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The beast is almost as large as a dairy cow. Its gray hair is covered in dry patches of bog mud, and its wicked tusks are yellow.
I don’t think I can kill this thing with an arrow. It doesn’t matter anyway, seeing as how my bow is next to my tent, too far away to grab before the boar decides to charge.
Slowly, moving only his arm, Lionel rummages in his pack.
“What are you looking for?” I ask through clenched teeth, barely daring to breathe. When he pulls out a short sword, I quietly exclaim, “Where did you get that?”
“I bought it with my morning’s pay,” he says cryptically. “Get behind me.”
“You can’t kill a beast that large with a sword!” I pause. “And what do you mean you bought it—you had to pay for your clothes.”
“I can kill it with a sword, and the man was generous. Genevieve, get behind me.”
As the insane prince stands, he shoves me behind him and stalks forward, sword at the ready.
The demon pig snorts, taking extreme offense to our presence in his territory. Just the sound raises the hair on the back of my neck.
“Get in a tree,” Lionel says, bracing himself. “Climb as high as you can.”
“I can’t climb.”
He casts a disbelieving look over his shoulder. “Are you serious?”
“Do I look like the kind of girl who can climb a tree?”
“You look exactly like the kind of girl who can climb a tree!”
“Well, I can’t!” I snarl back.
Exasperated, he says, “Then…run. Get as far away as you can.”
“I’m not going to leave you.” I edge toward the tent, hoping to retrieve my bow.
The boar turns its attention on me, unsure who it wants to go after first.
“Nice piggy,” I say as I move slowly, hoping to look as unmenacing as possible. “Good little pork chop…”
“Stop taunting it,” Lionel exclaims.
“I’m not taunting; I’m soothing it.”
“This explains a lot about your bedside manner,” the prince says, giving in to an unexpected laugh.
Agitated, the boar smacks a nearby tree with the side of his head. Dust and needles shower from the pine, raining down on the monster pig. He snorts again, shifting his weight, moving back and forth.
I suppose Lionel must consider me safely out of the way now because he strides forward, eyes locked on the beast.
“What are you doing?” I exclaim. “You’re going to die! All that time I spent healing you, and you’re going to be gored by a giant pig!”
Seeing the prince as the imminent threat, the boar lowers his head, lets out another series of angry squeals, and charges.
“Lionel!” I yell, diving for my quiver. With a shaking hand, I attempt to nock an arrow.
Lionel leaps out of the way, taking a stab at the boar as it passes. The beast shrieks and barrels for the trees. As soon as it reaches them, it turns back, ready to charge again.
“See if you can shoot it in the hindquarters,” Lionel says, preparing himself once more. “Make it think something is coming at it from behind.”
“See if I can shoot it?” I scoff, raising my bow and pretending my arms aren’t shaking.
But before I can shoot, the boar turns toward me.
“Run!” Lionel yells as it takes after me.
I dart out of the way, trying to avoid it. The prince leaps in front of me, gasping when the boar catches his arm with a tusk. He stabs the beast and then rolls out of the way.
Trembling, I let an arrow fly, hitting the boar smack in the rump. It’s nothing but a bee sting to a creature that large, but it does its job.
The boar whirls around, letting out a livid series of squeals. Taking advantage of the pig’s distraction, Lionel rises from the ground, raises his sword, and…
I close my eyes, too squeamish to watch.
Moments later, the woods go silent.
“Lionel,” I breathe, dropping my bow and running toward the wounded prince. “You crazy fool, you did it.”
The prince clutches his arm and drops to the ground, bending forward at the waist.
“Is it bad?” I demand as I reach him, but when I see the damage, my vision blurs.
It’s not his arm—it’s his chest.
“Lionel!” I say, frantic. I fall to my knees in front of him, pressing my hands to the wound as if I can somehow stop the flow.
The prince’s face goes white, and he falls to his side. Through clenched teeth, he says, “I told you I could kill it.”
A sob bubbles in my chest.
What do I do? What do I do?
“I’m glad I met you, Genevieve,” he wheezes.
“No.” I hold my hands over the wound, shaking. “You’re fine.”
Blood trickles from his mouth, telling me he’s not fine.
“I didn’t mean it,” I cry, tears running down my face. “I didn’t…Lionel, no…”
He lets out a stuttered laugh. “I didn’t know you cared.”
Why did this happen? Why? If the dragons had waited just a little longer, they could have taken care of the boar. If they’d just…
“CADALIA!” I scream into the growing night. “SHALAY!”
Lionel takes a deep breath and closes his eyes.
“No,” I command, shaking him. “They can heal you. You have to hold on.”
I close my eyes, rocking back and forth, waiting. Trusting they’ll come before it’s too late.
Suddenly, the ground moves.
“What happened?” Cadalia exclaims, pushing me out of the way with her wing.
“Heal him,” I beg, scrambling back.
Shalay lands moments later. Immediately, both dragons breathe out a duo of white sparking flames, covering Lionel in their magic.
The prince screams into the twilight, telling me he’s alive. The magic hurts like all oblivion, but it’s better than dying.
It seems as though it takes forever. I sit in the wet grass, blood on my hands, silent tears wetting my face.
And then the sparking white light fades, and we’re wrapped in the darkening light of dusk once more.
The two dragons give Lionel room to breathe. Cadalia turns to me. “He’s fine, but he wouldn’t have made it if there weren’t two of us. I couldn’t have done it on my own.”
I nod, thanking her, crawling to the prince.
He stares at the sky, breathing hard. He glances at me when I sit by his side, studying my face. I run my hands along his chest, verifying that the wound is, indeed, healed.
Lionel glances down, groaning. “I just bought these clothes.”
“Seriously?” I demand, sitting back on my heels. “That’s all you have to say?”
Slowly, he pushes himself up, sitting next to me.
My chin wobbles, and I turn from him.
“Genevieve,” he says softly, his tone one I’ve never heard. “Look at me.”
I shake my head, refusing.
He presses his hand to my cheek to turn my face. “Genevieve.”
New tears roll down my face, but I can’t stop them, so I don’t even try.
Gently, he rubs his thumb across my cheek. He wears the strangest expression, almost as if he’s baffled by my reaction.
“I’m fine,” he says.
“You scared me.”
I growl, irrationally mad, pushing his hand away. “Never do that…don’t…not ever again.”
Lionel tugs me into him, wrapping his arms around me and holding me close. “I’m sorry,” he whispers.
I curl into him, sobbing against his shoulder, letting him hold me. “Not again.”
“And this doesn’t mean I like you.”
He chuckles. “I know.”
“I just thought I should make it clear.” I clasp my arms around him, holding him tight. “And your beard is scratchy.”
“I’ll shave,” he laughs.
We stay like this for several minutes, and then Lionel nudges me back. He meets my eyes, wearing the strangest expression.
“What?” I say, wiping away the ridiculous tears with the back of my hand.
He smiles, looking down. “Never mind. Are you hungry?”
I shake my head.
“No?” He glances at the boar. “Well, that’s too bad. Because we have to do something with the ‘piggy.’”
“Are you mocking me?” I ask, pretending to be offended.
Lionel grins. “I am, yes.”
Before I can stop myself, I lean forward and press a quick, hard kiss to his lips. “I’m glad you’re not dead.”
He blinks at me, looking completely dumbstruck.
I pull myself up and turn away from him, frowning at my hands as I walk away. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to wash up.”
Click here to continue to Chapter Fifteen, Scene One