Sedreus Arroyo, the crown prince of Inundo, wondered who the hell decided that nightmares were a good idea.
He pushed last night's vivid monstrosity of a dream out of his head, and tightened his black fur cloak around his broad shoulders. It was time for his morning run. He needed to think and he needed to stay fit, running provided a solution for both of these problems.
He pulled the grand door to his wonderful suite open and-
Faster than he could curse his luck, Cascade Seketo's arms were around his neck. He could feel her body pressed against his, even through the half dozen layers of clothing he was wrapped up in.
"Cascade, please..." he said desperately, "We talked about this."
"Our fathers want it."
"I do not have to worry about that for two more years." He huffed.
The legal marriage age in Inundo was eighteen. He suddenly wished he would never ever reach that age. A crown, a bethroed, council all day... it sounded nightmarish! Probably because it was. He was turning sixteen today. Plenty of time to worry later.
"But I love you!" She said in that obnoxiously cheerful voice, "I want us to date now!"
"We dated for a few months, Cascade. It clearly did not work." He sighed, exasperated.
"But I love you!" She said, "And we are exactly 467 days older now!"
"Tell you what," Sedreus smiled, "you must be freezing, having been here since before dawn or something. Go grab a coat of mine and we will go for a run together. Kind of like a date."
She squealed in joy, like the idiotic rich spoiled ass she was. Sedreus could not even begin to fathom how these girls acted the way they did. Out of all the girls of governors, members of court, and Lords, Father had to pick this particular girl? Why?!!
He took the time interval she spent throwing cloths out of his enormous closet in frenzied joy to make a haste escape. Was the girl stupid or stupidly desperate? She fell for the same trick at least once a week.
Sedreus had a parting ceremony with his cloak, full of longing looks and sighs. Running around in a fitted fur cloak would be stupid. He was not ten years old to run around the palace like that.
He took a deep breath, the air like ice shards imapling themselves in his throat and lungs.
His mind was immeaditly filled with images of upcoming glory. Today was his sixteenth birthday. As part of the festives, Prince Sedreus was going to slay a dragon!
Even as he ran, he could feel his infectious grin battling the harsh wind. Today was his big day!
Sedreus could already imagine the prideful smile his father reserved just for him. He could hear the thunderous cheering of the crowds, the crisp sweet smell of victory, and the wonderful feeling of a sword that had completed its job in his hands.
Dragons were extremely rare. They needed to be captured from beyond the wall, from Sonor, the kinfdom of Fire, and brought specially to Inundo. It was even more difficult to obtain an alive dragon. Still, for his birthday, his wonderful father had gotten him one. Sedreus could not even begin to think how lucky he was to have such an amazing father.
He thought of his wonderful life at the castle and tried his hardest to forget about yesterday's annoying dream. He had been having it almost every single night and it was making him more uncomfortable than he would like to admit.
Sedreus ran for a few more minutes, faintly satisfied by how durable and fit he had become over the years. Perhaps once this run was over, he could go to the arena and practice wielding Fallax, his trusty sword, for about an hour., not that he needed it. He was one of the best swordsmasters in all of Inundo.
Sedreus paused and began gulping in air the way someone who had been trapped underwater would. Winter-time jogs were the worst, but they were extremely necessary.
"A bit out of shape, boy?"
Sedreus closed his eyes in a cocktail of misrey and irritation. Why did the morning of the most important day of his life have to be so awful?
"That is 'my prince' or 'your highness' for you, old man." He smiled forcefully.
The man had the audacity to look hurt.
"As long as it is nothing less than 'Lord Caspian' on your part."
Sedreus grit his teeth.
"What do you want of me, early as it is right now?" He managed.
"Well, yo wish you the best of luck." The old man grinned, "Perhaps the Snake would that dragon to burn you to ashes, and everyone would be happy."
"Are you threatening me, old man?" Sedreus growled, feeling his temper rising dangerously, "That is a crime, you know."
"That depends, do you feel threatened?" Lord Caspian said, bemused, ignoring Sedreus's last remark, "Your 'father' never does."
"Stop saying it like that!" Sedreus thundered, "I don't know who gave you the crazy idea that I'm not King Segon's trueborn son, but if you say something like that one more time, you will have the king, my father, to punish you accordingly."
Lord Caspian merely lifted his bushy white eyebrows and rolled his pale blue eyes. The old mocking face of Caspian Arno was the last thing Sedreus needed.
"Lies only consume us if we let them."
"As you clearly have." Sedreus muttered, silently daring the old man to day another word.
Lord Caspian was an annoying asshole, but he was an annoying asshole with good survival instincts. He merely bowed and turned to leave, a mischievous smile playing on his parched thin lips.
Sedreus wanted to tell at him, to make him stop and face his crimes, because even that bow felt like a personal blow to him.
He made for his personal showers, angrily reflecting on the events of this morning.
He was King Segon's son. He was not adopted like his father's council has been claiming for the past few months. They were just senile old fools.
Sedreus closed his eyes as the servants piled his ruby locks into the golden headpiece, the beautiful Arroyo crest, a snake showing off its amazingly sharp fangs as it hissed and took a shape that looked pretty much like an 'S', gleaming proudly on the top of his head. Sedreus had always loved his family crest.
He hissed slightly when a servant's fingers accidently brushed against the scar on the nape of his neck. It was a very very old scar, one that he could not even remember a time where he existed without. Said scar was basically two dots spaced far enough from eachother, the exact shape of snake bite.
Nerida once said that it looked like a vampire bite. Sedreus was too ecastic about the fact that his sister said a semi-complete sentence that her forgot to get annoyed. Of course, she had then proceeded to repeat the word 'vampire' half a million times, but he still loved her immensely.
Father said that the scar came from the time when he and his mother were kidnapped by rebels. He remembered nothing of those few first seven years of his life and he wished to remember nothing. Except maybe, just maybe, his mother. That would have been nice.
Fallax was on his bed. He had banned anyone from touching his trusty sword, including the servants, in spite of how it was not becoming for a prince to do such a thing as actually clean something.
But today was the anticipated day. Today, Fallax was going to get its share of sweet dragon blood while Sedreus got his share of sweet glory and addoration.
He dismissed his servants, checked himself out in the mirror, cleaned Fallax accordingly, and imagined victory scenarios to drown out the I'm-going-to-surely-die-today scenarios.
Sedreus straightened out his emerald green coloured tunic, his golden breast-plate, and his long snake leather boots. He put on his helm, the golden one that had snakes curling over his ear and allowed some of his hair and his head-piece to stick out. He grinned. Today, He was going to show them all.
Sedreus felt awful about not visiting Nerida this morning, but he had to talk to his father before the big showdown. Lord Caspian's words weighed him down greatly. The stares he got as he walked by did nothing to improve his mood. What had possessed Lord Caspian to make that rumor up in the last council meeting?
Sedreus had always been terrified of taking a life. In that particular regard, he was nothing like his father who, quite literally, drank some kind of blood or another with his wine. Despite that, if he ever came across the person who started this rumor... Fallax would get more blood. Did all swords not enjoy blood? He thought so.
He also thought that Arno Caspian was to be held responsible for it.
Sedreus reached his father's suite. After shooting the seven guards stationed there a glare, they let him in without a second word or glance. The young prince liked to think that he looked imposing, the epitome of a good ruler.
His father was shirtless still, a few servants dressing him up in ceremonial robes and armor nearly identical to his. King Segon smiled coyly when he saw his son come through and dismissed the servants.
"Shut the door behind you as you go!" He ordered the girls, who did as such.
King Segon stalked over to the same bed that had been there nine years ago that fateful night to pick up his green tunic with black trimmings. It was made of some time of snakeskin, heat resistant, like his own.
"Nervous much?" He asked his son as he adjusted his clothes before a huge wall sized-mirror. It was hidden behind a wall and appeared once you pulled a lever in a brilliant work of architecture for for the king.
Sedreus nodded, smiling slightly.
"I'm terrified, father." He admitted softly, "I don't want to be, but I fear I am."
"First of all, speak properly." Father administered, "It is not fitting for a prince to speak as such."
Sedreus nodded and smiled sheepishly. His father hated consonants. Why had he suddenly forgotten that?
"I apologize, Father."
"Second of all," the king said, piling his long silky black hair into the tip of his head, "you need not be afraid. You are an Arroyo, child. Arroyo's do not experience fear, or care for it."
Sedreus bowed his head.
"Tell me, is this somewhat related to Lord Caspian's claims?"
Sedreus's eyebrows rose to his hairline. He shifted uncomfortably. Now what was he supposed to say? He just nodded, doing his best to stay away from his father's shrewd calculating green eyes.
"Pay him no heed, child." His father sighed, "You know how the nobles and the court meeting work. They love to talk, to gossip."
"Then just fire them. Rule alone, Father. You make an excellent ruler." Sedreus said, lowering himself to the bed. He traced intricate patterns on the black duvet.
"If only being king was that easy." His father snorted.
"You are king. Can you not make a new law or something?" Sedreus wondered, suddenly intrigued with toying with his fingers.
"What is something funny?"
Sedreus had to smile despite himself. He was too old for that joke. That joke was too old to exist. Sadly, it prospered year after year because it worked for everything.
His father smiled.
"What is something funny?"
Sedreus thought about one more funny thing while his mind noted how his father would never ever say the phrase right. It was "What's something funny?". The consonant was a part of it.
"That you are right, my boy. That you are right."
"So, are you going to watch me today?"
"I thought your mother has told you."
Sedreus sighed. Him and his mother... They did not get along that well. Or at all.
"Father, please." He pleaded, "Can't... Can you not stay just for the battle? What is so important that you have to depart to Sonor right now?"
"Rebels are acting up." His father confessed, "I have tried to delay it so that I could stay and watch the battle, child. I am afraid I need to head out immeaditly. A few hours could be a few too late."
Sedreus sighed, But tried his hardest to mask his disappointment. He was sixteen and not six. He should not be feeling these kinds of things!
"What is something funny?"
"Whatever I am feeling right now?" Sedreus replied, grinning.
His father gave him a rare smile before continuing to dress to head out to Sonor.
Sedreus walked conifedenly to the main arena, going over all his signature moves. He was an excellent fighter, the best of the best.
He decided to forgo warm up. It was necessary, but the prince was too nervous and too late. He had passed by Nerida only to find that she had locked the door and would not let him in despite how hard he knocked on the door. He had ended up leaving, worried and afraid for his sister's wellbeing and his own. Sedreus had ordered two maids to check up on her in a couple of minutes.
He stood before the grand double doors, noting in satisfaction how empty this part of the arena was. It was his day. That was why.
The minutes dragged on for days. Sedreus was half-tempted to rip the doors of their hinges. He knew he was strong enough to do that. Soon enough, he reached that point where most of his worry and nervousness morphed into suicidal enthusiasm. It was at that exact moment that the doors began to crack open.
Father knew him way too well.
The arena was huge. It seemed that no less than half the population of Inundo was present to witness this. Men, children, women... The poor folk had a sector at the very right. Like always, they crowded against eachother, looking like the epitome of savagery. Sedreus wrinkled his nose as his eyes took in the crooked teeth, battered cloths, matty hair, grimey skins, gsrishly thin bodies... the list went on and on...
It saddened him to think that some of them were dressed in their best clothing for his big day.
He unseathed his sword and got into a fighting stance. Knees bent slightly, back arched a bit, muscles clenched and relaxed all at once. He was-
Sedreus wished he was deaf. This was way too ridiculous.
Cascade came rushing through the door, a wide stupid smile splattered on her face. He could tell that most people were watching eagerly.
He looked at the shaky outline of the sun in their darkened sky and wondered how come they had light and darkness but no sun. It made no sense. How come he had never thought to ask about that?
He wished Cascade would just disappear. Maybe his hectic mind was making her up.
Sadly, he felt her crash into his back. Her surprisingly strong arms were around his shoulders in less than a microsecond. She planted a kiss on his cheek and another on ear.
"I missed you, Seddie. I came to see my sexy prince slay a dragon for me!" She exclaimed happily.
Perhaps Cascade really did not have the necessary number of brain cells to function properly.
Apparently, the royal guards stationed at the other end of the arena, responsible for opening the gates and letting the dragon out, also suffered the same problem.
They remove d the bolts and pulled the enormous iron gates backwards, before running away themselves. They went though a tiny door way, most probably existant for that purpose.
The girl's arms on his shoulders felt like anchors to the ship that was his terrified self.
The dragon came bursting forward. It was a great bulk with ugly bluish scales, fangs the length of his arm, and long glacier like spikes protruding from it's arched back. The thing was about 17 feet in length and 10 feet in height.
It growled and it's tail, a long horrendous creation taller than himself and made of what looked like ice, wagging and destroying everything in its way.
This was not even the worst part yet!
The thing's eyes... the dragon had eyes like a blue blizzard, twisting and turning in eerie sapphire light.
And they were boring through his soul.