Echoes of the Past

Drako walked into his room with a bleeding arm. He had training with his Grandpa again and just like many times, his eyes had gleamed with insanity. Whenever he was like that, the training twice as deadly.

He took off his armour, groaning in pain as he did. When it was all completely off him, he hung his sword on the wall. He could now see clearly, his blood-soaked clothe. He cursed under his breath.

He heard somethings fall at that moment and he looked. Goben was there by his bedside, frozen to a spot with box in his hand.

Drako's eyes questioned him.

"Happy birthday?" Goben said with a smile that was too wide that his mouth ached.

"Arrrgh" Drako looked away from him, irritated. He sat on his bed and pulled off his shirt to inspect his cut. He heard Goben gasp at the gruesome sight but ignored him.

Goben soon got uncomfortable with the silence and started talking.

"Well you turned 16 today and I just wanted to give you something."

"Take that gift and get out."

Goben placed the gift by Drako's side, then he started walking away.

"I said take it away!"

Drako flung the box away in anger. It crashed against the wall, it's content scattered across the spotless floor.

Goben's fist tightened, his eyes burning with hurtful tears.

"Pencils and other drawing instruments. I just thought you might like it." He said with a tight smile.

Drako looked away, his eyes cold.

"Are you trying to get me in trouble?! If his Madjesty sees this, he will kill me."

"He doesn't have to." Goben said hopefully, there was something about Drako's response that said he didn't hate the gift. He was just afraid.

"We can go somewhere together and you can draw. I will keep guard so no one sees you."

Drako's lips curled into an angry snarl. That was tempting but it was impossible. He looked at the pencils and the paper longingly. He could smell the lead in his mind, he even had different beautiful things that he wanted to draw. 

A slow smile played on his lips. Goben saw that and smiled too, it had been so long.

Drako's hand shot with pain, snapping him out of his fantasy land. As much as Drako fancied drawing again, he knew that wouldn't work. The training sessions he had with his Grandpa were tight. 

His smile morphed back into an angry snarl.

"Just leave, Goben! Get out!"

Goben left without saying a word. Drako dwelled in silence for a while, eyeing the gift.

Suddenly he sprung, gathered the gift back into the box. Excitement rushed into his veins, he could have sworn that he heard himself chuckle from amusement.

His Madjesty had always left the Specter carelessly with him anytime they were training. He always said that if Drako visited the Dragon then that would add more to his bravery, so he was only careless with the specter around him.

Drako had been to the dungeon before, only once and the dragon had been somewhat friendly. But that wasn't what filled him with happiness.

What made him so happy was that the dungeon had a passage way that led to the library and there, he would draw.

With the box tucked under his arm and the Specter in his tight grip, he walked to a side of his room. A secret passage way that led to the dungeon. His grandfather was the one who built this but he was now so forgetful sometimes. 

Drako pushed some bricks and the passage way open. He hopped into it, took a torch that hung on the wall and started walking deeper into the silent darkness.

The wall closed up again, not leaving a single trace of life at the other side.

******************************

Drako sneaked into the library as he had been doing for a while. He ran pass the librarian who was forever engrossed in Old and dusty magic books. People hardly came here. There were far too many shelves than there were chairs for people to read. Asides that, it was underground and a candle was always needed to see the letters in book because of how large the library was the torches couldn't do all the job.

He set his drawing instruments down, with a smile, he assessed his previous drawing. It was everyone, His parents, grandma, him and Goben. Then Landrus behind them all.

Goben's birthday was today and he was hoping to gift this to him. All he had to do was complete it.

"Will there ever be a space for Grandpa in your drawings?" Someone snapped.

That voice...

Drako looked up in fear, he could already feel sweat dripping from his forehead. 

Lucius snarled at him and immediately he yanked Drako into the air.

******************************

Another lash on his back ripped his skin open. Drako pressed his lips tightly, trying hard not to cry out in utter pain.

"How many times will I warn you?!" Lucius stroke him again with the whip.

When the whip was lifted again, sprinkles of blood splashed through the air.

"I don't care if I have to keep doing this! How did you get those drawing nonsense?"

"I got them myself!" Drako said through gritted teeth and anticipated the lash that followed.

Lucius asked again in anger. This time the door busted open.

"Stop this, Sire. Punish me instead! I gave it to him." 

Drako who was on his kneels looked up at Goben. Be stood at the door, guilt in his eyes.

"Punish me instead!" He said again.

"No, he his lying." Drako said, struggling to stand. When he did, he fell back to the floor exhausted.

"Throw that son of a commoner in the dungeon!" Lucius's voice thundered.

******************************

Goben felt the coldness of the handcuffs around his hands. His eyes misted in tears. The dungeon was dark and stunk of urine, rats and vomit. The hard ground pinched his skin.

He looked at the bars again, his back was aching from the terrible beating and he body was hot. 

Suddenly, he heard the bars open and someone being tossed into the dungeon. The person fall on his front and grunted while muttering curse words under his breath.

Goben squinted his eyes, he knew that voice.

"Drako?"

"Well, hello there best friend." He sat up, pushing himself against the wall. There was a fresh cut on his face.

"What did you do? Why are you here?"

"I spoke up against him." He shrugged.

"You know his Madjesty, he doesn't like such bad habits." Drako chuckled but it ended up in cough, he spat out blood and chuckled again.

"You shouldn't have." Goben was confused, not only was he talking to him, he was also taking his side.

"Why not? How then will I be able to give you this on your birthday." Drako picked out a rumpled piece of paper and stretched it to him.

Surprise filled Goben's eyes, he looked up at Drako to see that affectionate look that had been long lost. He took the paper from him.

"There is everyone there. See.... complete." 

(Flashback ends)

************************************

Goben was surprised to meet DL in his study. He was used to seeing DL in his study at odd times because even though he knew that he mostly locked the door, DL still had the keys. What surprised him was that he didn't know DL was back.

He bowed and paid his respect. DL kept his gaze focused on the paperworks on the table, his hands flipping through them before he finally looked at Goben.

"Good job!" He complimented.

Goben heaved a sign of relief.

First thing after his arrival and he came to assess if Goben had handled everything well.

"Thank you, Dragon Lord." Goben smiled, feeling absolutely proud of himself.

"Any information about the lady that I should know about? Like the fact that she poisoned herself today and your useless Lewis could do nothing about it?" DL said, his eyes slowly darkening in anger.

Goben bowed immediately, he shook with fear. There were times that DL could go so far away from himself, times when anger and rage consumed him, times when he was no longer himself. A time like now.

Goben started giving reports about Diamant, he had prepared for this. He even practiced saying this before a mirror because for some reasons that Goben found confusing, Diamant was a crazy topic to report. Each word had to be said in the exact way that reported everything.

"Well, he tried hard to stop the first attempt too at the Death Bridge..." Goben continued with the report but was cut short.

"There was a first attempt? There was one before this one?!" DL asked icily. "And you let that happen?"

"No, Dragon Lord. I was here in the study dealing with the mines. Lewis could not get to her in time to stop it?" Goben pleaded.

"How useless is this Lewis?! You better change him! I want no slacking" He ordered.

"Immediately, Dragon Lord, immediately." Goben confirmed quickly.

"Better!" DL said trying to control his anger. If she was able to kill herself before he actually gives it as a punishment then that would make him into an absolute mockery. With everything going on, that would wreak him.

He started walking towards the door when he saw Goben's mouth move but there were no words.

"Is there more?" DL asked getting frustrated.

"She has a friend in the woods." Goben said quickly like every word burnt his tongue.

"What?! What is this? A love story that my punishment is about to bring to life?" He snapped his fingers.

"Who is he?" He asked in certainty, a part of him stirring in rage.

"Aaron, Aaron Whyte." Goben said, confirming his suspicious.

"Oh for goodness sake! Don't tell me that is all you have on him."

"Lewis is working on it." Goben replied, his lips trembling slightly.

"Lewis again?!" DL slammed his palm across his face in frustration. "Give me one good reason why I shouldn't lock him up in the dungeon and let him rot away."

Goben's tensed shoulders relaxed and relief flashed in his eyes.

Seeking for his opinion meant that he was back to being himself again and he acknowledged their friendship. Although, he still found DL's anger misplaced but that wasn't his to question.

"Because I already punished him. He is in the village now trying to gather as much information as he can about this Aaron Whyte." Goben replied with a smile.

"Well then, I will leave him." DL said as he walked to the table and leaned on it. "All these information are important and I am not pleased to be receiving them just now. Why didn't you send the bird?"

Sending birds were used to communicate and they were mostly used for highly important matters. Reports concerning a slave was definitely not a highly important matter.

"The bird is only used for important matters." Goben defended himself.

"And who said she isn't important?" DL said, anger returning back to his voice.

Goben kept his mouth shut. Something was definitely wrong.

DL closed his eyes as he thought for a while.

Important...

His own words felt off and out of place. He blinked his eyes confused.

"Forget I said that," he broke the silence "I just hate getting information late, I hate feeling behind and you know that."

There was silence and he drummed his fingers against the table.

"They know." He said in a whisper, silence overshadowing it. Goben felt thrown off trail, he had no idea of what DL was talking about.

"My apologies but DL, they know what? Who are they? I don't understand." Goben said after sometime of waiting and realizing that DL had no plan to explain anything further.

DL stood up and ran his hand through his hair in frustration.

"The leaders of the Fire Tribe know about my nightmares. I don't know how but they know. They requested that I get married and bring forth an heir. They fear that like my Grandfather, I might commit suicide too and leave them unprotected."

"That is impossible. There is no way they would know about your nightmare. It is simply impossible, no one knows except you, I and Nana." Goben rambled, drumming his fingers against one another.

"Well that wasn't the only thing that amused me. The audacity... It shunned me! From where have they gotten such courage? I had to stay back and conduct some investigation. I hate to admit this but I found nothing. I hate this, Goben. I hate how clueless I am right now. It sickens me and we both know that I am already sick." DL said as he leaned against the wall not trusting his own legs.

The study was swallowed by a deafening silence, each one thinking about how all these might finally end.

They both knew something, the Fire Tribe was right. It was getting worse and worse and maybe one day, he would end it like his Grandfather.

"We will start my preparation to wed Clara in a month. They must see no reason to think I am unworthy. I am the King!" DL said, finding strength in himself again.

"As the Dragon Lord pleases." Goben bowed.

******************************

"Do as he says. Remember, you are going to save our tribe. Form an unbelievable bond with the Dragon Lord, bear his heir. He will always consider us first among the tribes. You are our savior." 

Clara mother's voice sipped through Clara's mind and the silence in the room made it sound so clear. It felt like that day all over again, that day when she heard that she was going to the palace to finally fulfilled the deal between her Father and the DL's father before he was killed.

"He had a fiancé, mother. What if he kills me like he killed her? Will I still be your savior then?" Clara had questioned with tears in her eyes.

Clara's hand twirled around her cup as she remembered. She stared distantly at the mirror, sobbing quietly.

"She cheated on him on their wedding day! You won't do that, Clara." Her father had said.

"If I was betrothed to him since we were young then why did he ever plan to marry Daya from the Water tribe?" She had asked confused.

"Because he wanted to prove that he wouldn't do as his father had said but you see what happened? We, parents, make the best decisions." Her father had replied to which her mother had smiled in agreement.

"I have someone, Father. I thought this deal was off, mother you know that I have someone" she had protested in tears.

"Of course, you do. You have the Dragon Lord." Her mother had said patting her back lightly.

"No! No!" 

Clara shook her head furiously hearing her own voice of desperation sip into her head, hearing how she cried out for help on that day. She looked at the mirror before her stare became blank again.

"What about Lewis? What about him? I love him!" Clara had pleaded with pain and hurt.

Her mother's eyes had darkened and her father's voice had gone cold.

"Not anymore." 

Remembering that, Clara swept her hand across the table and the cup she had been mindlessly playing with crashed to the ground. Immediately, maids came pouring in. Running around to see if she was hurt as they cleared the mess. She paid no attention to the maids neither did she notice the guards that were with them. She didn't even notice when one dismissed the rest and told them that he would handle the situation, convincing them that they had no reason to report to this to the King.

She stood up from the chair and made an attempt to walk to her bed. Being too weak she fell but the guard caught her. She was trying hard to follow the food timetable of Doctor Rika but she was too depressed to notice when she was even skipping her meals and the maids try to get her to eat but it mostly didn't turn out well.

She pushed herself from his hold and fell to the ground. Then she made an attempt to stand up and walk to the bed but she failed again.

"Let me help you, my Star." The guard said.

Clara's breath caught up in her throat for a moment.

My Star...

Only one person called her that.

"Lewis?" Clara looked up to the guard and for the first time she saw his face. He hadn't really changed but still, he had never being a warrior in the palace. So, how?

She pushed the questions out of her mind and hugged him. He hugged her too, trying really hard to get enough out of this. Knowing that it would be hard to set another meeting up like this. This was a risk, he was meant to be collecting information about a certain Aaron Whyte but hearing of her sickness he had to make sure that she was fine.

"Lewis" she called his name as she wept into his shoulders. "It hurts so much. It hurts so much not to be with you."

"I know, it hurts me too." He said into her hair.

"I miss you. I know you will be gone soon and it kills me." She pulled away from him, her eyes staring into his.

"I would give everything to be with you, Lewis. I can't do this anymore. I am so tired, so weak. It is all too much for me."

"It is for me too but you know we can't do anything. If you go missing, then the whole of Star Tribe would be killed. For now, I am just able to get into the palace as a warrior after so much training and with Lord Goben's help. Your father mustn't know that I am here, he would kill me. And the Dragon Lord? We must not be caught." Lewis said quickly.

"And what shall we do? What if he decides to start off with the wedding preparations? What if the tribes starts asking for an heir? Lewis, the longer I stay here, the more I lose hope." Clara said crying again.

"Don't lose hope, my Star. I want to be with you and I will do anything for us to be together." His eyes held great determination.

There were a lot of things he was ready to give up for the Star Tribe but he knew that when it came to Clara, he was selfish without remorse.

He drew her face closer and kissed her delicately and she kissed him back like it would be their last.

******************************

(Flashback)

A scream penetrated the whole castle. An eery feeling crept into the air. The sunny afternoon smelt of death. Drako ran up the stairs.

That was his grandmother.

When he got to the room, he saw her fixated on spot. Her eyes filled with horror and tears while she covered her mouth and shook her head in denial. 

"No...no..." She whispered, looking up the ceiling.

Drako looked up too. For a while, it felt like he stopped breathing. Dangling from the ceiling was his grandpa. His eyes rolled back with his mouth slightly parted. A tight rope on his neck and his face drained of blood. He looked so lean that his skull could be traced.

For the first time, he saw the part of his face where the mask had always covered, a burnt mess.

His grandma fell to the floor while she hit her chest in pain. He walked into the room and crossed over to the table. The crown sat there. He could hear the bells being rung in the distance.

He clenched his fist by his side. 

They would be rushing here already, all the ministers.

He could hear the soft sobbing his grandmother while Goben who was now here comforted her and some people brought down his grandfather.

He stood at that spot staring at the crown for a long time. The throne room would be filled with ministers by now. 

He took the specter, feeling the smoothness as it glided into his hand. Then he picked up the crown and settled it on his head. He heard the room go silent immediately.

He walked out ignoring the looks he felt on him. 

When he got to the throne room, he flung the doors opened. The sun from the large windows made the place bright and airy. With a straight face, he walked up the stairs. The ministers went silent and stood up in respect.

He stared at the thrones, images of his lifeless parents flashed before his eyes. 

"One of them did it! Punish them, you can never punish them enough. Don't you want revenge? Punish them, Drako!" He could hear his Grandpa's voice in his head.

He sucked in an angry breath then he took his place on the throne, with empty eyes he looked down at them all.

They bowed their heads and chanted.

"Long live the King!"

"No," he said and their chanting stopped. They looked up at him confused.

"Sire?" One of them asked in confusion.

"Dragon Lord."

They murmured within themselves before they chanted.

"Long live the Dragon Lord."

When they were done, they settled down.

"Your Majesty, you are young and a council will be necessary. When shall we set it up, this appointment is totally according to your discretion." A minister stood up and said.

Goben busted into the throne room at that moment. He squinted his eyes at his Drako and eyed him suspiciously. 

What was he doing? They hadn't even buried the King!

"I don't need that."

"But your Majesty, you are only 19."

"I am glad you told me, I almost forgot." He sneered at him and the minister sat back down, sensing danger.

Was this not worse for them? They had been glad at the news of Lucius death that they already came to discuss who would be taking the throne before even burying him. They had thought that they would use the excuse of Drako being too young to transfer royalty to another family but alas, he had been too fast.

"All I need is a right hand man." He looked at Goben who was still standing at the doorway in awe.

"Goben, will you do the honours?"

(Flashback ends)

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