Tythel did not sleep well that night. She tried to, doing every meditation technique Karjon had taught her over the years, but she spent the entire night tossing and turning. The bed she slept on Karjon had gotten as a trophy from the Underfolk, those queer eyeless men that were in Karjon’s stories, and it had been perfect for her when she was a child. But for the last two years, she’d been forced to scrunch up on it, leading to the impression the Underfolk were likely quite small.
In truth, Tythel would taller than most humans. Sixteen years of eating a diet of meat infused with draconic magic and lifting and moving gold on a regular basis had left her with a build that was less “Princess” and more “Warrior,” but since the only humans she’d seen had been in her imagination, she’d had no idea how imposing a figure she could cut when she wasn’t comparing herself to a dragon.
She’d never complained to Karjon about the small bed. Other things, sure, but never that – or any of the other things he’d provided to her over the years. Tythel had known how lucky she’d been to have a dragon for a father. Karjon’s stories were full of tales of the legendary heroes of the past, Calcon the Brave and Rilan the Just and Brigith the Nobel and all the rest of them. All of them had started their lives as humble folk that had heeded the Call, which meant their lives had been the humdrum work of farmers and blacksmiths and other folk, and the stories all made that life out to be terribly dull.
She’d always imagined Tythel had rescued her from that sort of suffering.
Now she knew differently. She would have been a Princess, daughter to a King and Queen, living a life of luxury and wealth and, if the legends were any indication, would have either ended up spoiled rotten or kidnapped by someone to later be rescued. Other than that her life would have been one of formality and circumstance until she was married off to secure and alliance or to whoever had been strong enough to save her, regardless of their other qualities.
Tythel decided that, small bed aside, she still felt lucky to have been raised by Karjon. That feeling was quickly followed by shame at even considering an alternative.
She got out of bed and pulled her blankets and pillows to the floor, arranging them in a pile like the gold Karjon slept on. It wasn’t as comfortable as the bed, but it did allow her to stretch out, and that was preferable to being cramped into the bed at the moment.
The problem was, it wasn’t the bed keeping her up tonight. It was her mind.
Tythel had been on top of mountain a few times every year, under Karjon’s careful eye. He had explained that if she didn’t get to see the sky every now and then, she’d probably go mad. The village had always fascinated her, and her entire life she’d wanted to go there, just for a day, to explore and celebrate. She wanted to see horses and soldiers and blacksmiths and maybe even a wizard if she was really lucky. Karjon had taught her some magic, but it was dragon magic and she was human, so she’d never been very good at it.
Of course, that would change tomorrow. Well, her being fully human – she didn’t know if she’d gain any proficiency with her meager Art in the process. She’d have Karjon’s blood running through her veins, becoming half dragon and half human. For most of her life, it had been the one thing she’d wanted more than going to village.
The village. She turned over again.
From the mountain, it had been hard to make out details. She’d filled in those details in her head with ones stolen from her stories – thatched roofs covering star-crossed lovers, barns harboring hard working folk with wisdom gained from years of honest toil, chimneys smoking with fires that were roasting chickens or beef. Never in her life had she imagined the people out there were being subjected to tyrants that had come from beyond the sky. Never, not once, had she imagined that she was their rightful ruler.
That thought got her turning again. Karjon’s stories had talked about something called “noblesse oblige,” the responsibilities that the nobility had to their people. Protect them, help them, guide them, and care for them. If she was a noble – a royal – didn’t the same thing apply to her?
Stop it, Tythel. Stop it.
But the thought wouldn’t go away. If she stayed here with Karjon, she was failing in her responsibility. The sixteen years leading up to this had not been her fault; she hadn’t known she had duties. After a moment of reflection, she decided they weren’t Karjon’s fault either. They were the fault of the mysterious Those from Above. Now that she knew, however…well, Karjon had always taught her that inaction was still a choice, the choice to do nothing.
Tomorrow, then, after the Ritual. She’d leave, no matter what. And if Karjon tried to stop her…well, then she’d have to do it alone.
And that though, more than any other, caused Tythel to burrow as deeply into the blankets as she could before finally, sleep claimed her.