince to a merchant. It must have been hard.”
“He was always a good boy and, much like his father, a hard worker. It may have been an adjustment, but he wouldn’t have shied away from it.” He sighed. “I thought I had thrown them off my trail, by pretending to board a ship, but I guess they caught on.”
“What are you going to do now?”
“Resupply and continue my journey. I have to fulfill my duty and bring him home. If I don’t things could take a turn for the worst and no one wants that.” He sat his fork down and leaned back, truly exhausted. “Thank you, Violet, truly, thank you. I promise to repay your kindness.”
The words came tumbling out of her without a single thought “why don’t you repay me by allowing me to come with you” Despite the fact those words came unbidden she meant them. She had been tired of being here and maybe if she left the people would learn to take care of themselves. Dian sat upright, amusement playing over his exhausted face “That works for me.”
“wow, that easily?”
“You’d be helpful, I can tell. Even if I didn’t owe you I’d welcome you along”
“Then lets both get some rest” While Dian finished eating Violet brought a pillow and blanket into the living room, laying them both on the couch for him “goodnight Dian, you’re welcome to any food or water you need in the night. I’ll make us coffee and a descent breakfast in the morning”
That night Violet slept with her ax near her bed, just in case the men who had been chasing him managed to find her home. She woke the next morning to the sound of footsteps and someone talking. It took a moment to realize it was Dian, already awake, and she wondered who he was talking to. She yawned as she got up and made her way into the living room, seeing him pacing back and forth and reading out loud from one of her books. He smiled as he turned, closing the book. “Sorry, did I wake you?”
“It’s alright, you should have woke me as soon as you got up.”
“I didn’t mind waiting.” He let his eyes move over her. She looked quite cute disheveled as she was.
“I look rough don’t I?” She asked and his eyes jumped to her face.
“Not at all, quite the opposite. I apologize for staring.” He cleared his throat. “Would you like me to help you with breakfast?”
She shook her head. “I can manage.”
“I’d feel bad if I made you do everything.”
She couldn’t help but smile at him. He was far too kind and generous. “Then how about you read to me, you have a really nice voice.”
He chuckled. “Do I?”
She felt her cheeks heat. “Well, yeah, it’s enjoyable enough.”
He grinned again ‘well I was enjoying this book anyway, we will have to bring it on the journey so I can read aloud for you in the evenings. I always read out loud. It’s one of the odd things about me” She had been too sleepy to register what he had been reading so she asked “which book is it?” he lifted it so she could see the cover “Oh, thats actually a series. One of the villagers here writes it.”
“could we bring them all?”
“Yeah, if any get ruined I can always get another. She won’t even allow me to give her payment”
“Because I take care of this village. If anything bothers them they come running. Just the other day I had to chase off a dragon”
“How do you think they’ll do without you?”
“Fine I’m sure, they just need to realize they don’t need me”
“You aren’t worried about them discovering that?”
“No, I’ll get more time on my own and I have enough skills I don’t need anything to be given to me…anyway, I’ll get the coffee started. That way it’ll be ready when I am” Violet started the coffee then went back into her room to get dressed in something comfortable for the road.
“You look good in that.” Dian said when she came back and she couldn’t help but blush.
“They’re just some old clothes.”
“They suit you.”
“Thank you.” He smiled and her heart jumped, causing her to look away in embarrassment and head into the kitchen to make breakfast.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable.”
Violet shook her head. “You didn’t, I promise, just not used to someone saying something like that to me.”
“Well if they haven’t, they are obviously blind.” He sat down at the table, flipping the book open. “May I still read?”
“Of course.” She had to admit to herself once again that she really enjoyed his voice. It was surprisingly smooth and had an unexpected deep timbre to it. She could honestly listen to it all day.
The smooth way he read along with how skilled this author was at showing the reader a scene had her mind clearly seeing what was happening in the story within her mind as she prepared breakfast and enjoyed her black coffee. Violet was almost disappointed as she sat down with their plates and he stopped but her mind quickly reminded her that he planned on reading throughout their trip. They ate silently but when Dian was finished he said “that was incredible. I’ll be glad to read to you while you cook on the trip” she smiled “that’ll work amazing for both of us” She got up almost too quickly, not used to interactions like this at all.
Dian didn’t say anything, her nerves only gave him hope. People who didn’t react to your flirting weren’t interested and he was incredibly interested in Violet. She was beautiful, an a amazing cook, had a mind of her own and was brave. He could only imagine what else he might find to like about her during their journey to collect the prince. When she gathered the series together Dian insisted he carried it since he was the one who had wanted it. She didn’t put up too much of a fight having realized how heavy they would probably be after awhile.
“So, what’s your plan?” She asked as she shouldered the small pack she had made up with food and water in it.
“Make it to a bigger city and rent a horse and also buy warmer clothes. I wouldn’t want you to freeze to death.”
“Well I have you to make sure I stay warm, so I’m sure I won’t.” He grinned and she blushed. “I mean, with your magic. You can make fire right?”
She swallowed and he chuckled. “So, what if he isn’t there?”
“Then we’ll wait.”
“It must have been awful for him, being forced to stay in hiding even after his parents died. I don’t know if I could have stayed, I think I would have raced home, he’s definitely stronger than me.”
“Now that’s not true, I’ve seen it in your head. That dragon didn’t know who he was dealing with.”
“You…how much did you see?”
“I didn’t have time for much, I just saw the past few days. I wont look at anymore unless you say it’s okay though. I just had to know if I could trust you and if you were up to facing those men should they come” She could understand that. He did have a huge responsibility on his shoulders. “I’ve found with most creatures all it takes is being brave. In our world you can’t judge a book by its cover so they probably think I’m more than just human”
“Probably, non magical beings do tend to just run or cower, especially in the presence of dragons”
“Have you seen many dragons?”
“I met a shifter once. He was a cool guy and as a dragon, well, he probably could have swallowed that dragon you met whole”
“Yeah, maybe I can introduce you two one day”
“I would like that, maybe once we’ve brought the prince home.”
He nodded and they continued down the road, Violet looking back at her home as they got further and further away. She wondered how everyone would react once they realized she had left. She could only imagine. It was better not to tell them she was leaving, they would just try to make up excuses for why she couldn’t. “If you wish to turn back, now is the time.” Dian said and she turned to him, smiling.
“No going back until we’ve finished this. Besides, it’ll give them time to find their own courage and strength. They’ll have to rely on each other if another dragon shows up.”
“I’m sure they will.”
“And I get to go somewhere new thanks to you, even if it is dangerous and cold.”
“Speaking of dangerous,” He reached over, taking her hand, “allow me to give you a little protection.” He said a few words in a language she didn’t know and she felt warmth move from his hand to hers, up her arm, and into her chest. He smiled and let her go. “There, a ward of protection, just in case.”
“Thank you” Violet was surprised when he didn’t let go but she didn’t complain. She hadn’t held hands with someone since she was a little girl and the fact he was so handsome along with nice definitely contributed to the fact she didn’t mind. “Are you truly staying out of my head?” She had to ask. He smiled again “Yes”
“alright, I trust you”
“what would we have to talk about anyway if I went and looked at everything?”
“True, I mean, the books are only going to last us so long”
“I was trying not to think about them. I want to know what happens next” Violet smiled, filling with amusement of her own. “who is your favorite character so far?” He had to think “Cedric, I’m going to have to go with Cedric”
“Because he’s so relatable. He’s trying his best to do the right thing without hurting anyone, but he’s realizing things aren’t that simple.”
Dian gave a little laugh. “Yeah, I don’t want to hurt anyone, I really don’t, but I know I’ll have to and I’ve made peace with that fact. These powers were passed down to me to defend myself and others and that’s how I’ll use them.”
“You’re a good man, Dian, you really are.”
“I owe the king and queen, they were good people and my friends. I couldn’t save them, even with all my power, so now I’ll bring their son home and help him take back the throne.”
“And I’ll help you.”
“Are you sure, you know there are bound to be swords and ill tempered mercenaries.”
She smiled, making his heart dance. “I’m sure, besides, you have my back.”
They chatted happily about their lives, Dian telling her stories of what it was like serving the previous king and queen, of how his magic worked. She felt her face heat as she asked if he had a wife or kids and her heart fluttered when he smiled in amusement and told her no.
Despite how embarrassing it was to ask him, Violet had to know. It came as a relief to know that her attraction to him could be felt without guilt. She wasn’t ready to confess to anything yet, it was much too soon and they had too far of a journey ahead of them but it was incredibly nice to know that if she fell completely in love it would be okay. The terrain they were currently in was perfect for getting to know one another. The path was smooth and there didn’t seem to be a wild animal with the mildest interest in them. They were able just to talk until lunch when Dian kept to his word and read to Violet while she heated up their food.
They were back on the road as soon as they finished eating and cleaning up and Dian decided to continue reading as they walked, even acting out some of the scenes much to Violet’s amusement. He grinned every time he got her to laugh and teased her when she blushed. Their first day passed without trouble and Dian started another fire when night fell so Violet could warm their food and to keep them warm. They settled in for the night after he finished reading and he was relieved she could so easily sleep outside. It was some time after midnight when they were woke by the sound of footsteps and whispered voices. Their eyes met past the fire and they both lay there as still as possible.
“Violet,” he said softly, “cover your ears, close your eyes and scoot back away from the fire.”
She nodded and squeezed her eyes shut, pretending to roll in her sleep, bringing her hands up to her ears as she did so. Dian could hear the men in the woods. They thought they were being stealthy, that he and Violet had not heard them, but they had been wrong. He heard them step out of the treeline and readied himself. One approached him from behind and he could see in the firelight another heading straight for Violet. He heard the whispered command of their leader and just as the one near Violet reached for her, he closed his eyes, covered his ears, and caused the fire to explode up into a bright pillar of blinding light.
They groaned loudly and Dian quickly rose, punching the man who had been previously in position to grab Violet. They both heard bone crunch and knew the mans nose was going to be gushing blood. “fuck” Violet got up too, ready to fight alongside Dian but instead he grabbed her wrist along with the bag of books and began running, pulling her away. Dian knew this journey would require violence but he wanted to use as little of it as possible. The only reason he punched the man so near Violet was to make sure he couldn’t find his senses and grab her when she stood and if he was being truly honest with himself, he also did it because she was coming to mean a lot to him.
Violet couldn’t quite keep pace with Dian but she did her best. The two kept at it until they were both panting and sure those men were far behind them. “Oh crap our stuff” Violet realized they had the bag of books but not their items. He sighed “we have what’s important, our lives and the medallion. We can make due along the way”
“It’s good you keep it on you constantly”
“You didn’t get scorched or anything did you?”
“No, still have my eyebrows.”
He chuckled as he stopped and took her face in his hands. “Yeah, they look even to me.”
She blushed. “Um, your’s do too. You were closer than me so, that’s surprising.”
“Trust me, I’ve burned mine off a few times, back when I was first learning. There was a time I had to keep my hair extremely short because I kept burning it.” She laughed and he smiled back. “I’m glad you got to keep yours though, it’s too beautiful to burn.” He let her face go and took her hand instead. “Come on, let’s keep moving.”
Violet wasn’t sure how long they kept walking, only that the sun was suddenly starting to rise and she was getting tired. She was about to ask for a breather when Dian scooped her up into his arms. “What are you doing?”
“You’re tired right?”
“Well yeah, but you’re already carrying the books.”
“I’ll be fine, I promise.”
“If I’m not walking I could read to you so you can learn what happens next” He smiled again, it lighting up his face “thats a perfect idea” he set her down long enough to grab the book they were on and give it to her. “Are you sure this is enough sun for your eyes not to hurt?”
“Oh yeah, this is fine” Violet relaxed in his arms and began quietly reading, semi worried there might be others near who could be drawn by her voice. They had been lucky to get away from their last situation so easily. She didn’t want to roll their odds again anytime soon. Things were quite, almost concerningly so for Dian but he wouldn’t worry about it. He was finding he liked her reading voice too. Dian suddenly stopped a few chapters later, causing Violet to look up at him “whats wrong” he set her down so he could touch the ground. Violet stood there silently, gripping her book. He took her hand, still not offering any sort of explanation. She supposed they either needed to be quite or this was just a result of traveling by himself up until now. He might just not be used to explaining anything to someone else.
Either way she began looking around, only seeing different kinds of bugs exploring this place they called home. He was crouching again, feeling the ground. He looked up at her “you know I almost fell for it listening to you read. It might be dangerous for you to read while I hold you. I might not pay close enough attention”
“what’s wrong?” she finally pressed, eager to know what she should be worried about. “I can’t imagine anybody knew I’d be coming this way so this must be an old trap someone set for whatever reason and then forgot to get rid of it”
“that or were killed”
“yeah, I suppose they’d need some kind of reason to do this but come down here, feel” She crouched down beside him and felt in front of them. Her face scrunched up”what?”
“theres nothing there”
“but” she felt again “dear god maybe whoever set it forgot and walked right off”
“that kind of karma would suck. Since we ran in the dark we must have gone the wrong way somehow. I’m normally better than that. I’m sorry”
“You don’t have to be sorry.”
“I should be more aware.”
“Dian, you haven’t had to worry about someone else traveling with you, so don’t beat yourself up. You’re just trying to be a good protector and companion.”
He sighed then gave her a smile. “You’re an amazing woman, Violet.” They both stood. “I’m going to disarm it just in case someone else comes around then we can get back on track.” He had her step back and he held his hands out, closing his eyes, and whispering a spell.
Violet was amazed when his palms began glowing with pale light. Her heart danced in her chest as his voice became a little louder and more impassioned. She could feel his magic as it spread out around them and tingled over her skin. The light faded and he let out a soft sigh and opened his eyes. “Is it safe now?”
“Yes, everything should be fine and no one should get hurt.”
He nodded and reached over, taking her hand. His palm felt warm against hers. “Are you ready?”
She didn’t realize she was just staring at him until he cocked his head to the side and gave her questioning look. Her face flushed in embarrassment. “Oh, yes, sorry, let’s go.”
“He chuckled. “How cute you are my little warrior.”
“Oh hush, come one.” She started to walk off and he gently pulled her back.
“It’s this way.”
She nervously chuckled, wishing her face wasn’t so warm. People around her had always looked up to her back home but Dian was the first man to make her feel seen as a woman. He was so flirtatious and sweet. Her thoughts soon turned more serious as they walked back the way they came. She knew the two of them had gone far and wasted hours of time in a situation where every bit of time was precious. When he began guiding them to the left she grew concerned they were going the wrong way again “but we didn’t turn before? Shouldn’t we still go straight?”
“No, it’ll be quicker to get back on course this way. I know this area pretty well which makes it all the more ridiculous I did that and I see that face, it’s not your fault. You’re distracting but that doesn’t make us getting side tracked your fault”
“I wont hear of it. I’m a man with a job, distracting female companion or not I should be aware of where we are going” She gave him a small smile “so, can we talk?”
“Yeah, what would you like to talk about?”
“Well, what do you plan to do, after everything? I mean are you going back home or something else?”
He smiled. “Define something else.”
“Well, maybe settle down or something?”
He shrugged. “Maybe, I haven’t given it too much thought really.” He chuckled. “Okay, that’s not entirely true, I’ve been thinking about it more recently. I mean, what if I died never falling in love? What if I never had the chance to have kids and raise them around the castle and show them magic?”
“You would want to live there?”
“Well, I feel an obligation to continue my job, not just for the prince, but for his parents, my friends. However, if she wished to stay where she was then I would have no choice but to travel back and forth.”
“I think I would move if it were me, I mean it would be something new, an adventure.”
Violet was startled when he said “well good because you are the cause of my thinking of that recently…I know we just met Violet but I’d be a liar and an idiot to pretend you didn’t have a pull on my heart. You’re not only beautiful but you’re incredibly brave. That brief glimpse I saw into your history made me want to know so much more about you. You also have impeccable tastes in books apparently.” She almost stuttered but managed to speak normally “You can’t really think I’m pretty. I’ve never felt pretty” He took her hand, causing Violet to stop so he could look into her eyes “You’re gorgeous Violet. I mean that. How do you feel about me?”
“I like you a lot too”
“good, I really do hope by the end of this adventure you’ll truly want to live in the castle with me. We don’t have to rush into marriage or kids or anything. I was just being honest about the kind of thoughts you draw out of me Violet”