Riffen left the breakfast table and walked down the hallway to his guest chambers. The whole time he leaned heavily on this metal cane. This body was sore and his muscles ached. It was like his entire body was tensing up. He felt tired and useless sitting in this place, but every time he tried to make himself useful, he just made things worse. He had run from his home to get Lillian and he messed that up. Then he got captured and almost died. Riffen had tried to go meet with Captain Springbloom and things got messed up again. Pria was obviously mad at him and Lillian wasn’t much happier.
He sat down on his bed and let the cane rest up against the wooden table next to the bed. Down at his feet, Shadow the Black Blink Dog sat there with his tongue hanging out.
“At least you don’t hate me, isn’t that right, boy?” Riffen scratched Shadow behind his ears.
Shadow barked, giving his seal of approval.
“Just wish there was something I could do to fix things,” Riffen said, mostly to himself. “Also wish my body wasn’t this sore.”
Riffen laid back and rested his head on his pillow. Shadow hopped up on the bed and snuggled next to him.
“You know if Pria finds out I’m letting you sleep in my bed, we’ll both never hear the end of it,” Riffen said as he placed a hand on Shadow’s head.
Shadow just walked in a circle a few times before curling up with Riffen.
“Good boy,” Riffen said, giving Shadow a few pats before he drifted off to sleep.
Riffen’s dreams were a muddled mess of memories he seemed to be relieving. He felt the cold of the wet stone beneath the city. He felt the burning pain where his eye was before it was cut out. He heard many echoing voices of both his kidnappers and his friends. Riffen could feel his heartbeat racing as his whole body tensed up. It was like an icy poison was running in his veins. Riffen wanted to fight or run, but his body betrayed him. He laid motionless as the darkness consumed him as he heard the voice of Krumb whisper in his ear.
“I’m coming for you.”
Riffen jolted up from his sleep, drenched in a cold sweat. He had no idea how long he had been asleep, but he heard some kind of commotion coming from the hallway. He stood up, still a bit shaky on his feet, and walked over to the door.
Shadow leaped off the bed and took his place by Riffen’s side.
“With everything going on with Riffen and the Soulon Army and Krumb, he has decided that he wants to meet with you,” Pria said.
So apparently Pria was back and she had come to grab the rest of his friends. Some meeting with the king. Riffen pressed his ear to the door.
“No more of this. We can have the conversation on our way over to the palace. For now, clean up as best as you can. Meet down stairs in five minutes,” Pria said.
“But..” Riffen heard Grace start to object.
“No excuses,” Pria rebutted.
Hearing everything that was going on, Riffen decided to open his door and look out to see what exactly was going on.
“What’s this about visiting with the King?” Riffen asked.
“Not you. You’re staying in bed,” Pria ordered.
“Wait, what? Why? I’m the Prince, shouldn’t I be there?” Riffen asked.
Truly Riffen knew that he looked worse for wear and did not feel like going to meet the King. But he was a Prince. Meeting with Kings is what he’s supposed to do. Plus maybe he could finally make some headway here. Maybe he could be helpful to Pria.
“If you faint or die in front of King Forgebringer, there will be some sort of international event. Plus I can handle so much. You, go back to bed,” Pria said.
“But..” Riffen began.
“Go now! No excuses,” Pria said as she gently nudged Riffen back into his room.
“I really think I…” Riffen started before Pria shut the door on him.
For a moment Riffen felt like making a bigger deal about wanting to go to the meeting. However he knew it was a fruitless effort. Pria would never let him go and her fear that he might faint in front of King Forgebringer was a valid one. Riffen didn’t really feel up to a journey to the center of the city. Pria was resourceful and quite a diplomat. She could handle it.
Riffen walked back over toward the bed, but at this point he doubted he’d be able to get a wink of rest. Instead he sat down at the well crafted, wooden desk and pulled out a small book. It was some sort of Dwarvish Poetry book which Riffen was sure was just put here to look nice. However the last couple of days he had actually started reading through it. Most of it was kind of dull, but a few really stuck with him.
“Maybe they sound better in Dwarvish,” Riffen said with a shrug.
Outside his door he heard some footsteps and then a knock at the door.
“Change your mind about bringing me to meet the King?” Riffen asked.
“Uh, it’s me,” Lillian said from the other side of the door.
“Oh, uh. It’s unlocked,” Riffen replied.
The door handle turned and then the door opened up a crack. Riffen saw a sliver of Lillian’s face.
“May I come in?” She asked.
“Yes, of course. Please come in,” Riffen said, giving a slight smile.
Lillian nodded and opened the door properly before taking a step inside.
“Pretty nice place you got here,” She said looking around.
Shadow instantly jumped off the bed and ran up to her, sniffing at her boots.
“Hey buddy,” Lillian said, kneeling down to pet Shadow. “Such a good guard dog.”
“Oh, yeah. He’s very protective,” Riffen said. “Something about being locked up in those catacombs together I guess.”
“Yeah,” Lillian’s smile faded from her face as she walked over and took a seat on the edge of Riffen’s bed.
“I’m surprised you didn’t go with the others to go meet the King,” Riffen said.
“That’s not really my scene. Once you’ve seen one King, you’ve seen them all,” Lillian said. “Plus Pria was so busy rounding up everyone else, she kind of forgot about me. Figured I’d just come here and see how you are doing.”
“I’m fine,” He said.
“Sure you are,” Lillian said. “You seem like you’ve seen a ghost. Pale. Clammy.”
“Haven’t really been sleeping that great if you have to know,” Riffen said.
LIllian gave a nod.
“Yeah I think that’s been going around,” She said. “Lots to think about.”
“Look, I’m sorry about what happened at the army camp,” Riffen said.
“Riffen, stop. I’m sorry,” Lillian said. “I’m sorry that I came and saw you and that the fight happened. I’m sorry that I made things worse.”
“What, no? Lillian. I’m the one who screwed things up. I’ve been doing it over and over again,” Riffen said. “Basically since I left home, I’ve been messing things up.”
Lillian was quiet for a moment and then she just shook her head.
“We both can’t be screw ups. That’s just not fair,” Lillian said.
“Well I’m not letting you take the fall for my mistakes,” Riffen said, only half-joking.
“I think we can both agree that things haven’t exactly gone as planned,” Lillian said. “It wasn’t that long ago we were both just hanging around the palace in Frost Haven living such different lives. I would say carefree but only your life was carefree. Mine was tough.”
“I’m sorry that I never realized how tough things were for you.”
“Alright. Alright. No one likes a pity party,” Lillian said. “Just. Riffen, you have to understand that not everything is your responsibility. You can only do so much. Did you need to chase me across the continent? No. But you did. Don’t regret it. Learn from it.”
“So what do we do from here? What are you going to do?” Riffen asked.
“I’m honestly not sure,” Lillian said. “I guess I could always make my escape. Try to run. See how long I’d last. But I fear that some dumb prince will come and track me down.”
Lillian gave Riffen a sly smile.
“Yeah that does sound like a pretty dumb prince,” Riffen said with a laugh. “And this time I would have Shadow so it would take half the time.”
“Of course,” Lillian nodded.
“You could come back with us to Frost Haven. I could talk to Father. Get your position restored,” Riffen said, switching back to a serious conversation.
“I think we both know it wouldn’t be that easy,” Lillian said. “It’s likely I could be tried for treason and dissertation. You saw how Fe treated me. She’s not the only one who thinks like that.”
“But I could make them see that’s wrong. I could fight for you,” Riffen said.
“I know that’s what you think is best, but it’s not, Riffen. I don’t want you fighting my battles. I’ve never needed you to fight my battles and I don’t want you to start now,” Lillian said. “I’m not going to go back to Frost Haven if all that awaits me is imprisonment or death. Even returning to the palace sounds like it’s own form of internment.”
“Well you can’t run. You can’t come home. What else is there to do?” Riffen asked.
“I’ve thought a bit about it and I might stay here,” Lillian said.
“Really? Like with Pria?” Riffen asked.
“Yeah. Here with Pria. Like security or whatever. Just long enough so you can return to Frost Haven, convince your father I’m not a traitor, and then my freedom will be granted to me,” Lillian said. “Once that’s over, then I don’t know.”
“Is that what you want?”
Lillian was quiet for a moment before she spoke.
“Right now it just seems like the best option,” She said with a sigh. “At least until I can think of a better plan. But you better hurry up and get my name cleared. I’ll go insane if I’m stuck inside this building for too long.”
“I’ll definitely try my hardest to speed up the process,” Riffen said with a laugh. “Hopefully that meeting with the King is going well. Then we can leave.”
“Yeah I’m so glad I’m not there,” Lillian said.
“What are the chances that Tak has smashed a chair?”
“Or that Sigthyme has made a fool of himself hitting on the Queen?”
They both began to laugh. Even though so much had changed, this moment here felt like old times. Two friends talking and laughing together. Nothing else mattered outside of this room. It was like a gentle peace before the storm.
Header Photo Credit to Moimq Lofter