Princess Karen sat by the window and looked out at the gardens. It had been days since Wendell left. She had tried to convince herself that she hated him so much and was glad he was finally dead, but now it was too late for her to change her mind!
She tried going out to her special tree and talking with her imaginary friend. Somehow it wasn’t the same anymore. She heard about the ancient warrior Ren Zael in the children’s stories, and ever since had imagined that he was her only special friend, and told him about everything, but at the end she knew it was just a sad game. Even if she wished it wasn’t, more than anything else.
Slowly, she got up and walked, out to the gardens, to her special tree again. Maybe this time...
“Hello,” she said, looking up as if he had just come into the courtyard.
“What took you so long,” she said, smiling tearfully.
His kind, wise eyes looked back at her, in her game.
“I had to chase another ogre away,” he said. “It was stealing turnips from the farmers.”
She tossed her hair to one side as if pouting.
“Well maybe next time you should do it much more quickly! I was getting concerned.”
He laughed kindly. Then he said... he said... it was...
“Oh, what would he say next?” Karen said miserably. The game usually lasted way longer than this! Karen sat down under the tree and wrapped her arms around her knees. She looked up at the white flowers, that hung like beautiful bells. Everything felt so empty now. Before Wendell had come, she was always happy! At least while in her own secret place, away from everyone else. Why did he have to show up.
Now she woke up, and realized it was getting dark already. She must have fallen asleep for a long time! Not wanting anyone to notice, Karen crept back into the castle, and tiptoed down a hall. She stopped. A servant stood waiting. He looked so worried.
“Your father sent me to tell you that Wendell has returned... but I couldn’t find you...”
Without hearing another word, she turned and ran down the hall, but then slowed to a walk. Would he even want to see her anymore? Or was he changed into a miserable, beastly person now, even more angry than he always seemed to be before...
There was a fire in Wendell’s room, and the door was open, but she couldn’t see anyone in there! Creeping in, she looked all around. There was a chair next to the hearth, and she came and looked, carefully.
Wendell sat in the chair, wrapped in a blanket, looking pale. He looked up at her wearily, and something was different about him, but not in a bad way. Before he always seemed to have a sour look in his face somewhere, even while smiling. But now he was more quiet than before.
She looked back at him, not knowing what she could say.
Finally Wendell was trying to say something.
“I saw him.”
What was he talking about??
“Who?” she said quickly.
Karen felt as if she was afraid, but for no reason.
“It’s true! How else could I still be alive?! I only asked him to help me. To keep me from having... a Dragon’s heart. And then, he was there!”
“He told me a lot of things, I don’t remember them all. I can’t possibly tell you what it was like! He even talked about you.”
“He also told me, I should tell you that he was listening. I don’t know why!”
It might have been a trick if it was someone else! But Wendell was so serious, as he always had been! Maybe he knew something more, could tell her something else...
“Could you ask him to appear again?”
Wendell shook his head sadly. No one said anything for a while. Then Karen had to ask something.
“What do you mean a dragon’s heart?! Is that something else he said? Did he say anything else?”
Karen could hardly believe her own words, that she was asking someone who had seen her ancient warrior. It had been a stupid game for so long, but know she didn’t know anything anymore! She wanted to ask a hundred things right away, but couldn’t think of anything else to say. She wanted Wendell to just answer right now, but then for some reason she felt like she couldn’t bear to hear a single word. Everything was different and impossible and terrifying because it couldn’t be true but it had to be true!
Wendell gave a sad little laugh. Then he looked away at a corner with painful eyes for a while.
“Do I really need to tell you? You saw me before. I was so filled up with my own sorrow. In a way, all the things I did were just really for myself. But I didn’t even know anything until I was about to die!”
Then Violet’s haughty voice sounded from the doorway.
“So, you’re telling her new lies now?” she said, in her proud, regal voice. But there was so much sorrow in it now, that it was strange to hear.
She looked much different than Karen had ever seen her, as if a golden mask had fallen off, leaving someone smaller behind. Violet kept on talking though, as if it wasn’t possible to stop.
“I knew I was dead... I promised a thousand times I would do anything if I could just go home... the dragon just laughed at me... I felt so alone, and so small, but the dragon asked me how many times I had laughed at someone’s despair... but I just wanted to go home...”
Finally her voice stopped, as if she was a servant girl who had been caught in the wrong room, and looked at her hands. Wendell remembered something, and looked up eagerly.
“I remember Ren Zael said anyone could find him again. If they only they knew that he was there they could find him,” Wendell said hopefully. “That’s how...”
Violet spoke up impulsively.
“Ren Zael! If you...”
Then suddenly Violet stopped and looked up, a surprised and happier look on her face than before.
Then Karen said something, quickly.
“Do you still remember me? Karen?”
Wendell found himself speaking up for some reason, his words changing somehow to a long lost song that he had never even heard before, but that he did know, in a way he didn’t understand.
“Great warrior, come free our hearts....”
“...from the dragon’s deep dark stain.
From the lies that hide our pride,
make us pure and true again!”
And the others joined in, not knowing how they knew the words.
“Pure as we were meant to be,
true at heart, so brave and free,
heal our story’s destiny,
from our desolate wandering!”
“Ren Zael, come free us all,
from the pain of dark within,
take away the old and bring,
new eyes to begin again.”
Then, not knowing why, they looked at each other, and Wendell felt as if Ren Zael was there with him again. They all knew. They knew the secret, that he was here, that he was there, that he was with them, now, and always would be.