Dragon's Dance: Tales of Manavalia
Chapter VI: Always Bring Your Manners
Something tells me I'm going to be stuck here for a while.
Aaa folded his arms and glared at Carynnia accusingly.
"Are you sure you don't have an ulterior motive for keeping me here?"
"Such as?" she giggled.
"Such as... you and Zu'nae are spies working for the sorcerer, and he's using you to try to convince me to give up my assault?"
Seeing his host's reaction, Aaa quickly added, "Just kidding."
Zu'nae was growling pointedly.
Carynnia promptly strode over and raised a hand; he expected her to slap him, but her palm instead rested on his cheek, and instantly his mind was assaulted by a barrage of images.
A young redheaded girl flinching away from the cruel bite of a sharp object striking her repeatedly, denied food and water for days on end, beaten with raw fist and muscle, magic drained from her, excess fury magic dumped into her as a method of torture...tumultuous images of constant pain and fear.
Work for him? I would rather die.
Her hand fell away and she broke contact.
Aaa was silent for a moment.
"Carynnia... I'm sorry... that was insensitive. I shouldn't have said that."
"Don't, I don't require pity, the time for that has been and gone."
She turned away, crouching beside the river, filling her cupped palms and sipping.
Aaa blinked a few times.
Carynnia... I must have hit her harder than I thought with that one.
With few options, Aaa turned around and took out his world map. It was specially enchanted to display his location as well as those of other points of interest, but right now it wasn't showing his whereabouts for some reason.
It's not working. There must be a magic cloaking field over this glade.
"Your ungratefulness is a little wearing, Aaa."
Aaa put his map away.
"Ungratefulness? You mean I should be grateful to you for knocking me out, dragging me here, and refusing to tell me where I am under the pretense that I'm a battle-hungry kook who would instantly rush into a hopeless fight and get myself slaughtered if given the chance?"
A soft, concerned screech directed Aaa's attention to Claw, who had approached him from the side.
"What is it, Claw? ... Oh, not you too! I-- what? ... Okay, okay, maybe you're right. She does have a point."
"Your griffin makes more sense than you," quipped Zu'nae, before hooking his skull under his wing, intending to go to sleep.
"I washed your armour and sword, Aaa," said Carynnia softly, indicating the pile of gleaming metal.
Aaa reequipped his armor and sword, checking their quality on the appropriate status displays.
"I apologize for my earlier demeanor. You were right... I was somewhat reckless."
"Its fine. I also made this for you."
It was a simple hide flask, but he appreciated the gesture. It replenished stamina more than health.
Aaa took the flask and stowed it in his inventory with his other healing items.
"Thank you. I believe I will head back to the Pearl Castle war room and replan my attack."
"Is there really a problem with replenishing your energy here for a while?"
Aaa looked up.
"...You want me to stay, don't you?"
Carynnia inclined her head.
"Company is a bonus, but not the object of the exercise. You really do need to learn more about the sorcerer, and at least double your HP and MP. At least."
"...You don't even know what my stats were to begin with. Besides, I can do all that back at Pearl Castle, too, can't I?"
"This place is much more natural, and I've already managed to talk to the Faeries that guard it. They will teach you how to fight the Sorcerer, and to win. In return, you break the curse. Simple."
Aaa wasn't sure where Carynnia was going with this.
"How long is it going to take? My fiancée may become concerned if I'm gone for too long."
"Fiancee? You're engaged?"
"Princess Daphne Pearl."
Noting Carynnia's reaction, Aaa continued.
"Yes, yes, hero knight marrying the princess, I know it's a bit cliché, but that's the way it worked out. The wedding has been postponed indefinitely because of the curse on the kingdom, though."
Her eyes creased, as if she was trying to figure out how to word her next sentence, but Zu'nae spoke up.
"Wow, even I feel sorry for you. Daphne Pearl is the most petulant, spoilt woman on the face of our world who kicks up a tantrum when she doesn't get what she wants, and probably wouldn't be able to count to ten if you asked her."
"Zu'nae!" snapped Carynnia sharply, "That's very rude!"
Carynnia turned back to Aaa apologetically. "I'm sorry, what he said was completely out of line."
Even if it was completely true. Daphne was beautiful, no doubt. But Zu'nae unfortunately had her personality down to the letter, aside from stupidity. She could be very manipulative, and took a shine to Aaa as soon as she met him.
He was at a loss for words. Then something occurred to him.
"Wait. If you two have been living at the sorcerer's tower your whole life, then how would you know anything about the princess?"
"He showed us images of the outside world because he thought it was funny."
"You've seen my memories, you know I'm not lying. Besides, unlike some people-" She glanced pointedly at her smug dragon, "I read character sections in manuals."
"You are certain that the sorcerer did not distort the images he showed you in order to flaw your perception of the world?"
Zu'nae spoke up again.
"From your reaction we can safely say he wasn't lying about the joyful Daphne."
Carynnia threw a rock at him.
Aaa seemed a little uncertain.
"If he is everything I have heard he is, I see no reason to trust his current events lessons blindly. Show me an image he has shown you; I will judge its truth for myself."
Zu'nae chirped indignantly, eying the rock that had just bounced off his head as if it was rabid.
Carynnia approached, holding her palm up again, amber eyes intent.
"I'm not stopping you."
Carynnia sighed, and her palm laid on his cheek again, and his vision went white.
Aaa remained as calm as he could. He wasn't sure exactly what he was going to see, but he would scrutinize every detail of it to see if there were any flaws.
Daphne, blonde, blue-eyed, and stood facing a mirror as one of her servants tightened her corset.
Daphne asking her father for a new set of expensive jewelery.
Daphne meeting Aaa, her eyes glinting in interest.
The expanse of the castle, gleaming polished rock and extravagant tapestries and countless suits of armour.
Aaa was silent for a moment. He thought over the scenes.
"...Carynnia, are those scenes exactly as the sorcerer showed them to you? Is there any extra context he shared with you that you're not sharing with me?"
The main market outside the castle, always teeming with life and bustling erratically and eccentrically, stalls selling almost anything you could think of.
A dragon's egg being auctioned off for boggling amounts of money.
This particular image slightly baffled Aaa, as there was no apparent connection to Daphne or anything else he'd seen.
Not just your fiancee...a lot of the world.
Ah, right. Carynnia, do you know when this scene took place?
About two years ago, I THINK.
I guess you wouldn't have any way of knowing for sure...
Aaa didn't see much worth in the image.
Are there any images he showed you that I can directly verify? Images of my own adventures, for example?