Epilogue: In Which the Dragon Departs and We are Left with the Humans
Ok, so it's not so short, but I love Emory and wanted to share him.
"The turn for Father's house was there," the sorceress said suddenly, pointing down one of the leafy avenues that crisscrossed the city's center. They had been driving for a quarter of an hour, back in through the city walls and the outlying districts to reach the wealthy heart. Not three blocks south of the road they were on was the Duke's palace, now sans dragon, and several blocks further west was the royal family's Winter Palace.
"We're going back to the palace," Prince Emory said, and catching her scandalized look added, "It's far too late to go barging into your house. Just imagine your neighbors' reactions if the royal coach were to pull up at this hour."
"But still! And you said I ought to see a doctor, you know I'll only see my own."
"Another reason to head to the palace then," he said and smiled devilishly. "I told Miriama she'd have to wait until I returned to fix this arm."
The sorceress' eyes shifted quickly from his face to his right arm in its sling, and then scanned the rest of his figure, pausing on the bandages wrapped around his legs where his stockings normally went. "Ah. I should have noticed her work sooner."
"As you look about ready to faint I'm sure the dear doctor will forgive you."
"I'm not faint, just a little sleepy! And I still could have ridden by myself," she said with arms crossed over her chest as she narrowed her eyes at him.
"Yes," he drawled as his eyes rolled. To avoid her worsening glare, he glanced out the window at the passing street lamps, their gas lights flickering in the darkness. "But just because you could doesn't mean it would be wise."
"You sound like Father."
"Well I was treated to a long talk with him this evening when I came to make sure you weren't doing something faintly suicidal and found that you were missing."
She groaned and covered her face exclaiming, "Oh they're going to kill me!"
"I'm sure they will," he said, tilting his head the way he always did when teasing, though she hardly found it playful at that moment. "It will be very inconvenient for me to find someone else to rescue from fields in the middle of the night.
"Ouf!" he exclaimed as one of the coach's pillows smacked him in the face. "If you weren't delirious I'd take that as an insult."
"I. Am. Not. Delirious!" she shouted, throwing the other pillow.
"The Winter Palace," one of the guards announced, opening the carriage door a moment after they stopped before the imposing structure.
The occupants froze as they noticed him standing there. Lady Aurelie was squatting on the left-hand seat, one of the carriage's pillows in mid swing at the prince. The twenty-something Prince was behaving no better: he was swinging the other pillow just as enthusiastically, and kicking at the lady as well. The guard was thankful at that moment that his prince's right arm was broken, and felt a new appreciation for the footmen whose job it normally was to open the carriage doors, especially when that pair was inside.
"Ahem," Lady Aurelie said as she recovered first. She dropped her weapon and allowed the guard to hand her down, her posture and carriage regal in spite of the sad state of her dress and the open wounds on the exposed surface of her skin. Prince Emory came out next, grinning as he slid out of the carriage and bounced after the girl.
'The rascal's n'er ashamed,' the guard though as he swung the door closed and went off to finish his shift.
"This way," Emory said, taking Aurelie's hand as they passed through the palace's shinning entrance hall. Because the prince was still awake the palace was still awake, and all the lamps and candles were still burning in the main rooms and down the gilded hallways.
He put his arm around her shoulders to support her up the sweeping staircase. Its slick marble steps reflected their distorted images as they passed, slow steps carrying them upwards around the spiral. She still remembered him carrying her, faint and exhausted, back from her last fierce battle against Roustaive: after he had tried to steal her magic and she had nearly killed the both of them to stop him. Emory had refused to put her down in the carriage or afterwards, refusing even to hand her over to her family members. This was much to the annoyance of every other person present, from his father to hers.
Finally she had ordered him to put her down, in that tone of voice. And after much glaring and snapping on both parts she had been entrusted to her adopted brother and the doctor had been let through the crowd of lords and ladies to see her. Then he had taken a sword and been the second person that day to almost kill the sorcerer. When Roustaive was without magic and Emory was angry they were almost evenly matched. It had taken several men to restrain the prince, and his opponent found his defense dependent on the men he had just tried to escape from. Though, being Roustaive, he did eventually escape.
"Your Highness!" a female voice shouted from somewhere nearby and Aurelie forced herself back to reality as she looked around the corridor they were now walking along. Hurrying towards them was her family's local doctor, a witch named Miriama Gottock, whom her father had gone to Kahechka to recruit for the position. "Where have you been? And Lady Aurelie!"
She stopped before the pair, a hand over her mouth as she took in the sorceress' various cuts. Without another word, the doctor turned and led them back the way she had come, turning to enter one of the rooms leading off the hallway. Aurelie recognized it instantly as she entered as the sitting room of Emory's suite. Not that she would know anything about what his rooms looked like. She glanced up at him but he was not even smirking as he guided her towards the couches.
"My arm can wait," he said to Miriama. "Could you heal Aurelie now?"
"No. Fix his arm first," the sorceress said. She crossed her arms and stepped away from the prince, her grey eyes dangerous as she glared at him. "I can fix my problems myself or you can do it later, so he needs the attention more."
Miriama sighed and turned towards the Prince. "Alright Your Highness, let me see your arm."
"Women," he grumbled, plopping on the divan and glowering at them both. "Always ganging up on me."
"Do be quiet sweetheart," Aurelie told him in a high-pitched imitation of her sister's voice.
He was chuckling as Mirama grabbed his arm, but it turned into a shout as she pulled, and then a gurgle when she tipped a smoking cupful of something down his throat. "Swallow it all," she directed as she took his pulse and watched him. "It's good for you."
He grimaced but swallowed the concoction before sticking his tongue out at both women. "And how was that supposed to help?"
"Sit still for five minutes and you'll see, just try not to scream too much, Your Highness," the witch said as she put his arm back in the sling and turned towards the sorceress. "And now for you Lady Aurelie. Why are you soaking wet?"
"Blood? Dragon saliva? Rain?" she offered with a shrug.
"It's not raining," Emory said, glancing towards the windows.
"My Lady!" her witchdoctor almost shouted, rushing forward and grabbing the sorceress by the arm. "Think of the infection! You need to be washed off immediately!" As she was dragging Aurelie across the room she shot a critical look at the prince. "You, out."
"Your Highness, get out."
"But this is my room!"
Miriama pushed Aurelie towards the door at the far end of the sitting room, while turning to glower at the lounging prince. "Fortunately your servants drew the bath against your return, but Lady Aurelie needs it more at the moment, and you cannot be in the room while she is bathing! Out!"
"It's a separate room," he grumbled as he got to his feet and strolled towards the door to the hall. "And she just said not to move."
"You know it's hardly fair to send me out of the sitting room when I could just peek through the keyhole," he said as he rested his back against the doorframe outside the bathroom.
"Don't you dare!" Aurelie called, though her exclamation ended in a yelp. "The water's hot!"
"Just get in, and make sure you scrub well." Miriama's voice came through the door as well, sharp as her agitation increased.
"But-but it's too hot!"
There was a splash and a long series of curses from the sorceress. To this day the prince could still be surprised by the absolute vulgarity that would stream from her mouth when incensed. At the moment she was using a lower class dialect that was about as intelligible to him as whatever she had said to the dragon, but from her tone he could guess at the general outline of her complaints.
"Dragon spittle," the witch said and it sounded like she was reciting as her voice cut through the cursing, "known to cause infection and sepsis in those who encounter it, even if not receiving other injury from the dragon. Magical persons are far less susceptible, but may develop strange diseases if left untreated. The only way to prevent this is to remove the spittle immediately and soak open wounds in certain combinations of herbs."
"That doesn't mean you have to salt and boil me!"
"You should know better than to fight a dragon on your own, milady!"
"The dragon was on my side."
Emory smiled as he imagined her pouting while saying that. Then he imagined certain other things about her current situation and quickly cleared his throat.
There was another sudden splash accompanied by Aurelie's shout of "Are you peeping out there! I don't like that cough!"
"What, I can't cough now?" he shouted back while secretly thinking that she knew him too well. "Why don't you tell me exactly what happened now, if you are awake enough to shout?"
There was another annoyed splash and then she began to speak. It was just as he had suspected, the sorceress, incensed by the attempt on his life, not to mention the danger to her sister's and brother-in-law's lives, had gone storming out to track down her nemesis, decided she'd like to make an impression and gone rampaging across the city riding a murderous dragon. It was something she did. It was something Dielles did. Only the gods could help the man who slighted her sister, Lady Avelay, back when she was still Lady Marie Dielle. And it was said the citizens of their neighboring kingdom, Briem, were both enamored and afraid of their queen, Aurelie's cousin. But then he too had been more than a little unnerved by Anne when she was still only Count Farelle's daughter. Sir Charles Dielle himself was an intimidating man, one the prince always had to watch himself around, as the former lord had almost single-handedly quartered the monarch's power and restored order to Fenningale after King Edur's death. There were times when Emory wondered why one of the sorceress families had not taken the throne long ago, why they were content to be bickering nobles (or had been until they were all nearly wiped out).
"And then Emory shoved me into the carriage and bundled me off here when John was supposed to be there with my horse. He didn't even bring my horse," Aurelie was saying to Miriama.
"So Roustaive still refuses to give up?" the doctor asked as Prince Emory's mind drifted back to the conversation at hand. "Even though his father was apprehended last year?"
"Well, he has gone a little crazier," the sorceress said and there was no splashing to accompany her train of thought. "And it isn't like he can very well turn himself over at this point, or just switch professions. So he keeps attacking."
"It's because I'm not a sorcerer or a warlock, because I can't do magic," Emory said, clenching and unclenching his fingers as he rubbed his newly healed arm. The King would have been horrified at the casual way in which his son let the sorceress and witch dose and magick him, but he knew they would not harm him. He trusted them.
"If he were just a man this would have been over years ago! But he always manages to slip away," he said as the door to the bathroom flew open and Aurelie was standing there in one of his bathrobes, its hem scraped the ground while its sleeves fell over her hands. She was shiny and damp with unruly hair escaping all her pins and braids and looking horrified.
"You Idiot!" she cried, colliding with him and clutching the front of his shirt. "Idiot, Idiot, Idiot!"
She fit nicely in his arms, in her usual spot and she leaned her head against his chest, still shaking it slightly. He couldn't help smiling as he slipped his arms around her and gave her a slight squeeze. If there was one person who could alleviate his bad moods...
"We will be married in the morning!" he exclaimed, freeing one arm from the embrace to gesture grandly.
"Oh shut up," she laughed, grabbing his hand and twining her fingers with his. He felt a little jolt of magic as she checked to make sure all his bones had healed properly.
"How many times must I kindly ask you, Prince Emory, to remove your hands from my daughter's person?" The couple jumped in unison as Sir Charles Dielle came walking down the corridor towards them. "Aurelie, retrieve your clothes. We are going home."
Aurelie slowly detached her fingers from the prince's shirt and hand and stepped back while Emory ran a hair through his golden locks and grimaced at her. If only one person could bring his good moods crashing down...
"Father, I can hardly go outside like this, and my dress is in tatters!" the sorceress exclaimed.
"Tatters?" Sir Charles repeated, drawing out the word in a way the prince found most threatening.
"Be-because of the fight…" she started out exclaiming but her voice quickly dropped to a murmur as she saw her father's expression, "…with Roustaive."
There was a moment of pained silence as she looked up at her father with apologetic, puppy eyes, the prince tried to look like he was not sorely tempted to take her in his arms and kiss the look away, and her father's cold glare enveloped them both. Suddenly the young man sprang to life, pushing the girl behind him as he smiled roguishly at her father.
"Quick! Run while you can milady; I'll hold him off till my last breath!"
"Oh my hero!" she squeaked in her sister's voice, clasping her hands in admiration.
Sir Charles covered his face with one hand and shook his head.