The Odd Path to Fire

Chapter 2: Obtuse

The Chosen happily patted the leather pouch strapped to her belt that contained her recently acquired Soapstone. She stopped for a second at the top of the stairs and looked back over her shoulder to wave a grateful farewell at the knight downstairs.

He never saw her waving though, too busy staring lovingly at the sky.

She rolled her eyes and decided that being blatantly ignored wouldn’t damp her mood. Things were finally starting to look good, after all. She had escaped her prison cell, killed some hollows - and it doesn’t matter in what kind of terrible situation you find yourself, killing the mindless things is always a bonus - and had even defeated a giant bull-faced demon.

That had been a difficult situation and she almost decided to just give up by the third time she tried beating the beast. But well… at the end of the day she was alive (again) and the demon was not. In her book it counted as a victory.

And now, with the Soapstone that Solaire had so generously gifted her with, she could even ask for help when she needed it. All in all, it was a good day.

Deciding that he would not leave his loving stare contest with the sun to grant her a proper goodbye, she shrugged and turned to the big doorway that framed the start of a stone bridge. On the other side, there was a chapel that connected to the rest of the castle. She could see a really big statue in the middle of the it even from here.

With a good humored bounce to her steps and an actual smile in her lips, she started the crossing that would take her to next stage of her journey.

She was almost at the middle of the stone path when something that sounded impossibly big and impossibly angry screeched. She stopped mid-step and looked around with bulged eyes, desperately hoping that whatever made that sound wasn’t aiming it at her, of all things.

Unfortunately, it seemed that her good luck and good day where about to end. The Chosen felt her mouth drop open in complete disbelief as she stared at the sky above the chapel.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” she complained to no one in particular and the universe in general. “Is that a dragon?”

And it was.

But there wasn’t enough time to push the surprise away and replace it with a useful - and ultimately brilliant - strategy since it was coming straight at her. What the Chosen had time to do was give a somewhat terrified scream, turn around on her heels and half run, half stumble back the way she had come from.

The Chosen was so completely desperate and out of breath by the time she reached the beginning of the bridge and threw herself through the doorway, rolling behind a stone wall, that she didn’t even know how she got there in time to escape the fire that came soaring on her heels.

When it was over, she took in a deep breath and tried to regain some sense of dignity, before valiantly sticking her head out of the door and staring, mouth agape, at the enormous red dragon perched over the building on the other side. She blinked incredulously at it.

How was she supposed to get through now?

Only now, seeing the dragon siting on the roof and staring petulantly back at her, she noticed that most of the bridge had the markings of being constantly scorched. That lizard didn’t just show up here by chance.

The Chosen narrowed her eyes at the dragon and then looked over shoulder back at Solaire, who didn’t seem to be fazed in the slightest by all the commotion. She stalked down the stairs back to his side, not amused at all.

“There is a dragon on the bridge.” she said, in a deadpanned tone.

Solaire stopped staring at the sky and turned to look at her. “No, there isn’t.”

“Of course there is! Look! It’s right there!” And she pointed to the building on the other side of passage where there was a very obvious red dragon.

Solaire looked at the it for a few seconds and then turned to her with all the fake patience of someone explaining something obvious to a very obtuse child.

“That isn’t a dragon.”

The Chosen blinked at Solaire and then turned around and blinked twice at the dragon. Then she turned back to Solaire and blinked at him again just to make a point of how incredulous she was.

“Excuse you. I hardly think that thing is a horse.”

“Don’t be ridiculous. Of course it’s not a horse. Horses are mammals. That one is obviously a wyvern.” He glanced at the Chosen and, judging by her blank stare and open mouth, decided she hadn’t understood a word. He proceeded. “You see, a dragon has four paws and the wings. That one only has two back paws along with the wings. That’s why it’s a wyvern.”

The Chosen struggled with the impulse to strangle him for a moment.

I DON’T CARE WHAT IT IS CALLED! It almost cooked me! Why didn’t you tell me there was a fire-breathing giant lizard there?”

“Well… because there wasn’t, was it?”

“What do you mean by that?”

“It wasn’t there until just now.”

“And I suppose it never crossed you mind to say ‘Hey look’” she made an attempt at a deeper voice and half-heartedly tried to copy his mannerisms. “‘There is usually a dragon on the bridge, so you might want to watch out for it’?”

“Not really.” He said, innocently. “And it’s a wyvern.”

Whatever. How do I go through now?”

“You don’t! Haven’t you seen the wyvern that lives there? It’s too dangerous cross it.“ He said, staring at the Chosen as if she had just sprouted a second head and they weren’t having this exact conversation for the past five minutes.

“Thanks for the heads up.” She said, with barely contained sarcasm. “But I can’t stay here forever. I have to cross. You can’t possibly tell me no one has managed to go through that path before.”

“Now that you mention it, there was this one man. Something of Astorias. Had an armor just like yours too.”

She raised an incredulous eyebrow at him. “Oscar of Astora?”

“Oh yes! That’s the one! Horton. He managed to cross.”

“You mean Oscar?”

“Yes, sure. Humbert.”

“Humber-? Look, it doesn’t matter. How did he do it?”

“Well… He just ran.” he said like it was obvious.

“He ran? He just ran straight ahead and hoped the dragon wouldn’t see him?”

“That’s what he did. And it’s a wyvern.”

I. Don’t. Care. And that sounds like a terrible plan.”

“I know. I told him that. But he did it anyway.” He confirmed, then thoughtfully added: “Of course, he crossed from the other side to this one, so I had to shout that it was a bad idea from this side… thinking about it now, that’s probably what awakened the wyvern.”

The Chosen Undead gave a long suffering sight and looked hopelessly at the sky.

“I don’t wanna do it. I’m going to die and it’s going to be painful like hell and then I’ll just have to run all the way back here to die again. I don’t want to do it.”

Solaire gave her a sympathetic look and shook his shoulders.

“I don’t see another way if you want to cross it.”

And he was right. She didn’t have a choice. She would have to go through this bridge sooner or later. Better make it sooner. She collected her shattered resolve and stood up straighter. She would just run straight ahead without looking up at the dragon and hope that it couldn’t see her if she couldn’t see it.

And then she ran.

She was halfway through the bridge and her hopes of surviving this were actually getting higher when the dragon roared and jumped down from his perch right in front of her. She stopped and stared between the lizard and the doorway behind it with her mouth open. That was it. She was dead. And she was so close, too.

The dragon then lifted it’s head and took in a deep breath. Seeing what was about to happen, the Chosen forced her eyes away from him and ran ahead with renewed speed, passing between the beast’s legs and sprinting until she was safely crouched behind the big statue in the middle of the room after the bridge.

The dragon roared and tried to follow her, but was too big to fit through the door. It breathed fire inside the chapel but it couldn’t get to her behind the statue.

She felt a small smile playing in her lips with the sudden realization that she made it through with all of her body parts still attached.

It took her a couple of minutes to stop her limbs from shaking enough for her to get up and keep going but, when she finally managed, she went back around the statue just to find herself staring at Solaire, who was watching the sky beside something that looked like a crumpled altar on the veranda.

She stared from him to the bridge door and from that to the dragon walking around outside.

“What…? How? You where on the other side. And you didn’t come with me. How are you here?

He smiled happily at her and indicated the altar.

“I thought you might want to swear your oaths to the sun. I took a shortcut.”

“You took a… THERE WAS A SHORTCUT? Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Well… you said you needed to cross the bridge, didn’t you? You never said you wanted to go around it.”

The Chosen Undead considered, not for the first time, that she should probably just go back to her prison cell and never leave again.

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