Gathered, on a worn out wooden bed, a young women lifts shining eyes to watch a two girls huddle together under a patched-up quilt. The twin girls watch her as she spoke in her soft golden voice. “Let me tell you a story. In a land far away, there lived two neighboring kingdoms, deep in the realm of fire breathers. The kings of these two kingdoms were old friends and they were handed their crowns and the burden of shouldering the responsibility of leading the kingdoms side by side. The king of the wealthier kingdom was named King Valian T. Storm by his warrior father who wanted his son to rule with an iron fist. This cruel man led his kingdom into war after war with his frozen waste of a heart until a young woman showed him warmth and they got married and lived…”
“They lived happily ever after, right mommy” one of the girls asks, curling up next to her under the blanket. “My dear child there is always more to good story than a happily ever after.” “The king and queen lived happily until one day the queen had a dream that her fathers’ kingdom was going to fall to ruin and burn to ashes. The next morning she awoke to find out that her family and her kingdom had burned to flames and that she was now the young queen of a perished realm. After a few years the queen forgot about her dream until, one lone night, on her walk back to her room she had another vision. She prophesied that her husbands’ kingdom would fall to the same fate as her city did. She also saw that their only salvation or destruction would be their heir, who would take up the crown. The next day the kingdom wept with joy for the queen was declared pregnant.
A month later Queen Veroni was experiencing relentless headaches that none of the wisest healers and herbalists in the entire kingdom could cure. Unable to stand them anymore she tells her husband that she will travel to King Horgan’s kingdom in hope to request aid from Horgans’ highly experienced doctors. She arranged for a procession to take her through the forest that separates the two kingdoms.
She traveled in the royal carriage through the deep forest guided only by a small dirt trodden path. As they reached the halfway point her headaches suddenly spiked up and she was blinded by pain. Requesting they stop she gets out and suddenly finds herself walking deeper into the woods. The tangled vines and branches ensnare her and seem to be pulling her back and fro in the direction of something. It is then that she finds herself standing in front of a little cottage peeking out from amid the darkness of the forest. Stumbling up the pathway she knocks on the door, and after a moment the hinges creak as the door opens. A stout cloaked figure opens the door and, upon seeing Veroni, ushers her inside. “My word dear you look utterly famished. Why don’t I fetch you something real nice and warm” the person croaks. Veroni is handed a steaming cup which she drinks to the last drop. After drinking the tea Veroni finds her headache to have ceased but then she yawns and is overcome with tiredness. “Here dear please take this, as a token to remember me by” the old woman says holding out an amulet topped with a polished oval stone the color of the night sky. “Thank you ma’am for your kindness, however I feel a bit sleepy…”
When Veroni awakes, she finds herself in a room in Horgan’s palace on the other side of the woods with a beautiful amulet resting smugly on her collarbone as if its maker made it specifically for her. Eight months later King Valian worries over his wife’s health. Veroni has been getting paler and wearier as the months progressed. In his heart Valian feels as though there is nothing that he can do t help the woman he loves.
A few weeks before Veroni and Valian’s baby was due, the queen walked into the gardens and found herself standing among the bristly black roses that inhabit the more wild part of the gardens. When she was going to head back inside she accidentally scratched her finger on a thorn and as her blood started gushing out of the wound, Veroni felt her heart clench as beads of blood trickled down her hand and fell to the hard worn dirt, black, the color of dragons blood. The young queen clutched a hand over her heart and mouth and fell to her knees surrounded by midnight roses, her raven hair obscuring her face.
It all happened one fateful night, when Valian awoke to find that Veroni had vanished from her bed with the balcony doors of her room shattered into shards on the floor. The warning bell was rung as the ruthless knights of the Indigo Brigade marched through the forests, lights flickering through the leaves, and showed up on King Horgan’s doorstep with a plea for help from an old friend. The lands were soon covered in masses of indigo and scarlet as they scoured the lands for the Queen to the Dragon Hunting throne. For this is what the original king of the crown declared, that his people will never trust the likes of the fire breathers, mainly the dragon species that have been forever terrorizing their lands. However, some people of the kingdom have been trying to make peace with the dragons which caused the kingdom to split up leaving the revenge hungry half to Valian’s father and the rest with Horgan’s father. Horgan’s father originally ran the kingdom across the woods before leaving it to his eldest heir and running a bigger kingdom with a new wife. Veroni was the princess of the new kingdom of dragon peacemakers which made her Horgan’s step-sister, which was also how she and Valian originally knew each other. Valian was the only son of a dragon murdering father and Veroni as the beautiful younger sister of Horgan, Vailan’s best friend, thus was why that, when Veroni went missing, Valian set off first and foremost to Horgan’s castle. Together both young and inexperienced kings stood side by side amid the blazing chaos united toward this one goal, to bring Veroni back, safe and unharmed.
Meanwhile in the darkest reaches of the woods a young queen stumbled through the dark until she reached a clearing surrounded by trees. A shudder runs through the queen’s body and she trips and crashes to the stone hard ground. Raising her head she finds herself curled at the bottom of the stone steps leading to a shrine. Crawling to her knees Veroni scrapes her way up the steps and collapses at the edge of a pristine moonlight glade blooming with stargazer lilies and gravestones. Almost crying with relief the queen crawled toward a set of polished gravestones that stood alone in the center of the graveyard. Tugging her jeweled hair clip from her hair and letting her hair roll out onto her shoulders Veroni reaches to gently remove her necklace and pulls off a broken silver chain.
She gazes at in confusion as to what this means and she tugs down the bodice of her pale white nightgown to reveal the dark pendant resting on her collarbone. However as she goes to reach it and gives it a hard yank she gasps as she almost rips off her skin along with the pendant. Panting Veroni examines the pendant and realizes with a sinking horror that the midnight black stone has now sunk into her skin. Veroni knows that it is pointless to try and cut it free for it has already sunk in too deep. Vomiting Veroni clutches her body as dry sobs rack through her and then she hears the thunder of distant footsteps. What is happening to me, she thinks as her body spasms and a tearing pain rips through her. Her blood sings and her limbs ache as they stretch and pull while elongating and hardening. Her skin shreds as the sensation of searing needle-like pinpricks cover her entire body. The queen raises her head and her massive wings rip open. A roar resonates through the night air, frantic and pained.
Valian and his men rush to the gravestones only to find it abandoned. He directs his men to search elsewhere as he strides toward the gravestones of his mother and father in law. Bowing his head in respect he pleads with the heavens for a clue as to where his dear Veroni is. A stray beam of moonlight seems to break through the clouds and as Valian turns to leave a glint of something shiny catches his eye. Bending down he picks up a silver toothed comb adorned with lilies and he could almost hear Veroni’s voice saying, “look at how nice it is. Look.” So Valian looked. He raised his head and found himself staring right into the eyes of a lean and powerful creature with mauve and wine tinted scales. They held eye contact for a moment before the sounds of crashing footsteps echoed through the silence.
She leaped and ran bashing into trees until she finally found a small cave nestled into the mountain side. There she spent many days shifting, never stable enough to go out and get food unless she was in her monstrous form. One day she felt a sudden pain and lay for hours her body racking with pain until, as dawn’s rays shone down on her hunched human figure, she cradled a young pale baby in her loving arms and fell in love all over again. As she held his petite form a lone tear flowed down her cheek and the forest outside shone, like a kaleidoscope of colors that blanketed them from the rest of the world.
Months later King Horgan, having attended his step sister’s funeral a few weeks before, was not feeling much hope. Though he knew Valian never mentioned it, he combed through the lands hoping to bring her back, every day since she was gone. The funeral seemed to take the last of that determination and crush it to nothing. Now he ruled more like his father than the strong capable man that his sister adored, Horgan thought dejectedly, knowing he was unable to be a confident for his old friend anymore. A dazed looking maid strode into the throne room just then; her face had a look of wonder and horror. “Dear Madelia, you look like you have looked too closely into a wyverns’ den” Horgan boomed, good heartedly, never once faltering in his role. “A dragon’s eyes are more like it” the old maid mummers and then she leads the king outside to a back gate.
A young cloaked woman stands there in the courtyard, clutching a basket to her chest as if the chickens pecking at her bare feet would snatch it away. When Horgan pushes through the door she pivots towards him and gives a dip of her head, which indicates similarity in status. He frowns but then is frozen with shock when she lowers her hood to reveal a beautiful pale face with deep onyx eyes and smooth raven hair. Horgan opens his mouth but only stutters come out as his sister, thought to be dead, smiles at him. “My dear brother, have you lost faith in me that easily” she murmurs softly as if speaking the language of the wind.
She then runs forward and hugs Horgan, tight, a sister comforting her brother. “I would ask for your forgiveness, but now is not the time. I have come here, my brother, to ask you for assistance with the situation I am in” Veroni says her voice unwavering even as her hands begun to tremble and she pulls off the cloth covering the basket that she has been carrying. Bewildered Horgan leans forward and peers down at the small human baby bundled in many blankets who had the tiny fading claws and light scales of a dragon. “This is Vailan’s baby and if he will accept him, then he is the heir to the Crown of Dragon Blood and the Crown of Dragon Unity. His name is Drago Storm and he is the child of prophesy.” Veroni then proceeded to telling the astonished old maid and her shocked looking step brother about the truth of what happened. The old maid agreed to help raise the boy in secret, after dousing herself in holy water and mumbling prayers to all the Divine Beings. Horgan, shocked as he was, loved his sister and agreed to shelter her here. For the next few months Veroni lived disguised as a maid and that was where, hidden in the servant’s halls of the castle, that the new heir grew up. It was quite a simple life but one that Veroni treasured, to be able to walk among her people again. The wise healers of the Unity kingdom created a tonic that Veroni took in secret which helped reduce her transformations. As she raised her son and spent time among her kinfolk she wondered how she would ever be able to tell Valian the truth of what had happened.
Around Summer solstice, a year since the queen had vanished, Veroni went with her son and Horgan to a feast that Valian was throwing. Veroni had spent her time back in Horgan’s kingdom learning from the healers how to create a similar tonic like the one she was taking, to give to her son. It concealed his features making him appear as though he was a normal human boy. The feast went well without any disturbances to Horgan’s plan, which was to go there and leave without drawing attention to Veroni, until Veroni walked into a private garden where exactly three hundred sixty-four blooming lilies were planted. As she realized what this signified Valian, pale and eyes lined with grief, strode into the garden, a stargazer lily in hand, to mark the three hundred sixty-fifth day that his true love has been gone. Raising his head Valian watches as the cloaked woman lowers her hood and reveals a beautiful and familiar face. He stops mid-stride. She starts sobbing, apologies tumbling off her rose tinted lips. He walks towards her, the stargazer lily slipping from his fingers, and holds her securely to him. Tears glisten as they stream down both of their faces, their eyes locked and never looking away. “Valian, my love, there is much I need to explain, I…” starts Veroni but Valian shakes his head before kissing her softly amid the dancing lilies in fear that if he lets go she may leave him again.
They walk hand in hand through the ornate halls as Veroni finally explains what happened on that night a year ago, when she went missing. Understanding and sorrow rushes through Valian and he gazes at this strong women who survived on her own through the obstacles that presented themselves to her. “There is just one more thing…” Veroni starts to say before Valian pushes open the grand doors and the entire kingdom, which was in the courtyard, gasps and then cheers. Smiling like the queen she is Veroni waves to the crowd before gently drawing him aside to where Horgan stands to the side. Horgan approaches with a bundle in his hands while kneeling and says in his projecting voice. “The King of the Dragon Wars Valian I present to thee, if titles are acknowledged, Prince Drago Storm, heir to the Dragon Blood Crown and the unity bond between the two split kingdoms of the Dragon realm. He is the child of prophesy who will save our lands and unite the division between us.” Confused murmurs arise from the crowd as Valian looks into the eyes of his son, who, until just moments ago, he did not know he had. Silence echoes through the courtyard as the King lowers a finger gently grazing the child’s cheek and then the baby stirs and clings onto his finger. “Now I can help you...” he mutters before picking up his son from Horgan and takes measured careful steps toward Veroni who stands alone her posture that of a queen’s except her eyes which are flowing with emotion. “ My long-lost queen your courage is unwavering and your heart is tender and true.” Turning to the kingdom’s people gathered, eyes on him, he speaks so that the entire realm could hear him. “My people, your queen has returned… and so has my son, the heir to the crown” the king declares joy radiating from him. Both kingdoms burst into cheers and the happiness that has blessed them as the royal family stand strong and proud with their new son who will make his own legacy.”
“What a nice story” one of the sleepy girls murmurs softly, her eyelids drooping. “Mommy do you think that they really are somewhere living happily ever after?’ the girls ask half-asleep. The young women smiles and gazes out the window, where a stargazer lily sways in the window sill, and to the stars beyond.
“So mommy is that really the end?” Drago asks curled up on his mother’s lap. “I’m not sure sweetie but I for one really want to know what happens to that adorable little boy” Veroni admits kissing his nose. Valian ruffles his hair, laughing and says, “Really because I for one thought that handsome king was pretty cool.” With that they laugh and their laughter catches on the breeze and rides away on the wind.