Chapter Twenty-Eight: Reflection
“...Just, seriously!” Francesca ranted. “The crown fucking prince!”
Francesca was pacing about on the shore of a lake. The moment that they landed, she hopped off of Baudouin and angrily chewed the boys out. Her face was red and she had her sword stabbed into the ground after a fit of rage.
Seon and Baudouin were spread out on the ground before her. Baudouin looked somewhat guilty and as if he would apologize a thousand times if he could. Seon, however, had his cheek in his palm and the face of a man in utter boredom.
“Are you done yet?” Seon asked. “You’ve just been saying ‘The crown fucking prince!’ over and over.”
Francesca sighed and dropped into sitting position with her legs crossed. “Yes. I’m done.”
“It’s about time.” The elf sighed and laid down. His arms were stretched behind his head and his legs were idly crossed.
Baudouin’s head got closer to her. There was an unspoken sorry in his green orbs. He gave her a gentle nudge and a growl.
“I forgive you, Your Highness,” she said.
Baudouin nodded. He then looked around the area. His eyes were wide as he took it all in. The feeling of grass beneath his feet. The scent of moist fresh air next to the water. The clouds reflected in his eyes. His tail was wagging wildly.
“Enjoy it, buddy,” Seon said with a much lighter voice. “It’s all for you. You’re welcome.”
Baudouin nuzzled his snout into Seon’s torso. The dragon’s eyes were closed and his mouth was curled upward slightly. Francesca raised an eyebrow at the prince’s blissful humming and Seon’s attempt to scratch his scales. She could swear that see could spot a small but genuine smile on the elf’s face.
Francesca got to her feet. “I’m going to leave you two alone for a bit and find things to set up a camp with. You already kidnapped him, you can’t really do anything worse at this point.”
Baudouin paused for a moment to look embarrassed at the comment, but Seon soon forced his attention back to him.
Francesca woke up to a soft and deep noise. She lifted herself up onto her elbows and looked around their campsite.
The campfire had long since died down into embers. The lake was so still that it looked like black glass. The moonlight illuminated Baudouin and Seon’s curled up silhouettes.
Since there was nothing else around, she figured the only one that could be making the noise was the prince. She approached his head quietly and was surprised to see that he was still awake. His paws were covering his eyes, so she doubted he could see her.
“Your Highness?” she asked.
Baudouin’s whole frame stiffened upon hearing her voice. He roughly rubbed his eyes before turning to look at her. His movements were slow and careful, so he wouldn’t disturb the elf resting against his side. He tilted his head and gave her a quiet questioning hum. The edge of his eyes were still damp.
“Are you alright?” she asked.
He dipped his head in shame. He turned his face away from her, toward the lake, until he quickly snapped his head back with a gasp. He covered his face back up.
Francesca felt her heart twist up in her chest. She’d never had to deal with this sort of thing from him. At least, not until she met Victor...
At the moment, he reminded her of him.
“Your Highness, what’s wrong?”
He jerked his snout toward the water. The soft sound that woke Francesca up emerged from his throat again. When Seon rolled over in his sleep, he fell quiet.
“The water?” she asked. When he didn’t respond, she cautiously approached the water with her sword drawn. “I don’t see anything...”
All she saw was her own reflection. With a thick scar across the cheek and messy hair, she didn’t see anything wrong about it. She looked back at Baudouin.
“I don’t see anything wrong. It’s just my refle...” Then it clicked. “You’ve never seen your reflection before now.”
He shook his head. His paws pressed down upon his face harder. His teeth gritted together as he held back another sob.
Francesca walked over to the dragon’s head. Baudouin tried to inch away from her as much as he could without disturbing Seon. She sat down beside him, staring into the water.
“Your Hi... er... Baudouin. May I call you Baudouin?” When he nodded, she continued. “Are you scared?”
He nodded with a hushed whimper.
“Do you remember what you looked like before you were cursed?”
He shook his head sadly.
“I see...” She smiled a bit. “You don’t look that bad, you know. We’re all used to it, so at least everyone at the castle doesn’t think you look scary.”
He huffed in annoyance. He finally uncovered his face and rested his chin on his paws. His eyes still avoided the water.
“Seon especially doesn’t seem the care.” she mused. “From the looks of it, you could be something much worse than a dragon and he’d still treat you like a puppy.” His eyes grew round with what Francesca assumed was surprise. “Yes... With all due respect, there are worse things to be than a dragon. You still look... uh... what’s the word... regal.”
Baudouin finally screwed up the nerve to examine himself in the water. His paws trembled and Francesca awkwardly placed a hand on one.
“See? It’s not too bad, right?” she said.
He didn’t move to give her an answer.
“Uh... Would you rather I distract you until you can sleep?”
He nodded a bit too eagerly.
“Alright. Hm... We visited my family about a week ago. They’re all doing well. And uh... Fairies! We saw some fairies a while back too...”
The landscape stretched out beneath them like a finely knitted quilt. The earth beneath them had changed from a bright green speckled with houses to a murky brown-green. The first hint of a city in the Marshes was marked by noticeable pastel walls surrounding muddy waters. Several moving figures down below paused in their work to stare at the dragon flying overhead. It was when the noisy city of Orlo was within walking distance that Baudouin finally landed.
Seon immediately jumped off the second Baudouin landed. “Okay. We find the hunter named Kroc, we march back up to Valhall, kill Fafnir, put the Stone of Life back into Victor, then I go back to curing Baudy.” He said the whole “plan” in one breath.
“What’s the backup plan?” Francesca asked.
“I don’t need one.”
Francesca sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose. Baudouin shook his head in understanding. He bent down to let Francesca slide off easier.
“You’ll have to stay out of town, Ba... Prince Baudouin.” Francesca frowned at her own inability to just say his name. “We don’t want you to get hurt. Try to keep it within your sight though so you don’t get lost.”
Baudouin scowled. However, he nodded and jumped back up into the sky. He flew up until he was nothing more than a red blur above the clouds.
“You know something?” Seon called out over his shoulder.
“What?” Francesca asked him.
“You remind me of an old friend of mine,” he said wistfully. “He babied Baudy and I too.”
“Were you a reckless dumbass back then too?”He didn’t answer.