Elric stared up to the ceiling of the stable. His hands folded behind his head as he stared. He rolled over on his side and stared at drawings hung to the wall beside him. It had been 6 months since she had left and he found himself obsessively thinking of her. He never considered that he’d be up long nights thinking over her, and never considered himself specifically drawn to her. That is, until it came a time where he did not see her every day, the longer he went without seeing her the more she seemed to pop into his mind.
And the longer he was awake thinking of her the more he found himself begging to see her. Eventually, he took up drawing her, he didn’t keep the one he had drawn of her with Sottises, he sent that to her months ago. But the more time went by the more he found himself sitting below his loft staring at the life-like painting he had created of her for Sottises.
Then he found himself drawing her absently when he went to his bed, first only simple pictures of her standing, then the pictures began to turn more comfortable, sitting, leaning, going about life from how he remembered her. Then the drawings became more familiar, it became easier for him to insert himself into the drawings with her, he recreated what he believed it looked like when she kissed his cheek and when he sat on the stump drawing her. He felt odd drawing himself and her, he had never drawn himself before but found it easy when it was something to do with her. The drawings became more relaxed and easy to accomplish and then he found himself absently drawing fairly suggestive pictures with her the longer he went.
Then he would curse himself for thinking such vulgar thoughts about the Princess that he worked for, that he had never had a relationship with, and probably would never get the chance to have a relationship with. He was a tarragon keeper, he wasn’t a royal, or a noble, he wasn’t even from a particularly rich family, the only claim they had was his father's years of being a Keeper.
He honestly felt he was no better than a butler or even a servant. She wouldn’t want to stoop to such a low level and entertain a worker of the palace. Infact, He was sure she’d come home from schooling having been courted by a rich nobleman from Callen, she’d come of age and leave again, taking Sottises with her. Possibly leaving him to go to the next job that was offered to him as a keeper. He didn’t know anything other than being a keeper besides labor…
He found himself thinking this same thing often, and it caused his mind to race with self doubt and admittedly, a great deal of regret.
Elric knew a lot of his time was meant to be spent on Sottises but he wondered if maybe he should have allowed more time enjoying life and allowing Sottises be the young, mischievous animal he is meant to be, and allowing himself to relax a little.
He heard Sottises croon gently below him. He rolled from the bed and walked to the edge of the loft and looked down. He saw Sottises staring up to the loft area with sad eyes and a tilted head.
“Go to bed Sottises.” Elric ordered, the animal groaned in protest to him but he shook his head, “I am not coming down. Go to sleep.”
Sottises let out a low and loud growl, stomping his paws into the floor beneath him and throwing his head back and forth with a huff like a dog. He paused and stared back up to Elric.
“I want to sleep Sottises…” Elric groaned, pushing his hand through his short hair. But the tarragon let out an irritated huff and looked back toward the doors. Elric gave a defeated shrug and sigh, “Fine… Just let me put some shoes on…” he said, turning back to his area. He pulled his boots from beside the stairs and pulled them on then stepped down the stairs to Sottises.
Sabina gave an irritated groan as she shifted her face away from the lantern light that Elric lit on the table below his loft.
“Sorry Sabina…” He whispered to her as he knelt and scratched the top of her head. She purred gently then curled her neck underneath her wing away from the light. “Come on So…” He called back.
Sottises eagerly pushed from the stable door as Elric opened it. He bolted into the wet yard of the palace and set to relieving himself with a contented look. Elric took a deep breath of air, smelling the distinct fragrance of fresh rain. His feet slipped slightly in wet grass as he trailed Sottises.
“You got me up to pee?” Elric asked with irritation, “You couldn’t hold it until sunrise?” Sottises sniffed around the ground and wandered off toward the garden area. Elric followed him tiredly as he sniffed and rooted under early summer shrubs that had begun blooming. The tarragon pulled some sort of worm from a wet patch of dirt with his claw and happily chomped on it before moving to the next shrub where he found another. “Are you going through a growth spurt Sottises?” Elric asked him as he watched him use his paws to unearth more worms from the freshly rained on garden patches. “You had almost twice as much dinner tonight and you are still hungry?” he sighed and sat on a small stone bench in the garden watching Sottises use his claws to dig into tiny holes and pull out long strings of worms from the moist soil. He leaned over and set his lit lantern down on the stone walkway below him then set his elbows on his knees and propped his head in his hands, tiredly staring at the beast while he moved around.
“Elric!” A voice called to him after a while, he turned to see Carter smiling at him as he walked from the direction of the horse stables.
“Carter, what are you doing up so late?” he asked.
“I’ve just come from visiting my family in the village, it is my daughter's 11th birthday.” He paused and looked down at Eric, “I should ask you the same.” he continued as he sat beside him on the bench.
Elric shifted his head toward the still preoccupied Sottises, as he dug into a hole he seemed to not be having luck in. “Sottises was up being unruly and came out to relieve himself.” He said, “Now he’s eating bugs from the rain… Like a cow!”
Carter laughed, “He has been eating a lot hasn’t he?”
“I think he may be coming up on a growth spurt…” Elric responded as they stared.
Carter nodded, “He has already grown significantly since Mae left.”
Elric nodded, “He has, I think he’ll be about as big as Sabina before the Princess returns home…”
“Do you feel she is missing watching him grow?”
“With how close they were when she was here… I feel she is dreadfully missing him…”
Carter nodded, “I'm sure she wished her mother hadn’t forced her to go study…”
“Her mother did? I thought she decided to continue her schooling.”
“Partially yes, but she could have studied under one of the doctors in the village. Queen Elizabeth felt it would be more beneficial to her to travel to Callen, that maybe it would break her of her impish behaviour.” Carter laughed, “Maybe she will come back having grown out of her stupid antics.”
Elric gave an unsettled look to Carter, “I don’t think its fair to call them stupid antics Carter…”
“You can’t honestly say you miss her pranks?” Carter relented in defense.
“I think her mischievous behaviour is quite endearing…” Elric defended.
Carter scoffed, “You don’t have to lie, Elric. I won’t tell anyone you don’t like her pranking.”
“Carter, I think you may have it wrong, I truly don’t mind Maëlle’s behaviour, her pranks are harmless and silly…”
Carter shook his head, “Well you can say what you like, I’ve been with the Princess since she was born, King Mael appointed me to be her personal butler before she was even born. She has been playing tricks on me since.”
Elric shook his head, “Her pranks are harmless.”
“Perhaps to you, but she has been bothering me from the day she was born.”
Elric held his tongue as he moved to watching Sottises, he didn’t feel the same way Carter did, he found her pranks quite fun, even the ones she pulled on him made him laugh after the fact.
“I’ve been hoping some man from Callen weds her and beats the wickedness from her.” Carter laughed at his own self as though it were a simple joke.
“Enough Carter…” Elric said standing and picking up his lantern from the ground, “I think you fail to realize that I am the keeper for Mae’s tarragon, my purpose here is to take care of Sottises, but in that time I have grown quite close to the Princess and find her pranks to be harmless and enjoyable. I respected you as a superior when I first met you Carter, but I fear I can not sit here and listen to you speak ill of the princess in her absence, or wish harm to come to her over harmless pranks she pulls. I am honestly quite appalled to hear you insinuating you wish a man to beat anyone, let alone the Princess. Have a good night Carter.” Elric let out a quick, sharp whistle and Sottises perked up his dirt filled nose and followed behind the keeper as he walked from the garden, leaving Carter sat on the bench alone.
Elric pushed the stable door open again and Sottises eagerly pushed through the door and curled up on the pile of his hay below his beloved drawing of the princess.
Elric patted the dragons head gently as he walked to his ladder, kicking off his mud filled boots and setting them on the floor below his loft so he wouldn't track it up to his living space. “Goodnight Sottises… Goodnight Sabina…”
Neither gave him a response as they were both deep in sleep. He stripped off his clothing before falling into his bed. He took a long look at a drawing of Mae that was hung on the wall beside him and sighed softly. He was unusually upset by Carter's words and his face heated with anger as he recalled the words he had heard from the butler. The words had stung him in a way he hadn’t expected and it stung him more to think he was unable to truly defend her with her not being present to hear about it.
He took in a deep and agitated breath before shaking his head and turning over and blowing the flame from his lantern, then he rolled back and cozied in to the bed, the light of the moon flowed in from the window above him, and he could faintly make out the drawing of the Princess on the wall beside him. He swallowed hard and shook his head into the pillow.
“I’m sorry I couldn’t defend you better Your Grace.” he said softly to her likeness, “It isn’t fair you are away and can not defend yourself from the horrible things Carter has no doubt been telling of you…”
He stayed up for a while longer, feeling empty and alone as he laid there quietly. After many tosses and turns he stood and climbed down the ladder. Sottises looked up to him with tired eyes and chirped as he sat back beside him, next to the painting of the princess on the wall. Sottises gently placed his head in Elrics lap and let out a content purr as he massaged his fingers around the dragon's comb.
“This is going to be a long 2 and a half years…” He whispered to the beast as it nuzzled his head into his lap.
Need help With easy pronunciation, Lost on who is who? Wondering what a word is meant to mean? (No new words or characters have been introduced in this chapter, however a new idea in the world of keepers has been introduced.)
Coming of Age- For royal families, coming of age refers to the time when a prince or princess turns 20 years of age and may inherit the throne. Someone who has come of age is expected to publicly begin courting. While ages 15-19 are encouraged to build relationships with potential suitors and are allowed to have relationships with said suitors it is often frowned upon for them to be publicly open about their interests or relationships until they are 20 years of age and have finished their schooling as it is viewed as a distraction to their learning. They are then able to publicly announce courtships, intents to marry, or announce if they are expecting children.