The Fall of House Elias Draconis
There weren't always dragons in the valley.
But then, Nora wasn't always in the Valley either.
In fact, Nora was never supposed to be anywhere at all. She was supposed to have died at the tender age of sixteen--if strange books were anything to go by, and, in her experience, at least one was.
The House of Elias Draconis of Amerytus had always sounded more grand than it actually was. At the age of eight, Nora discovered the unfortunate truth about the family--the beautiful, roaring dragon that emblazoned the family crest was just that, a family crest. Prior to her discovery, she had dreamed of a land full of dragons and she was both knight and tamer of them. She rescued damsels, villagers, and even the King in her dreams and she wished, just once, to see a real dragon, but reality soon broke those silly fantasies when her father, sick and tired of her constant running off and her push to study knighthood like her brothers, plopped a large, thick history book in the eight-year-old's lap.
Seeing the dragon crest emblazoned on the book, she eagerly devoured it--only to discover the following:
This book account the history and lineage of House Elias Draconis. It should be noted that the founder of House Elias, Elias of Antimony, gained his noble title and crest in service to the Kingdom of Antimony, now known as Amerytus, as the King's right-hand. A renowned war hero and Keeper of the peace, but there is not, nor has there ever been, evidence of his title of Dragon Slayer. In fact, there seems to be no evidence whatsoever that dragons have ever existed and this tale has persisted and is survied purely through myth and exaggeration in order to build the glory of House Elias Draconis still further. This tale persists, but it will not be recounted here not remarked upon beyond this single passage...
True, Nora's fantasies weren't entirely stifled by a few sentences from a boring book, but it was enough for her to bite her tongue in the presence of her father. It was enough for her to stop complaining that she practice sword-fighting with her brothers rather than stay indoors and practice sewing and embroidery. It was enough for Nora to pretend she was a good little girl who didn't sneak out in the middle of the night to practice all the things her family frowned upon and was enough to push Nora into finding a different book one late evening on a cliffside.
It had been Nora's tenth birthday and her family had bought an exorbitant amount of dresses. Not that she didn't like dresses, but she was growing like a weed and the old trousers she stole when her brothers outgrew them were becoming fewer and fewer as they went off to become pages and squires like true knights. Nora simply wasn't interested in balls and sewing and idles gossip, but these dr4esses told her that it was expected of her, and that it was all she would ever be allowed to do. So, in her distress, she snuck out of her room, like anything evening, but instead of hunting small game in the area or practicing her sword technique, Nora just walked.
She found herself meandering, not really paying attention to anything in particular when her foot slipped. Nora barreled over the cliffside, headfirst, and watched as the rocky cliff-bottom careened toward her and imminent death, except that Nora didn't hit the bottom of the cliff. Instead, she toppled over and ended up smacking her head on the cliff-face then sliding down to a ledge barely big enough to hold her standing up and hit her face on a large, well-placed, rather jagged boulder. Then her vision went black and she collapsed.
Nora woke to strange dreams. In some, she behaved as a lady, like her family expected her to, sometimes she died because of her recklessness, but most of the time, Nora was hunted down by soldiers. Most of the time, Nora watched her brothers fight valiantly to protect her, only to fall prey to a sword too swift for them. Most of the time, Nora survived her family only long enough to know that they were safely dead and would not see her die shortly after them. The reason wasn't always the same: sometimes, she refused engagement to the Crown Prince, sometimes, her father was found guilty of treason, sometimes her brothers had offended some great family, and sometimes, she never knew the reason at all--but one things was for sure, House Elias Draconis always fells and it was always bloody.
"NO--I found her! Over here!"
"You found her!? Oh, thank the gods!"
"Is she okay? Nora!? Nora are you--oh gods! Is that her blood!?"
Good god! Get her up! Quickly!"
"Oh gods, Nora!"
"No, no, not Nora!"
"Nora, please! No!"
Nora blinked open her bleary eyes. Red. Why was everything so red? Gods, her head hurt. She felt her fingers twitch as she tried to peer up at the voices above her.
"Oh, thank the gods!"
"Nora, don't move!"
As her eyes slowly adjusted to the sunlight, Nora slowly sat up. The red, she realized, was a mixture of things: the rising sun, the blood dried on her face and in a pool around her, even the rocks around her seemed to have their own red tint. Especially the bright red rock just above her head. That was a strange color red. Like the candy apples Maude, the Cook, made every harvest celebration for the children. Her brothers kept calling to her, but there was a ringing in her ears and the more she looked at that strange swath of red, the louder the ringing became. What was more, her dreams kept circling in her mind.
The more she stared, the more the memory-like dreams spun in her head and the louder the ringing became. Louder and louder. She couldn't even hear her brothers anymore. Her head was going to explode. She could feel it--the pressure, the ringing, the spinning. She reached toward the red spot, her vision becoming more narrow, and her hand reached out just above the strange rock.
Then everything was quiet. Too quiet. As if everything around her had ceased to exist. There was no wind, not sounds of the woods above, her brothers shouting, nothing. Not even the sound of her own breathing.
She grabbed the rock, which, to her surprise, was no rock at all, and the world came rushing back. Her head felt better, still dizzy, but the ringing had gone. Her brothers were shouting above her, reassuring her that they would get her, telling her not to move. Nora just nodded slightly, turning the book in her hand. Something was strange. Very, very strange.
She ran her fingers over the golden, engraved title, Love from Beyond the Valley. She turned it over and over in her hands, but no matter what she did, it simply seemed like an ordinary book. She opened it.
It gave the soft crack of a new book, despite that it was clearly old, weathered, and dusty from the cliff. The first page seemed to glimmer in a strange way. As if the ink had just been freshly applied, but at a touch of Nora's fingers she found it dry. It read:
This book tells the story of a love that changed the world. The gallant, noble Sir Wellyn always finds his beautiful, righteous maiden, Lady Selwyn. No matter how it begins, it always ends the same. Yet what should happen if just one small thing of no significance survived when it ought not? At what cost does Sir Wellyn bring the Valley to war and at what cost is Lady Selwyn made Queen? How many countless lives might be saved just by saving the life of one insignificant character? What brave, new world might come about? Or perhaps moves are lost? Some fresh, new Hell simply because Lady Selwyn never met Sir Wellyn.
These musings, though, don't seem to matter. How many lives has this world lived? How many different ways do the ends always justify the means? What if destiny was thrown away? What if, for example, little Nora Elias Draconis never died? What if she was given a guide to warn her of the dangers surrounding House Elias Draconis? What if little Nora, that spunky young character who is almost always the last to die by Sir Wellyn's sword, was never there? What if she was not there not because she had died young, but because she fled, gave up her name, and never met Sir Wellyn at all?
Would destiny still find dear Nora? Would House Elias Draconis ever fall? Perhaps, I am -playing with the lives of innocents, but perhaps I'm also giving them a chance. So, I've placed this book in a place difficult to find. Indeed, it would be a miracle just for little Nora to find it, but if, by chance, she does:
Hello, Little Nora. I have great hopes for you. Be strong. Be brave. And never, ever forget: Love from Beyond the Valley always, always begins with the fall of House Elias Draconis.
Nora swallowed a strange lump in her throat. What strange joke was this? "Little Nora"? Was this writer mocking her? What did some romance have to do with the fall of her house or her at all anyway? She made a motion to toss the book down the cliffside, but found her hand held fast. She couldn't do it. Her curiosity had gotten the better of her and she knew with a strange, decisive horror that she was going to read this book cover to cover.
She heard a crunch of rock and dirt at her side and looked up top see her brother, Cornwall, scaling the side of the cliff to her ledge, a rope fast around his waist. He dropped to the ledge and rushed over to his sister.
"Nora! Gods, there's so much blood! Are you all right? Don't move, okay!"
Nora's vision swam as memories of Cornwall flooded her head, but it was strange because she knew none of them were part of her current reality, and yet they had happened all the same.
Cornwall screaming over her broken body as she coughed up blood, too broken to move and knowing she was going to die from the arrow sprouting from her stomach...
Cornwall sweating and bleeding from dozens of tiny cuts, fighting some unknown man in front of her...
Cornwall shouting at her to run, run as fast as she could...
The memories flooded and she felt tears spilling onto her dirty cheeks. Somehow, she knew all of these memories were real.
"Nora!? Why are you crying? Are you okay? Does it hurt!?"
Nora just smiled. "Thank you for coming down to get me, Cornwall. You're such a kind big brother."
Cornwall shooed her comments away as he surveyed the ground. "You're our baby sister. Our only sister. We thought you were dead, Nora. Gods, with all this blood, you should be dead. Here, hold tightly onto me, as much as you can, okay?"
Nora nodded as her brother hoisted her up. She tucked the book inside her dress and clung to Cornwall's neck as their brothers pulled them up, Cornwall bracing his feet against the cliffside as much as he could. When they reached the top, their seven other brothers crowded around, reaching out to touch Nora's cheeks, her hair, comforting her in any way they could.
"Give her are! You can all come see her later on in her room. I'm sure she's got a concussion or broken bones. It looks even worse down there than it does from up here. It's like a massacre down there." Cornwall held Nora tighter to his chest as he hoisted himself up onto a horse. "I'm sorry if it's a bit bumpy, Nora. We don't have a carriage with us."
"It's all right, Cornwall. I'm...I'm oddly okay." Nora was surprised at the truth of her words. She knew that such a fall should have broken all her bones, or at least one bone, yet she found she could wiggle every appendage just fine and there was little to no pain anywhere.
"You're such a mother hen, Cornwall." Nora peered over her eldest brother's shoulder as they began a slow, even trot down the pathway. Jamis, brooding as ever spoke harshly from behind them, but Nora noticed the hint of fear and agitation in his eyes.
"I'm all right, Jamis. really. I promise."
Jamis merely harrumphed and shook his head, long dark hair spilling over his face as he sped up to pass them.
"You're not, you know." Nora looked to her left to see Marrin studying her with cautious wariness. "You've been missing for three days, Nora. And to find you like that...gods, we thought...we thought you..." Marrin seemed to choke on whatever words he had left and simply clamped his jaw tight when his eyes started to brim with a glassy shimmer.
"Three days?" Nora looked at her brother in horror. Surely, he was joking.
Cornwall squeezed her tighter.
"Three days. Mum's been beside herself, you know. And Dad...well, he's been quiet. More than usual. I think he blames himself." Farrowmere seemed contemplative, Nora noted, but he also seemed to refuse to look her way.
"I see," Nora commented. She didn't want to think about this right now. Strangely, she found herself suddenly tired and nuzzled into Cornwall's shoulder, closing her eyes. Before she knew it, the gentle trot of the horse had lulled her to sleep.
Nora woke to a warm fire and her mother by her side. She smiled softly as her mother nodded off in the chair beside the bed and reached out, lightly touching the back of her hand.
Her mother's eyes flew open and instantly became bright and starry. "Nora! Oh, Nora, you're awake! Edmond! Edmond, quickly! It's Nora! She's awake!"
The door burst open and Nora had to still herself at the sight of her father, no cold and stony as she knew him to be, but letting tears fall unabashedly down his cheeks. "Nora? Gods, Nora! I thought you..."
"Shh, Edmond. Now is not the time. She just woke up."
"How long did I sleep, Mummy? I didn't mean to..."
"Oh no, Nora! Don't apologize. We're just so glad you're finally awake. When your brothers described how they found you...we..."Nora's mother shook her head. "It doesn't matter what we thought. You're here now."
Nora chewed her lip. "Mum, how long was I asleep for?"
Here mother cast her eyes down. "Two weeks."
Nora's head reeled. Two whole weeks? How was she even alive? "Two...two weeks. You can't mean that. How is that even possible," she asked, a shrill edge to her voice.
Nora's mother simply mashed her lips into a thin line, fighting back her own tears. "I don't know, my love. But I do know that you're here and thank the gods you are. I'll go rouse the Cook to make you something light to eat. You must be starving." Her mother cupped her chin and smiled a weak, proud smile. "All eight of your brothers are home. They've been given special leave by their masters and the King."
"They practically tore down the entire forest looking for you," her father added brusquely.
"I'll tell them you're awake," Nora's mother gave her a final, soft smile, squeezing her chin before she left the room.
Nora bit her lip. She was alone with her father. It was never good to be alone with her father.
"Nora!" Her father rushed forward and gave her a fierce hug.
Nora jumped slightly at her father's sudden show of affection. This was not her usual father.
"I should have let you train with brothers. I..."
"It's all right father. I know I was careless. I just...I don't want to be a lady. And I disobeyed you because I thought I knew better."
"Nonsense. You're ten years old. Of course you disobeyed me. I'm just so happy you're okay, Nora." her father hugged her a bit tighter. "Rest now. Once you're recovered fully, I'll speak to the sword master about training you."
Nora felt her hear swell. "Really!?"
"Really," her father squeezed her shoulder, his eyes softening. "What kind of monster would I be to deny you training now when you've fought so hard for it?"
Nora felt tears of joy prickle the corners of her eyes. Finally, she thought.
Her father left and Nora found herself thinking of the strange book she had found. She turned about and saw it resting on the night stand, glimmering oddly, as if candle light flickered inside its very letters, calling to her.
She grabbed the book and opened it to the first chapter:
The Fall of House Elias Draconis
Sir Rathon Wellyn was a man of virtue, honesty, and chivalry. He esteemed knighthood and honor for the glory of the Kingdom above all else, so, naturally, when it became his turn to mentor a young squire, he took the opportunity with delight. He was to take young Marrin Elias Draconis, a promising young page with skills to match anyone his age, let alone the skills of his many, fine brothers, knights-in-training all themselves.
However, Sir Wellyn was denied his squire at the spring ceremony. Marrin, it seemed, had left his post as a page for the last three weeks for a family emergency. In fact, there was not a single Elias Draconis to be found near court at all, which was a miraculous thing because for the past eight years, they had seemed to be gaining nothing but more Elias Draconis' with each passing season. But it was well known that every brother, whether he admitted it aloud or not, doted on their sister, Nora, and when the news that she had fallen from a cliff and lapsed into a coma came about, no one could really deny the brothers some time to care for their sister.
The problem was that Nora Elias Draconis had turned out perfectly fine. She had taken a nasty fall, it seemed, and had slept for two weeks, yet the news arrived that she was alive and well and thriving. So her brothers, including Marrin, had no reason not to return to their post. And yet, come back they did not.
As the on months began to pass, the court grew anxious, the King angry, and Sir Wellyn irritated. How could an entire family simply disregard their duty this way over one small sibling? It was ridiculous. The family had been revered prior to this incident because they seemed so dedicated. Families were required to offer only one son in service to the king through knighthood and yet House Elias Draconis has offered nearly all of them, save the youngest who not yet old enough to be a page. This, however, was unacceptable.
The eldest brother was mere weeks away from his knighthood; he simply needed to attend court and swear fealty, yet none came. Sir Wellyn himself sent many letters to his squire-to-be, but received no answer. As the months passed by, whispers began to circulate that perhaps House Elias Draconis wasn't really concerned for their daughter at all, but that they were plotting something more nefarious, more treacherous. When six months had passed without a single Elias Draconis at court, Sir Wellyn sought the audience of the King himself. This was a matter that needed settling--
The door to Nora's room burst open and Nora nearly jumped out of her own skin. Marrin stood before her, beaming. "You're finally awake! Thank god! I'm never leaving you alone again."
The blood in Nora's veins ran cold. He couldn't have really meant it, but why did she fear that her brother truly meant he would never leave her? "What do you mean, Marrin? Aren't you going to be a squire? Wasn't it decided months ago?"
Marrin scoffed. "How could I leave to be a knight when you're clearly in recovery? You don't know what it did to us, Nora. We're just no good without you."
"That's ridiculous, Marrin. I'm only your sister. Aren't you going to be married some day? And what about your knighthood? Didn't you dream of doing valiant deeds for the kingdom?"
Marrin grimaced. "That all seems rather arbitrary now. You're my only sister, Nora. You nearly died. Gods, we all thought you really were going to die when you didn't wake up!"
Nora could feel small prickles of fear within herself. Something about this wasn't right. It didn't make sense. "And what if I did die, Marrin? What would you have done then?"
"You didn't, so it doesn't matter."
"Marrin, please tell me you're not going to slight your master. You can't do that."
"What do you mean? Sir Wellyn will understand perfectly fine."
Nora felt a limp form in her throat. "Sir...Sir Wellyn is to be your master?"
"Yeah, he was. I was going to be his first squire, but, well, there are always knights to be had."
"Marrin, tell me, are...are all of our brothers here? Surely, at least Cornwall went to swear his fealty before the King as full knight?"
"He will, in time. But right now, Nora, you're all that matters. The kingdom will be fine for a few weeks without House Elias Draconis."
Nora could feel her panic rising. The book was not right. It had only been a few weeks. It would be okay. "The King won't see it that way though, Marrin. He'll think we're up to something! You and our brothers must return to court! Right away!"
Marrin rolled his eyes. "You're overreacting, Nora. It will be okay, I promise." Marrin gave her a soft smile and tucked her hair behind her ear.
Nora, however, could not quell the fear within her. And the fear only grew when she went to bed that night and woke up three months later.
About the Creator
I'm a poet and a fiction writer. I can write quite decent essays, but I'd rather tell stories of the heart and speak with my whole soul.
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