Young Writers Society

Home » Literary works » Novel / Chapter » Action / Adventure

18+ Language

Before The Dragon - Chapter 41.2

by ShadowVyper


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

Jerica did feel betrayed. If all of this was true, then it was too much to process. And if it wasn’t, then it was sheer cruelty. But neither of them seemed eager to tell her, so she doubted they were lying. And if they were telling the truth now, then –

“My entire life is a lie.”

“It…” Derik cringed. “Was a necessary lie. To keep you away from the Council.”

“How…?” Jerica sighed and rubbed her face. “How do they not know who I am? Everyone knows who I am.”

“Everyone knows who Jerica Ainsley is,” Derik said gently, giving her a sympathetic look. “The Council is looking for Katima Medeiros.”

“Katima…” Jerica trailed off, putting the pieces together. “That’s my real name.”

“It’s your birth name, yes,” Derik agreed.

“Then… who is…?” Jerica pressed her palms against her eyes. It felt like she was a cat flailing on a sheet of ice. And every question she asked made the ice that much slipperier. “Where did… why do you call me Jerica?”

“We had to get you out of Lirtira,” Zander said gently. “We had to, Jer. In Lirtira, the Council controls the Ranger Corp, not the Royal Family. And the Council sent Rangers to execute you.”

More pieces fell into place.

Aerik’s story about how he came to be in Kyrkkyni.

Refusing to murder infant princesses.

Refusing to murder her.

“Aerik,” she gasped.

“They sent Aerik,” Zander confirmed, inclining his head. “And he told me. And then he helped me get you all to safety… well… relative safety. Away from Lirtira.”

“And you…” Jerica took a shaky breath, wishing this was easier to process. “Convinced Levin to let me stay in the Palace? Even though he hates me?”

Zander and Derik exchanged a look.

“What?”

“Levin… doesn’t know.” Derik wet his lips. “It was…”

“We had to…” Zander hesitated. “I’m not proud of what I had to do.”

Jerica narrowed her eyes. At this point, nothing felt off the table. “What did you do?”

“An As’veri attacked the Royal Picnic,” Derik said carefully. “Just before all this happened. Murdered most of the Ainsley family, as you know.”

“And…?”

“Including the youngest princess,” he said softly. “Jerica.”

Jerica felt sick. “I stole the identity of a dead baby?”

“When you put it that way…” Derik cringed. “But it was… necessary.”

“Why?” She felt her throat starting to constrict. “Why not just go on the run?”

“Because we needed a place to stash you, away from us. At least for a while,” Zander said. “Like I said, I’m not proud of it. But I was desperate. I needed some place to leave you where the Council wouldn’t find you… and the attack on the picnic had just happened… so there was a spot for an infant princess… and I had an infant princess I needed to protect.”

“But Derik was there?” Jerica was still so bewildered. “Didn’t they know?”

“They know Derik is in Atraya,” Zander said. “They don’t know you are. There was a several month gap between when I left you there and when Derik showed up.”

“Why?”

“So that they wouldn’t put two and two together,” Derik answered. “The Council was livid. So was Father. The Council isn’t allowed to touch members of the Royal Family, but they were getting cheeky and tried it anyway. Zander and Aerik both had to go on the run to avoid retaliation from The Council, despite Father’s efforts to control their vitriol.”

“Which I don’t mind,” Zander cut in. “Good riddance I say.”

Derik eyed Zander.

“I didn’t do anything wrong,” Zander said defensively, glaring at him. “The Council can get fucked. It was the right thing to do.”

“It was,” Derik agreed, then looked back at Jerica. “It is. But the Council doesn’t see it that way. I renounced my Rangership in the midst of it all. Then once things calmed down a bit, I came to Atraya… and neither of us have been home since then.”

Jerica stared at him for a long moment. Then she pulled her knees up to her chest and pressed her forehead against them, trying to ground herself. She took a deep breath and focused on the feeling of her diaphragm expanding. The way that her lungs pressed against her chest as she drew a breath.

The anger was starting to recede again. Which left her with nothing but sheer exhaustion. With a healthy dose of confusion on top. They weren’t from Atraya. None of them had been to Lirtira since she was born. Because of the Council. Because of her.

She felt oddly guilty.

They’d both had to uproot their entire lives to keep her safe. And for what? So, she could become King’s Assassin and put herself in danger most of the time anyway? So that she could get bullied by an As’veri and threatened when she ran her mouth?

Why couldn’t we just go on the run? Together? “She asked. “All three of us? Just leave Lirtira and the Council and everything else behind?”

“Because the Council knows us, Jer. The only reason I have made it as long as I have is that they can’t catch up with me,” Zander answered, giving her a sympathetic look. “And Derik’s made it this long because he didn’t blatantly disobey the Council so they don’t have a hit out on him. But they are watching him. They just don’t know that you’re Katima. He showed up at a different time than you. And no one knew any better about Jerica having been killed.”

It still felt so weird to hear her name being talked about like that.

Though it wasn’t her name at all.

It was the name of a dead princess. She just stole it.

“Well, almost no one anyway,” Zander muttered.

A tense silence followed.

Jerica picked up her head. Derik and Zander were staring at each other. Derik’s eyes were sharp and disapproving. She looked between them. It was clear Zander had said something he wasn’t supposed to.

She wanted to know more.

“Who knew?” she questioned.

They both inhaled like they were about to speak, but, instead, they both sighed.

“Who knew?” she pressed.

“Biryn,” Derik said, defeated. “He’s… well, ah, he’s…”

“As’veri?” Jerica offered.

Derik’s eyes went wide with surprise. “You know.”

She inclined her head. “But how does he know…?”

She still wasn’t quite clear on that. Derik knew Biryn was As’veri. Biryn apparently knew that she wasn’t Princess Jerica. But how those secrets tied together – how the fates intertwined – was still anyone’s guess.

“Because he…” Derik sighed again.

“Is the one who murdered her,” Zander finished.

Her brain came to a screeching halt.

What?”

“Biryn attacked the Royal Picnic,” Derik said.

“But he’s… how did… why is he head advisor?” She was so perplexed. “If he killed the rest of the Ainsleys, why is Levin friends with him? Did Levin have him murder his family?”

“No.” Derik shook his head, brushing the question aside. “As far as we’re aware, Biryn did that on his own. We’re not sure why – it seems to have something to do with a grudge, but we haven’t figured out against who. But Levin was a teenage boy – a younger son. Thrust onto the throne with no grooming for what to do. So Biryn saw his opportunity and slid in as an advisor, to ensure he had a comfy life.”

Jerica rubbed her face, then let her hand fall until her fingertips were in the pool. The water was crisp and cold against her flesh. It drew her focus there, rather than on how tight her chest felt. “So, he killed Jerica?”

“He did,” Zander confirmed. “And then he showed up at the Palace and discovered you were there. And then a few weeks later Derik showed up. So, I suppose Biryn started doing his research. I don’t know. All I know is that he figured out who you are, somehow, and threatened that he’d tell the Council if we tried to take you away from the Palace.”

“But why?” The frustration was coming back.

“We don’t know, Jer,” Derik said. “Best guess is that he wanted you as a guinea pig. It took us a few years to realize he’s As’veri. He didn’t confront me about you right away. I thought we’d gotten away with it. And then he started his injections on you, and I tried to get you away from the Palace, and that is when he revealed that he knew who you are. And threatened that if I left with you then he’d make it public.”

“And stashing a four-year-old is much harder than a baby,” Zander commented. “And you couldn’t have stayed with Derik if the Council knew who you were, otherwise they’d have come for you both. We needed Biryn to keep his mouth shut.”

“So you let him experiment on me?” she asked incredulously.

They both cringed.

“I tried to put a stop to that,” Derik said. “I swapped out whatever his nastiness was for simple saline so it wouldn’t hurt you any more than the needle prick for years until… the incident.”

Jerica eyed him for a moment, yet another piece falling into place. “The physician gave me the real dose for the first time.”

Derik nodded.

“Then I killed him,” she finished, feeling sick.

“That wasn’t your fault.” Derik cringed again. “But was when Biryn realized I’d been switching out the needles. And made sure that I couldn’t. And…”

Jerica looked at him.

“I’m sorry, Jer,” Derik said, looking her deep in the eyes. “I truly am. He did horrible things to you and I didn’t know how to stop him. And it’s not okay. And I’m sorry that I couldn’t protect you better. That I can’t protect you better.”

“It’s not your fault.” She shrugged, pulling her hand away from the water and flicking the droplets away from her fingers.

There was still so much that she didn’t understand. But, despite the confusion, it was clear that Derik and Zander cared about her as much as she’d always known that they did. Their methods were questionable. But the thought was there.

Jerica looked between them.

Zander was subdued. His usual loud, boisterous personality was replaced with a quiet, somber demeanor. He stared at the rocks next to the pool of water, eyes distant like he was lost in thought. He clenched and unclenched his jaw as he stood unmoving.

Derik seemed like he felt guilty. He watched her in a patient silence, holding her gaze for as long as she offered it. It was clear he felt bad. Even though it wasn’t his fault. It’s not like the injections were his idea. And he had tried to escape with her.

But Biryn ruined that. Like he ruined everything.

“I’m sorry,” Derik said earnestly.

“I am, too.” Zander looked up, meeting her gaze when she looked at him.

“It’s not your fault,” she repeated, then looked back at Derik. “Either of your faults… you’re the reason I’m still alive.”

A tense silence passed.

Derik still looked vulnerable. He was so much like Rek. Or, she supposed, Rek was like Derik. She and Zander were brash and opinionated and loud. Derik and Rek were introspective and sensitive. And she didn’t want him to feel bad for something that wasn’t his fault.

“I love you…both.” The words felt odd as they tumbled from her mouth. She didn’t say them often. But they seemed appropriate in that moment. And they were true. She stood up and wrapped Derik in a hug, hoping it would make him feel better.

Derik’s arms wrapped around her. A moment later they tightened a bit more and she felt him take a shaky breath. He held her close and murmured, “I love you too, Jer Bear.” 


Note: You are not logged in, but you can still leave a comment or review. Before it shows up, a moderator will need to approve your comment (this is only a safeguard against spambots). Leave your email if you would like to be notified when your message is approved.







Is this a review?


  

Comments



User avatar
311 Reviews


Points: 972
Reviews: 311

Donate
Sat Jul 03, 2021 1:49 am
View Likes
TheScribe wrote a review...



By the way, @IcyFlame, I'm catching up because Shadow gave me answers in the previous chapter, so please be warned that it's not your fault if I'm ahead again, blame the Guild Master and the Guild instead XD

“My entire life is a lie.”

Welp, she's already POed, so everyone except Guild Master Sinestra is likely doomed to eternal damnation... Welp, at least I'm not there c:

More pieces fell into place.

Aerik’s story about how he came to be in Kyrkkyni.

Refusing to murder infant princesses.

Refusing to murder her.

“Aerik,” she gasped.

“They sent Aerik,” Zander confirmed, inclining his head. “And he told me. And then he helped me get you all to safety… well… relative safety. Away from Lirtira.”

ANSWERS
MORE FREAKING ANSWERS
...and I'll be dogged if you didn't just give me a handful of questions *sigh*

Will Jerica reclaim a throne that is rightfully hers? Will she come into her own? WILL SHE BE EMPRESS OF THE MULTIVERSE???

Gotta read on c:

I am adding 2 and 2 together faster than I thought was possible... here's what I've got:

Spoiler! :
The council in Lirtira decided that Katima (which is 100% a name and not anything else) needed to die. They send a younger Aerik to do the deed, but he can't, and instead helps the family escape as best he can. Amidst the escape, though, Jerica's parents give their lives to keep her safe. Zander and Derik, though heartbroken at the loss of their brother and his wife, flee into the realm of whatever this place is cause there are too many names.

At some point or another, after Katima has been stashed away as Jerica Ainsley, Derik and the others meet Kaidren and the rest of the Guild. The Guild begins assisting and aiding the escaped royals as best they can, in return for their services. Biryn uncovers this somehow (still working that out) and accidentally becomes an anti-hero of sorts (complicated emotions begin here ;-;). Everything runs smoothish until the injections begin, which complicates everything... and... well, you know the rest better than I do...

But gosh XD


I hate Biryn less now, I, too, have been living a lie ;-;

Okay, a very complicated but high note to end on there!

..is she Jerica or Katima now? ;-;




ShadowVyper says...


You are very, very close with your conclusions.... but I'm still so perplexed on how you hate Biryn less now xD This chapter revealed that he literally murdered the entire Ainsley family and has been tormenting Jerica because he's blackmailing Derik with that information ahah



User avatar
977 Reviews


Points: 73130
Reviews: 977

Donate
Thu Jun 24, 2021 9:07 pm
View Likes
IcyFlame wrote a review...



Are we past me introducing every review on this now? xD good

“Everyone knows who Jerica Ainsley is,” Derik said gently, giving her a sympathetic look. “The Council is looking for Katima Medeiros.”

But Zander is free to roam all the realms? Do they not want him dead? Or would they not torture him to find Jer/Katima?

Aerik’s story about how he came to be in Kyrkkyni.

Refusing to murder infant princesses.

Refusing to murder her.

Oh this is some fab linking together! I will say I'd forgotten about this plot point but I can't tell if that's because I have gaps between reading or because maybe it needs to be mentioned once more before this point?

“An As’veri attacked the Royal Picnic,” Derik said carefully. “Just before all this happened. Murdered most of the Ainsley family, as you know.”

Biryn??? Also, doesn't Jerica have nightmares about this? Or is she just manifesting what she's been told happened?

“But Derik was there?” Jerica was still so bewildered. “Didn’t they know?”

“They know Derik is in Atraya,” Zander said. “They don’t know you are. There was a several month gap between when I left you there and when Derik showed up.”

“Why?”

I gotta say this bit confused me. So Derik isn't Levin's brother? Or is he? I don't quite get how it all links together. It might just be me, but I felt this bit was unclear!
I also don't fully follow how Rek links into this, is he actually Derik's? Did he come with Derik? And what happened to his mother? Is she still alive in the other realm? How come Rek was able to leave?

So apart from the slight confusion in the middle this chapter is fab! I feel like you've built up to all of this wonderfully that I didn't see it coming but somehow it all makes sense! I am waiting for Jer to ask about her real parents and how they fit into all of this because how was it that Derik and Zander were allowed to escape with her?

I think I probably need to reread this full chapter to digest it all - I'm pretty sure there's bits I've missed as I've gone through!

Eeek can't wait for chapter 42!!!!!!!

~Icy




ShadowVyper says...


Are we past me introducing every review on this now? xD good


Idk Icy, it's only been like forty chapters... ;)

But Zander is free to roam all the realms? Do they not want him dead? Or would they not torture him to find Jer/Katima?


Ooh, thanks for pointing this out! The Council absolutely wants him dead, too. He just moves around a lot so that they can't pin down where he is. But I think this is one of those things where it's in my brain but not on the page xD I'll work on this ^^

Oh this is some fab linking together! I will say I'd forgotten about this plot point but I can't tell if that's because I have gaps between reading or because maybe it needs to be mentioned once more before this point?


Ooh, good to know! Will do!

Biryn???


Aha good guess ;)

Also, doesn't Jerica have nightmares about this? Or is she just manifesting what she's been told happened?


Yeah, she has nightmares about what she thinks happened. She knows she wasn't there (the story was that she'd been sick and didn't attend) -- but this is the truth lol

I gotta say this bit confused me. So Derik isn't Levin's brother? Or is he? I don't quite get how it all links together. It might just be me, but I felt this bit was unclear!


That's good to know! Thank you! I'll work on making that clearer.

But for now, to clarify, no, Derik isn't Levin's brother. He's charmed Levin/others into believing that he is, but he isn't. Derik and Zander are brothers, but neither are Ainsleys.

I also don't fully follow how Rek links into this, is he actually Derik's? Did he come with Derik? And what happened to his mother? Is she still alive in the other realm? How come Rek was able to leave?


Rek is... a problem, honestly. I really like his characterization and don't want to just nix him, but these are definitely holes that I haven't been able to figure out yet. Rek is Derik's, and was an accident. I can't decide if his mom died or if she's like... a prostitute or something? and didn't want him? I'm really struggling to figure out a way for Rek to make sense. But I kind of like the single-father-vibes that Derik has for both of them and it ensures that he doesn't try to shunt emotional labor off to a wife.

But... yeah. I have no answers. Best idea I've come up with so far is to maybe edit this and have Rek be slightly younger than Jerica instead of slightly older, and his mom be a random Atrayaian instead of a random Litiraian. But... yeah. Do you have ideas for how I can fix that?

I feel like you've built up to all of this wonderfully that I didn't see it coming but somehow it all makes sense!


omg this is such a RELIEF to read <333 I think I've been sitting with this a bit too long because my brain has been like "this is a stupid twist and you've spent 40 chapters building up to a dumb reveal" and,,, just kinda want to throw it all away. But this and this:

Eeek can't wait for chapter 42!!!!!!!


<33

Are helping to fight the urge to torch the whole novel xD

I appreciate you a lot <3333 Thanks so much for your lovely reviews and for sticking with it this long c:




Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.
— Mark Twain