The familiar sight of Southlands greeted Lionheart’s eyes. Southlands. His home, the dragon-scarred city. The place he had left because he had been rejected as the crown prince. The place of his shame, where all he knew and loved held him in contempt. The place where the Prince of Farthestshore had sent him. Although chills swept through his body, he continued on. The Prince had said this was not an easy task, and he was right. This is my mission. There is no turning back. Lionheart reasoned.
The words the Prince had spoken to him beside the Final Waters rang through his head, “Don’t be afraid. I am with you this time. I am with you.” Lionheart had faced the Dragon a second time. And he had not been alone. He was not alone now either. As he passed the main gate, he remembered what his father had said. “Does your word count for anything now?” He could not blame his father for not trusting him. The guards stared at him as if he was a ghost as he walked up the stairs to the palace. They let him through, though unbelieving their own eyes. Daylily met him as he entered. There was shock and pain in her eyes.
“You dare to return?” Her gaze bore through him like fire.
“Please,” Lionheart begged, “where is my father?”
Daylily stared. “Of all the insolent things…” Her fiery gaze broke as she remembered what could have been. A dream that had been lost when she married Foxbrush. She lowered her eyes. “He’s in his room.”
Lionheart walked down the corridors, his heart beating faster. All those wretched memories he wished he could forget flooded back. His father was alone. The Eldest of Southlands’ dark skin was unusually colored. He opened his eyes as Lionheart took his hand. “Lionheart,” he said, “where have you been? I missed you. ”
Lionheart sighed. “From beside the Final Waters and back,” Lionheart murmured. “I got stabbed by a unicorn- therefore saving Rose Red’s life, saw the Final Waters, and with the Prince of Farthestshore’s help, I faced the Dragon. I’ve become the Prince’s knight.”
“You did face the Dragon after all, did you?” The Eldest questioned. “I don’t know if I can believe a single word you said.”
Lionheart nodded, “I don’t expect you to, dad. After what I did, I don’t deserve to be believed. I know now that nothing I can do can redeem my honor.”
The Eldest looked into Lionheart’s eyes. “Usually, I would have asked you a thousand questions about your wild story. But now, I am too tired for that.” He closed his weary eyes. “You’ve changed. Before, I would not have believed a word you said. But now, maybe I do believe. Perhaps you really have become the Prince’s servant.”
A single tear fell from Lionheart’s cheek. “I’m so sorry for failing you, for failing everyone I love.” The tear splashed on the stone floor. “Please, won’t you forgive me?”
Lionheart’s father nodded. “Son, I already have. I still love you, and I always will.”
Lionheart then realized how old and tired his father looked. The hair that had been gray was white. Those cheeks that had been full were now sunken. His father was at death’s door. Lionheart was not in the least bit worried though, his father had met the Prince too. He squeezed his dad’s hand, then left the room. He’d been forgiven again.