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Once Upon a Dragon – by Natasha
War was coming, and it would arrive on a mahogany airship. Basilia glanced out the window for the fifth time, but the skies were still empty. She sighed and returned to her desk. Be optimistic. That was what her father said, but she found it hard to be upbeat when the day could end with the start of an interplanetary war.
Her data tablet beeped and she glanced down at it.
Sovereign Class Airship detected
She hurried to the window and squinted out, shading her eyes with her hand. In the distance, the Royal Airship of Arrden approached. It was rich mahogany with dark green bands on the wings and a double wolf’s head was painted in black on the side.
Basilia groaned. Her shoulders sagged and she leaned her forehead on the window. At the speed it was traveling, the prince would arrive in a matter of minutes. If she waited any longer, her mother would likely come up to check on her. Sighing, she turned aside and meandered to the door. She pressed a button on the wall and the doors slid open. Her feet dragged as she descended the winding staircase to the upper floor of the castle. Despite her effort to move as slow as possible without getting in trouble, the descent felt like a few seconds. The normally bustling halls were empty, save for guards posted along the doors. There were twice as many as usual. Did her parents expect an invasion? Today was supposed to be a peace negotiation.
Finally, she emerged onto the flight deck. Her eyes widened and she gasped. It was completely empty. All of their airships had been moved to hangars along the side of the runway. The arrival of the prince’s ship drew her attention.
The thrum of the ships engine’s died out. Uneasiness took hold of her, and she moved to stand beside her parents. Her father’s tanned face looked uncharacteristically taut and grim, while her mother was wearing a forced smile. It would fool anyone else, but after 17 years, she knew the look very well.
A few moments later a ramp lowered from the underside of the ship, revealing three sets of feet. The owner of the middle set wore a pair of shiny leather boots with jeweled buckles. The two sets on either side were much simpler, and resembled the armor her personal guard usually wore. The three figures slowly descended the ramp. Behind them were their mounts, a bear, a wolf and a lizard. The first person she looked at was the prince. For the most part, he looked like the picture she had researched. Light skin, like most Arrdenians, short hair the color of tree bark, and dark green eyes. He wore a gold crown jeweled with emeralds and jade and bright silver armor inlaid with gold. A thick, furred cape hung from his shoulders and a silver sword with a gold and ruby hilt was strapped to his side.
She frowned and wrinkled her nose. An arrow could easily cleave through silver armor, and a sword made from gold and silver would be useless. She shook her head. If war was to be avoided, she needed to be as respectful as possible.
The two young men on either side of the prince had dark skin and a distinctive facial structure that marked them as natives of Eremita. They both had dark curly hair and brown eyes with thick, dark eyebrows. They looked nearly identical, save for the fact one was slightly shorter, and the taller one had a rounder face. Brothers, perhaps?
Putting on what she hoped was a friendly smile, she strode up to the prince, who was staring all around, his eyes wide and his jaw hanging open. “Greetings, Ilarion, prince of Arrden. Our family welcomes you to the Grand Castle of Kerr.”
Ilarion stop gazing about and held out his hand, palm facing to his left. Basilia stared awkwardly at it for a moment before recalling the traditional greeting in Arrden was different from her kingdom’s. She touched her palm to his and bowed her head slightly. The prince mirrored her actions then dropped his hand to his side.
Her parents came to stand beside her and the greeting was repeated with her father. Ilarion did not wait for her father to withdraw his hand first. From what she recalled, it was considered respectful for the person of higher authority to withdraw their hand first. “It is an honor, prince Ilarion.” her father said.
“It is my pleasure, King Amancio.”
Her mother extended her hand in greeting. “We welcome you to our home. May the Creator keep you safe.”
“Thank you, Queen Zarita. My father and I are eager to discuss this dilemma peacefully.”
Basilia glanced at her mother and caught a brief glimpse of her gaze hardening and her smile fading. The look disappeared almost immediately.
“Come, you must be tired.” Her father gestured to her. “My daughter will show you to your chambers. We have prepared are finest room for you and your guards.”
A wide grin lit up the face of the taller guard and he discreetly pumped his fist.
Basilia smiled at the antic before nodding to the prince. “Follow me, your highness.” She led the prince and his guards off the flight deck and into the castle’s interior. As she walked, she stole a glance at the two knights. “So you two are from Eremita?”
“Yes, Princess Basilia.” The shorter one spoke quickly, stealing a glance at his companion.
“May I inquire your names?”
The shorter one spoke first again. “I am Lykaon,” He gestured to the other guard. “And this is my brother, Kallistos.”
Ilarion walked faster, stepping in front of the two knights. “There is little need for such , Princess. They are merely the guard assigned to me by my father.”
Basilia held back a grimace at the word merely. Creator, give me self-control. It’s going to be a long day.
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