Chapter 15



helsea sat quietly and tried to look as refined as possible, daintily picking at her food. She'd grown too used to being sloppy in the last few weeks. Now, manners were mandatory in order for everything to run smoothly.

            They all sat at a large wooden table completely covered in fancy foods, such as pork roast and an entire salad bar of fruits and vegetables. Looking around at the faces, she noticed that Mark showed no notion whatsoever that he had any regard for manners—which he probably couldn't have if he tried. Landon looked a little sick, but otherwise he was doing well answering all the questions King Kenton fired at him. Stefan and Eyrabella were playing footsies beneath the table right under the King's nose. She would have kicked him, but the King would have noticed. Jeaine was very excited, but contained herself enough to be polite.

            Thankfully, Mindi and Kira had chosen not to attend.

            "You say that you had no knowledge of your lineage or your power until this spring? How is that? Amnesia?" King Kenton asked, his brows furrowing as he leaned forward ever so slightly to catch the answer.

            Landon thought for a moment, fiddling absently with the napkin in his lap. "I'm not sure. That could be it, but I don't recall hitting my head or anything. They tell me I had passed out when Ben found me. To protect my family's secrets, he cleaned up the mess and told them the Saldians had attacked. I only remembered waking up until I had a fever and started remembering things. It might have been shock that made me forget; it does funny things to the brain. Or it could have been refusal to remember. I wasn't particularly happy about recent events at the time." King Kenton nodded and pondered this for a while. She took the chance to ask him—quietly—why he was so fidgety. He'd been in worse situations with more composure. He'd also spent a great deal of time with her, and she was a princess. Why was he so nervous all of the sudden?

            He leaned in to whisper back. "In the city, especially inside a huge palace like this, it makes it ten times harder to feel the wind—a comfort I've unconsciously grown used to.  I've never in my entire life been somewhere so windless. It's like some part of me is missing. It's very unnerving." He turned to answer another of the King's questions, leaving her frowning. She'd never really thought about what it would feel like to be a Stormsinger. Blaze had never been able to fully control his power, but that was probably because he was always angry. Landon, however, was considerably even tempered, except when it came to protecting her. She couldn't decide if she should scold him or feel flattered that his temper flared up whenever someone so much as looked at her wrong.

            But did it feel physically or mentally different? Landon made it sound as though he always took the wind for granted. His whole life he'd felt it, but deemed it normal. Now that he was somewhere where he couldn't feel it he felt....defenseless. She found it intriguing that he could actually feel it as well as control it. It was a part of him.

            No wonder he greatly preferred the outdoors.

            "When are you planning to leave?" King Kenton asked, this time directing the question at Stefan. He quickly pulled his foot back before answering.

            "Sometime soon, perhaps tomorrow. Can you get the troops ready that fast?"

            King Kenton nodded, showing no signs of what he felt about that. 

After dinner was over, they retired to their rooms. The rooms were very fancy, made for the company of wealthy guests. Landon would be marveling at the quality about now. She smiled. He never tried to act like someone he was not. Landon was Landon, no matter what. He never tried to conform to something he was not, and when he found that he was something more, he never changed who he was. At first he was Landon the farm boy. Now he was Landon the farm boy and legend. No matter what he was, he was always the same old Landon. And she loved that Landon with all her heart.

            Unable to find anything to do, she found herself walking down the corridor and entering his room. He looked up from the fancy chess board he'd been examining and smiled, setting down the queen.

            "What brings you here at such a late hour?" he asked, walking over to meet her. He wasn't wearing any shoes and his coat was strewn over the back of a chair, making it appear as though he were at ease. It seemed he was making himself at home. Anybody else would have said he was adapting well to his new life—he would most likely be staying in rooms like these in the Song Palace—but she knew him better than that. He walked a little uncertainly, as though he didn't quite feel safe in his own room. His shoulders were tense and he was just a tad bit more fidgety than usual. To her, he was obviously uncomfortable.

            "Just checking in," she said casually, pretending not to notice his discomfort. "How are you doing?"

            "Fine," he answered. He grimaced at her skeptical look. "Okay, I admit. I do feel a little bit....unsettled....enclosed in these walls. But I can handle it. I'll be fine, really."

            "That's good. I'm not sure why I came down here but I—" she started, but was cut off when Landon leaned down to kiss her. She kissed him back, throwing her arms around his neck. She was so caught up in the kiss that she didn't notice Stefan had entered the room until he coughed a bit louder than necessary.


Landon pulled away, turning to glare at whoever had interrupted the kiss he'd been longing for so long. Stefan stood in the doorway, watching them with almost an amused expression. Landon tried not to look too annoyed as he stood next to Chelsea, who was blushing furiously. He didn't want to get on bad terms were her brother.     

            "Hello," he said pleasantly. "I didn't mean to interrupt anything, but I was just wondering if I could have a word with Landon?"

            Chelsea gave him a suspicious look. "I live my own life, Stefan. Might I remind you that it was not I who was playing footsies under the table this evening?" Landon coughed to hide a laugh. Stefan playing footsies? And right under the King's nose, too. Good man.

            Stefan gave her a suffering look, but answered civilly. "I'm not here to chastise him for kissing my sister. I just wanted to get to know him a little. If that's okay?" Landon nodded, somewhat amused by the sibling rivalry. He'd always wanted a sibling.

            Chelsea looked from Landon to Stefan, seemingly in inner conflict. Finally, she huffed in defeat and marched out the door.

            That left the men to themselves.

            They stood there for a moment, assessing each other. Landon liked Stefan so far, but he had no idea what he was like. What could he possibly want from him? Did he really just want to talk? All these questions were still buzzing in his head when Stefan said out of the blue, "Do you play?" He motioned to the chess board.

            "My uncle taught me. We use to play on rainy days," he answered casually, though his insides were twisting painfully. Thinking about Uncle Ben always brought on a fresh wave of homesickness.

            Stefan nodded, heading over to the table that held the board. Landon followed. They sat in the large cushioned chairs that were placed on either side. Landon watched patiently as Stefan made the first move. What could he possibly want to talk to him about?

            "So you love my sister?" he asked finally, not taking his eyes off of the piece Landon was moving.

            "I do," he answered firmly. There was no doubt there.

            "You want to make her happy?"


            "Well, here it goes." He took a deep breath, preparing himself for what he was about to say. "I just wanted to—I was going to tell you—I'm not sure how to word this—"

            "Stefan," he interrupted. He could see where he was getting at. "Chelsea is still a virgin and I intend to see that she is until her wedding day."

            Stefan blinked at his frankness, but nodded appreciatively. There was a long silence as they focused on the game.

            "So you're from a small town I understand?" Stefan said, glancing up for the first time. Landon nodded. "And you miss it?" Was it really that obvious? He nodded again, meeting his blue eyes that reminded him so much of Chelsea. "Your gaze is so intense. I can see what my sister was talking about." They were talking about him? As if to read his mind, Stefan said, "Don't worry, she only talks good about you."

            There was a pause as they both couldn't think of anything to say.

            "You seem really uncomfortable here," Stefan said at last.

            Landon decided it was time that he said something. "Am I really so easy to read? Never mind—I don't care. It's just....all my life I've been able to feel the wind, like a subconscious awareness I'd never really noticed. As I began to use my power more often, its presence became slightly more noticeable. Either way, I've lived my whole life with the wind, and with all these walls it's....I don't know. Gone. It's like being in a nice warm room for your whole life and then one day you're pushed into the snow. I feel so empty and defenseless. It's hard to explain in words how it feels."

            Stefan's frowned, taking this in. "I don't know about defenseless; you're pretty good with the sword." He smiled faintly. "Scratch that, you're really good with the sword. And don't tell me you got lucky. You've got talent that others would kill for."

            "They've already tried that. Unfortunately for them, they can't have it. Either I use that coveted talent against them or they kill me and nobody has the talent. If only they were smart enough to realize that." He laughed bitterly to himself. "If only that were the only reason they were after me."

            The Prince gave him a sympathetic smile. "Hey, you've made it this far. You're almost there. If you can make it that long without being eaten or shot, then you can make it anywhere."

            They continued to make small talk as the night dragged on and the chess game became more intense. The more he talked to Stefan, the more he liked him. He had the feeling Stefan approved of him, too. After a long, eventful game of chess and a good conversation, they retired to their bed


Chelsea woke early in the morning when the sun had just arrived over the horizon, hopped out of bed and dressed into a comfortable green dress. She felt as sunny as the rays of sunlight that shown through her window and danced on the floor. Unable to wait for the others to wake, she barged cheerfully into her brother's room and jumped on his bed while he was still trying to get in the last hour or so of sleep. She wanted to enjoy being a girl before she was forced back into acting like a princess for the day.

            "Go away!" he mumbled, his voice muffled by the pillow he'd dragged over his head in an effort to block out the noise she was making.

            "Rise and shine!" she yelled, yanking off his covers. He huddled into himself against the sudden cold. He was shirtless, but she'd seen him without a shirt several times. She was his sister, after all. It felt good to be with him again. 

            "Alright, alright," he moaned. "I'll get up....eventually." She shrugged, satisfied. It was his fault if he was late for breakfast. She left him to get up on his own and headed towards Landon's room. She swung open his door and found him still in bed. As soon as she opened the door, he sat up so abruptly she thought he was going to be dizzy. His covers fell off of him, revealing that he, too, was shirtless. She couldn't help but stare for a moment. Why did he have to be so darned attractive?

            For a moment he looked confused and somewhat panicked, but he relaxed as soon as he saw her. Flopping back down on the four-poster bed, he pulled the covers over his head and moaned tiredly. She walked over and sat on the edge of the bed. "Nightmare?"

            He peeked out from under the covers. "Yeah. But you were the one that woke me up. You nearly gave me a heart attack! What if I had been dressing?"

            She hadn't considered that when she'd barged in. "Then I would turn around and wait," she answered brightly, smiling vibrantly as he threw his the sheets aside and slid out of bed to sit next her. He rubbed his eyes with his palms and kissed her lightly as if to say good morning.

            "How did you sleep?" he asked.

            "Fine." She watched him yawn. "You look tired. How late did you stay up talking to Stefan?"

            "Late," was all he said. What could they possibly talk about for so long? When she asked, he simply said, "I don't know. Stuff."

            Some help he was.

            She watched him pull a shirt on and put on his boots. They left for breakfast together, holding hands like nobody was watching. No doubt there were many rumors being spread about them in the servant's quarters, but she was certain that all of them at least included that there was another Evers and a princess in the Palace. Judging by the looks on the passing servant's faces as their eyes fell on their joined hands, there was going to be a fresh batch of gossip to be passed from servant to servant. By nightfall, the whole Palace would know that the Saldian Princess and the last surviving Evers were "together."

            Breakfast was relatively boring as far as royal banquettes go. This time Stefan was the target of King Kenton's questions. All inquiries on the army and plans of departure and such. Chelsea tried to listen, but occasionally she would drift off in her own fantasies. Her mother had always teased her that she was much too restless to be a princess. Oh, she could sit patiently through a long meeting and not complain, but she was always dreaming of being somewhere else. She loved helping her people—being a princess was her duty, it was in her blood—but it was all rather uneventful. That is, until she ran away and took matters into her own hands. She'd always believed that being a princess meant that you would do anything to help your country. Living in a life of luxury was hardly helping when you could be helping elsewhere. Besides, where was the fun in sitting around?

            That was the longest meal of her life. Well, that probably wasn't true, but it certainly felt like it was. To pass the time, she watched the others deal with their boredom. Landon was fiddling with a spoon, appearing as though he wasn't paying any attention to the present events. He probably wasn't—his brain worked at a much more exciting pace than the conversation. She'd never known him to be in the least bit boring.

            Mark had been nonstop eating since before the meal even started and seemed determined to prove something by eating at least one of everything on the table (which was a lot to digest). It took her a moment to realize that he was absently listening to what was being said further down the table. Just little gestures like tiny nods or furrowed brows that suggested he even cared, let alone paid attention. She watched him with fascination before realizing that he knew she was watching. He just didn't care.

            Quickly searching for something else to entertain herself with, she saw that Jeaine was playing with the peas on her plate, chasing them around with her fork. Everyone was long since stuffed from eating out of shear boredom. Except Mark, of course.

            Eyrabella was paying rapt attention to Stefan as he discussed the cost of supplying a small army to the Song Palace. It was a three day journey through the desert and the mountains, but that was three days of supplying three meals a day to a legion of soldiers. That was a lot more than it sounded. She was pretty sure that Eyrabella was paying more attention to his lips than what was coming out of them.

            Stefan was a natural with the whole politics thing. He could negotiate like no other and he knew when to do what and where. He was going to make a great King someday. As soon as they took care of Blaze.

            After a painfully long time, the discussion came to an end and King Kenton stood. "Thank you for gracing my home with your presence. Have a safe journey." It was short and sweet. Just the way she liked it.

            They were dismissed to their rooms to gather what they had, not that it was much. Just some clothes and other useful items. Most all of their foodstuffs had been abandoned to the dragon when they'd been running. That wasn't an issue anymore, since there would be wagons full of food for their procession.

            As soon as everyone had their things together, they started out to meet the army out of city bounds. First, though, they had to make it out of the city alive.

            They were strolling undercover down the busy streets when she decided that she really wanted to know what they were talking about all night. Girls live on a need-to-know basis.

            "I have to know. What were you two talking about last night?" she asked Landon when she was sure Stefan was out of hearing range.

            He hesitated for a moment before answering. "Nothing really." Now she knew they'd been talking about her. He'd always been very bad at lying, anyway.

            "Come on, tell me," she nagged.

            He frowned, as if unsure what to say. "We talked about....stuff. Do you really want to know? It's kind of awkward. Nothing of importance." She nodded eagerly. Curiosity is a powerful thing. "He just....wanted to make sure that I—that we—man this is a lot harder to say to you than it was to him. He pretty much wanted to make sure that you were still a virgin."

            She could feel herself blush. "Oh. What did you tell him?" She wanted to make sure he hadn't said anything stupid. Men tended to do that.

            He pulled her out of the way of a rushing cart. She'd been staring at his eyes instead of paying attention to the road. "That you are and will be until you're married." He said it with so much surety that she smiled. She admired him for his high standards. Doing such a thing before you're married is immoral and leads to nothing good. She was glad he shared her views.

            She was distracted from his face when she noticed a sudden thickness of bodies, clustered to form a circle to watch something she couldn't make out. Landon was tall, though, and frowned at what he saw. Without a word, he started pushing through the crowd. She followed along with the others. When they'd fought their way to the front, she saw what was happening. A rich looking man was yelling at a blonde-haired boy with a dirty face. The boy was arguing right back.

            "You frightened my horse, you little scamp!" The rich man bellowed. She recognized him as the man that had almost run her over earlier. "Hasn't anyone taught you stay out of the way of your betters?"

            "I don't see how you're better than me in any way!" The boy yelled back. "Maybe if you hadn't been driving like a maniac I wouldn't have almost been turned into road kill! Your horse is more sensible than you!"

            "What's going on, Lee?" Landon asked, stepping out of the crowd to stand in-between them. How did he know this kid?

            "Stay out of this," hissed the rich man. "I'm taking this rascal with me to teach him some manners. Nobody will miss him. He has no family."

            Lee was about to say something, but Landon cut him off by pulling him closer to him. "I'm his family. You will not take him."

            The wealthy man was fuming. As Landon turned his back on him with Lee in tow, he kissed her on the cheek to disguise a whisper. "He was my jail mate. I guess we're going to have a kid." She giggled despite herself.

            "If I can't have him, I'll settle with the pretty lady," said the rich man in a tone that gave her the creeps. Landon stiffened, his whole body going rigid with anger. His fists balled dangerously. The fool saw it, too, and smiled maliciously. "She looks like she'd give me a good time." Before she could stop him, Landon turned around and punched him in the jaw. Rich man returned the favor, and gradually the crowd became thicker as a fistfight broke out. Landon was so angry she was worried he might overstep himself. He had a tendency to underestimate himself.

            The rich man landed another blow and winked at her. Landon saw it and she knew that he'd sealed his fate. A huge gust of wind slammed the creep into the brick wall behind him and he dropped to the ground, moaning as blood trickled down from his head. The crowd gasped and all eyes turned to Landon, who wasn't paying any attention to them. All his focus was on the man that lay injured before him. He took another step, but she walked over to him and put a hand on his shoulder. He looked at her and the heat of his rage seeped out of his eyes. He looked back at the other man and watched as his servants helped him up. He looked terrified at what he'd done. Then he realized that the crowed was still watching him, slack jawed. He'd lost control and now everyone knew what he was. There was no point in hiding it, anyway. The secret was out.

            Well, most of it.

            Landon grabbed Lee's hand and started down the street. The crowd parted for him, whether out of respect or fear she did not know. Even Lee looked baffled. She followed after him along with the others, ignoring the stares that they gave her for being acquainted with him. It was odd not being the subject of the stares.

            When they'd gotten farther out of the crowd where most people hadn't witnessed what had happened, Landon stopped and leaned down so he could be level with Lee's face. "Do you want to come with me?" he whispered. "We're going to the Palace of Songs, and you're welcome to come."

            Lee considered this for a moment. "Sure, but I'm not going anything without Raina."

            "Raina?" Landon repeated, his brows furrowing.

            "My partner in crime," he explained. "We help each other out. Survival and stuff."

            "She's welcome to come, too."

            Lee nodded and led the way further down the street. After a minute of trying to keep up, she saw a smaller crowd surrounding a street performer. The girl that was performing looked to be about twelve, with apple cheeks and white blonde hair. She was dressed in an immodest yellow-orange tube top that exposed her belly and a panty-like bottom that was covered with a transparent mango tinted skirt. She had all sorts of jewelry on her arms and neck, making her look as though she were of wealthy decent. But that was not what had attracted her eye; it was what she was doing. Her limbs were stretched to places they shouldn't go, making her look like a human pretzel. She's a contortionist, she thought, watching as people tossed her coins.

            Lee stopped in front of her. "That's her," he said, pointing to the girl that was twisted into an inhuman form.

            "That's Raina?" she said incredulously. She certainly didn't look homeless. Lee nodded.    "If you're so poor, then why does she have so much jewelry?" Mark asked, watching her put her leg over her head and around her neck.

            He shrugged. "We save them for emergencies. She's Jenti. Her parents were going to sacrifice her to the Jenti gods and she didn't like that, so she ran away." Jenta was a small island somewhere off the coast. They were very independent and only associated with others for trade. She'd heard it was tropical there. She'd also heard they had very strange beliefs.

            "And nobody has attempted to steal them?" Stefan asked.

            "Nope," Lee answered. "Missy takes care of that." She was about to ask who Missy was, but Raina spotted Lee at that moment and abandoned her audience to meet him. She looked around at his companions.

            "Who are these people?" she asked warily, putting her hands on her hips. She probably thought they were the authorities.

            "These are my friends, Landon...." he looked at them, realizing that he didn't know their names. They rattled off their names for him. "They said we can come with them to the Song Palace! Landon is a Windsinger!"

            Her eyes widened. "Really?"

            "Yes," Landon answered for him. "We can take care of you."

            "I don't need anyone to take care of me," Lee protested. "I'm just coming for the adventure."

            "Is it going to be dangerous?" Raina asked enthusiastically. Landon nodded. "I'm in!"


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