The Royal Mark – part two
Part one here . . .
“No, no,” said Raedaiphos, “we don’t kill him yet, Father won’t know what’s happened to his pet and we want him to know don’t we?”
The other brothers sniggered as Raedaiphos hauled Aellyn by the scruff of his neck from his contraption to the royal boat, whilst one of the servants released the Merdragon’s head and pulled it on board. The royal fleet then returned to shore and proceeded straight to the castle.
They burst into the King’s chambers bringing the scent of the lake with them. The King looked up from his papers.
Phairithrap stepped forwards “Your Highness, I . . .”
There was a sharp jab from Istydil’s sword correcting him.
“I mean webring you the head of the Merdragon, the savage beast that has devoured all our fish and his human helper,” Phairithrap pushed Aellyn forward. Aellyn didn’t know what to do, his word was no good against the six princes, “if only the Merdragon’s head could talk,” he wished.
Aellyn and the Merdragon head was pushed further forward towards the King, causing Aellyn to stumble. Aellyn put his hand out to brace his fall and it brushed against the slimy, scaly dragon’s head. As he did so he could swear he felt the twitch of muscles underneath the Merdragon’s skin. The courtesans earlier words ran through Aellyn’s mind, “The seventh son of a seventh son,” weren’t they meant to be magic? Aellyn reached over and placed his hand more deliberately on the Merdragon’s scaly skin, again it felt like his touch brought life to the still head, like a spreading warmth. Aellyn spread his hand wide over the scales, the head roared to life,
“Who captured me?” the Merdragon’s head demanded.
“My sons,” replied the old King proudly.
The Merdragon’s eyes swivelled madly in their sockets, the courtesans on seeing this believed that the Merdragon could see everything in the room, even behind him.
“I have never seen these snivelling wretches in my life,” roared the Merdragon “but I have seen this impertinent soul,” the Merdragon’s black serpentine tongue flicked forwards towards Aellyn.
“Yes, your helper,” said Seostyrap, who as usual wasn’t displaying much intelligence.
“A human! My helper!” roared the Merdragon, his tongue slapping Seostyrap’s cheek forcibly “Of course not, he is the one who slayed me!”
Phairithrap appealed to his father directly, looking him in the eyes ”You believe this creature over your sons?”
The King who knew his sons too well sighed “Yes”.
With that the six princes fled the King’s chambers leaving Aellyn, his hand still on the Merdragon’s head, the Merdragon’s eyes still roving wildly.
“You can put your hand down now,” said the King.
Aellyn dropped his hand, the Merdragon stilled, lifeless once more.
“You have one more task. Go and say goodbye to your Smithy ‘father’” instructed the King.
Aellyn turned and left the room, headed out of the castle and towards the Smithy where he knew his father would be. As he crossed the small courtyard facing the Smithy, he caught a glimpse of movement of a roof top here and around a corner there. His senses prickled but it was already too late, the six princes and their men ambushed Aellyn, he did not stand a chance, blow upon blow reigned down and just as his knees sank to the floor, Aellyn could see through his swollen eyes his father and the other Smithies emerge for the Smithy’s dark doorway, weapons grabbed from the mending benches in hand. They rushed to Aellyn’s rescue, beating back the princes and their men until the last cowardly prince fled. Aellyn’s Smithy father gave Aellyn his hand to pull him up from the dust.
“You have something to say to me?” he asked.
Aellyn staggered to his feet “Yes, you aided me in my attempts to reach the Merdragon, without your help I’d have never have reached him, even though you knew what success would mean. You came to my rescue when the Princes attacked, with no thought for yourself, even though I had spared no thought for you. I couldn’t think of a better father, the question is with all the things I have done to you and had thought to do, would you want me as your son?”
Aellyn’s father reached to embrace him “Of course”.