Azurastra followed as he picked his way through the forest. For hours he kept his back to her saying nothing, as if angry again. She wondered if somehow she had caused it, made him angry with what she said. His mood became dark and distant when she called him brave for coming alone. She even felt something of it over the bind, a sort of coldness that faded away as if fleeing her.
She spent the first few hours wondering if he would ever speak to her again. To break the tension and fear, she began to look around, taking notice of where she was and was swept away.
The forest was a realm of wonder and magic. All her life, she flew above them, seeing them as oceans of green leaves that raced by. Not once in all her years had she walked beneath those green waves to discover the world beneath.
Everything felt new as if she had never been out of her cave. There were scents carried on gentle breezes that filled her with wonder. Some were earthy and strong, others delicate and sweet. Scents came and went in tiny waves that teased her senses.
There was a whole myriad of noises as well. Creaks, snaps, bird songs, and the calls of distant animals echoed from places deep beyond the trees, hidden from sight as if secretly watching them pass. Even the trees sang groaning songs as their branches swayed in the breeze above. She never paid much attention to trees, none of them grew in the valley, and the one time she tried to walk through them while hunting, she found them a hassle. Her dragon form was too large for the forest, but this human form could slip through easily, passing through a world of green and shadow.
She paused when things caught her attention, like when the branches swayed, and golden rays of light spilled down around her like rain. She stopped to stick a hand in one of the rays, marveling at the kiss of the sun and why it felt warmer in this form.
It must be a rodent thing, she decided. Something her superior dragon form had no need of, or simply could not feel. She tried to cling to that thought, but her curiosity wouldn't allow it. All around her was a world full of things to explore, and she wanted to see all of it.
The forest itself was continually changing, at one point, the passing was easy, the trees towering above and the ground clear of brush. In others, the ground was covered in thick growths of green plants that caught on her garments or tangled her feet. She dared to let her fingertips touch some of them, testing the feel of the leaves. She touched the trees as well, running her hand over the rough bark, amazed at how sensitive her rodent touch was. When a branch hung low and dangled its leaves before her, she reached up and rubbed one between her fingers.
Even the floor of the forest was a new sensation. Her dragon feet could crush rocks, but her rodent feet felt the damp warmth underneath. Her steps often crunched or snapped as twigs broke under her weight. Occasionally she stepped on something that hurt, but she quickly stepped away and continued.
She tried to let the magic of all these new experiences sweep her away and occupy her mind. For a brief moment, it worked, but then a little creature flew right before her face. It had yellow and golden wings that fluttered in the most unusual way, darting up and down as it danced before her eyes. She tried to hold on to the magic, but the little creature reminded her of her desire to fly home. As the sadness returned, she wrapped herself in the cloak Gersius gave her, seeking its comfort.
“How could this have happened to me?” she said to herself in her moment of pity.
Gersius didn't seem to notice, or maybe he didn't care. He kept on walking, leading the way through the maze of wood and leaf. She let the sad thought of flying home echo in her head over and over. She trembled when she thought about being bound and looked up at her captor with regret.
She played the moment again in her head, how the great red had come, and demanded to know her true name and serve his master. When she refused, he did something she could not believe. He viciously attacked her. He left her broken and bleeding, dying for refusing to be bound. Then along comes a man who offers to heal her if she would be bound to him instead. Be bound or die, die, or be bound. She'd chosen death, begged him to kill her, but then he made an offer she did not expect. He promised to limit her binding to a year and a day, a meaningless period of time to a dragon. To her, such a period was like a season, a moment that comes and quickly fades away.
With much trembling, she agreed. Remembering how afraid she was at that moment made her stomach turn. Before that day, she had never known fear. She was a dragon, defiant and majestic, a creature of legendary power who inspired fear in others, not felt herself.
What was she now? She looked at her human hands. This form was so weak, so frail. She flopped around like a pet behind him, draped in clothes that hung off her like her useless wings. She was a captive, a slave, doomed to serve the rodent who snared her.
She lifted her head when a bird called someplace in the trees above. The forest floor was dark, but up past the swaying branches, she could see them. White clouds drifting by the world below, uncaring and free, like she used to be. She lowered her head, unable to stand the sight as she struggled to hold in tears.
It was from this point of view that something caught her eye. The path before them entered a relatively flat area. The trees opened up, allowing the sunlight to bathe a little field full of blue plants. Gersius walked into the strange blue shapes that reached to his knees; the tender green stems easily brushed aside as he passed. They swayed in the wind, rippling like water in a pond. She was fascinated by the color she was so accustomed to seeing in the sky. It was like a second magical sky, hidden below the green clouds of the forest.
She followed into the waves of color and had to stop. She’d never seen such things before and desperately wanted to touch one. Carefully she knelt and ran a fingertip over a blue petal feeling a softness like never before.
“What are you doing?” came a questioning voice.
Azurastra jump up, startled by the first words spoken in hours.
“They, they were. I wanted to touch one,” she blurted out uncertain if she'd done something wrong.
“Do you not know what those are?” he questioned, walking towards her.
“It is a plant,” she said defiantly.
“It is called a flower,” he said, smiling for a change. “You really have no idea what these are?” he added, sweeping his arms to take in the blue all around them.
“A flower?” she said, looking back at them.
“Go ahead, touch one,” he said. “There is no danger in it. They will not harm you.”
She looked unsure but knelt to look closely at the blue things growing around her. She reached out a hand again and gently ran a fingertip over one.
“This is,” she paused to think of the words. “Different.”
“Different?” Gersius said, coming to stand beside her.
“I can’t feel things like this as a dragon. I can’t feel things.”
“You mean cannot feel soft things,” he replied.
“This rodent form can feel things I could never feel as a dragon.”
“There is more,” he said, kneeling beside her. “Smell it.”
“Smell it?” she said questioningly.
“Trust me, just smell it,” he said encouragingly.
She looked away from him and back to the flower. It swayed gently in a breeze, and a single drop of dew glistened on a petal. Slowly she bent over and closed her eyes. She took a deep inhale and filled her nose with a scent, unlike anything she had ever known. It washed over her and defied her ability to describe it. She leaned back and opened her eyes, looking back to Gersius.
“It smells. I can smell it. It smells,” she stumbled, trying to think of the words.
“It smells beautiful,” he said, filling in the blank for her.
“Beautiful?” she repeated.
For the first time she saw something in his face she hadn't seen before. She had no word for it either, but it felt warm and made her feel at ease.
“Here,” he said, reaching out into the blue canopy. He gently grabbed hold of a stem and plucked a blue flower, handing it to her so she could hold it. Gently she cupped it in her hands and smelled it again.
“Flower,” she said.
Gersius smiled as she said the word. “Not just any flower,” he added, looking into her eyes. “There are many kinds of flowers, each one has its own name, much like you, and I have our own names. I am a human, but my name is Gersius. You are a dragon, but your name is Azurastra. This is a flower, but its name is...” Gersius paused as if unsure how to continue.
“Tell me, what is its name?” she implored him holding the flower up between them.
“Dragons tears,” he replied.
She looked down at the pretty little blue flower she cupped in her hands. “Dragons tears,” she said as she considered the name. She felt a sort of pain inside, distant and sad, almost as if it was something long forgotten.
“Here now, let me show you something else,” he said, reaching into the plants. Carefully he plucked one and then another until he a dozen or more. He began to twist the stems together, weaving them until he had a band of blue flowers all in a row.
“My sister showed me how to do this,” he said as he worked. “We had many kinds of flowers in the gardens where I grew up.” He worked at them a moment more until the band was three flowers wide.
“Now,” he said as he reached up with both hands and placed the band on her head, tucking it behind her ears. “A crown of blue flowers for the queen of ice.”
She twisted around, trying to see the band of flowers on her head, then reached a hand up and felt for it gently. Her fingers glided over the soft petals, causing a golden shower of pollen that carried the sweet scent to her nose. She felt something else. It was inside again, a pressure, a twisting. It was another mystery she didn't have a word for. It pulled at her as if from far away, like a memory straining to be remembered.
“They smell...” she hesitated again. “Beautiful?”
“They do,” he said.
“Your sister taught you how to make the flower crowns?”
“She did,” he replied, seeming to draw away.
“Where is your sister now?”
A dark look of pain passed over his face, and his eyes glistened.
“Come, we must keep going,” he said, standing up and turning away.
A cold emptiness replaced the twisting. It surged up and then seemed to draw away as if fleeing from her. She looked at Gersius as he walked off the coldness retreating with him.
She stood to follow, but in her heart, she wanted to stay with the flowers. She held the one in her hand to her face again and smelled it. “Dragons tears,” she whispered as if talking to the flower.
They walked on for several hours, the sun climbing high in the sky before he stopped again. He took a strange bottle from his pack and opened it. He tipped it back, and water poured into his mouth. She eyed the bottle hungrily, not having realized how thirsty she was.
He glanced at her as he drank and put his arm down.
“Are you thirsty?” he asked her.
She nodded her head.
“Here,” he said, holding the bottle out to her.
She carefully took it from his hands and clutched it to her chest. She sniffed at the opening and smelled the water inside. She had never seen such a thing before, but she saw how he used it. Tilting it back, she poured the water into her mouth and over her face, choking as she drowned herself.
“Careful,” Gersius cautioned as he took the bottle from her hands.
She staggered back coughing and wheezing.
He gave her a moment to cough it back up and get control of herself.
She shot him an angry look as if her current state was his fault.
“You have to tip the bottle slowly so that the water trickles out just enough to fill your mouth.”
Her glare told him she didn't believe him.
“Here, watch me,” he said, taking another drink. She watched him intently as he pressed the bottle to his lips and lifted it back with a slight tilt of his head. He pulled the bottle away and smiled while holding it out to her. “Take it,” he said when she hesitated.
Slowly she took it and eyed it like she was holding a snake.
“Now place it to your lips like I did and tip it slowly until you feel the water just start to flow,” he suggested.
She did as he instructed slowly raising the bottle until she felt the water flow over her lips, she dropped her hands quickly getting little more than a few drops into her mouth.
“Good, now try again, but this time wait until you have enough in your mouth to swallow.”
She wanted to throw the bottle at him, but her thirst implored her to drink. Carefully she tipped it back, taking several tried before she finally got a good mouth full. She still poured a little down her chin, but manage to swallow without drowning.
“See, it is not so hard,” he said, taking the bottle back and put it in his pack. “Another hour or so and we should find the old log road. If we follow it north, we will reach a small collection of farms.” He looked out through the trees as if trying to see them. “I should have come in this way. It would have made travel far easier, but it would have added nearly a week to my trip, and my passage would not have gone unnoticed.”
He turned around to look at her again and looked down. “How are your feet?” he asked.
She paused to consider the question. What was wrong with her feet? She looked down at them and lifted one to look at it. “They are right there,” she responded, unsure of what he wanted.
“I meant do they hurt, are they sore?”
She shook her head no; her feet were not sore. She had occasionally stepped on a stone or twig, but her feet felt fine to her.
Gersius looked at her suddenly with his brows creasing deeply and his mouth coming open slightly. “Your eyes, what has happened to your eyes?” he said, startled and leaned in closer to her.
Her hands went to her face and felt for her eyes as if they were missing.
“They are here; I still have them,” she said, frightened.
“No, I mean the light, the blue glow is gone,” he said, looking into one eye and then the other.
She jerked away from his fingers as he tried to touch her face.
“I don’t know. I didn’t know there was a light,” she said.
“It was there when you transformed, a blue light that burned in your eyes.”
“I told you I don't know,” she said, more irritated.
Gersius took a moment to consider it. Had it been gone all morning? Was it there when they woke up? Was it there when he held her over the stream? He felt a shudder to remember his behavior this morning and moved on.
“It must fade over time,” he said, leaning back. “The light must be something of your dragon nature, that fades the longer you are human. How do you not know these things?” he asked her genuinely puzzled.
“I don't choose to walk around in this weak, rodent form,” she spat, becoming angry. “I have only taken this form a few times and never for longer than a moment. I used it once to reach a coin that had fallen into a tight space. I used it another time to pick my silver coins out of my gold ones. You rodents make the coins so small they are hard to sort with my dragon hands.”
“So you can change back then?” he asked her.
“Of course, I can change back! I can change anytime I want to,” she said, her frustration rising in her voice.
“Good,” he replied with a nod of his head.
“Did you think I couldn't change back?” she asked him in a sarcastic tone.
“I did not know you could change at all,” he answered her, mirroring her tone. “I did not want to make any more assumptions.”
She felt a sudden surge of anger at his lack of understanding. She hated having to explain anything to him, and she hated being in her human form.
“If I was stuck in this weak, pathetic form, I would have thrown myself from a cliff by now,” she yelled, feeling her anger and emotions start to boil. She tore at the clothes she was wearing and stomped a foot. “I hate being like this! I must look stupid to you! I am joke now, a fool to be made fun of!”
“Azurastra, please calm down,” he said, trying to soothe her. The use of her name only made it worse.
“Stop using my name and reminding me I am bound to you!” she wailed as her emotions ran wild again. She turned away and started stomping back and forth as her anger boiled out.
He let her pace about a bit with her hands clenched tightly until she stopped and looked down.
“Are you done?” he asked her as she seethed with rage.
She paused and considered his words. She folded her arms over her chest and looked away, saying nothing.
He let her pout a moment more and then spoke to her.
“I call you that because I do not know what else to call you, not because I want to torment you,” he said soothingly. “What should I call you then? What name do you go by?”
She sat there silently for a few moments before responding.
“I don’t know what you should call me.” She paused and took a breath. “I have never spoken to one of your kind before. I have seen your kind but never spoken. I did not have a use for names.”
“You mean you do not have a regular name?” he said, genuinely shocked.
“I never needed one!” she shouted back.
“But what about other dragons, surely you have spoken to them.”
“We dragons are not social like you rodents are. We don't live in big nests with dozens of you scurrying about.” She sighed and looked around. “We hardly ever meet and only for specific purposes. In the last hundred of your years, I have seen my kind only twice, and one of those two visits was the red.”
“So, you have no order or society? How do you reproduce if you never meet?”
“We don't need a society! We are solitary and have been since the begining. When we want to,” she paused, looking for the right words. “When we want to mate, a female will seek out a male.”
“Have you ever sought out a male?” he asked her.
“That is none of your concern!” she shouted.
“So how did you learn to speak?” he asked her with a look of skepticism on his face.
“My mother taught me,” she said, looking away.
“Yes, my mother!” She turned now to face him standing so she could look him in the eyes. “A dragon brood is always raised by its mother. She is the one who takes care of them and teaches them.”
“And what of the males? What of your father?”
“Bah, males. They have no more involvement than breeding. Once they have bred a female, they hardly care if she exists anymore. They only seem to mind if she nests too close to one of them and competes for food. Then they drive her away.”
“So you do not know who your father is?” he asked.
“No! I do not,” she said, looking down and folding her arms over her chest again. “I don't care who he is.”
“So you do not know anything about people. You do not know who your father is, and you do not have a name?” he said, summarizing the past few moments.
“I told you I—” she tried to say, but he finished her sentence.
“Never needed one, yes, I know.” He shook his head in frustration. “Well, you need one now. So what shall we call you?”
“I don’t; I don’t know,” she said, looking around awkwardly.
It was as she turned her head he noticed the crown of blue flowers.
“How about we name you after one of those,” he suggested, pointing to her head.
“You want to call me dragons tears?” she said, sounding insulted.
“No, not that flower, another flower. You thought the flowers were beautiful, did you not?”
“I thought they smelled beautiful?” she said, irritated.
“A thing can smell beautiful. It can look beautiful. It can sound beautiful,” he said, walking to her as his voice became gentle. “I know a flower that grows in the hills of Tarashan. It has long delicate petals that start out the deepest blues but fade to the color of the sky at its middle, and white at the tips.”
The softness of his words washed over her as he described the colors of the flower. It reminded her of her dragon scales as he evoked a sense of great beauty with his description. He was being very strange all of a sudden, his harsh voice was tender, lacking any threat or demand. Across the bind, she felt a pressure, something pushing, something of him. She tried to grasp at the sensation, but it was no clearer than before and eluded her ability to understand. His face looked soft as well as if he was glad to see her. She was so awash in the moment she almost forgot to respond when he stopped speaking.
“And this flower is beautiful?” she asked.
“It is very beautiful,” he said, walking right up to her and taking both her hands in his.
She flinched at the touch and glanced at his hands, frowning. Why was the rodent touching her?
“What is this flower called?” she asked, tugging her hands away. She felt no malice in the touch but saw no reason for it.
“It is called a Lilly,” he replied, stepping back with a shake of his head.
“A Lilly?” she asked, rubbing her hands as if to wash off his touch.
“Do you like the name?” he asked her. “Can I call you Lilly?”
“Lilly,” she said to herself as she pondered the word. “I accept it.”
“Then it is settled,” he said, smiling at her. “My lady Lilly, shall we continue?” He added a slight bow and a sweep of his hand.
Her mind suddenly felt heavy. Her thoughts were labored, and her emotions were spinning around her. Inside anger mixed with confusion as the twisting in her stomach returned. Even her hands felt strange now. They tingled where he'd touched them as if something of him had rubbed off. She didn't know how to answer him beyond a simple nod.
“Good,” he said, turning to push on into the forest.
He closed his eyes and took a deep breath as he led the way. She might be a dragon, but in her current form, she was little more than a human child. A child so ignorant of the world and its people it surprised him. She had the biting tone of an adult, but her ignorance of humans and their ways was going to be a problem. He would have to watch her when they started to meet other people. He would have to be a father to her, guiding her by the hand through the world. He cursed his luck and pressed on determined to complete his goal.
Another hour passed as the forest thinned, and they found the logging road.
“This is the road we want. From here, we go north,” Gerisus said, pointing down the muddy track that was nearly overgrown with weeds. “With any luck, we will reach some of the farms before nightfall.”
“There will be more rodents there?” she asked timidly.
“Yes, there will be more people there,” he said. “Just stay with me, and remember your name is Lilly.”
“My name is Lilly,” she repeated.
The road was much easier going, and they traveled faster than in the forest. He asked several times about her feet as if expecting them to fall off. Every time she told him they were fine, though, in truth, they were starting to feel tired. It was well after noon when they crested a small hill and looked down into a dark, densely forested valley. A frown crawled across his face as he studied the distant trees. Something pushed at her across the bind, something sharp and unpleasant.
“Lilly,” he said. “I want you to stay close to me. Do not wander more than five feet away,” he said in a deadly serious tone.
“Why?” she asked with her usual lack of understanding.
He shook his head again and cursed his luck. “Please, I have a sense for such things. Just promise me you will stay close to me.”
“You could command me to do it,” she replied angrily.
“I could, or I could treat you with respect and dignity and ask you instead.”
She went to argue but understood the meaning of his words. He was giving her the freedom to choose when he didn't have to. All her bitter words would do is make him angry again, and he was scary when he was angry.
“I, I will stay close,” she said with a defeated look on her face. “I promise.”
He took off his pack and dug his helmet out, firmly placing it on his head. “Can you carry this?” he said, holding the pack out to her.
“I can,” she said with no argument and took it from his hands. It was heavier than expected, but she managed to hold it up.
He nodded his head in approval, his eyes full of worry.
“Just until we clear the trees,” he said as he started to move forward again. This feeling worried him because he'd felt it before and failed to act on it. Several times on his trip to find Lilly, this sensation crawled through his mind, especially the night his men were attacked. He wouldn't ignore it this time, though he hoped it would pass. He prayed it was only his nerves, or perhaps his guilt playing tricks on him
The forest was unnaturally quiet as if every animal had hidden or fled. This only added to his anxiety as it was a sure sign a predator was about. He crawled forward with Lilly close behind his eyes, searching the treeline and every dark shadow. Something was here, watching from just beyond his sight. The sense of dread in the back of mind became intense as a faint smell caught his nose. He turned on Lilly, chanting in a strong, commanding voice, praying there was enough time.
“What are you doing?” Lilly asked, suddenly frightened.
Gersius kept chanting, his eyes closed as he called in song to the power of the divine. Around them, she heard sudden noises, yipping sounds, and the breaking of branches. A savage growl echoed form someplace to her right, causing her to turn about.
“What are those noises?” she demanded.
He threw his hands out to either side of her and spoke the final word of command. A red light formed in a circle around her, touching the inside of his hands. He pulled his hands away, and the ring fell, forming a circle about her feet that pulsed with magical power. He opened his eyes and looked directly at her. “Do not leave the circle,” he commanded.
She felt the compulsion to do as he had said, the binding forcing her to stand right where she was. She wanted to argue, but his eyes were angry again, and their gaze only added to her fear.
A howl split the air as a dark form flew from the trees behind him. He turned, and a sword flashed, filling the air with a different howl, this one of pain as the form fell into the trees on the other side.
Gersius put his back to her, his sword in right hand standing defiantly between her and the enemy. He was like a statue of metal plates, unmoving moving except for a trickle of blood running down the blade of his sword.
Another howl filled the air, and a dark form bolted from the nearby forest. It was as large as a man with dark black fur over its entire body. Its head looked wolfish except for a pair of large tusks that jutted out from either side of its jaws, forming a pincer. Its body was hunched over, the fur over it's back was patchy and filthy. Its spine arched so that you could see its path through its horrid skin. Its hands were three short fingers ending in a terrible black claw. It walked on all of hits limbs like a dragon did. Its front legs were lean and long while its hind legs curled up behind it like it wanted to leap. A second creature like the first broke cover and rushed at him from his right.
Lilly shrieked, dropping his pack and cloak at its sudden appearance, but Gersius never seemed to flinch. In a swift motion, he turned, meeting the new beast head-on, his sword slashing across its body. Another horrible howl split the air as it fell to the dirt flailing. Another one charged at his back and was met with a plated fist. It stumbled past him, and he quickly followed it with a thrusting blade.
Around her, the forest came alive with black forms, howling, snarling, and rushing in. Lilly wanted to run, no she wanted to fly away, to take to the air and leave this nightmare behind. She implored her legs to move, but the command had been given, she couldn't leave the circle.
“Gersius!” she screamed as dark shapes raced in all around her. He was a whirlwind of flashing steel and death. Creatures leaped at him from every side, but he always turned to face them sword leading the way. Already there were more than a dozen dead around him, as he tore through them.
Then her view was blocked as one of the creatures stood between them. It reared up on its legs and glared down at her with violent yellow eyes. She felt panic rising in her heart, and it suddenly lashed out at her. She heard a crackling sound, and the monster jumped back. Smoke wafted off its burned fur as it howled in fury. Another one lashed at her from behind with the same results, the magic circle preventing them from reaching her.
She shrunk to the center of the circle in fear as more surrounded her. Time and time again, they lashed out at her, terrifying her but always the circle held, throwing them back in pain and smoking fur. Someplace beyond the wall of terror, she could hear savage roars as Gersius fought on. Somehow he was protecting her, but for how long, and why did he leave her trapped?
She called out for him, but her voice was lost in the howls and shrieks. All around, monstrous faces glared and threatened her with death. Her fear and rage welled up, and she screamed back at them, causing them to lash out, burning once again.
Gersius struggled to keep his footing. There were too many, far too many. Slowly he was being pushed away from Lilly, the gap growing by the second. He glanced at her and saw a wall of bandersooks between them. He heard the ward snapping angrily as Lilly screa
med his name. It would keep them at bay until the time ran out, or he died. A clawed hand crashed into his chest, stumbling him back, the third blow since the fight had started. He was losing ground, taking blows that thankfully his armor was absorbing, but sooner or later, they would overwhelm him.
He had to stay on his feet and keep moving. They were animals, not smart enough to work together. Any coordination on their part was pure luck, but given the numbers, luck was on their side. There were so many of them now that he couldn't keep turning to meet them all. Another sword thrust another kill, but a clawed hand landed on his thigh, glancing off the metal plate and tearing a leather strap.
It was only a matter of time now, and he worked feverishly to figure out a plan. How had so many of these creatures traveled this far east? These were beasts of the western crags. Monstrous hunters who skulked in the dark places along the borderlands. How had they found him again? He struggled to keep his mind clear. There was only one way he could hope to fight this many. He would have to call on divine power, but he was still weak from healing Azurastra. He would last only a few minutes and then be as drained as he was when she skinned her knee.
He reached out for his faith, the power rushing in. He spun his sword in a full circle creating a ring of glowing orange light that raced outward, throwing the creatures immediately around him away, but more poured in.
He turned to kick one rushing in from the side while his sword cut down the one in front. His armor absorbed another impact this time on his back that drove him forward and nearly off his feet. He was so lost in thought that he didn't notice the white mist spreading out around Lilly.
He turned and cut, his blade dancing as he’d been trained. Another beast fell twitching to the ground, but his timing had been misjudged. A creature lunged, catching his arm with its jaws, locking the pincers in place. The metal of his armor protected him, be he lost the freedom of mobility. The monster tugged and thrashed, pulling him as he tried to turn and cut it down. A second beast leaped on his back, knocking him to the ground and the sword from his hand.
He shouted a divine command, and an orange light burst forth in his hand. The light rapidly stretched, forming into the shape of a holy weapon, a hammer of faith. He twisted, swatting the beast from his back with a loud crack. With another word of power, he called for divine strength, his muscles surging with holy might. He wrenched his arm free, tearing the pincers from the jaws of his captor. He quickly finished the beast with the hammer before turning to meet more. Another rushed in and took a punch backed by holy might, caving its jaws in and throwing it to the ground. He stepped forward to finish it off but was staggered by a blow to the head that tore his helmet free.
Dazed and confused, he struggled to hold his feet. The blow so rattled his head that his vision blurred for a second, and the world seemed to slow. The creatures closed in from all sides, slowly advancing like a tide of darkness. He set his feet as the monsters rushed about him, howling for blood. Gersius knew this was it, he was outnumbered fifty to one, and everywhere he looked, he saw more. Then to his utter amazement, they even started to rain out of the sky.
A roar filled his ears as the ground shook. The wall of darkness before him flew into the air as a tree trunk plowed through them. Gersius looked up from his daze to see a raging blue dragon towering over the monsters.
“Insects!” she yelled while smashing more with an uprooted tree. “I refuse to be frightened by you, insects!” She swung wildly and struck a larger tree shattering the one she was using as a weapon in a hail of fragments. She threw the remaining piece at the scurrying forms as they raced about her. One of the beasts leaped on her back and tore at her wings. She wailed in pain, a maddened look coming into her eyes. Her head whipped around on a long neck, massive jaws closing over the beast. With a snap of her neck, she threw it thirty feet into the forest. She was too large for the circle now, and the monsters flooded in on her. As they packed up in a tight mass, she took a deep breath, her blue eyes glowing brightly.
Gersius had to cover his face as the forest before him suddenly froze in a torrent of ice and snow. Trees snapped as they were flash-frozen, and Bandersnooks caught directly in the path fell over solid as stone. Screams and wails filled the air as black forms ran in all directions. Their howls filled the forest as they fled, growing ever distant as their terror drove them away.
He lowered his arm just enough to look at her. She was taller than the trees, her blue scales glistening in the sun. Around her, the forest was a scene of death and destruction. A dozen bandersooks lay mangled at her feet. Two dozen more were twisted and broken where she had thrown them, and twice that many were locked in an icy grave. Everything was encased in white ice like the worst winter he had ever known. She heaved with her breathing, her eyes glowing a fierce bluish white. Her hands dripped with blood, twitching in rage as she looked for more prey to kill.
“You fool rodent!” she roared when she saw Gersius standing there. “Release me from your stupid command.”
Gersius lowered his arm all the way and nodded his head. It was only then that he noticed she was standing one foot atop the other still in the center of the circle. Regardless of her size, she was still bound to the command.
“Lilly, I release you from my command. You can leave the circle,” he said.
She shifted her feet, planting them firmly before lowering herself to stand on all fours. The movement shifted her broken wings, the pain evident on her face.
“Why didn't you ask me for help?” she roared.
“Because I did not think you could help,” he said softly. He was awestruck by the use of her breath and the devastation it wrought. Even more, she now towered over him, her eyes blazing with anger as they glared down on him. He felt small and insignificant, like a mouse standing before a hungry lion.
“Did you forget I was a dragon?” she demanded. “Or am I the stupid girl to you?”
“I am sorry, I did not think,” he stammered, struggling to get control of himself.
“No, you did not!” she said, her long neck lowering until they were no more than a meter apart. Her blue eyes narrowed, causing the fire that burned in them to dance as she stared down the helpless mouse. “What would have happened if you had died?”
He felt the cold of her breath biting at his face like a gale-force wind in the deep of winter. Her jaws dripped with the blood of her kills, and the appearance filled him with fear. He had to struggle to make his mouth move to answer her question.
“You would have been free. My death would have released you from your bind.”
“That’s not what I meant,” she said, looking through him. She pulled her head away and settled herself. “Are we safe?”
He struggled to get his senses back in order and looked around. All the Bandersooks he could see were dead, and the howls in the forest were becoming distant and scattered.
“For now,” he said, nodding his head as if agreeing with his own assessment.
Azurastra looked over her shoulders at her back and futilely tried to lift one of her wings. She attempted to walk, dragging a broken wing along the ground, the pain evident on her face. A tear ran down the side of her cheek as a white mist began to gather around her. It billowed out, becoming a swirling cloud that completely hid her form. He had to cover his eyes again as a flash of light stung them. He blinked a few times as the mist began to thin, and out of it stepped Lilly covering her naked form as much as she could with her hands.
“I tore my clothes,” she said with tears in her eyes.
Gersius noticed the blue light danced in her eyes again. It was indeed something of her dragon nature that lingered in this form. Noting her shame, he looked around and found the shredded garments in the circle.
“These will do you no good,” he said, tossing them aside. He looked up at Lilly, who was struggling to hold in tears and trying desperately to cover her body with her arms and hands. He found his pack tossed to the side and his cloak beside it.
“We still have this,” he said, wrapping the cloak around her.
“I want my clothes back,” she said, sniffling.
“I will get you new clothes. Those did not fit you anyway.”
“I don't like being naked and weak like this,” she said, pulling the cloak tightly about her. “I want my scales. I want my strength.”
“I understand you hate this form, but you can not travel as a dragon,” he said. “I promise I will get you something soon.”
She closed her eyes and looked away, but nodded her understanding.
“Lilly, thank you for saving me,” he said.
“You’re welcome,” she said quietly while never looking at him.
Gersius quickly gathered his gear and shouldered his pack. He returned to Lilly, who was standing as still as a stone, clutching the cloak. She stared at the shattered remains of the monsters around her as if trying to work something out.
“What were these things?” she asked.
“We call them bandersooks where I am from. Further north, they call them Howlers,”” he said.
“I didn't know such horrible things existed.”
“I regret to say that worse things than this stalk the world,” he told her. “Come, we need to get as far from here as we can before nightfall.”
She nodded and followed him away, heading further away from home and into the unknown.
Support "Dragon Knight Prophecy"
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- newbie writer, wise old story teller.
I am a fan of fantasy and romance stories. I have been writing from a very early age and love to tell stories. I lack a good education in grammar however and I have been struggling to teach myself.
I love dragons and have for years been working on a story where they featured heavily. This is the culmination of that work. I hope it measures up to some kind of standard and that you the reader deeply enjoy it.
I have no awards to brag about. I have no education to brag about. I haven’t written any award-winning books or articles in major publications. I am just an obscure storyteller shouting his story from the void in the hopes that somebody will hear it.
Thank you so much for reading my story. Sharing what I have and finding a way to focus on it for the future is all I ever wanted to do.