“I do not trust Ignatius,” Blaze growled.
The scaly, orange and gold guardian lounged on the beach as Kallima drew marks in the sand with a long stick. He watched her movements absentmindedly, distracted by her story of her tutor’s behavior. With a sigh, he lifted a paw and gouged the sand with one sharp claw.
“Your marks are too angular. Let them flow,” the great lizard said with a sigh. “I simply do not trust liars.”
“Everyone has to lie sometimes, Blaze,” Kallima replied, loosening her shoulders.
“I don’t believe that the boy has told you a single truth in your short relationship, Kallima.”
“Is this better?”
“Much. This is the rune ‘Sylfeus.’ It is used to bind energy.”
“This is on my amulet!” Kallima said.
“Yes. Do it again.”
Kallima sighed and attempted to draw the symbol a second time. Blaze watched her carefully as she moved.
“Why do I have to wear it?”
“Rumors,” he said, “are their own fires. If the wrong person finds out what you are, you could get hurt. And who can know where the wrong person hides? I worry that I am too late. That one of your friends will betray you.”
“And by one of my friends...?”
“I mean Lindon, yes.”
Kallima sighed and moved back towards her mentor, leaning on his thick neck and rubbing the dry scales.
“They took his dad, you know?” Kallima said, pressing a cheek to the dragon’s hot skin. “Because he likes dragons so much. I feel really bad for him.”
“Don’t. You said that Gabriel doesn’t trust him, and you shouldn’t either. I don’t.”
“Do you know him, Blaze?” Kallima asked.
“Yes. I met Mr. Lindon and his boy a long time ago. He was only a baby then, but I understand that I made quite the impression on him.”
“What were they like back then?”
The green-eyed dragon stared over towards the red-haired girl as she climbed onto his shoulders and laid down along his neck. The massive body beneath her heaved as the creature sighed and turned away again.
“I will show you,” Blaze said as he passed a paw over the sand, melting it to glass.
Kallima slid off of her mentor and eased onto her knees in front of the sheer surface. Behind the hot glass, images began to move.
A much smaller Blaze slithered through a rocky cavern, his metallic scales glinting against the dark stone. Laughter echoed in the hole, alerting Kallima to another presence. Blaze darted behind one of the larger rocks, but his tail and spines gave him away. A tiny blonde boy, maybe three or four jumped down a makeshift staircase and into the cave and scanned the area. Then he giggled and darted to Blaze’s tail, and grabbed it. The boy’s sloppy gold hair and bright green eyes gave him away, and Kallima realized that it was Ignatius, ten or so years younger. Blaze towered over him, though the orange dragon stood, at most, half of his current height.
“I getted you!”
“Release me,” Blaze growled.
“I get a make a wish!” the boy giggled. “I wish Mommy come home, Dwagon!”
“I wish you were as hot and crispy as a roast chicken.”
The child frowned up at the dragon, eyes wide and sad. His light, little foot crunched down on a sliver of ivory. Roaring painfully, Blaze pushed him aside quickly and scampered to collect the pieces in his teeth and front talons.
“Careful, you dolt! Have you any idea what this is?”
The little Ignatius flopped onto his bottom and whimpered as he watched the dragon gather bits of shell. The larger figure continued to scold the younger.
“This is all I have! The only thing to tell me what I am. You step idly on all that I have of my parents,” Blaze snarled.
The whimpering child began to bawl as Blaze stomped around him, collecting the fragments. He growled shortly at the sobbing child.
Again, he snapped at the child, “Will you be quiet? You’re going to-”
“Iggy? Are you in there?”
The great lizard swiftly bounded deeper into the cave, out of sight of the new arrival, a tall and lanky man with glasses that made his blue-green eyes look huge. His mud-brown hair was clumped on top of his head, ratty and matted. He hurried into the cave to scoop up the weeping toddler.
“Oh, Precious, what happened? Are you hurt?” the elder asked, snuggling the youth close to his chest.
“No, Daddy. I’m okay.”
“Well, why are you crying?”
“I maked the dwagon mad,” the boy whimpered, pointing in Blaze’s direction.
“Dragon? You saw a dragon?” the man whispered excitedly before raising his voice. “Hello in there. I’m a friend of Satu’s. I won’t hurt you.”
“He didn’t gwant my wish...” the boy blubbered.
His father chuckled and said, “Oh, Iggy, dragons don’t grant wishes. They grant wisdom.”
“You can come out now,” the tall man called. “We won’t tell anyone you’re here.”
Against the pitch darkness of the cave’s recesses, a bright green eye peeked out, giving Blaze away. A tiny gasp of awe escaped Mr. Lindon’s mouth as he loosened his grip on his son. Easing the boy to the ground, he pulled a watch from his pocket. The large, green eye focused in on the metal item as the man swung it by its chain. Blaze crept slowly towards the duo.
“This belonged to my father. Would you like to see it?” the older Lindon asked, lowering himself and the treasure to the ground.
Blaze poked his head out from the darkness and climbed onto the large rock. Shifting nervously on his forelimbs, he watched as Ignatius’ father slowly backed away from his prized possession, taking his son’s hand and pulling him back as well. Gingerly, Blaze eased down off of the rock again and, keeping his gaze on the two Lindons, raised one paw over the watch. Then he snatched it up with agile claws and retreated again. After a pause, his gruff, hoarse voice rose from the darkness once more.
Mr. Lindon smiled and scooped up his son. The child cooed to the lizard.
“Come on, Iggy. Let the poor thing rest.”
Kallima sat up again as the images faded from the glass and turned to her mentor. His eyes hid behind half-shut lids as he pouted. The fiery-haired girl extended a hand towards him, and he leaned into it. She scratched the scaly jawline of the massive creature.
“Mr. Lindon seems nice,” she whispered, “and Iggy was just a child. What happened?”
“Another time,” Blaze grumbled. “For now, you must work on your symbols.”
“Well done, Misss Acassia,” Miss Maimu hissed
She examined the sculpture she had constructed in her crafting circle. The miniature Japanese cherry blossom held up rose quartz flowers on its bronze branches. The naga lifted it for further inspection, humming sadly when one of the tiny flowers popped off.
“Think more about the consstruction and durability of your creationsss. Prongssss may be a thought,” Maimu said. “Sstill, A-minusss.”
Kallima shivered, her own illustration hidden in her lap. Next to her, Sable explained her own design to the educator. She and her classmates had been allowed to raid the supply closet in the room for any two items and design a sculpture. Maimu then expected them to show her the design then make it while she watched. Sable quickly sketched a serpentine ring with two jade eyes. Kallima, though, had stared at the wire and a very colorful but raw opal until the teacher had reached Acacia. At that point, the red-head scribbled a haphazard doodle of a butterfly on her sketchpad. She drummed her fingers on the pad and watched Sable place her hands on the edges of her crafting circle, a nervous breath shaking in the grey girl’s throat.
Kallima watched as the metal began to move in the circle, coming alive and twisting much like a snake. It ate the jade beads before moving on to its tail as the green stones began to surface in its face.
Unfortunately, Sable pulled her hands away, face red and damp as she panted, leaving the ring far too large for even someone like Jarl to wear. Maimu praised her design and effort, but gave her only a C-plus due to her inability to complete the task. Kallima used the distraction to run a hand across her amulet. Power crackled in her blood when Maimu turned to the redhead.
“What do you have, Missss Kallima?” the naga asked.
“I’m going to make a butterfly,” she whispered, not feeling at all confident after the last few displays.
“What are you ussing?” Maimu asked, leaning over to see her drawing.
“Opal and steel wire.”
“Very well. Create.”
With a deep breath, Kallima mimicked the motions of the classmates before her and placed her hands on the edges of her circle. The wire began twisting and folding as flakes of the opal fluttered up and settled in place. Blaze’s voice grumbled in her ears.
“Don’t think about the destination, only the journey.”
Kallima pushed gently at the circle through her chest, willing her energy through the items before her, moving the wire in her head, becoming the thinning, frail gem.
The last bits of papery gem fit themselves into place as she felt her neck grow hot. Kallima pulled her hands away, letting them fall limply to her sides, and the life-sized butterfly in the circle fluttered.
“Interessting,” Maimu said. “Did you ussse a ssoul rune?”
The teacher scribbled on her clipboard as the artificial insect began fluttering about.
“Er, no,” Kallima admitted.
“Opal isss a conductor. It should sstop in a moment,” Maimu said to her. “You needed to ussse a ssoul rune, but you’ve earned an A.”
Kallima prompted her creation into her hand with a soft smile as Maimu moved away to continue her grading. Acacia huffed, and Sable pushed her bracelet-ring to the floor with the flick of her wrist.
“Did Ig teach you that?” Acacia snarled.
“No, Mas- Blaze did,” Kallima said.
Sable sighed and sunk down in her chair, asking, “Who’s Blaze?”
“Just someone I know,” Kallima muttered and blushed.
She looked down at the butterfly in her hand, worried for the first time that she had already given away too much about her master dragon.