In the following days, the dragon makes his return
a blemish to the city of Ishmera. His daily raids on
the citizens have them living in fear. Rhiannon and
I patrol the city in the early mornings, but to no
avail. The dragon strikes quick and silently and we
can't be everywhere at once. He is elusive,
disappearing after every attack.
Blue Stockings, the Gazark, makes his appearance
at the end of the week. I had gone to meet him at
the same place i had first met him. His blue feet
transform to green as he silently pads over the
grass, blending into his surroundings.
"Lo, Citizens," he calls, drawing my attention. I
can't see much of him. Only the whites of his eyes
give any indication of where he is.
"Hello, Blue Stockings. I squint in the bright
sunshine as I try to keep track of where he is.
"I hear the red dragon is up to his old antics again,
attacking your people and setting fires in the town.
Is this true?"
"Yes. He is making it a habit to raid the town for his
meals, meaning us. The residents have gone into
lock-down, afraid he'll return."
"Have any plans how to stop him?" the gazark asks.
"Nope." I drown at him. "Rhiannon and I are trying
to catch him in the act when he attacks, but haven't
had any luck yet."
"I'd like to talk to you and Rhiannon about it." He
shuffles his feet while standing still. "Will you take
me to her?"
"Sure, but -"
"I'll be okay. It's been a long time since Elves and
Gazarks have been at odds." He smiles reassuringly
"I hope so," I mutter as I lead him into Ishmera.
Outside of the guard house we meet Rhiannon
walking our way.
"I was just coming to find you," she says. "What's
"Blue Stockings wants to speak to us about the
"Oh?" She raises an eyebrow at him as she falls in
step with us.
"I'm wondering. What are you doing to do with the
red dragon? David says you are attempting to catch
him, but you haven't had any luck yet."
"He's right, we've been scouring the city during the
early hours when he attacks, but without -"
"It's the frigginin' gazark! It's back after all these
years! Just when the red dragon reappears and
now he's back!" A tall elf interupts her, running at
us. In his hand, he carries a long javelin, which he
waves in a menacing manner. He has a wild look in
his eyes as he reaches back to throw his weapon.
Rhiannon steps in front of Blue Stockings, shielding
him from the newcomer's wrath.
As our attacker launches his spear, I dive in front of
Rhiannon to shield her from his deadly intent.
I'm knocked to my knees and a searing pain rips my
chest. I've been hit! She covers her mouth with
trembling hands. My mind flashes back to the war ,
but Rhiannon's scream brings me back to the
present. I look down to see my blood spill out in
vast amounts. I topple over, my knees bending into
an ackward position beneath me.
A sickening relief washes over me as I realize i've
crossed the chicken line where feet may fail.
Rhiannon's next scream brings me to my senses for
an instant. I can't let her see me die. I have to spare
her from this!
The pouch around my waist burns firey hot.
Numbly I seek to open it, as it grows hotter. The
headband! I can spare her from the painful
memories of witnessing my death by pulling it on
and slipping into the Mists. I pull it on as I see the
chicken line spinning out of reach and turning a
bright yellow as it bobs in an ever-widening pool of
I'm not aware of when I enter the Mists.The angelic
sounds I normally hear are even more acute to my
ears. Michael stands nearby as if he's waiting for
"Take the headband off, David," he urges. I resist
the temptation to ignore his suggestion as a
moment of terror sweeps over me.
I tear it off and immediately feel as if I'm drowning
as cool fluid fills my lungs. I struggle for breath as
darkness closes in on me. Black then engulfs me.
This is it. I'm going to die! At least Rhiannon is safe!
A bright light shines in the dark, growing closer and
closer. Voices murmur in the background, but are
"It's not your time, my friend. I have plans for you."
The light recedes to blackness. The cool liquid
soothes the burning agony and in my chest and the
piercing pain is gone.
I watch in horror as the guards carry David's body
into his room at the palace. Physicans scurry like
cockroaches around him. They turn to me with
"He's dead, Princess. There's nothing more we can
do." They pull a sheet over him and walk out of the
Rytkovia wraps her arms around me, but there is
no comforting me. My heart is heavy and I struggle
to breathe. I approach the sheet, but Rytkovia
"No, Rhiannon. I'm not sure it's best for you to
remember him this way." All fight leaves me and I
allow her to lead me away to the courtyard. She sits
beside me as i weep. Sobs wrack my body for hours
while Rytkovia wraps her strong arms around me
"Oh, David!" I wail as my tears fall like rain. "Why?"
She trembles and I know she's crying too. We cling
to each other until my eyes are swollen and red.
There is no relief for the pain and regret I feel. The
love of my life is gone. Dead from a senseless act of
violence from some revenge-maddened citizen. For
a second, white-hot anger flashes through me and I
hear a loud thunder clap above me. It is gone as
soon as it comes though I realize the futility of such
feeling now. The night drags on. Never-ending
misery hollows my soul and when I think I have no
more tears left to cry, another wave washes over
I'm not sure when the rain began, but when a tree
erupts in a shower of sparks, the spectacle catches
my attention for an instant. Lightning illuminates
the uncovered portion of the courtyard, followed by
a deafening crack of thunder. The thunder becomes
a continuous roar. It's as if the elements are
sharing sympathy pains with me and are running
amok, but I don't care, none of it matters. My mind
is numb and empty as the deluge increases around
The rain pummels the ground the hardest I've ever
seen. It's as if the storehouses of Heaven have
opened, and are flooding the palace. It reminds me
of an old Earthism that David used. "It's raining
cats and dogs." The memory sends me into a
renewed fit of tears and it rains harder.
The wind, formerly howling through the protected
courtyard, increases to an Undulouvian wail, as
branches are torn from trees and bushes. Soon the
ground is strewn with them. I walk in the rain and
wind. With my love destroyed, I don't fear death.
Not even the red dragon scares me. I would
welcome death over this pain.
Rytkovia stares at me, her eyes wide at this display
of the elements. It is unlike any of us has ever
experienced. At last, I fall into a fitful sleep in her
I stir, hoping to shake this nightmare, but when I
wake we are still in the courtyard. David is dead.
My loss isn't a nightmare but a horrible reality.
Tears again fall from my eyes as I sit up.
Stirring beside me, Rytkovia sits up and pulls me
into her arms again. We huddle together and
continue our ceaseless grieving.
More time passes and I pull away from Rytkovia.,
wiping my tender face. She does the same thing and
stares into the dim light over my shoulder.
"Oh, My God!" Rytkovia bolts straight.
"What is it?" I leap to my feet and towards where
she is staring. David stands before us. "David!
You're alive!" Black spots dance before me until my
vision turns dark.
I awake on my bed the next morning, still my blood-
soaked clothes, a sheet over my head. Has it all
been a terrible nightmare? No, the blood suggests
something entirely different and real. I feel like
something the cat dragged through a knothole. Or
better yet, road kill.
I attempt to remember the events of the previous
day, but my memories are of seeing a bright light in
the Mists and feeling content like I was going home.
All else is dark.
Changing into clean clothes, I walk into the
courtyard where I see Rhiannon and Rytkovia
huddled together, sobbing. I'm startled when
Rytkovia sees me and gasps a little squeal.
"Oh, My God!" she screams, and springs to her feet,
her face paling.
"What is it?" Rhiannon leaps to her feet and turns.
"David! You're alive!" Her knees buckle and I run
forward, catching her in my arms as she faints.
Rhiannon's red and swollen eyes flutter open. They
grow wide, shock and confusion present in her
every feature. They pop wider with a deer-in-the-
headlights stare locking with mine.
"David! What happened to you? I thought you were
dead," she whispers, tears glistening in her brown
"I don't remember anything after I saw the elf
throw his javelin."
"He struck you in the chest with his spear. You
pulled the headband on and collapsed. I tried to
revive you and the physicians pronounced you
dead!" She breaks into tears, crying a half
hysterical, half-relieved rasp, and dances from one
foot to the other, locking her arms around me in a
"I think that reports of my death are a little
premature." I wrap my arms around her. "All I
recall is seeing Michael, you remember him? In the
Mists? We met him there."
"Yes!" She trembles in my arms.
"I think he told me to take the headband off and I
saw a bright light, but it went away. The next thing I
was aware of is waking up in my room with my
bloody clothes and a sheet pulled over me as if I
were dead. And here I am."
"You scared me out of a year's growth," Rytkovia
growls, shaking her blonde curls.
I grin at her, remembering her shocked expression.
"I'm glad you're ..."Rhiannon says with a shudder,
and begins sobbing uncontrollably. After several
minutes of clutching me tightly, she steps back and
says, "Let me see the damage."
She opens my robe, revealing the angry red mark
where the javelin struck me. She runs her fingertips
over it gently. I feel her channeling her healing
power on it as warmth flows from her fingers.
"It missed the heart, but still it should have killed
you. You took the weapon meant for the
Mandogia... or me... didn't you? I'd rather die than
live without you."
"And I would rather lay down my life for you and
consider it an honor," I say.
"Obviously," says Rhiannon. "Don't do it again.
For once, I tune her words out. That's not
happening. No way.
I continue to ignore her pleas, until Rytkovia says,
"all right aready, both of you. We know you both
would rather rather die for each other, but didn't.
Let's be happy we're all alive and well, okay?"
"Yes, let's." I grasp her hand and shoot Rytkovia a
grateful glance as I turn; I'm relieved to have
Rhiannon's mind diverted elsewhere. I know this
has been a terrible experience for her, but at the
time, the Mists had seemed the best option
available to me. I remember I was dying. Something
about seeing a bright light triggers a memory of
something my mother told me as a child about
death, but I can't recall it.
Rhiannon spends the rest day hovering next to me.
I know she's worried I will disappear again. She's
moody, with lips straight, brows drawn tight and
quiet, appearing deep in thought. She excuses
herself to speak to her father. They murmur in
hushed tones, bit I still can't help but overhear
some of their conversation.
"David took the brunt of the attack for me and went
to the Mists so I wouldn't watch him die. Is that
what happened with Mother? She removed the
pain and injury for you? Tell me, Father!" Her voice
The king lets out a weary sigh. "I was struck a
mortal wound and she saved me at the cost of her
own life. She poured all her strength into me, to
save me." He pauses and clears his throat as an
expression of pain crosses his throat. "When she
finished and it was apparent I would live, she
hadn't enough strength to carry on herself." After
another brief pause, he chokes out, "I've mourned
her loss for years. I hold on to my guilt and shame
with no end in sight. I would have done anything
within my power...." The king chokes at reliving his
terrible loss and sobs rack his shoulders.
"That's how I feel about David saving me from the
attack meant for ... whom ever it was for... me or
the mandogia. He should have died."
He wraps her in his arms and pulls her close.ae
"Then let's us be joyful neither of you died. It seems
he made a wise choice; don't let guilt tear at your
soul. His quick-witted decision was your salvation;
not many do so. He made a split-second decision to
protect you; it's not everyone who would have
made that choice so quickly and willingly. Cherish
him, cherish your love. One may never their end
nor how soon, not even a king or a princess. You
never know when death will come."
She smiles at him and gives him a kiss on his
forehead. "Thank you, Father, for setting the truth
of Mom's death." Her footsteps are lighter as she
returns to where Rytkovia and I sit.
I'm not certain what happened when he entered
the Mists. David died. He did it for me; perhaps to
spare me from watching his lifeblood draining
away. This surreal dimension, brought a miracle
and David lives. Should I regret he died? No, I tell
myself. He is alive. My mother, she gave her life for
her husband, the king. I'm surrounded by heroes.
But, with that heroism comes with great sacrifice
and loss. I'm immensely glad I didn't die. In fact, I
have more to live for, as I know the depth of
David's love for me. He'd died for me in a
heartbeat. How many women ever experience the
kind of love in action that moves without thought?
I smile, enlightened. Now I know what David refers
to when he talks about the chicken line and doing
something beyond where feet may fail to take him
David has crossed that line in spades, yet I feel his
doubt he can do so.
I stay close to him for the rest of the day, my nerves
rattled by his near death that nearly left me lost and
alone. That line seems wider than ever. Do I have
what it takes to cross the line and die to save
another? I sigh as I shove the thought deep in my
mind to contemplate on later.
For now, I'm content to enjoy his presence while I can.
My fathe as a child, if I was thrown off a horse, to
get back on immediately, lest my fears win because
I would become afraid of getting bucked off again.
I know I must return to the Mists and face
whatever terror I had experienced there. To me,
the experience hadn't been as terrifying as much as
it had been traumatic.
I slide the headband on. Instantly, I feel the pull in
my stomach and find myself in the Mists. They are
clearer than they've ever seemed in the past and
suddenly i'm conscious of the fact there isn't any
ground beneath me. It's unnerving. Soon, I'm
aware of another's presence.
"Hello, David, a deep voice rings out from behind
me. I jump as this new source of sound startles me.
"Who's there?' I demand.
"It is I, Gabriel," the voice responds, sending echos
through the atmosphere.
"What is this place, Gabriel?" I ask
"This is a corridor for angels. You know you're not
supposed to be here, don't you?"
"No, I didn't know that. Why?"
"Because only the dead, angels, and demons are
meant to traverse this realm," Gabriel explains.
So that's it! I gasp.
"I was dying," I mumble, "the last time I came here."
"And they let you come back again?" His voice is
"Yep. I saw a bright light and heard a loud voice.
Then the light faded away and I woke up in my
"It wasn't your time," Gabriel says. "The
atmosphere varies with your need. When you are
dead or dying, it revives one with a fluid like the
legendary ambrosia, the drink of the gods. It
restores the mind and body until they are judged.
But the second time you are exposed to it will be
your last..." he warns. "The headband protects you
now, but without it....
I'm speechless at his revelations and stand mute
for a few minutes. Before I regain my voice, he
"This is where I must leave..." and he disappears
with a whoosh of his wings.
Wings? I stunned by the events I've just
experienced. When my eyes flutter open, I realize
i'm back in my bunk.