Chapter 44: Rawonia's Heart
My legs carried me away from Sierra, although my heart cried out for her. It was the burden of the responsibilities which weighed heavily upon me, keeping me away from what I craved the most, her. Since we ended up in the Palace, I had rarely seen her. Too many things were piling up to keep us apart, it was as though invisible forces were playing their dirty tricks on us. Since I had ousted my father, an act I still abhorred myself for, word had spread in the Drakon world, the word about my human mate, and the word about the end of my engagement to Nicole. I was seen as the human-loving Drakon King, a phrase that was far from being an endearment. I had spent a whole night appeasing the noble Drakon families of the stability of the Kingdom, I had to visit Nicole’s family, and the families close to them to win their hearts, a deed that was turning out to be impossible. They were just outraged at the insult I had paid to Nicole.
And, there was Nicole, the kind, gentle woman, the dear friend I had always trusted and relied upon. She had been heartbroken when we were sitting in the garden, her tears building my guilt. I had a mess in my hands, at one side stood my heart which belonged to Sierra, and at the other extreme stood my rationality which blamed me for acting selfish and ruining the Drakon Kingdom, the Kingdom I had sworn to protect all my life. I didn’t have a choice; I would rather abdicate the throne and the Kingdom than letting Sierra go. My heart held the reins, and I would go wherever it took me, whether it turned out to be an isolated life with Sierra in the mountains, or a life among the humans. As long as I had Sierra, I would be content with my fate.
But, first I would do my best to make things work. I was not giving up, I felt some things had to change, and it had to start with the war on humans. I had lived among the humans, and as much as I hated some of them, there were humans I had trusted and liked as much as my Drakon brothers. Not to mention, I had fallen drastically in love with one of them. There could be a solution here, a solution my sweet Sierra had suggested herself. If only I could convince my kin to ally with the humans, they needed serious persuasion to be arms in comrade with the species they hated all their lives, and unfortunately, I was coming up short with a good enough reason. It was true that humans could help us fight against the rebellious faction, but much more would join it because of the alliance in the first place. So, all in all, it was possible that the alliance could bring more ill than good.
All these could wait for later, now Nicole was waiting outside the door, and I had to talk to her. She had tried to kill Sierra, how had she lost it to this extent? How had I driven to her to this? Thankfully Sierra had outsmarted them; my beautiful kitten was damn powerful. I had come into the room too late after they had reported the yells and screams coming from my room, but Sierra hadn’t needed me. She had saved herself against four great Drakons, the odds of which would have been nil, if not for her exceptional ability to kill dragons. There would have been no chit chat with Nicole if anything had happened to Sierra. I was still having a difficult time in accepting who she had become, and guilt was still tearing me apart because of my role in this change, but I would have lost it if...I didn’t even want to think about it. I took a deep breath, trying to relax. She is okay; she is fine, she is safe in the room, I kept repeating to myself. What to do about Nicole? I had no idea anymore, was she salvageable? Could I help her? I was going to try. I owed her that much.
Nicole didn’t look well; her hollowed expression spoke volumes. She had lost an important part of who she was; I could relate to her as I had gone through a similar experience, though my dragon had been breathing at the time, even if only barely. The three Drakon guards were doing worse; they were kneeling on the ground, cradling themselves like a baby, their eyes looking crazed, lost. I had already given directions for them to be taken away, so I just walked towards Nicole, and gently guided her to an empty meeting room.
“Nicole,” I said, softly. “Why did you do it?”
She didn’t speak; she just looked at me, but then her words cut me through the heart. “You have to kill her, for me. You have to do this for me.”
“Nicole, she is my mate. She just protected herself; you tried to kill her. I need to know why.”
“Why, why?” she shouted, her voice shrill, frantic. “Because she ruined it all. You were mine, we were meant for each other, and she had to ruin it, do you understand? A weak, pathetic human, that’s who she is. She is a murderer, a criminal; she has my dragon! I will kill her myself if you are too weak to do it. Once you were the most dangerous, powerful, lethal Drakon in Rawonia, look at what she has reduced you to. You have become her slave. Kill her, and prove to me, and to us all, that you are who you have once been. Do it, Seth,” she said, holding me tightly.
“Nicole, calm down, you are not yourself,” I said, barely holding my anger in leash. “It is a pain which is driving your actions and words right now; I will help you as much as I can, but I do not want to hear another word from you on killing Sierra. That’s all I ask.”
“I will take back my dragon from that bitch, do you hear me? And I will let her blood wash the Palace floors, I will kill her, I will do it, and I will save you from her clutches because I love you too much. We can be together again, Seth, we can be happy and peaceful, and rule this Kingdom just like we had once envisioned, together, and side by side. You’d like that, wouldn’t you?” she said, her fingers now traveling all over my body. “I can make you happy; you know that,” she said.
I pushed her hands away, but her determination was a stalwart as her lips wandered on my neck.
“Nicole, stop it,” I said, lifting her off me.
“Let me kill her for you,” she said once more, and I lost it. I lost it; my whole body shook with rage, my fists were clenched with the need to let out my aggression, my dragon roared a battle cry to eliminate the threat against my mate. I held her up, her feet dangling in the air, “I will kill you myself if you lay a hand on her Nicole, do you understand me? Nod your head if you do, because I will say this only once, and you know I never bluff.”
“Good,” I said, putting her down. “I see that I have underestimated the situation in here. I hoped to continue my friendship with you, and help you overcome your grief, which I have caused myself, but now I see that I have been delusional. The friend I knew and loved once is gone, and I do not recognize the woman standing before me. You have committed an egregious crime against my mate, and I feel your presence in this Kingdom will continue putting her in danger. Therefore, I banish you from the Kingdom. Your sentence starts now, and you will leave immediately.”
“You can’t do that. My family will rebel, our friends and allies will rebel, you will be doomed,” she screamed. “They won’t let you do this, do you hear me?”
“I don’t care, Nicole. And, it is already done,” I said and left. She was mad; I was done with guilt, I was done with appeasement. I called Cayman to the Palace; I was ready to go ballistic on whoever was against me. I sent guards to monitor Nicole’s family, and their allied families, they would be under full surveillance from now on. War preparations, meetings on strategy, tactics ate away the hours of the remaining night, and it was morning by the time I found myself heading towards Sierra, my eyes heavy with sleep. I just wanted to curl up with her and sleep while holding her in my arms. Though I wanted to do much more with her than just sleep, I was too tired, and I wasn’t sure whether she was ready or not. Still, I smiled at the image of what was to come, and I hurried to the room.
When I entered the room, I didn’t feel her light which meant she had left. A wave of disappointment washed over me, I walked over to the made bed and unfolded the cover just to smell her on the sheets. I inhaled deeply, how I had missed her. It had been far too long. First, her imprisonment, then her escape, and sickness, and lastly the matters of the Kingdom had come in between us. Where was she? I walked out of the room, now worry taking over me. Had others gotten to her? I went into Kristen’s room in a hurry, knocked on the door, and almost burst through it.
“Where is Sierra?” I asked Mina who was eating cookies while reading a book.
“She went with Elvan, and Dante to get some answers,” said Mina. “I offered to come, too but they were afraid to put too much burden on Dante.”
“What answers? The burden on Dante? You mean they are flying with Dante?” I asked in shock. Could he even shift now? That was news to me. “Dante is not even himself yet; he’s got the madness! Where did they go?”
“He seemed fine to me,” Mina said, shrugging her shoulders. “Heart of Rawonia. That’s where they said they were going,” Mina replied.
Holy shit! “Why didn’t she wait for me?” I snapped.
“Well, can it be because you were far too busy to stick around?” Mina answered, her words mocking me.
“Damn it!” I cursed. “When did they go?”
“Not long, maybe half an hour ago.”
That was not so bad; I would easily catch up with them. I shifted, sleep be damned, and rose to the sky, chasing my mate, yet again. I caught up with them easily, thankfully, Dante was more occupied with showing off to Elvan, than arriving at his destination.
I roared to let him know I was behind them. Sierra’s expression softened when she saw me, so she was not angry with me. That was good. I dived down, landing on the ground. A few minutes later, I was holding her in my arms.
“Why didn’t you say anything? Why didn’t you wait for me to take you?” I asked, my arms wrapped around her waist, pulling her to me.
“I didn’t want to intervene; you had so much on your plate.”
“So much in my plate?” I asked. I had gotten used to her weird phrases, though I still had no clue on the meanings. She laughed.
“You were busy with urgent matters,” she clarified.
“Nothing is more urgent than you,” I said. “It’s my fault, I’m sorry. I should have listened.”
“It’s okay Seth; you are here now,” she said.
“So, it is the heart of Rawonia, again?” I said, chuckling. We were back at this, and it was funny.
“I have to do this, Seth. If you are not comfortable with this, Dante can take me.”
“No, I’ll do it,” I said. “Let’s do this thing,” I assured her. “You guys can go, I got this,” I said to Dante.
It was after I had made sure they had gone that I pulled her hard against me, my lips finally settling on hers. I kissed her long, and slow, taking my sweet time in exploring the secrets of her mouth. I kissed her jawline and moved down her neck, reaching her collarbone. Her whimpers were urging me on, but I stopped suddenly with sheer force, or else I was not going to be able to stop, ever. And, this was neither the place nor the time for this. She was out of breath; her eyes glazed with lust. I almost lost my will, I wanted to make her purr so very much, but alas, it had to wait.
“Let’s go, shall we?” I said, placing a brief kiss her on her forehead, a location I deemed to be relatively safe for my self-control.
Flying while carrying her at my back was bliss, the feel of her made my dragon strong, energetic, boastful, a good thing considering my sleep deprivation. The rain started slowly-- little drops at first, but it became so thick that a dark misty curtain settled all around us, making it hard to see much. The torrential rain beat at my wings, at my eyes, large water droplets attacking me, hard and fearless like bullets, making mobility and visibility a challenge. The rain was turning out to be a force to be reckoned with. This was so extraordinary, so out of the realm that I was taken aback. I was flapping my wings with twice the energy, and yet was making little headway. Sierra’s hands were clutching my neck tightly, but she was having a hard time holding onto my nape. I felt it when she slipped, her fingers trying to hang on to my back, but coming up empty as they scratched my back all the way to my tail, and then I did not feel her anymore. My heart filled with terror. Her scream filled the sky when she started falling, her panic tearing at my insides. I dived down immediately with the speed of a falling stone, going down and down until I could get underneath her, and she released her breath when she felt my solid body beneath her, realizing that her fall was halted. Her fingers frantically wrapped around my neck, her legs closing in on my torso like claws. I would chuckle if I’d not been so worried about her.
The rain hit my wings again, drop after drop, concentrating mainly on my wings and eyes, as though a cloud of rain was self-targeting my body parts. This was incredibly weird, and getting weirder by the minute, the drops falling larger, and more frequently. I was concentrating hard on keeping my balance, as I approached the cave in the mountain. The rain gained more speed if that was possible when I dived down towards the opening. I was going completely by feel and instinct since it was impossible to see anything, the sky seemed to be washed in the rain, leaving little breathing and moving space. Thankfully Sierra appeared to be holding well this time; her body was glued to mine. My movements were extremely slow, cautious as I tried to find the entrance, the rain warring with me with each flap of my wings. I felt a huge burden lifted off my shoulders when I felt the air inside the cave, finally breathing in relief with the knowledge that the rain was unable to flood inside.
Sierra refused to let go as though she feared she would fall once she did. Finally, I felt her fingers uncurl, and she slid down. “What the hell was that?” she said, shivering.
I shifted back. “I don’t know. I’ve never seen anything like it. We should wait for it to pass before we head back. Are you okay?”
“Yes, now yes. But, the fall...my God, the fall,” she stammered.
“Kitten, I would never let you fall,” I said, hugging her. She was still going through the shock of it all. “You are all right Sierra, I got you,” I murmured over and over to chase away the chills in her body, and I didn’t let go until her she felt calmer.
Sierra looked around, perplexed. The beating of the heart was wild within the cave, but apart from the sound there was nothing out of the ordinary in here, it was an old, empty cave with moist walls, permeating a damp musty smell as one traveled further towards the dark earthen cave room.
“Hello,” Sierra called out inside the cave room. “I’m Sierra; I’m here for some answers. Hello?”
She thought there was someone here to answer her. Unfortunately, there wasn’t, and she was going to be disappointed.
After many futile attempts, she threw up her hands in frustration. “I don’t understand,” she said. “I was supposed to find the heart of Rawonia to seek some answers. What is going on in here? Where is she?”
“Sorry, love. But, this is it. Nobody has ever seen and talked to the heart. You are seeking the impossible.”
“That does not make sense; grandma wouldn’t send me here otherwise. I must be missing something here,” she said, angry at herself. “Perhaps there is a hidden room that is triggered by a switch or something,” she said after some contemplation. She started touching the cave walls, her fingers drawing small circles on the moist wall.
“Take your time, we are not going anywhere anyway, not until this ferocious rain goes away,” I said, not believing she’d find anything.
And, she didn’t. She sat down in frustration. I was not surprised. She looked so miserable, so forlorn that I lifted her to my lap, and started kissing her, to take her mind off it all. Well, maybe that wasn’t the only reason. I could live on kissing her forever, the feel of her in my arms, the touch of her lips on mine would be my only sustenance, my nourishment. I was so lost in the passion of our kiss, my hands feeling her curves, that I didn’t feel the air change around us, not at first. And, I thought it was my lust, the crazy pumping blood in my veins which led me to believe we were being swept away in a gust of wind, swirling and rising in the air, carrying us as though we were feathers. It was Sierra which came to her senses long before I did.
“Seth, what is going on?” she asked, as she looked at us being carried away in this wind which passed through the cave walls, one after another, traveling through the interiors of the cave where nobody had trespassed before. The layers and layers of cave walls never touched our skin as we passed them as though they were made of air, as though the wind was forging a secret passageway to the interior, large enough for our bodies to pass. The flow of air around us finally dissipated, and we found our feet touching the ground in a room which I didn’t even know existed. Right above us stood a heart, suspended in air, beating rhythmically and loudly.