We all stared at Alwine as she opened her eyes, looking at all of us. But we all had prepared our weapons, still careful and ready to take immediate action.
Alwine sighed. “I don’t know what you did, but I'm free. I can still feel its presence, somewhere. It's like a fly, bouncing against the glass, trying to get out.”
I sighed, reaching out my hand towards her, pulling her up. I could feel how my body screamed in the processes, but the healing potion definitely did its work.
“Are you okay?” Squeek immediately asked, standing on my shoulder. He was the other reason why it hurt.
I grinned, leaning slightly towards Alwine. “He was by your side every second once he arrived.”
“I’m fine,” Alwine said immediately, looking at her dress, half-burnt. “But I’m annoyed. I’m really annoyed. I’ve been a prisoner for the past few months.”
“I know you’re tired, but just in case, I’d want to get to the point. Who was it?” I said.
Alwine sighed. “I wish I could tell you. I was conscious of every moment, except when I was with them. It’s all blank. I know the orders I received, but not from whom. They were wise to make sure that I had no memories of them. And that includes before I was… controlled.”
I frowned. “Are you serious?”
A grin spread over Alwine’s mouth. “But sadly for them, I’m not just anybody. If I lost my memories before being controlled, it means that it’s something that can be fixed. And I do know a potion that will help me remember everything,” she said, turning to look at her home. “But here’s the sad part; I have no ingredients to create this potion. And I can only get those from the capital, I assume.”
“Then we have to get to the capital!” Squeek said, nodding.
"We do. For one more reason than this."
“Hold on a minute,” I said, looking at Alwine. “Just because you’re out of control, which we only assume to be so, I’m still not sure I can trust you."
Alwine looked at me, sighing. “At least you’ve learned something out of this, Hero. It was truly painful to watch how easy it was to manipulate you. Then again, I did use a bit of my magic to affect you. Just slightly. Normally you’re protected from such influences by… something you own. But I’m quite powerful.”
“But I need to get some answers. More than this,” I said, trying to ignore the manipulative part.
Alwine sighed. “Fine. I’ll give you some. But as Squeek said, we need to move to the capital. And now!”
We all stared at her, waiting for an explanation.
“Whatever their target was, it had something to do with The Capital. You were merely an inconvenience; a side dish for the main course. I don’t know exactly what, though. I was only instructed to be here, wait and kill everyone who got here.”
“So, you’re saying that… this is not over?” Aurora mumbled. I, on the other hand, had immediately some other thoughts.
Alwine shook her head. “I feel that's far from it. But I was never told about the larger image. I was only given introductions that needed to be done. But I do have a few pieces of information that might help you guys out. And I know that whatever they are planning, it’s going to happen before dawn. Today.”
“Alright!” I said, straightening up. “Okay. Alright. How many can you carry, Squeek?”
“Four, at best,” he said, looking at me.
“Okay. There’s now a total of seven of us. And we need to get to the capital as soon as possible,” I said, figuring out a way to achieve that.
Alwine sighed. “There’s an easy solution,” she said, stretching herself, as she began to transform into the same figure I had attacked not that long time ago. But unlike before, she wasn't that massive anymore.
Everyone took a step back, looking at her. Some were more intrigued than others. I couldn’t help but look at her with awe. I had always found dragons fascinating. And here was the strongest elemental dragon. I was truly lucky.
She let herself fall on the stomach, and looked at all of us. “What are you waiting for? Get on!”
One by one, they all climbed on top of her, searching scales to hold onto. Loid finally reached to me. All the small him-s disappeared one by one. “Hiro. They couldn’t find him.”
“Qildor?” I mumbled.
“Yeah. There were no signs of him. There were signs of small blood droplets leading away by those who managed to escape, though. I left one mini-me to follow a blood-path. Maybe he finds something.”
I nodded. “Thank you, Loid.”
Alwine kept staring at me, eyes half-closed. “Hero. Get at the very front. I need to talk to you,” a very different, a lot deeper — yet still belonging to a female — voice reached me. I nodded, climbing up as the very last person, legs around the bottom of the dragon’s long neck, hands holding onto her scales. It was surprisingly easy to hold onto them. And then I realized; her scales were filled with a super thin layer of water - making sure that we wouldn’t fall off that easily.
As we were all in place, I looked behind myself. “Don’t get jealous, but I’m about to ride her, Aldrynte.”
Aldrynte visibly frowned, hitting me softly. “Idiot.”
As we all were visibly ready, Alwine stretched out her wings. “Don’t worry. I’m not as crazy to go on full speed. Not even if I could.” With few swings, we rose and moved forward. Everything below us grew smaller gradually. But to our surprise, the wind was minimum. Something told me that it was some kind of Alwine's magic that helped us out.
After flying for a few minutes, I could hear a voice reaching me. “Hiro. While I don’t know who it is, I have my suspicions. I think it’s Qildor,” she said. Surprisingly enough, only I could hear it, almost as it didn’t reach any further than me by some kind of magical means. It was similar magic that Elbert had used.
I tried not to show any emotions or surprise. “I was thinking the same. The way he sent me away was as he wanted me to stay away from everything. And while you were controlled, you knew that they were coming after you. Not many people knew about this mission. But it doesn’t make sense. Why would he?”
“I don’t know either. But maybe that’s why. He has been too long in that position. He has seen too much. When one sees a lot of twisted things, time will change them. No matter how strong, or who you are,” Alwine said, sighing. “And while Elves are strong-minded - even they can break. I can’t think of anyone else who could have controlled me.
“And before I was controlled, I was in contact with Qildor. A lot. Mostly by presenting the king, while he was having his fancy dinners and parties.”
This is bad, I thought. I had used my only weapon on Alwine. Yet, the danger was now in the capital itself. And I was also out of essence potion to speed up my recovery by a lot.
“How are you? Are you battle ready?” I asked.
“Not even close. I’ve barely recovered enough to be able to fly you all. Every inch of my body hurts,” Alwine said, which made me notice that our speed wasn’t really that huge. It was still faster than any other means, but slower than Squeek’s eagle. But I needed everyone to recover as much essence as they could, not use them. That included Squeek. Essence has become an important resource.
“But what I do know is that every person that I had to kill, I had to move them into the sewers, and leave them there,” Alwine said.
“But they told me that they have…” I stopped. “Qildor told me that.”
“Exactly,” Alwine said. I frowned, once more. I have had my suspicions for a while. At least, from the moment I had caught him talking with someone. But I told myself that it was just me being weird. I had told myself that this is normal, and I didn't know enough. I still don't know enough.
Why shouldn’t I trust someone who is one of the five, who has to follow the contract? Why wouldn’t I trust elf who has been the one keeping peace in the country for the past few centuries? He has been doing it for much longer than I’ve been alive. Why wouldn’t I trust someone who is taking me to the scenes and making me useful. Not following the contract would also mean punishment to the elves. And that would be visible. Or would it?
His every point has made sense for me. His actions have been wise. Especially after Alwine attacked me. But was it all orchestrated by him? Was it his plan to either kill me or transport me away, so I wouldn’t get on his way?
Or was it all one big misunderstanding? Was Alwine lying to me? Was Qildor actually trying to protect this country, while there was someone else trying to destroy us? Maybe it was Rowley instead? Our king was closest to Alwine and could’ve also taken control of her. Advisor and controllable puppet — sounds perfect.
“I don’t know who to trust anymore,” I said, sighing, leaning forward, against one of the scales.
Alwine turned her head to look back at me. She had a really long neck, compared to the other dragons. “Look at that. A great hero, confused and lost. What a treat.”
“Weren’t you supposed to be in love with me?” I said.
I could see the dragon laughing. “Don’t be ridiculous. I find you quite annoying and distasteful. To be honest, I don’t even understand what Aldrynte sees in you. Must be her human side that finds you attractive.”
“Really? And it’s gone like that? All this love? We even kissed,” I said.
Alwine kept looking back, finally looking ahead once more. “I’m almost a thousand-year-old dragon. Do you really think that one kiss would mean anything to me? The only reason why I did everything I did was only because I was required to do so. I was told to charm you, mess with your head, and get your attention away from the other things. So, I even tried to make the girls jealous of you. Yet they made up with you. But that ended up working in my favor. And then I was told to kill you, no matter what. My controlled self would’ve bitten your lips when we kissed if I hadn’t tried to stop myself. And I even managed to send Squeek to help you out.”
“Thank you, Alwine, I guess?” I mumbled.
“While we are at it, my name is Latilth. Alwine is my host’s name. But keep calling me Alwine, if others are around.”
“Alright, Latilth. So, your parents decided to sacrifice themselves for the king, huh?” I said sarcastically. I knew it had to be a lie.
I could see at the edge of her face curling up. “I never lied, Hero. Alwine’s parents did that. Just the story didn’t end there. Alwine didn’t survive it either.”
I raised my eyebrow. “Really?”
I could hear a long sigh. “I guess I can tell you. You would learn it sooner or later. I would normally never tell about us to someone like you.”
“Alright. I'm listening," I said. I couldn't help but wonder if the hero's charm worked on them again, making everyone spill the information at me.
“I’m not one of them. I’m one of the old ones. Those who think that half-blood is a plague upon our kind. I’m part of the ancients, the first clan, not the second clan.”
“Second clan? Do you mean the observers?”
“So, they have told you something. That’s great. Do you know about our transformation?”
“You can transform into anything you wish?”
“So, no,” Latilth mumbled. Her voice had a sound of disappointment in it. “Since you’re dating a dragon anyway, it’s time for a biology lesson. You can thank me later. The talk about us changing into anything is a myth. Well, there’s a truth in it, but it's still a lie.
“Once a dragon is born, they will stay as a dragon, until they become adults. For us, that’s around two-hundred years. That’s when they gain the power to possibly change into someone. And that depends on what they eat. Once they consume something or someone, they may choose to take their flesh as their transformation disguise. And just to make sure, whatever we eat and decide to transform into, doesn’t have to be alive. It can also be a corpse.”
I just listened, fascinated by her talk. It was intriguing. Interestingly enough, it didn't even bother me that she basically had told me that she had eaten Alwine.
“The only exception is half-blood. Half-blood comes from the result of bearing children with non-dragon. And it is only possible if we have transformed into another species. In Aldrynte case, it was a human and a dragon, bearing a child. In half-blood case, they will be born as whoever species a dragon bore a child with. So, for human’s case, they are born as a human. When they become an adult, they’ll be able to transform into a dragon instead. But they will never be able to turn into anything else. And both of their appearances age at the same speed. Unlike me, who starts aging from the point of the flesh I ate.”
“So, if you were to bear human’s children, you’d bear half-bloods?”
Latilth seemed to get irritated from that suggestion alone. But there was a nod. “Yes. But half-blood children will have even less powerful children. And so on, until the dragon’s blood stays as a gene, but rarely appears.”
“So, only dragon-on-dragon can get the result of a real dragon?”
“Yes,” Alwine said, nodding. “But leaving that matter there — and you’re welcome, by the way —, this leads to the point that I ate Alwine’s body, of course, after she had died. One of the Assassin’s decided to follow Alwine, killing her as well. She managed to escape quite far, away from the city. However, the assassin tracker her down and stabbed her.
“It just happened so that I was passing by and saw it happen. I took pity and killed the assassin, trying to save the girl from imminent death. But I was too late. After she uttered her final words — ‘My only regret is that I couldn’t serve my kind." — she died.
“I was already an old dragon, almost ancient. But I still hadn’t taken or chosen a form. But I was interested in why she had such loyalty towards the king. I didn’t understand. But I wanted to understand. So I consumed her and got her memories.
“And perhaps that made me decide to go back, pretend to be that girl, and stand next to the king, learning about all sorts of things. Maybe that would've helped me to understand why some of the dragons decided to become the second clan.”
“Why are you telling me this? Especially about the breeding part,” I asked.
“You know I’m the water dragon anyway. I don’t see any point to keep it as a secret. You’re gonna tell about me to everyone anyway,” she said, as she started to lower herself slightly. “And the second part is a reward for saving my life. You could've killed me. But you didn't. Maybe it helps you to know what you're getting into. The Elder Dragons hate half-bloods. And they will kill her if they ever meet her. Which includes your children, if you will have them.”
I sighed. "Thank you," I murmured, looking up into the sky. “Whether I tell about you to others, that depends on you,” I said, sighing. “But have you found your answer?”
Latilth looked back at me. “Not even a bit. If anything, it has been a horrible mistake. I’ve seen your greed and lust for power. I've seen the horrible qualities of rich. I was even controlled by someone. Not a great experience. But then you saved me. This might be one of the first good qualities I have seen in a long time.”
“Yet you’re helping us, taking us to the capital,” I said, smirking.
She turned to look down. “I'm part of that created mess. We are here!” As she said the last sentence, everyone could suddenly hear her words, while she was descending.
We landed outside of the capital at the nearby forest. The moment we landed, everyone began to hop off. Loid immediately took some steps away, vomiting behind a nearby tree. Aurora walked to him, patting his back. “It’s alright. We’ve landed now!”
“He almost puked last time as well,” Squeek said, as I looked at him for a moment.
“This is as far as I go,” Latilth said, looking at us. “I will not meddle in human’s business. I don’t have any strength either way. I could barely get you here. Your hero knows enough to go on.”
I nodded. “Thank you, Alwine. What will you do now?”
“I will keep an eye on the city. I can promise you that much. And I need to create a potion to fix my memories. But until then” — she turned around, raising her wings once more — "good luck!" And with one wide swing, she was already flying away from us.
Aldrynte immediately walked to me. “I saw you two were talking a lot. Are you alright?” she asked.
“As expected from Aldrynte. Of course you noticed.”
She sighed. “So?”
“I’ll tell you on the way,” I whispered. Of course, I didn't plan to tell her everything. Especially about sex education.
I turned to face everyone. “Alright. So here’s the deal. We go back to the city. Squeek and Aurora, I want you to go and wake up all the students. You can speed things up, if necessary, Squeek. Fly inside the city. Prepare them to fight or evacuate. I also want you to go and tell about this situation to the adventurer’s guild. Maybe do that first. We need battle-ready people, just in case.”
“What about me?” Loid said.
“The remaining people: me, Aldrynte, Alice and Loid will go to the sewers. If you’re okay with that Loid. I feel that your power might come in handy.” I took a few steps towards Aurora. “If you need to, use your fear power,” I whispered. “I’d want your help down there, but I can’t risk it,” I added quietly.
Aurora blushed, slightly. “I understand,” she said loudly.
“Loid. Are you okay with this?”
Loid nodded. “Of course!” he said quickly.
“Excellent. Hopefully, we’ll meet again. Until then, survive, and prepare for the worst. I have a really bad feeling about this.”
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- Matthew E. Damson
I'm someone whose pen-name is Matthew E. Damson. Some others know me as Elven. I'm also known as elf, elfie, elves, pointy ears, and some more. To be honest, I have no idea why they call me other names, but they create nicknames, not me.
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