Waking Other Lives

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Chapter 15: Thrice is the Charm

Seth’s POV

It was yet another day, and we were back to tracing the rebels. Life had simply become too tedious for all of us. It was the same routine every day, find and kill more humans, burn buildings they could hide in, clear and hold territory, but it never ended. For each man we killed, somehow more seemed to mushroom. I knew the Drakons with me were getting impatient to get back to the palace, their faces reflecting their desire to rejoin with their mates, and soft beds. We’ve been away from home for a month now, I could see the despair on their faces, not because we were doing badly in war, no we were much stronger, more durable, and certainly much more skilled in fighting than the pathetic humans, but they were like an irritating pest, and it was taking more time we’d imagined to defeat them.

And, then there was Sierra. At least, my men had no idea of the thoughts circulating in my head 24 hours a day. I couldn’t stop thinking about her, I literally couldn’t stop worrying about her. Was she okay? Had she made it safely back to her friends? I could control the Drakons in my command, but I had no way of knowing how she fared against the ones commanded by my brother. Fear and anger churned my insides every time I thought about her. And, how was she coping with the delusions and the madness? Who was taking care of her? All these thoughts jumbled inside me until I thought I was mad as well. My dragon was so restless, every night, I was having difficulty sleeping at all.

“They’re coming,” I said, feeling the quiver of light inside me, like a dying ember in the ashes. It was as inconspicuous as the softest ripple on a still water, but it was more than enough to alert us to their presence. The humans had no idea we could feel them every time they were near. It was a big advantage, changing the tide of the war in our favor. It was confusing the hell out of them whenever they were stupid enough to plan a surprise attack. I wanted to laugh each damn time, seeing the expression of shock settle on their ugly faces. But, this time, laughter was not in the cards, instead anxiety gripped me. Was Sierra with them? My heart started hammering inside my chest with worry, but then I sighed in relief. When she was near, that ember inside me became an inferno, awakening the dragon. And, so far, there was no sign of that. Too bad for the humans though, now I had no mercy to give them.

“Cayman, you will be up in the air with the Uruloki, and make yourselves scarce until we set the trap, then burn anyone who gets away.”

“Got it,” he smirked. “That will be our pleasure.”

“As to the rest, you will follow me, we’ll make a circle behind the trees, we’ll trap them within the circle. Then, on my command, we’ll charge.”

Unfortunately, with the madness slowly spreading in Drakons, I preferred to fight on the ground to command the others. The first stage of madness led to uncontrollable shifting between the human and the dragon form, in the second stage, the Drakon would be unable to shift at all, staying in his human form forever, and then the madness would settle, slowly driving the Drakon insane. It was then that we’d have no choice but to kill him. The irony of it all was that we ended up killing more Drakons than the humans did, we had become our own enemy.

Shifting too much seemed to speed up the symptoms in Drakons. That’s why I kept only the strongest Uruloki (fire dragons) on air, only those who came from the royal and aristocratic families, those whose blood were ancient enough to prevent the onset of sickness. The madness had taken the joy of being a Drakon, my men were no longer true to themselves, denying the essential part of who they were, all because they wanted to avoid the madness until we found a cure for it. It had spread like a virus with the war, and that’s why I blamed the humans for it. They were somehow responsible for this, and they would pay.

The humans came with their vehicles and parked them outside. I waited patiently, hearing their leader speak in hushed tones, urging them to move stealthily. They were taking silent steps, so many of them, their hands lifting the guns haphazardly in air, their faces anxious, their bodies tense. I raised my arm while I waited for all the humans to get into the circle we’d formed. I felt the rush of adrenaline in my veins which followed each battle, my whole body was alert and vibrant, while the dragon cried to be unleashed. While I was the master Uruloki, I was going to fight with the Drakons on the ground, they needed to feel my strength, my confidence. I lowered my arm, and the Drakons emerged from their hiding place. The bullets rained in the air, hitting the humans who fell on the ground one after another. It didn’t take them long to understand they’ve been set up, they began to run back to their vehicles to save their lives. When Cayman and his crew were about to burn them, I stopped him.

“Let them go. We’ll follow them beneath the cover of the clouds, and see where they are going.” I said. “I’ll be taking the lead, and you’ll be coming far behind me to prevent detection.” I shifted to my Uruloki form, my green dragon the largest, and the strongest of them all. The Drakons on the ground would be carried by their Uruloki friends. The journey took hours, much longer than we’d expected. Where the hell were they going, I wondered as I flapped my wings as silently as possible. I had to give them their due, this place was in the middle of nowhere. No wonder, humans evaded visibility for so long. The humans got out of their vehicles, and then I felt it, the damn fire burning inside me, the raw excitement, the pure bliss which made my dragon sing. Sierra was here, and it was too late to turn back. The humans tended to a wounded on the ground. I saw my men catch up with me, I waited, not knowing how I should proceed without endangering Sierra, and arousing their suspicions. Finally, when all the humans, including Sierra entered the building, I gave the signal to land. The Drakons on foot took their place outside this nasty looking building, while the Uruloki flew back to the sky. It was not long before the humans detected our presence in their safe harbor, ringing the alarm.

Was she scared? I hoped not. I would not let anything happen to her, I wish I could assure her. It took the humans a while to gather the courage to come outside and face us as we waited patiently. I was this close to leaving it all behind, and turning back to our camp site, if only I didn’t have to justify this decision to my men. The scene went berserk in a second, and my heart pounded in fear as I tried to pinpoint her location among the mass of moving bodies. I saw her, but she was too fast, and she disappeared before I could catch her again. I closed my eyes, and tapped into her frequency. I followed her till I spotted her behind the trees, she was holding her stomach. It was then she noticed, that one of my men, Sid was holding a gun at her head. He was a good Drakon guard, and one who hated humans gravely. Time was of the essence, as I lay down my options. I could issue a command to Sid which would have done the trick for sure, but that would also reveal my identity. Instead, I touched him on the shoulder where his dragon tattoo was. The weakness of the Drakons, their life source, was the location of the dragon tattoo on their body. It was different for each Drakon, that is why, it was almost impossible to find a way to kill the Drakons. Any other gun wound would kill for a few minutes, but then would heal.

The royal Uruloki were the only ones who had the power to automatically detect the life source in each Drakon, and it was only them who could knock them down, or kill them by instant touch. This meant, only the Queen, the King, and the two Princes had that much power. The source of the power was ancient, which was given only to the royal family to prevent the formation of dissent and factions among the Drakons. Sid, collapsed on the ground. I could feel the shock and relief in Sierra. We heard their coward leader give the command to retreat. I felt her small hands on my elbow, pushing me to run. I shouldn’t have, but I did. What stupid urge made me run with her, I had no clue. But, run I did, from my own men, just to follow the lead of the humans. I mind-commanded the Drakons to stop the attack, and go back. I did not want them to scare or hurt Sierra, or spot me with her, running in the wilderness like two lovers. I could feel the silence which emanated in the aftermath, they had no clue why they were not expected to chase the enemy.

“I have a plan, I’ll infiltrate their ranks,” I explained to Cayman. The idea had occurred to me when I was running with Sierra. At least, something good could come out of this Sierra madness which seemed to have gripped my body. I was the only Drakon who did not wear the palace colors, a fact that made it easy for me to look like a human, and act like one. And, I was pretty sure my face was not familiar to them. It was my brother who often had ended up being the public face of the Palace. He lived on fame and publicity. We ran for hours, and then I saw her stop, completely out of breath. She was like a scared little animal as she looked behind to see the chasers, and was relieved to find none. Her face reflected disappointment when she also failed to see her human friends. I wanted to console her, but I stopped myself. I was going to find her friends for her, but I was also going to do it for myself, and for all the Drakons. It was important for me to spot the rebel hideaways and infiltrate their ranks. And, with that in mind, it felt wrong to mislead her. I felt like I was betraying her trust.

“Here we meet again, Sierra,” she said. “I wonder why fate keeps throwing you my way, it must be a cruel joke.” And, I believed that. It was indeed a twisted joke.

She hugged me. I wanted to chuckle, this was turning into a ritual for us. I was hesitant at first, but gave into my instincts, as I wrapped my arms around her tiny body. One of my hands seemed to be out of control as it found its way to her beautiful, and soft hair. The feel of her hair beneath my fingers was like the feel of fire, the feel of flapping my wings in the vast sky, the feel of shifting, letting the dragon out, all in all, it was pure heaven.

“I’d just killed a Drakon, it was my first kill in life. I couldn’t cope. I know I told you I was an Andra, but I’m not, not really.”

Shit, her words had woken me up from the dream quite fast. The Drakon would eventually wake up, unless the gun had targeted his tattoo, but none of it changed the fact that we were enemies. “I see,” I said, closing my eyes. “This is fucking too complex,” I uttered, finally finding the power to push her away. She was killing Drakons, or at least attempting to kill them, and I was killing humans, we had no future. None, whatsoever. Not to mention the fiancée who was waiting for me back home.

“What is?”

“Us.”

“But, I’m very happy to see you, Seth. Aren’t you?” she asked. ” I was worried about you. What did you do, where did you go since the last time I saw you?”

“I was kinda wandering on my own, doing my own thing for a while,” I muttered.

“How come you ended up in the warehouse with us? I’m pretty sure I hadn’t seen you there before.”

Damn, now I was in deep shit. “New recruit,” I said, curious to see whether it would fly with her.

It did.

“I can’t believe you were there with me the whole time, I wish I’d known. It would have made things much easier for me,” she said.

The little trusting Sierra. What was I to do with her?

“Nothing could have made this easier Sierra. Believe me.” I sighed deeply. “But, tell me, for my own sanity, why were you out there fighting, knowing you were no Andra? This is not a child’s play,” I reprimanded her. The idea that she was in the midst of battle infuriated me.

“I know, but everybody seems to think I’m one, and I have to do what I have to do to survive in this world,” I said. “I don’t see any other option really, there’s no safety anyway. Do you think the ones hiding in the bunker, the kids, the old and the injured fared any better? Do you really believe the Drakons would let them be?”

“The ones in the bunker? Oh, yes, I would,” I chuckled with the unspoken words. I had called off all the Drakons, which meant that not only the ones in the bunker were now safe, but also all her Andra friends.

“We need to find the next rebel unit. That’s where everybody’s headed towards, I wonder how many of the Andra made it.”

Now, she was talking. Yes, we had to find the next rebel unit, and we would. We walked some more until it became too dark. It was time to stop, and settle for the night.

“I hope the dragonflies do not get us. Did you know they could kill? It’s the most bizarre thing I’ve ever heard in my life,” she said.

It was the madness showing its face again. He words were gibberish as she claimed she was from another world, she’d died to come in here, and she had a mission to complete. It was her next words which did it for me. She told me her mission was to kill the Drakon prince.

I was so messed up, I almost asked, which one. Was it me, or my brother who was her target?

“Damn it, Sierra. This is all wrong. I’ll take you to your friends, and then I’m done,” I said, even giving up on the idea of infiltration. There was no good outcome here that I could envision. She was bad news, and I had to be away from her. I feared this tiny human girl who was not even an Andra was more dangerous to me than thousands of rebels.

“Seth?”

“Yes” I said, trying to calm myself.

“Don’t go,” she said.

Damn it, she was confusing the hell out of me. I sighed, and told her we should rest.

“What about the dragonflies?” she asked timidly.

I told her I would protect her. She did not question it. She curled up on the ground, but the night was cold. I could see her body quiver with the breeze, and I had enough when I heard her teeth start to chatter. I closed the distance between us and spooned her from behind, feeling her curves, her skin, her warmth, her scent. I was undone. My arms enveloped her, and I was complete.

“Sleep now,” I said, kissing her on the head. I was no longer in control of my actions.

I thought I would not be able to sleep, not with my body hard at her closeness, but my dragon was happy, content and silent for the first time in many nights, and I fell asleep immediately. I woke up, feeling restless, the dragon was roaring again. “What is it now?” I said out loud, angry for being awakened from my peaceful slumber. Then I remembered where I was, who I was with. Sierra was however no longer with me, my arms felt empty. I got up immediately, tracing her, the fire in me blazing as I got closer to her. The scene which greeted me was one of pure terror, Sierra was in the middle of the lake, and despite her head being underneath the water, she was still walking as if she was part of a ritualistic sacrifice. Not even having the minute to lose by shifting, I dove right in. When I reached her, and plucked her out from the accursed lake, taking her back to the safety of the land, I wanted to cry with joy. I turned her sideways, helping her get rid of the water she’d swallowed.

“What the hell were you thinking, Sierra!” I raged. “I thought you were mad, but this goes beyond mad. Why were you trying to kill yourself in the lake in the middle of the night?” The anger of not preventing this before she got into the lake, the panic and misery of almost losing her, the worry of what might yet happen to her, with all this madness, were all driving me to insanity.

“I wasn’t. I can explain,” she said, as if this could be explained, as if words could ever be enough to justify what she put me through, to what she’d done to my dragon.

“I’m dying to hear your explanation,” I said. Thrice now I had saved her, this constant worry over her would be the end of me, I knew it. Why was I even surprised? After all, it was her mission. And, she was doing a fine job so far.

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