Chapter 19



hen Landon woke up he nearly had a panic attack.

            He didn't know where he was or how he got there, just that there wasn't snow. Without thinking, he sat straight up—a bad habit he really needed to shake—and was greeting with piercing pain. His sides and head were on fire. Seeing stars, he lowered himself back down onto the large white bed he was in so he was propped up on the headboard. His head still pounded. The entire room was white. Was he dead? This didn't feel like heaven. His head hurt so badly—

            "Don't hurt yourself."

            Landon nearly jumped out of his skin. He looked around more thoroughly and saw where the voice had come from. An elderly lady with graying brown hair pulled tightly into a bun was knitting in the corner. A single candle illuminated her aged face. She wore a simple brown dress with no jewelry. He figured he hadn't been kidnapped since wherever he was had left a granny to watch him. They were the only people in the room.

            "Where am I? Who are you? Where is Chelsea?" he interrogated. He noticed that his dirty clothes had been replaced and he was shirtless. In its stead was a bandage wrapped tightly around his chest. His arm hung in a sling. He was about to ask who had done all this but decided against it. He didn't want to know.

            The old lady continued to knit calmly. "You are at the Palace of Songs. My name is Mary, but some people call me "nanny" or—Eban's favorite—"old lady". And Chelsea is safe. Sleeping, I daresay. She refused to leave you for the longest time, but I finally managed to convince her you weren't going anywhere. Not in your condition."

            "How long have I been here?" he asked, dreading the answer.

            "Three days," she answered placidly. "Well, perhaps by this hour you could say four."

            "How did we—"

            She cut him off. "I believe it would be much easier if I started from the beginning, eh? Well, to be brief, you were swallowed by an avalanche, yes?" She paused to make sure he was following. He motioned for her to continue. "Well, thanks to the mountain elves and your wild animal, they managed to dig you up. The elves showed them the way here. They explained everything and we took you in. You were almost gone. Several broken ribs, a broken arm, and a nasty concussion. We had a Healer look at you and he decided that you had so little strength it would kill you to try and Heal you. Now that you are awake he can start Healing, but I will let you recuperate first. Don't worry about explaining anything, your friends gave us a detailed account of everything. I know who you are." She let her hands fall to her lap, her no-nonsense tone turning thoughtful. "Imagine how surprised we were when you arrived. Here at our doorstep was the long lost son of the Evers, both the missing Prince and Princess, a new Healer, twins with information about the enemy, a young man who is incredibly good at wielding and making weapons—which is very fortunate since our last blacksmith became schizophrenic when Leo died last week—and on top of that an army! What a group." She continued knitting. He supposed they were a rather odd company when you put it that way. Landon let this sink in for a moment. He was at the Song Palace at last! No more running or living on scraps. He was safe now. Well, as safe as the likes of him got.

            "Who's Leo?" he asked. She looked up at him, her hands moving a little faster. She had a cool, calculating gaze. He had the feeling she was assessing his every move.

            "Your timing is also rather impeccable," she said with a sad smile. "You see, our previous Windsinger died just last week. He went peacefully, in his old age. I believe he was one hundred and two. Leo was a great man with an extraordinary mind." Landon nodded respectfully, unsure of what to say. He saved his next question for a few moments. Then he couldn't hold it any longer.

            "How many Stormsingers are there?"

            "Well, now that Leo is gone, we know of seven including ourselves. Now that you are here, we have six in the Palace. One Windsinger, two Earthsingers, one Firesinger, one Thundersinger, and one Watersinger. That fool Blaze refuses to come and study his power. He is a danger to everyone, lacking not only control but the brains to use it wisely. Worse than Ellie! He abuses his gift. I fear it is too late for him." At least he knew they were on his side. He wondered what Blaze was like. Rumors tend to be biased and highly exaggerated. But they had to start from something, right?

            "Are you a Stormsinger?" he asked. In response, she held her hand above a potted flower that sat on a small nightstand next to his bed. Immediately the wilting flower straightened and buds bloomed. It was like watching the growth of a plant sped up into a few seconds. She was an Earthsinger. Fitting.

            "I would show off for you right now, but first of all there isn't even a breeze to help, I have little to no energy, and I feel like someone slapped me with a bag of bricks. I don't think it would be a good idea at the moment."

            She laughed and it sounded genuine. "I should say not! You have been fighting off hypothermia for the past few days. You seem to be doing well, but it will probably kick back in after a few hours. It comes and goes." That explained why he felt a little woozy. He'd thought it was just the shock. Then again, how did you not get sick after being buried by an avalanche? He had the worst luck. What was a world that even nature itself had it in for you? Not a particularly safe one, that's for sure.

            "I've had worse," he said truthfully. He suppressed a shudder, short memories of absolute pain resurfacing. Most of which came from the night he'd been captured and all of them in the past few months. "A lot worse."

            She studied him with those calculating eyes. "So I've heard." Thankfully, she didn't press it. He really didn't feel like recounting his most dreaded memories to this stranger. He closed his eyes for a second and tried to forget. It was like trying to drain the ocean with a straw.

            "You look just like them."

            His eyes flew open. "You knew them?" There was no question who she was talking about. Had she been around when his parents had lived here?

            "Of course I knew them. I trained them. I was the one who delivered you when you were born." This shouldn't have surprised him. Come to think of it, she would have been in the Song Palace at that time. The Song War seemed so long ago.

            He was about to demand more information, but a wave of nausea hit him and a hand automatically went to his forehead, the other gripping the sheets. The world seemed to spin around him. He groaned softly. Thank the heavens he didn't puke.

            Mary clucked her tongue. "I shouldn't be pestering you. You should be sleeping. Go on, now. I won't be answering any of your questions until you are decently rested." He figured arguing wouldn't help. She had an air of authority about her. When she spoke, she expected to be obeyed.

            Feeling a little sheepish, he sank back down on the bed and pulled the covers over his head. He was feeling rather tired, though he didn't want to admit it. Mary blew out the candle and began humming softly. It was a tune he hadn't heard before, but it lulled him back to sleep before he had time to hear the ending.



Chelsea bounded cheerily down the hallway, smiling brighter than she felt. She hadn't gotten much sleep in the past few days, but just one night in a bed made a difference. In comparison at least. She could only imagine how tired Landon had been the last week, what with his power and all. How did he manage?

            The thought of him made her frown slightly. He'd been asleep for a while. Why was it that he was always getting himself into near death situations? And just as he was recovering from the sandstorm, too. Couldn't he have waited another day before he went all suicidal again? Well, she couldn't blame him. He was just too darn goodhearted.

            Attempting to steer her thoughts to something happier, she turned her attention to her surroundings. The hallway was brightly lit due to large windows that were stationed periodically to her left all the way down the hall. The right side was adorned with tapestries and paintings of famous events in history. Monarchs being crowned, battles being fought. Each one beautiful in its own way. Between every few tapestries or so a door was wedged into the scene. There were many rooms in the Palace. The white tile floor sparkled as if it had been polished that very night. It was very probable that it had. They maintained the Palace well. Her small smile returned gradually. It was a fresh new morning and she was off to visit her love. Even if he was unconscious.

            She had been given new clothing by Leanne, a kind Watersinger that had kept her company and showed her around. The clothes fit surprisingly well, considering that Leanne was over ten years her senior. She was a rather dainty woman, though.

            That morning she wore a vibrant green and gold gown that suited her mood. It was comfortable, but she still wasn't quite used to fine clothing again. Ever since they had reached Aroth she had made a slow incline back to fashion. Nevertheless, she still preferred a good old village dress that she didn't have to worry about getting too dirty. She sighed. No, she had to dress fancy now that she was back in public. Princesses had to dress up to their title, or their subjects might forget who they were and what they represented. There were so many seemingly insubstantial necessities that were often overlooked. Most people might not realize the small things, but they all added up to the result. Even the tallest towers were built from tiny bricks.

            She nodded to Jeaine as she talked with the Head Healer, heading in the opposite direction. Jeaine nodded back. The others had fallen into place nicely upon their arrival. The other Healers had adopted Jeaine immediately, starting her teaching as soon as she had rested. She seemed happy with them.

            Mark had wandered about for a day or two before stumbling upon the forges. The smithy was like his own personal heaven. First of all, it was loaded with all sorts of weapons. Every type of destructive object you could think of, you could find it in the forges. Not only was it a recipe for potential disasters, it was also hot and muggy due to a huge fire that blazed in the hearth. She remembered the concentration in his eyes when she'd first seen him, the way he was trained on his father's hands as he worked. It was probably the only thing he took seriously in his life.

            Despite his ever-present air of laziness, he'd gotten straight to work. She'd watched him work for a little bit, marveling at his concentration. She'd never seem him so focused on anything before. Of course, he'd totally ignored her. Not even a glance in her direction until she'd left. It occurred to her that maybe he hadn't noticed her. Still, Mark a blacksmith? Judging by his spindly build, she'd have never guessed. He was just full of surprises.

            Mindi and Kira had taken straight to the training grounds. The Palace's backyard was a huge expanse of grass that seemed to stretch out forever. There was enough room for a small army camp, a designated weapon training area, and a lake, and still have plenty of room for multipurpose activities! A convenient location.

            Stefan was planning the battle against Blaze and Landon had been escorted to a room and treated. The kids had blended in nicely, taken in by Leanne. Even Kodan had found a good place outside to explore! The only one that didn't have anything to do was Chelsea. She hated feeling useless. There was nothing for her to do but sit and wait for Landon to wake up. And when he did, then what? Take care of him, she guessed. It was a start.

            She finally came to the door she was looking for. It was a dark oak door with a brass handle. Nice, but not too fancy. Straightening up—composure was important in case there were people in there—she opened the door and stepped in. Landon sat propped up against the headboard, talking to Mary. His dark, beautiful eyes found hers. All thoughts of composure went down the drain, replaced by an overwhelming sense of joy. Without thinking, she ran over to his side and jumped onto the edge of the bed. Kneeling on the mattress, she kissed him before he could say a word. He kissed her back, leaning into her, asking for more. Her hands found his face, feeling the stubble that had begun to grow in his days unconscious. It felt so good to kiss him again.

            "Excuse me, ahem, if you need some time alone," Mary said from the corner. She'd forgotten she was there! How embarrassing! She could feel the heat rushing to her cheeks as she sat back down on her feet. Landon was blushing, too. He looked a little dizzy. "Really, you shouldn't be kissing him, Your Highness," she scolded in a motherly fashion. "You might catch his sickness." That's right, he had hypothermia. In her haste she hadn't taken that into consideration. She tended to be reckless when Landon was involved.

            She glanced at him and noticed the way he blinked just a little bit too much, the dazed look in his eyes. She worried that he had gotten dizzy from kissing her. She felt bad for giving him a headache because of her rashness. She'd had hypothermia once as a kid, and it was no picnic. Especially in his condition—bruised, battered, and exhausted.

            "She's probably right," he said, taking her hand. "I don't want you getting sick."

            "How are you feeling?" she asked. It felt like old times, when she'd just met him.

            "Wonderful," he said sarcastically. "Spectacular. Better than ever. Can we move on? I hate this question."

            She raised an eyebrow, but smiled. He was always going to be the same old Landon. That was part of why she loved him. He was always true to himself.

            Someone knocked softly on the door. Mary called for them to enter and a servant girl entered hesitantly, carrying a tray with Landon's breakfast. She hurried over to him and placed it on his nightstand. He thanked her and she blushed at the attention, hurrying out. Just as she left, Leanne and Eban entered. Eban took his time to stare at the maid as she hastened away. Leanne rolled her eyes. This was apparently a common occurrence.

            Eban was a middle-aged Saldian Thundersinger with golden hair and striking green eyes. He had a smile that she might have said was dashing if it hadn't held a touch of arrogance and mischief. He reminded her of Mark, but a few notches less smart and a fondness for alcoholic drinks. He sauntered into the room as if he owned the place.   

             Leanne followed, acting for all the world like she was his mother, though she was doubtlessly younger than him. She had brown hair and commanding blue eyes. She was nice woman, though Chelsea sensed a toughness about her that could likely come from living with the likes of Eban. They were total opposites.

            Eban bowed and Leanne curtsied. Chelsea waved a hand at them, indicating that they could be at ease. She was going to have to get used to that again.

            "Well, if it isn't our legendary friend, coming back from the dead!" Eban said loudly, striding over to the bedside. His smile was so genuinely pleased that she had to excuse his overly bright teeth—that he showed off with pride—for nearly blinding her. Landon seemed to be a little nauseous from his exciting behavior. He wasn't all that bad, just a little obnoxious.

            Leanne stepped forward, her face grim but somehow welcoming at the same time. "I would like to apologize in advance for anything this buffoon says to you. My name is Leanne, and this dolt here is Eban. I trust you are feeling better?"

            Landon nodded. "Yes, thank you." He didn't bother with introducing himself. They knew who he was.   

            "Good. We will need you in pristine condition as soon as possible if we are to get started on your training. Don't stress about it, though. You have all the time you need to recover." She spoke in a clipped, practical tone. She wasn't much for useless fluff.

            Eban's eyes found her and Landon's interlocked hands and he smiled wolfishly. She couldn't tell if he was happy for them or if he was already planning ways to prank on them. His eyes were warm and honest, though. Leanne was pointedly ignoring their affectionate display, probably out of respect or self-control. There were no doubt rumors already about her and Landon, and this was only confirming their suspicions. She stubbornly held his hand tighter, refusing to feel bashful. Better they know their status before more rumors were spread.

            "Eban, whatever you are thinking about, I suggest you leave it alone," Mary warned, knitting innocently in her rocking chair. "Let them at least settle in before you try to scare them off."

            "Scare them off?" he said indignantly. "Old lady, I never scare them off! I just scare them. No need adding an extra syllable." The old woman shook her head, hiding a smile. There was a relaxed air about these people. Most people in high positions were stoic and boring, with no sense of humor and a bad habit of scheming. But these people were all friends. She was glad that Landon would be taught by them, though she was unsure of Eban. She wasn't going to draw any conclusions yet. She didn't know what that smile hid. People were full of surprises, and who knows? Maybe he was really some kind of secret genius? For some reason, she seriously doubted it. 

            "So, avalanche, huh?" Eban mused. "Impressive."

            "There is nothing impressive about nearly getting killed," Landon replied skeptically.

            Eban continued to smile. "Of course there is! Key word: Nearly. What doesn't kill you makes you better than everyone else, right?"

            "I don't think that's how it goes...." Leanne said, raising her eyebrow at him.

            "Oh, give over, Leanne!" Eban said loudly. "Can't I have a little conversation without you criticizing me?"

            "I only criticize when it is needed."

            "You two squabble like children!" Mary interrupted. "You'll give Landon a headache."

            Landon shifted uncomfortably, trying to hide a smile. "No, I don't mind."

            "Do you think you are strong enough to undergo Healing?" Mary asked. "Be honest, mind you." Landon grimaced, but told her he was ready. "Good. Leanne, go fetch Druik. Eban, go find something to eat."

            "If you insist," he said, bowing almost mockingly. Leanne nodded and they were both gone. She was thankful she had sent him away. This was going to be painful for Landon and she didn't want Eban there. It was a man rivalry thing. They never showed weakness to other male strangers.

            Leanne soon returned with the man she recognized as the Head Healer. Druik was a tall, sturdy man with short hair that looked dirty blonde at one moment and light brown the next. He was a good, honest man. She always felt safe when he was around. He reminded her a little bit of her father.

            He inspected Landon thoroughly before asking if him if he was ready. Landon gave him his consent. He ordered Chelsea and Leanne to each hold down an arm, just in case. She did so reluctantly, holding his wounded arm gingerly, feeling more nervous than Landon looked. Knowing him, he was not looking forward to it, but didn't want to worry her. He was getting better at hiding his emotions. He couldn't fool her, though.

            Druik placed his hands on his head and Landon closed his eyes. She could tell when he had started. Landon's grip on her hand tightened and his jaw clenched, his whole body tensing. Druik was able to heal all of him with just one surge of Healing. He didn't need to do them separately as Jeaine would have. He was obviously more experienced. It was done in a moment, and Landon relaxed visibly. Druik removed his hands and did one more inspection. "He needs to eat, then rest. Make sure he doesn't strain himself."

            "As if I could strain myself lying in a bed," Landon retorted.

            Druik raised an eyebrow. "I've seen it done, lad. I suggest we leave him to rest now."

            Chelsea moved to leave with Leanne, but Landon held onto her hand. "No. She stays."

            Druik frowned, but nodded. He turned to Mary. "You, however, need to eat breakfast with the rest of us. I'm sure Her Highness can look after him in your absence." Mary narrowed her eyes at the order, but gathered up her kitting tools to leave. "I'll have breakfast sent to you," he told Chelsea. She nodded her thanks and they left, Mary giving her a stern look as if to say, "Don't try anything while you're alone."   

            Landon picked up his tray and starting eating the chicken soup. "Tell me," he said between mouthfuls. He sure was hungry, "what's been going on while I was out?"

            "Not much. Everyone seems to be fitting in just fine." She went on to give him a brief recap of everything that had happened. Nothing exciting. "I'm glad you're awake now. When do you think you can start training?"

            He shrugged. "That depends on how I feel when I wake up. I'm exhausted from the Healing, so I wouldn't be a very good judge of that at the moment." A servant brought in her meal and they chatted for a little bit as they ate. She still sat next to him on the bed, resting her tray on his stomach. Her dress would be wrinkled, but she didn't care. Etiquette could wait.

            By the time they had finished eating, Landon looked worn-out. He set their trays on the nightstand.

            "You should sleep," she ordered, starting to slip off the bed to give him more room. He still held her hand, preventing her from leaving.

            "Chelsea," he said, a teasing gleam in his brown eyes. "I'm cold."

            She couldn't suppress a smile. "Of course you are, you dummy. You're sick."

            "And cold." He scooted over to make room for her. It was a large bed; there was plenty of room for both of them. Her smile widened, remembering the night he'd been shot by an arrow. He'd claimed to be cold in attempt to make her sleep next to him. And, of course, she had. He was so irresistible, and this was no exception.

            "What would they say if they saw us sleeping together?" she said as she crawled in next to him. She couldn't help but snuggle into him.

            "They can say whatever they want. I'm not ashamed to love you."

            "Hmmm," was all she could say. She could feel him next to her, the steady cadence of his breathing. She fell asleep smiling in his arms.     


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