Part 11: Waking Princess Emerald
Janus scowled up at his sister’s tower. It was nothing like his; made of black bricks instead of white, and thorns growing up the sides instead of flowery vines. The dark sky that served as the backdrop didn’t ease the gloom.
The footprints of a dragon were scattered around the path as he followed Prince Hunter and that girl…Cally was her name, was it? Anyhow, as he followed them up the path towards the tower, he grimaced at the dragon footprints. His dearest sister must have turned herself into a dragon to keep little prince charmings like Hunter from rescuing the princess. He rolled his eyes. What would she have done if she knew her own twin brother was the princess’ true love? It made him wish she were still around just so he could see her face.
If he hated the outside of the tower, he hated the inside more. It was gloomy and dusty and certainly not a place he could ever be comfortable in. It was much too cold and musty. He almost turned around to walk straight back out, but Hunter cleared his throat.
“Janus, after you wake her, I will take you to the palace to speak with the head of the knights. I believe you shall begin your training and tests, which usually takes a man about a year to complete,” he said as he led them up a spiraling staircase. “If you perform with skills that are above average — exceptional would be best — then you will probably be knighted.”
Janus almost tripped on one of the steeper steps. Just thinking about becoming one of the Knights of Dusk sent a thrill through him. Part of himself…the part that had been hurt so many times…warned him that it could all be just a trap. They would bribe him into waking Princess Emerald, then run off and leave him hanging. It always happened before…then what made him agree to come here?
There was something different about Hunter…the aura he gave off. He was honorable; a man who would keep any promise he made no matter what. Janus could sense he was telling the truth about the deal, so he couldn’t help but trust him. It would be too much to turn away now.
“All right,” Hunter said, stopping at a little door at the top of the staircase. “She is sleeping in here. All you must do to wake her is…is kiss her.” He looked at his shoes when he said this.
Janus knew he loved her. A cruel smile spread on his face, but he looked down to hide it. Suddenly this didn’t seem so bad. He was taking someone Hunter desperately wanted — desperately loved. In being the hero, he was being the cruelest of villains. It sent a thrill through him just like the thought of becoming a knight did. The feeling frightened him, however, and he quickly locked it away in his heart.
“I’ve never seen a princess before,” Cally said under her breath. Her eyes had been wide the entire walk up towards the tower, as if she had never seen anything like this place before. Of course, she probably expected a tower more like his, Janus thought.
Wistfullness filled Hunter’s eyes. “She’s…she’s beautiful…and such a fragile looking girl.” He looked over Cally’s shoulder at Janus, and his gaze hardened. “Don’t touch her any longer than you must.”
Janus sighed. “I wouldn’t dream of it, little prince,” he said. He wanted to get this over with, anyway. It was an interesting thought to be the villain and take the girl Hunter loved, but not one he cared to entertain for very long.
Hunter opened the little door, and the three of them squeezed into the bedroom. It was a beautiful place that did not fit in with the rest of the scenery. A rug woven with scenes of night and day covered the floor, and a bed with the finest quilts rested in the center of the room.
And there was Princess Emerald. Janus could see her sleeping silhouette through the curtain around the bed. He almost froze on the spot, but Hunter urged him forward with a small shove. He couldn’t even feel annoyed at him as he approached the bed. He was far too nervous for that. He had never kissed a girl before.
He reached out a hand and drew back the curtain, his breath catching when he peered down at the small frame of the princess. Hunter was right; she was the frailest girl he had ever seen. But he sensed a strength in her that no one he had come across ever had. Endurance to withstand anything that life threw at her.
He found himself drawn to it, and it frightened him more than it frightened him to become a villain.
“Well?” Hunter said, crossing his arms. “Just get it over with and you will be a step closer to becoming a knight.”
Janus glanced back at him, then back at Emerald. A little rose was in her hands, just as frail as she appeared. His hands shook as he leaned down and placed a soft, gentle kiss on her lips as red as the rose she was holding. When he pulled away, nothing happened for a moment. He saw Hunter’s face grow a deathly pale, as if he was thinking perhaps Janus wasn’t her true love, either.
Janus felt a mixture of relief and annoyance at that thought. If that was the case, he had come all that way and kissed a girl for nothing, and they probably wouldn’t let him be a knight since his kiss didn’t work. But then again, he wouldn’t have the burden of being someone’s true love.
Then Emerald stirred, and her eyes fluttered open. “Oh!” she said, gasping. “Who are you?”
“Emmy!” Hunter cried. Janus backed away as Hunter rushed forward and gathered the princess into his arms, holding her so tightly it looked like she would break. “I’m so glad you’re awake!”
Emerald laughed. “I’m sorry for worrying you so, Hunter,” she said, patting his cheek in a sisterly way. “I suppose I must be more careful of witches from now on!” They both glanced at Janus, who turned as red as a beet as he looked down at the floor. Warmth spread through his neck and face…was he…blushing?! Janus scowled to himself and raised a hand to rub his cheek.
“Janus woke you,” Hunter said, a hint of contempt in his voice. “I tried, but…it was him.”
Emerald got out of bed and smoothed down the skirts of her pink dress. “Well,” she said, coming up to Janus, “thank you very much, sir.” She furrowed her brow. “But…you seem familiar. Like…like the witch.” She studied him, then the realization hit her. “You must be the witch’s brother! I thought I recognized your name!”
Janus backed away, but found the wall was right behind him. “Yes,” he said quietly. “I am her brother, but…I’m not like her.”
Emerald smiled up at him. “Oh, well I should think not if you broke her spell on me. How did you do it, anyway?”
Janus’ mind went haywire, but Hunter fortunately stepped in to rescue him. “What matters now is that it’s broken,” he said, putting his arm around Emerald’s waist. “Let’s get you home. The kingdom will rejoice.” He turned to lead her out of the room, Emerald talking excitedly as they headed down the staircase.
“Hmph,” Cally said, crossing her arms once they were far enough away so they couldn’t hear her. “Sorry, Janus. Looks like Hunter’s going to claim her whether he’s her true love or not.”
Janus grimaced at the jealousy that filled his heart. “I don’t care,” he grumbled. Scowling, he started down the steps after them. Why should he care if Emerald loved Hunter more? All that mattered to him now was that he would be able to try out to become one of the Knights of Dusk. No princess was going to get in the way of that.
No one would get in the way of that, period.
~ <♥> ~
Wow!! We finally got here, and I’m SO glad, since I thought Janus would never cooperate! Now that we’ve reached this point, we can move on to part two of the story, which will tell about Janus training to become a knight, Hunter trying to win Emerald’s heart, all the while romance begins to blossom between Janus and Emerald… I hope you guys liked this part! I can’t wait to share the next one!
What do you think about part 11? Let me know your feedback in the comments below! God bless you all and have a wonderful weekend!