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There weren't always dragons in the valley, unless you counted the common misconception that occurred whenever Brek and Khial patroled together, high enough that they looked like a single winged reptile, rather than a Lizardman and an Avian warrior.
Owain chose to take it as a good omen. Dragons had not been seen around Noorinia for more than twenty years, shortly before the oasis-city fell to Mal, the Butcher of the Sands, and Owain had been driven into exile with a few scattered survivours of the massacre. The superstitious whispered that dragons were the first tidings of a great misfortune to come, and Noorinia, newly restored to it's original people, had seen quite enough of that for several lifetimes.
Owain would worry about that if or when the dragons returned. For now, he had no shortage of other problems.
The sun rose above Noorinia, as it had every morning in the months since the night the city had been turned on it’s head for the second time in a generation.
Part of Owain still marvelled at that; there had been so many times over the years that homecoming had seemed like nothing more than an impossible dream.
To finally be home, after an exile spanning closer to two decades than one... there were times that Owain woke from sleep, expecting to see the canvas walls of a tent. The weight in his arms usually brought him back to reality, but not always. There had been enough nights where he'd shared a bedroll with Gerin after a late-night planning session, or Anee, when Owain's little brother couldn't sleep or needed advice.
Or even with Quin, after a session of a very different kind.
Sera had acquiesced to sharing Owain’s bed, mostly for familiarity after a lifetime of sleeping as one of her half-sisters’ bedmate, and partly because desert nights were cold, and any body heat was better than none. For the sake of his own self-control, there were times Owain wished that she hadn’t. Sera was still angry with him for his minor deception, and how he had exposed her role as decoy. As a result, she had made it very clear that sleeping was all the action Owain’s bed would see.
Owain understood her ongoing embargo, and respected it, but it made the mornings that blurred between reality and remembered nights with Quin, or even nights when he dreamed of the more intimate moments between him and Sera before Noorinia’s re-conquest... awkward, to say the least.
The sun hit the charm that hung in the window, sending green light dancing through the room to fall across his once-lover's face. Sera stirred and pulled the blanket over her head, a now-familiar sign of her futile protest against waking up. Owain stifled his amusement and gently disentangled himself, rolling out of bed and searching for a clean tunic before checking himself and going to the clothes chest. Years of living out of a pack and irregular laundry did not go away swiftly.
Equally unfamiliar was the circlet and finery he now wore as Noorinia’s king. He’d been the Spare, or even the Spare's spare if Father's attempts to win custody of his second-born had been successful, before Noorinia fell to the Butcher of the Sands when Owain was a boy. Back then, fine clothes had been for special occasions and days when Owain wasn’t running wild with his friends after lessons concluded. Now, he rose every morning, dressed in plain clothes only long enough for morning drills - and even that had been a hard-won battle! - then bathed and changed into more elaborate robes.
Daily bathing was another thing he was still getting used to, rather than washing with sand and a damp cloth. Politics, at least, he was used to. People in the sagas rarely mentioned how much diplomacy and negotiation featured into the decidedly less-glamourous life of a Mercenary Captain, and it had only got worse when he became commander over multiple companies, and had to deal with their squabbling, too.
Sera had progressed to movement and quiet grumbling, and Owain hastily finished dressing and left. He would rather avoid another angry speech that would leave him in a bad mood for hours, and those seemed to be the only words Sera was willing to give him, these days. Maybe Mas or Meri would have some advice, for all that he felt like a teen again when he sought their advice.
Closing the door behind him, Owain missed seeing Sera bolt upright and fling off the covers, as if she were about to chase after him.
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Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!
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