Chapter 49: Mate, hello
Day and night mingled in endless, monotonous, overstretching hours, where did one end, and the other start? I had no idea of what day it was, or what hour it was, and it was driving me nuts. All I knew was that it was not the day of the sun, yet. My mind was reeling in confusion and bewilderment all the time. Darkness brought a constant wave of hopelessness in me, but I refused to surrender to it. Every minute I was stuck in here with Baran and Abby, I felt the burden of the mission weighing on me. I sighed in exasperation as I looked at outside, which beneath the blanket of its moonless, and starless sky, was ironically much worse than inside. Inside was lit with endless number of torches as if to defy the forces of darkness, and mock the end, which was coming as soon as the sun disappeared forever. I took a step back from the cave entrance door and I bumped into Abby. Vibrations of anger engulfed me, I stifled the undeniable rage, the frustration of finding her always behind me, stalking me like a shadow. I smoothed out my features, expelled the air slowly from my lungs to ease the tension out of my body, and planted a fake smile on my face to cover my raving emotions.
“What’s up Abby?” I asked.
“Nothing, Baran wanted me to find you. He is going hunting, and wanted to see whether you were interested, too. It could be fun,” she said, shrugging.
“Hunting? In the darkness? What madness if this? He won’t find any animals, for sure,” I commented as I strode inside to find Baran.
“Who is talking about hunting animals, Sierra? We are talking about human hunt, sister,” she laughed, throwing her head back.
I held back my gasp, I would never understand how I ever believed us to be friends once, how I was stupid enough not to see her true colors. She had even fooled me in Rawonia, let alone on earth. She truly disgusted me.
“I see,” I said, nonchalantly, though I was anything but. “In that case, I’d be happy to join,” I announced, and saw the astonishment flash across her face. Two could play the game. Going outside could be my chance of escape. In the very least, I could try warning the poor souls.
Baran was among the stockpiled weapons, making his choice among the many guns in the room, examining them, turning them in his hand, feeling their touch as though this was a common day occurrence. He flashed me a wide grin when he spotted me. “Babe, are you coming?”
“Yes, I am.”
“Here, catch it. It is your usual, ” he said, as he threw me a light automatic gun.
Usual? Did that mean, I did this often? I refused to believe that.
“Thanks,” I replied as I looked at it for a few seconds as though my mind was hatching a plan. Would Abby bleed if I shot her, I wondered. That witch probably had many lives. So, in the end, I sighed, and snugged the gun at the back of my pants.
I rubbed my palms on my jeans. Seeing Abby was making the pulse in my palm very restless, but thankfully the heart had learned to notch down the beat in her presence to avoid arousing her suspicions. I couldn’t wait to get rid of the heart, it was extremely uncomfortable to have a breathing living and moving object in the center of one’s palm. But, I knew it would get worse before it got better. I couldn’t even imagine what carrying two hearts would be like when I was done with the mission. Correction: if, I was ever done with it.
“Are you coming Abby?” I asked, hoping she wasn’t. I cast a quick glance at the people inside the room. I didn’t know any one of them.
“I wouldn’t miss it sister,” she said as a wry smile curved her mouth, and she grabbed her own gun.
“Yay,” I muttered, sarcastically. We left the cave in a group of twenty-five people. Baran assured me that the bandits always traveled in large groups, and were always heavily armed. It seemed the war with the dragons, and the disappearance of the sun had opened new opportunities for these plunderers, pitting humans against humans in a world of survival. This universe was so screwed, I doubted anyone could correct it. I walked in deep thought. How was I going to escape?
Every third person had a torch in hand, shedding light on the path. The darkness stretched ahead of us, a heavy silence looming in the air. It was so surreal with no animal predators lurking beneath the shadows, no chirping of crickets, roosting of night birds, croaking of frogs, and hooting of owls shattering the serenity of the freezing night. The only sounds in the night were the gravel crunching beneath our feet, and our heavy breathing in the chilling cold.
“Listen,” whispered Baran. We could hear the muffled sounds of a small party chatting in the far distance. He stretched his both hands horizontally forward in two parallel lines to indicate we should split. We separated with the sole aim of surrounding the group from both directions. What was the purpose anyway, they stood little chance against a large group like ours. Abby stood right behind me, leaving me little chance of escaping. How could I get away knowing those innocent people would be hunted by this group, anyway? Though I knew nothing was real in here, turning my head away was easier said than done. I would still hear their painful shrieks, see their bodies shrink in fear, remember the moment of their deaths. I couldn’t just be a bystander and do nothing. But, what could I really do? Baran had warned me aplenty, and in the end, I was only one person against so many.
We came across them as suddenly and as stealthily as a group of vultures. There were only four people, with heavy handbags, food and guns, all of which they would soon be stripped of. How was I going to save them, the pulse was silent, giving me no guidance as though she believed in the invisible forces of the universe to right the wrongs. When the blonde girl turned around, her hand holding the gun, waving it at each one of us one by one, her eyes delirious with panic, I swallowed heavily, a lump filling my throat.
The girl was of course Elvan. Why couldn’t it be a stranger? Why did everything have to be so hard on me? As expected, she had no recognition of me which didn’t assuage the guilt. I knew what was coming. They were going to kill her, but only after robbing her dry.
“Baran,” I said, hoping he would listen.
“Not now, my love. Now, is the time for business,” he urged. “Leave your guns on the ground, slow and nice. You don’t want to do anything you’ll regret,” he warned.
“You can’t leave us defenseless here, in the middle of nowhere,” Elvan said, lifting her head in a gesture of defiance. Others had dropped their guns, but I knew her well enough to know she would not relent, she’d go down, fighting.
“Baran, please let them go,” I said, with a pleading urgency in my eyes.
He did not heed me, instead prompted his men with a head move, and they raised their guns.
“Kill her, first” he said with the arrogance of a bandit leader hell bent on punishment.
There was a raw tension humming in the air. My heart raced in my chest,
Abby smirked, enjoying the show.
I screamed, expecting the explosive sounds of the guns, the whiz of the bullets, the blood that would follow, the bodies that would fall, one of which would be my friend. What could I do to stop it? Rawonia’s heart was now plummeting, but the throbbing pain in my palm served as a wakeup call, and the answer leaped out at me like a predator leaping towards its prey. The heart had told us that each human held a beam of light for one Drakon, his or her mate. In return, this light source supplied the nourishment one’s mate needed. But, I was the key, the receiver and transmitter of light, sort of like a conduit. I had the power to manipulate the light of dragons, but dragons were not the only ones with the light. Their human mates had it, too which also meant my powers should be working with the humans.
Did I know for sure? No, but there was no better way to find out, but try it. I had no time to lose and I raised my palms in the air. First nothing happened, an absolute nothing. But then, just like a bee drawn to honey, the light in the humans was slowly pulled towards my palms, the brightness of it too much on my eyes, forcing me to blink, and the energy flowing to my body making me sway. All the existing humans, including Elvan fell forward in a faint, the torches falling from their hands, condemning me to complete darkness once I had consumed all their light sources. Unlike the dragons, the light in humans was not their life source, so I assumed they’d be fine afterwards.
“You, stupid girl,” I heard somebody yell in darkness. The voice brought me back to reality. Yes, I had annulled the threat from the humans, but Abby was not a human, she was an angry Goddess, the only one remaining, and still standing among the piles of fainted bodies. Crap, what was I going to do about her?
“This is the time to let me know what to do,” I murmured to the heart in my palm as I started running in pitch black darkness. The light sources had filled my body with such power, energy that I felt I could run a marathon. The pulse moved, beating towards the west of my palm. On cue, I turned left, continuing to run, with the sharpened instincts of a blind person. It was damn scary, like a scene out of a nightmare, taking step after step, pumping those legs, faster and faster, without knowing what was ahead of you, not seeing whether you would clash with a tree head on, trample on a fallen branch, or come face to face with the witch and not even know it. But, adrenaline kept me moving forward, and of course so did the thought of Abby.
The heart in my palm shifted north, beating fast, and I took a sharp north turn, heeding her directions. Turn to the right, now left, continue straight, oops turn slightly right again. I pushed on, often changing directions with the prompting of the heart. Eventually, I slowed down. Where was Abby? I couldn’t hear her movements, was it because she made no sound, or because she was no longer following me? I crouched down on the ground, the adrenaline still kicking in, preventing me from feeling the cold. After an hour, I was sure I had lost Abby, but I had no idea where I was and I felt bad that I hadn’t been able to help Elvan after she had fainted. I wish I could have done more for her. And, I would have, hadn’t it not been for Abby. Knowing that was little consolation. I hoped she would be the first to wake up, and escape long before others got to her.
I curled up on the ground, the disappearing adrenaline rush leaving my body in a state of exhaustion. The beat slowed down to a rhythmic thud. I closed my eyes, and slept despite the cold.
Darkness, yet another day of darkness welcomed me when I opened my eyes. No torch, no lighter, nothing. I had nothing. The beat was silent, leaving me to my destiny. I was losing my mind as I walked, my hands stretched forward, not knowing where I was heading. Darkness breathed all around me, lapping at my ankles like waves, swirling around my legs, snaring my body firmly in its power, trapping me in its endless arms. I could not escape it, and the knowledge filled me with dread, which soon turned into panic. I was so desperate that if Baran had come right then, I would have gladly walked back into his arms. Heck, I would have walked into Abby’s arms. Anything was better than this hellish darkness.
I was so lost in my delirium that I didn’t at first notice it, the slow change in the tone of the darkness, the first gleam of dawn seeping through my fingers. The realization came late, bringing a joyful awareness, my salvation from insanity. A warm flood of happiness invaded my heart. Today was the sun day, and I sat down on the ground, and literally wept with joy. I looked around, this area was rather sparse in vegetation, touched barely with some growth of brush, a few scattered trees, weeds, and clumps of wild grass, but nothing else. It had worked to my favor when I’d been in the dark.
I walked as there was nothing else to do. “I’d like some guidance, please,” I prompted the heart. Wandering aimlessly, wasting the sun day was far from wise. I intended to achieve a lot this very day. The heart was silent, but it was a different kind of silent, beating too slowly, barely showing its presence as if it was in deep contemplation. A disquieting sensation stirred to life inside me as though I was at the precipice of something irreversible. I was basking in sunlight when I heard the barely audible whimper, it was too late when I realized what that was. It was standing out in the open, huge and ferocious. Its shadow did not credit for the vibrant colors in his body, its beautiful sparkling blue and yellow scales, flaring red eyes, spiky mane. Its tail was folded to the front, and bleeding badly. I knew very well who that was. I had ridden it once, almost all the way to Rawonia’s heart. It had been a friend, then. Now? I had no clue.
What I knew though was that I was facing Dante’s dragon, and it was wounded. Running away was not an option, it could easily catch up with me, wounded or not. But, most importantly, I had a mission to complete, and Dante could be vital in helping me find Seth. I approached the dragon cautiously, its eyes were feral, wild with pain. It rose on its hind legs when it saw me, it emitted a frightening cry, a deep rumbling growl in warning. I almost turned back to run. But then an odd expression flitted across its face, it took a step forward and paused. It drew in a long breath, its eyes holding me captive, then it roared. The roar though was different in nature, softer, wistful, like an ode to a lover. If I didn’t know any better, I would say Dante was singing to me. The beat started in the center of my palm steady and strong, in warning. What was it warning me against? What was going on? Everything happened within a few seconds, Dante suddenly standing next to me, giving me a nuzzle and a long sloppy lick, holding me firmly with its claws and taking off in the air. Just like that, we flew God knows where, with the wind of Dante’s great wings sending a gale through the sparse trees as we sped away.
What had just happened? As my legs dangled in empty space, I pondered on Dante’s reaction. He had behaved as though I was his mate, but I wasn’t, Elvan was. What was going on? Suddenly things clicked, and I cursed in frustration. I had taken away Elvan’s light which was stored somewhere in me, the very light which was meant to serve as a beacon to her mate, the same light which was meant to be appealing to Dante and Dante alone. And, now I had it in me. And, Dante mistakenly thought I was his mate. The mates of all the humans whose light I’d just stolen so thoughtlessly would now be drawn to me, and I would have a dragon war in my hands. Nicely done Sierra, I admonished myself. Nicely done!