LN Part 57: Not Ready For Sleep by RedPhantom ()
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Joann walked Nim outside after the young ones. “I’m sorry I can’t stay,” he told her. “The young ones aren’t supposed to be gone overnight.” He wished he could let them transport home, but he couldn’t do them all, and if they transported individually and someone didn’t show up, it could take time to find them, and there could be trouble.
“It’s okay. I understand,” Joanne said. He wasn’t sure she did.
“You can use my room, where you changed this morning. Do you think you can find it?”
“Third floor, beyond the garden, end of the hall, next to the study. If I get lost, I’ll ask for help.” She smiled. He did too.
“I’ll be back for you in the morning.”
“I’ll be here.” She took his hands. “Nim, I had a wonderful time. Thank you for inviting me.” She leaned in and kissed him. There was a moment of surprise before he kissed her back. He put his arms around her. He had never kissed anyone before though he had seen others do it. He followed her lead. Her lips parted, and so did his. Then he felt her tongue touch his. He tentatively responded in kind.
After a moment she pulled away and smiled. “See you in the morning. Fly safe,” she whispered and went back inside. He didn’t see her stop in the doorway to watch him change shape. She wanted to see the true face of the man she just kissed.
After watching Nim and the other dragons until she could no longer see them, Jo went up to his room. She got a little turned around once and stopped someone to ask directions. She made it to his room and let herself inside. She sat down a moment, wondering if she was going crazy. Here she was, in a fairy tale world, on a date with a twelve hundred-year-old dragon.
She sighed and decided to change out of her dress. Ann had been right last week. The dress she had worn to her cousin’s wedding worked here too. It wasn’t like the styles they wore here, but it was close enough she didn’t feel too out of place. Queen Deyama’s dress was just as unique. And, Nim had liked it. When he first saw her in it, he had stared for several minutes before finally saying how good she looked. As they waited for the wedding to start and a few times during the wedding, she’d seen him looking again when he thought she wasn’t looking.
He had told her ahead of time he’d probably have to take the kids back tonight and he probably wouldn’t get back until morning. She thought it was odd that he’d be responsible for the kids getting home rather than their parents, but he talked like it was the way things were done here, and so did the young ones. She put on her pajamas. Then she went over to Pt’this’s receiving room.
She noticed a woman sitting there. “Hi.” She smiled. The woman turned and looked.
She smiled. “Hello.”
“You’re not ready to sleep either?” Jo guessed.
“My head is spinning too much.”
“You want to talk about it?” Joanne offered. The woman hesitated and then nodded.
“Hi, my name is Jo.” Jo offered her hand.
The woman shook it. “I’m Ria.”
“You were Sapphire’s escort. Are you her sister?”
Ria nodded. “I saw you at the dragons’ table. You were with Nim. Are you two mates?”
“Mates?” Jo asked, unsure what she meant.
“Oh, I’m sorry. Am I being too personal? I’d just assumed with you spending the night with him and all. Are you chosen?”
“I’m not sure what you’re talking about. Nim and I just met. We’re not spending the night together. He had to go to Baj-tisk and won’t be back until morning. Then he’ll take me back home.”
“You came all that way with someone you don’t know?”
“It’s crazy. I do know Ann and Andy. Ann introduced us last week. I figure if Ann trusts him, I can trust him.”
“I’ve seen him in Bisfip with the young ones sometimes. He seems like a nice guy.”
“You’re from Bisfip? Is that near here?
“It’s a couple days’ hard ride.”
“You came all that way alone?”
“No, Prince Remtani sent two soldiers back with me.”
“Prince Remtani? Ann’s brother?” The name sounded familiar. But Ann hadn’t had anything good to say about her siblings.
Ria nodded. “It’s crazy, isn’t it? The crown prince asking me personally to attend the wedding.”
“I don’t remember seeing him. Was he there?” Nim and the young dragons had pointed out most of Ann’s family and friends.
“Oh, no. Not like that. He was just delivering the invitation from Sir Pt’this. I’m married and have two boys.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. So Pt’this invited you, not your sister?”
“Well, normally the parents make out the invitations but, since we don’t have parents, I guess Pt’this was giving King Emeton some names since they’re friends.”
She laughed nervously. “Now that I think about it, what I did probably wasn’t any less crazy than you. Here, I went off on my own with two men I know nothing about at the word of a man who’s known to have violated a girl.”
“So why did you?”
“In hopes of seeing my sister again. Our parents were cruel, horrible people. I hated the way they treated me. When my sister was born, I did what I could to protect her. I became like a mother to her. But it got too much for me to take and I ran away. I had originally planned to take her with me when I left, but I wasn’t able to. I went back a few days later to get her, but she was gone. She’d run away too. I looked for her but never found her. After a while, I had to leave town so my parents wouldn’t find me. Eventually, I got married and had my own family. I still wondered about my little sister though.
“When I learned the notorious Sapphire was the girl I raised and that she was marrying an adviser to the king and a dragon I thought there had to be a mistake. Either she wasn’t my sister, or she had some scheme going on. I wanted to protect her still. I thought I could find a way to stop it before she did something that would get her thrown in prison. I mean, how in the world could a run away from a poor peasant family end up in the palace? It just doesn’t happen.”
“But it did,” Jo pointed out.
“It did.” Ria nodded. “My sister is a thief all right and quite a talented one from what I hear, but she met Sir Pt’this honestly. When she ran, she went all the way to Thager, the opposite side of the kingdom, before she stopped. She was just a child and had no skills. She didn’t have many choices and stealing was the least offensive to her. After a time, she met a man who would look out for street kids. She was the youngest one he found, so he gave her a place to stay. His name was Kithmar.”
“Wasn’t Ann going to marry him?”
Ria nodded. “Princess Ann met him through Sapphire when she ran away too. Later, Princess Ann introduced Sapphire to Kithmar’s uncle, Sir Pt’this. Apparently, he fell in love with her years ago, but she kept pulling away. She never would tell me why.”
“Perhaps someone hurt her and she was afraid of it happening again.” Jo guessed.
Ria nodded. “Perhaps. You said Princess Ann introduced you to Nim. How did you meet her?”
“When she disappeared a few years back, she ended up in my homeland. She had been running from someone and transported herself there accidentally. I found her half-conscious and covered in blood. I work with women who’ve been beaten by their families and assumed that’s what had happened. I took her home and helped her out. That’s where she met Andy.”
“So you’re from the same kingdom as Andy and his parents? Where is that? Is it far? They really didn’t say much about it.”
“I really don’t know. We came by magic.”
“Okay. I understand.”
“Feeling better?” Jo asked.
Ria nodded. “Thanks. Sometimes it helps to have someone to talk to.”
Jo smiled. “Sometimes it does.”
“I probably should be getting going. The people I’m caravanning with are leaving early. Thank you again for letting me ramble on.”
“Not a problem. I wasn’t ready to sleep yet.”
“Good night. I hope things work out between you and Nim.”
“Good night.” Ria left, but Jo still wasn’t ready to sleep. She thought about Ria’s last statement as she returned to Nim’s room. It would be nice if things did work out between them, but was that what she really wanted? She’d had a great time with him, but she didn’t know much about him. She looked around the room. He had trusted her so she wouldn’t snoop in drawers, but if he’d left anything out, she figured he wouldn’t care if she saw it. There wasn’t much. She wondered how long he’d been staying there.
She decided there was one thing she could do to encourage him. She took what measures she could before heading to bed herself.
Image Comments (3)
ikke.evc () 4:18PM | Thu, 25 July 2019
Great story and illustration. Let's see where this is going. Well done, RP!