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Before The Dragon - Chapter 19.2

by ShadowVyper


Warning: This work has been rated 18+ for language.

“Must have been intense,” the man said. “To get injured this severely and not even remember what it is that did the injuring.”

Jerica was silent.

The man smeared some salve across the wound. She cringed, looking down at her leg. The knee was severely swollen, nearly double the size it usually was. The man tied several bandages around it. It ached terribly and she doubted she’d be able to bend it if she tried, but the extra support made it feel stronger.

The man moved his stool to the head of the bed. Jerica looked up into his face, noticing more of his features. He was strong-jawed and had stubble growing on his face. There were wrinkles etched deep into his face. He looked like he was somewhere in his mid-forties. His eyes were focused on her shoulder, then moved towards her face. He looked at her for a long moment with an intense gaze. She swallowed hard and glanced away.

“And your shoulder?”

“I took an—” she trailed off, thinking better of it. Maybe if he wasn’t scared of her, then that meant he didn’t actually know who she was. And maybe if he didn’t realize she was an Ainsley, then she could pretend to be a lost, injured girl and play on his sympathies… if she figured out how to be likeable.

“Looks like an arrow wound,” he said. She glanced towards him again. He met her gaze again, lifting an eyebrow. “How’d you manage that?”

She took a deep breath. He clearly recognized the triangular pattern in the edges of the wound. She locked eyes with him, never looking away as she formulated her story. “I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Papa warned me not to go out in the street, but I thought it’d be safe enough. Turned out he was right. A fly-away arrow found its way to me.”

“I see…” He gestured at the cut on her upper arm. “And what happened here?”

“The arrow knocked me over, and I cut my shoulder on a metal crate as I fell,” she answered, never breaking eye contact.

“Wow, what a coincidence.”

Jerica hesitated, unsure whether he was buying her story or not. His tone was as devoid of emotion as her facial expressions were. Like two stone walls speaking to one another. Only her stone was crumbly and hurt. “Truly.”

“And here?” he asked, gesturing at her forearm.

Jerica looked down. She’d almost forgotten about her forearm. The scar was pink and puffy, but the stitches were in place and the skin was sealed. It was the least concerning part of her body just then. But she didn’t have a good explanation for that one.

“Mm?” he prompted.

“I heard a rumor that Physicians are able to take blood from one person to help another person that lost a lot of blood,” she answered, looking back to his eyes once again. Most people looked away when they lied. She was careful to meet his gaze. “My brother got injured so I cut my arm to try to help him.”

His eyebrows shot up in surprise. “And did it work?”

“Yeah, actually.” She’d been surprised when it worked, too.

“I’m sure he appreciates it,” the man said.

Jerica nodded slowly. With any luck, Rek still hadn’t figured out that she’d been the one who gave him blood. She didn’t want him to ever know what she’d done. And yet, he probably already knew, with how loose-tongued the servants were in the palace.

The man bandaged up her shoulder and upper arm, but left her forearm to air. He rifled through another bag then produced a canteen and a roll. He helped her sit up then handed her the food. She carefully took several sips of water, then ate the bread, sipping water between each bite. Her throat felt like it was raw flesh and the simple act of swallowing hurt, but she felt like life dumped into her with each bite she took.

The man took her right hand in his own and whistled again. “Your poor thumb.”

She looked down at her hand and cringed. Her poor thumb indeed. It looked nearly as bad as it felt. She gritted her teeth, forcing herself not to whimper as he put a bit of salve on the nailbed and ever so carefully wrapped it in a bandage. She cradled her hand in her lap as he pulled his own hands away.

“These are for you,” the man said, gesturing at the trousers and tunic laying on the foot of the bed. He walked to the end of the bed and opened the wooden chest, pulling out sleeping clothes and moving the day clothes to sit on top of the chest. He tossed the sleeping clothes down on the bed next to her. “These are also for you.”

She took them silently. The trousers went on well-enough, just a bit awkward without being able to bend her knee or pull them up with her left hand. The tunic was worse. The sleeves were too long and got knotted up. She couldn’t figure out how to move her left shoulder enough to get her arm in the sleeve.

“Here.” The man gently helped her.

The clothes were much too big for her. The sleeves of the shirt were longer than her fingers were long, and the legs of the night pants hung past her toes. The main part of the tunic was baggy around her thin waist. The night pants gaped at her waist, also too large. It still felt heavenly to be in clean, intact clothing.

“So…” the man said, leaning back on his stool. “Who are you, anyway?”

This was her chance. If he didn’t know who she was, maybe she could set herself up as the victim here. Earn his sympathies that the Nykerians had dragged her into the midst of these abandoned wood. Get him to help her get home. “My name is Eliana.”

“Is it?” He looked at her skeptically for a long moment. She nodded, swallowing hard. He crossed his arms. “Well, then, it’s nice to meet you. My name is Derik Ainsley.”

She frowned at him.

“What?” he asked. “I thought we were just making up random names for ourselves, if you’re going to call yourself Eliana, Princess.”

Fuck. She looked at him uneasily.

“Let’s try these questions again, shall we?” he said. “Maybe this time, without the lies?”

Jerica was silent as she looked at the man. He didn’t break gazes with her, even when she knit her eyebrows together into a scowl. Her heart fluttered. This was bad, if he knew who she actually was. But that was still a big ‘if’ at the moment. For all she knew he was bluffing in hopes that she’d show her hand. “I don’t know who you think I am—”

“I know exactly who you are,” he interrupted, switching to Traditional Atraian. “Jerica Ainsley, the child-Princess turned assassin turned General turned… prisoner of war, I’m guessing, since some Nykerians dropped you on my doorstep… turned captive of the Dragon of Nykeria.”

Her head felt light. Dragon. He certainly didn’t seem capable of the growling and earthquakes she’d experienced earlier. If he claimed to be the Dragon of Nykeria holding her captive, then he was clearly a shapeshifter. There was no other explanation. I wonder if he murders people while in his human form?

“I’ve got no qualms with you, Sir Dragon,” she said at last, switching back to the Trade Language. His comfort with her native tongue felt vaguely invasive. She didn’t like it.

“Sir Dragon, eh?” He laughed, running a hand through his mop of tangled hair, as he also switched back to the Trade Language. “You think I can change forms?” He was still grinning, but shook his head. “No, I am the Dragon Keeper. You’ll know it if you meet the dragon himself. I promise.”

She felt foolish. Her face flushed with embarrassment. “What do you want from me?”

“The truth,” he said, shrugging a shoulder. “For starters.”

“Why ask me all these questions if you already know the answer to them?” Jerica challenged. “You’re toying with me.”

“Not at all,” he said. “I simply knew you were going to lie, and I wanted to see what your tell is when you’re lying.”

“I don’t have a tell,” she snapped. Derik had seen to that. He always said that the greatest asset a warrior could have was complete mastery of themselves. She didn’t hesitate when she lied; didn’t look away; didn’t bite her lip or wring her hands. Falsehoods were as easy to spout as any truth.

Everyone has a tell.”

Jerica hesitated for a moment. It was absurd. She knew that she didn’t. It’d been a substantial part of her training when she first became King’s Assassin, learning how to lie without betraying herself in the process. Even Lord Biryn couldn’t tell her fibs from the truth at this point, and he was good at seeing through people. And yet. “What’s mine, then?”

The man smirked.

“Who are you?” she demanded, glowering at him.

“Ooh, we getting spicy,” he taunted. “I’ll tell you who I am, as soon as you tell me the truth to the questions I already asked.”

“You already know who I am,” Jerica spat.

“And what happened to your shoulder?” he asked, gesturing at the arrow wound without breaking eye contact.

“I took an arrow.”

“Obviously,” he answered. “But I doubt your Papa was telling you anything when it happened. An arrow wound taking seventeen years to heal seems a little farfetched even for you, don’t you think?”

Jerica flushed, finally breaking eye contact. She hated that her parents’ deaths were a matter of public spectacle. Most children were afforded privacy when they lost their parents. She was known as the orphan from the instant anyone met her. The freak that had survived the attack on the Royal Picnic. The accident.

“From the looks of your wound,” the man said. “You took it from the back. Why were you running from an enemy?”

“I wasn’t running,” she snarled, gaze snapping back towards his face. He lifted an eyebrow. “At least, not how you seem to think.”

“So, tell me how it was,” he said. “Set the record straight.”

Jerica thought for a moment, then shook her head. “No.”

“No?” he challenged.

“You’re not going to believe me, no matter what I say,” she answered. “And I’m not stupid enough to gloat about killing your compatriots, while you’re armed and I’m not.”

“I’m not Nykerian,” the man answered. “And I’m a neutral with this absurd war. I’d be just as happy if both Nykeria and Atraya lost this war, just as I wouldn’t mind if both of them won, or one won over the other. I’ve got better things to do than concern myself with petty politics. You’re much more interesting. Who’d you kill?” 


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Mon Feb 01, 2021 5:24 am
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Vil wrote a review...



Can't wait to read this! ^^

He knows she's lying. I can t--

Yep, he knows XD

I REALLY like this dude! XD I mean really! He's interesting, he's got some kind of irresistible charm-- I just love him. He's a bit chatty, which I also like, and he reminds me of Rhysand from "A Court of Thorns and Roses." I think he'll get a bit flirty, and even if it's super duper early, I ship it, and I don't even know his name XD

...does he at least LOOK young? Shadow has reminded me that this guy is older ;-; He needs to be tall, dark, handsome, and look young. Forget his age, age doesn't matter in fantasy, Elves and humans hook up all the time, it'll be fine.

It'll be fine, right? ;-;

I wanna know what her tel is, and I can't wait to see what happens in the next bit! c:




ShadowVyper says...


I REALLY like this dude! XD I mean really! He's interesting, he's got some kind of irresistible charm-- I just love him.


I'm really glad you like him! that makes me happy ^-^ He is my favorite character I've ever written. <33

I think he'll get a bit flirty, and even if it's super duper early, I ship it, and I don't even know his name XD


ewwwwww xD



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Sun Jan 31, 2021 1:37 pm
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IcyFlame wrote a review...



Happy Review Day Shady!

I'm going to try and catch up on all the bits you've posted today so I hope you're prepared for an influx of notifications. I'm ready to find out more about this mysterious stranger, so let's get going xD

“To get injured this severely and not even remember what it is that did the injuring.”

Ah, he wouldn't like it if he knew exactly how often she's been getting injured lately. I mean, maybe she just doesn't remember this one in amongst all the other injuries she's had?

The man moved his stool to the head of the bed.

Super nitpicky here, but you've started a few sentences with 'the man' in this small section already. Might be worth noting when you come to line edits.

And maybe if he didn’t realize she was an Ainsley, then she could pretend to be a lost, injured girl and play on his sympathies… if she figured out how to be likeable.

Haha I can't wait to see her try to be sweet and innocent.
I think though, this is where the chapter flow is a bit off and possibly where you were struggling? For me, I don't know that's it's already established enough that practically everyone knows who she is. I guess I thought the important people on war councils would know her but her being an assassin kind of conjures up the image that she is stealthy and secret... so other people wouldn't know who she is because that would make it way harder to do her job. Or is it just that they know she is a general? Because that wouldn't make her known to everyone... would it?
Sorry if that makes no sense, I'm kind of typing as I think, haha! Anyway, that's the part that maybe works less for me in this chapter. She seems to assume he will kill her or harm her because he knows who she is but I can't quite understand why she thinks that!

“Wow, what a coincidence.”

Utter deadpan. I love it.

“I heard a rumor that Physicians are able to take blood from one person to help another person that lost a lot of blood,” she answered, looking back to his eyes once again. Most people looked away when they lied. She was careful to meet his gaze. “My brother got injured so I cut my arm to try to help him.”

The best lies are often those that are closest to the truth.

She didn’t want him to ever know what she’d done.

But why? He would have done the same for her surely?

She took them silently.

The word you're looking for here is thanks.

“Well, then, it’s nice to meet you. My name is Derik Ainsley.”

WHAAAAAAAAT?!?!

“What?” he asked. “I thought we were just making up random names for ourselves, if you’re going to call yourself Eliana, Princess.”

Oh, I thought I was in for the biggest twist of my life there! I'm almost a little disappointed it isn't Derik and there's an imposter in the castle but oh well xD

Her head felt light. Dragon. He certainly didn’t seem capable of the growling and earthquakes she’d experienced earlier. If he claimed to be the Dragon of Nykeria holding her captive, then he was clearly a shapeshifter. There was no other explanation. I wonder if he murders people while in his human form

She's pretty chill about this... I think I would expect more panic!

“Sir Dragon, eh?” He laughed, running a hand through his mop of tangled hair, as he also switched back to the Trade Language. “You think I can change forms?” He was still grinning, but shook his head. “No, I am the Dragon Keeper. You’ll know it if you meet the dragon himself. I promise.”

Ah ok, that makes sense.

The accident.

She's the accident or the attack on the picnic was the accident?

“You’re not going to believe me, no matter what I say,” she answered. “And I’m not stupid enough to gloat about killing your compatriots, while you’re armed and I’m not.”

That, and it hardly matters at this point when she's about to be killed by a dragon now does it?

Ok this section was a little confusing, but I think that's partly on me and having a gap between 19.1 and this one! I'm going to move straight onto 19.3 now and give you my thoughts at the end of the chapter <3

Icy




ShadowVyper says...


Thank you SO much for all of your amazing reviews! Sorry I'm getting to responding a bit late -- focused on reviewing yesterday and then ran out of time xD But I did read each one and they made me so happy c:

Haha I can't wait to see her try to be sweet and innocent.
I think though, this is where the chapter flow is a bit off and possibly where you were struggling? For me, I don't know that's it's already established enough that practically everyone knows who she is. I guess I thought the important people on war councils would know her but her being an assassin kind of conjures up the image that she is stealthy and secret... so other people wouldn't know who she is because that would make it way harder to do her job. Or is it just that they know she is a general? Because that wouldn't make her known to everyone... would it?


That's fair! The more I've thought about this chapter and why I hated it xD Is that I think she was just super inconsistent in whether she thought he would know her or not. And, to explain a bit, basically everyone knows who she is -- but it's like medieval world so not everyone knows what she LOOKS like, if that makes sense?

Also, I don't know how to explain this in the story without being a huge info dump xD but "King's Assassin" was a title made up just for her, and is very, very public. Levin and Biryn are like "HAH look at my weapon! So scary! Be good or I'll sicc her on you!!"

So, like, she /does/ kill people and she does it very well but doesn't really make an attempt to be stealthy unless she's putting herself in danger for the kill (like with Valeren, etc.). A lot of what she does as "King's Assassin" is threatening the Lords of the country and occasionally killing them if they tick Levin off, but when she does that it's meant to make a statement so she comes in with part of the military and is more of an executioner than a proper assassin.

Does... that make sense? I also feel like I'm just rambling here so SORRY xD But like she just defaults to assuming everyone knows who she is, because Levin makes an active effort to publicize her and gloat about how he has her under his command.

Do you think it would work for her to be assuming he knows who she is, and then suddenly ask her who she is, and then her be like HEY THIS IS MY CHANCE and then try to lie and then at the end of it him call her on it? idk. gah this stupid chapter.

The word you're looking for here is thanks.


xD

Oh, I thought I was in for the biggest twist of my life there! I'm almost a little disappointed it isn't Derik and there's an imposter in the castle but oh well xD


ahaha! I never even considered that possibility xD I ship it ;)

She's the accident or the attack on the picnic was the accident?


She's the accident... I'll try to make that clearer lol

~ ~

Ahh thanks for the review!! Sorry for the book of a response xD



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SilverNight wrote a review...



I'm back! A bit later than planned, but hopefully that's okay. :P

Just to let you know, I'll review the last part of the chapter on Review Day (so tomorrow afternoon or Sunday in my time)! If there's more that comes out between now and then, I could possibly get to those too. Next month, I won't be doing Team Tortoise, but I'll still review this story! c:

“Must have been intense,” the man said. “To get injured this severely and not even remember what it is that did the injuring.”

Jerica was silent.

The man smeared some salve across the wound. She cringed, looking down at her leg. The knee was severely swollen, nearly double the size it usually was. The man tied several bandages around it. It ached terribly and she doubted she’d be able to bend it if she tried, but the extra support made it feel stronger.


Oh, man, that was so intense he has no idea... Ouch, that's a really swollen knee! But I'm very glad to see she's f i n a l l y getting treated, poor her ;-;

And your shoulder?”

“I took an—” she trailed off, thinking better of it. Maybe if he wasn’t scared of her, then that meant he didn’t actually know who she was. And maybe if he didn’t realize she was an Ainsley, then she could pretend to be a lost, injured girl and play on his sympathies… if she figured out how to be likable.

“Looks like an arrow wound,” he said. She glanced towards him again. He met her gaze again, lifting an eyebrow. “How’d you manage that?”

She took a deep breath. He clearly recognized the triangular pattern in the edges of the wound. She locked eyes with him, never looking away as she formulated her story. “I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Papa warned me not to go out in the street, but I thought it’d be safe enough. Turned out he was right. A fly-away arrow found its way to me.”

“I see…” He gestured at the cut on her upper arm. “And what happened here?”

“The arrow knocked me over, and I cut my shoulder on a metal crate as I fell,” she answered, never breaking eye contact.

“Wow, what a coincidence.”

Jerica hesitated, unsure whether he was buying her story or not. His tone was as devoid of emotion as her facial expressions were. Like two stone walls speaking to one another. Only her stone was crumbly and hurt. “Truly.”


Ack, seeing Jerica trying to fib and be likable (that's the spelling I'm used to) here... Well, he is so not buying it XD

But she's not a bad liar, so he's got to have some idea of who she is. Welp. The part where you write they're both like talking stone walls is really interesting!

“These are for you,” the man said, gesturing at the trousers and tunic laying on the foot of the bed. He walked to the end of the bed and opened the wooden chest, pulling out sleeping clothes and moving the day clothes to sit on top of the chest. He tossed the sleeping clothes down on the bed next to her. “These are also for you.”

She took them silently. The trousers went on well-enough, just a bit awkward without being able to bend her knee or pull them up with her left hand. The tunic was worse. The sleeves were too long and got knotted up. She couldn’t figure out how to move her left shoulder enough to get her arm in the sleeve.


He seems rather prepared for a visitor if he's got some extra clothes... I don't think a dash is needed between "well" and "enough", so that can probably be removed!

“So…” the man said, leaning back on his stool. “Who are you, anyway?”

This was her chance. If he didn’t know who she was, maybe she could set herself up as the victim here. Earn his sympathies that the Nykerians had dragged her into the midst of these abandoned wood. Get him to help her get home. “My name is Eliana.”

“Is it?” He looked at her skeptically for a long moment. She nodded, swallowing hard. He crossed his arms. “Well, then, it’s nice to meet you. My name is Derik Ainsley.”

She frowned at him.

“What?” he asked. “I thought we were just making up random names for ourselves, if you’re going to call yourself Eliana, Princess.”

Fuck. She looked at him uneasily.

“Let’s try these questions again, shall we?” he said. “Maybe this time, without the lies?”


Oof. Nope, that didn't work at all ;-;

“Why ask me all these questions if you already know the answer to them?” Jerica challenged. “You’re toying with me.”

“Not at all,” he said. “I simply knew you were going to lie, and I wanted to see what your tell is when you’re lying.”

“I don’t have a tell,” she snapped. Derik had seen to that. He always said that the greatest asset a warrior could have was complete mastery of themselves. She didn’t hesitate when she lied; didn’t look away; didn’t bite her lip or wring her hands. Falsehoods were as easy to spout as any truth.

Everyone has a tell.”

Jerica hesitated for a moment. It was absurd. She knew that she didn’t. It’d been a substantial part of her training when she first became King’s Assassin, learning how to lie without betraying herself in the process. Even Lord Biryn couldn’t tell her fibs from the truth at this point, and he was good at seeing through people. And yet. “What’s mine, then?”

The man smirked.


Ooooh, now I wonder what her tell is! We could be seeing it in action, or maybe it's not clear to us yet. :D

“You’re not going to believe me, no matter what I say,” she answered. “And I’m not stupid enough to gloat about killing your compatriots, while you’re armed and I’m not.”

“I’m not Nykerian,” the man answered. “And I’m a neutral with this absurd war. I’d be just as happy if both Nykeria and Atraya lost this war, just as I wouldn’t mind if both of them won, or one won over the other. I’ve got better things to do than concern myself with petty politics. You’re much more interesting. Who’d you kill?”


I love the mystery that we get, even when he's revealing a bit about himself! "Who'd you kill" is also a great way to end because it's so suspenseful without knowing what she'll answer yet. In "I'm a neutral with this absurd war", I think "in" would be better than "with", but overall this was really well-written!

I'll be back for the next bit soon enough! Great job ;) <3




ShadowVyper says...


If there's more that comes out between now and then, I could possibly get to those too.


Ooh, that's a good idea! Chapter 20 is only a single section so I'll probably upload that tonight before Review Day starts ^-^

Next month, I won't be doing Team Tortoise, but I'll still review this story! c:


No rush!! I've appreciated how SUPER speedy you've been and have been incredibly impressed but definitely don't expect that sort of stamina to last lol I def get that reviewing takes a lot of time and commitment and appreciate your reviews whenever you're able to get to them. And congrats on doing Tortoise!!! Not an easy thing to stick with!!

Thanks so much for the review!! I'm not going to respond to each individual part because I realized my responses were all going to be like "that's fair" or "true enough" so there's no point in repeating that xD But your critiques were fair ;) And I'll definitely go back through and edit. I'm so glad that the mystery is working well here and hope that the next part gives an adequate number (but not tooooo many ;)) of answers to some of the mystery lol



SilverNight says...


Ooh, that's a good idea! Chapter 20 is only a single section so I'll probably upload that tonight before Review Day starts ^-^


Awesome, I would love to do that! ;)

Thanks so much for the review!! I'm not going to respond to each individual part because I realized my responses were all going to be like "that's fair" or "true enough" so there's no point in repeating that xD But your critiques were fair ;) And I'll definitely go back through and edit. I'm so glad that the mystery is working well here and hope that the next part gives an adequate number (but not tooooo many ;)) of answers to some of the mystery lol


I%u2019m glad it helped! See you around for the next part :D




I exist as I am, that is enough
— Walt Whitman