An unconvinced, Ruby crossed her arms, glaring at her opponent as Aira retold her sob story, to Malachai and Cole, with the remaining Sages, beside her for support. They were crowded in the Castle's meeting room, the one that Ruby had nearly been assassinated in.
Something about the Princess's demeanor seemed off. Her words were rigid and rehearsed. Seething, Ruby crossed her arms. She fought back the urge to call Aira on her bluff. She needed substantial evidence and proof the the Princess was up to no good. Or perhaps she needed to punch her in the nose, once more for good measure.
"And after I told him I wasn't that kind of woman he went off on me!" Aira's lip trembled, adding to the effect. Cole offered the Princess comfort by giving her hand a reassuring squeeze. Aira sobbed louder as she tugged the Star Born King closer. Cole stumbled awkwardly as his head landed in her weighty bosom. The others gathered closer to offer her comfort as she cradled Cole's head to her chest.
Ruby responded with a less than mature gagging sound that Aira reciprocated with a smug grin. Cole managed to pull himself away without seeming too insensitive. Ruby shot him a death glare. He shrugged, as if to say "What?"
Aira smoothed invisible wrinkles on her skirt. "I'm sorry, I do not mean to lose my composure, but I fear Avelen grows weaker by the day. Most of our court has died out, and Dam-The Dragon King left a bloody trail in his wake. Without any recognized Union between myself and our Star Born King, or an heir to the throne, Avelen is more apt to become overthrown! We are plagued with hopelessness and despair. We need to raise moral, and give our people something to believe in again!"
Everyone stared agape at the Princess, with the sudden change in conversation. The Princess was growing desperate, reaching. "What say you Cole?"
Everyone in the room focused their attention to the Star Born King. His skin paled, and his tongue tied in knots as he tried to make words. "M- mmmarriage. Heir?"
Malachai clapped him on the shoulder taking some of the pressure off of him. "Ah, this is something that our King needs time to think over and seek his Advisor's counsel on."
Everyone's eyes locked on Ruby. It was no secret that the Sages looked down on having a female hold such a title.
Aira gritted her teeth. "Okay, commoner. Any advice?"
Ruby stepped forward. "Oh, yes Princess. I have advice for you."
Before Ruby could say anything more on the subject Malachai cleared his throat intrusively. "We will shelve that conversation. We have others affairs to tend to."
The Princess and the Sages shuffled out of the room. Malachai pushed Cole into a chair, as he seemed a bit riddled.
"Can you believe her?" Ruby screeched.
"I wish, I could." Malachai whispered as he brushed past her, exiting the room himself. What had he meant by that?
Ruby settled into the chair opposite Cole. She rested her head on the table, waiting for him to sort through his thoughts. She yawned and battled exhaustion, which eventually ruled her actions.
Familiar emerald eyes peered into her's and a rough voice broke her out of her trance. She was no longer in the Meeting room, but a vast dessert plain. "Where am I?"
Damien chuckled. "A battlefield."
Ruby blinked. "Not much of a field."
The Dragon King stretched out beside her on the dry, cracked ground. "It once was. Much like your friend, many others have believed they could defeat me. The result was a very bloody, one sided battle. As those fools died, so did the other aspects of life around them. Not a blade of grass, not a shred of hope will ever be seen on this plain again. And besides, I use the space for breeding my dragons." He said conversationally.
Ruby gasped. Not a blade of grass, not a shred of hope. Had the Dragon Lord truly lost so much of his humanity that he was content to picnic here with his victims? Ruby stood and distanced herself from the man.
"Where are you going?" He demanded to know. His eyes mesmerized her as they sought her out, quickly changing to a blood red hue.
Ruby blanched. "As far from you as humanly possible."
"Aye, you are going to be stubborn about this."
Ruby scoffed. She needed to stop engaging this man in conversation but she also needed to know. "What are you talking about?"
Damien stood up and towered over her. "There is a reason you were given passage to Avelen."
Ruby stood straighter. "Of course there is. I'm here to support Cole. By any means possible."
He smiled at her undertone. "No, you havr a bigger role to fullfill. Much like your friend, you are Star Born."
Ruby stilled, willing herself to not take the bait. But her curiosity quickly won out. "Go. On."
Damien smiled with pleasure. "You were sent here because I needed an apprentice."
Ruby shook her head fervently. "Bullshit!"
"It is true, and what a golden opportunity the Fates have presented me with by placing you in the heart of Avelen. I needed someone on the inside, before I can take my Kingdom back. Once you kill the new King , and help me through some obstacles you shall reign beside me. It is your calling."
"You're lying!" Ruby shut her eyes and focused on something real, something familiar and inconsequential. Modern technology, cable, cell phone bills, anything but this preordained, destiny junk.
The temperature shot up. Ruby opened her eyes. Besides Damien, an army of dragons had gathered. They were beautiful, ethereal. Their colors were too bright and bold to be considered natural. Their wings, scales, and spiked horns made them too lethal to have simply been imagined. Some were as tall as skyscrapers. But they didn't seem to intimidate Damien, and more disturbingly they didn't intimidate her any longer.
"I, I'm not your apprentice. I will never turn my back on Avelen. I'll never fight on your side!" She screamed, because as much as she complained about Avelen, she was loyal and had a fierce need to protect the Kingdom.
Damian stepped closer. In a language she couldn't understand he shot a command at the dragons. Then the most miraculous thing happened. They turned to men. Angry men, with swords. "Meet the Leather Winged Warriors. They will pledge their allegiance to you, much like you will do to me, my Star Born Queen."
Before Ruby could respond, the ground beneath her feet began to shake. Damien's eyes changed color once more and his appearance turned into that of a handsome brown eyed man. Her vision blurred.
"Wake up Ruby! We have to get ready for the festival."
Ruby bound from the chair to encase Cole in a right embrace. She couldn't stop shaking.
"Are you alright?" He asked softly.
She nodded. "Just a dream. A bad dream," She convinced herself.