𝒯he day ended rather quickly and peacefully, surprising enough considering the chaos that’s been taking place. The lunch my mom and I had with the Giovanni family was exactly what we needed and brought some normalcy to our lives. Thomas, Louisa and my mom sat at the kitchen table while Anthony and I went out into the backyard with Thomas’ children; we kicked around a soccer ball sharing moments of laughter between us before the children wanted to play a game of tag. The day was light-hearted with no drama and what a relief it was.
However, for the guards upon the wall, they hoped the day would just end and the chest of heads mixed with the flock of Ravens would vanish from memory. After the upteenth time of chasing off the flock, Nick complained after having his hands pecked at by the birds hard beaks,
“F*ck me, when’s Yza coming for this goddamn chest!?” he kicked the metal box wrapped in chains, “I’m tired of chasing the Ravens away and getting f*cking pecked by their vicious freaking beaks, man. You know, I almost lost a hand?”
“Most of us have almost lost a hand, mate…” Caleb complained, “but she said they’d be at 1:00am and look at that…” he glanced at his watch then flashed the time to his friend, “it’s 1:00am so come on...where are they?”
“And who’s they?” Justin added.
“No clue, mate.” Caleb shrugged, “She just said THEY’D BE HERE.” he joked with his own air-quotation marks.
“Alright, Abraxas...let’s get going. I’m sure Azir’s waiting for us by now.” I glanced at the time taking notice it read 20 minutes before 1:00am, “No, boy…” Zanz approached with his leash in his mouth, “can’t come with me this time.” I knelt before him, scratching his neck, “I’ll be back…”
He whined, dropping the leash but followed me around the room while I retrieved a jacket from my wardrobe then toward the door. Once it closed and locked, he pawed at its base then turned walking toward his bed with his head held low and tail between his legs. Lying near the fireplace he released low whines then reached for his favorite chew toy, thrashing it about violently.
Strolling down the hallway and descending the stairs, the lounge was quiet and empty except for the minor cracking of the fireplace pit in the room’s center. Exiting the door quietly so I wouldn’t disturb the residents on the ground level, I followed the path in the direction of the maze with Abraxas walking alongside me in a shifted form of Zanz. From the dwelling to the maze, the walk took me ten minutes and when standing at the entrance of the puzzled bushes, it gave off an eerie greeting for there were no lights within the maze other than arrows painted on the bushes directing you to the center. The dark gravel path left and right cracked beneath my boots. Once entering the maze and making a few turns left and right I glanced down at Abraxas instructing him to fly above to guide me with better vision and clarity but watching as he shifted, flying into the air I accidentally made the wrong turn; arrows lead me to a tricky dead end and when attempting to venture back, I got lost in the labyrinth that seemed to go forever. I paused breathing heavily for I was beginning to feel trapped and claustrophobic; my steam and Aura began sparking into reality.
“Mother...where are you?” Abraxas’ voice called out telepathically.
“I’m here, Abraxas...somewhere!” I answered, “Just…” I glanced at the sky sighing heavily, “fly back a little ways and you’ll see me.” my eyes searched the black sky and there he was, his small form against the backdrop of the thick stars.
He screeched as he landed on my shoulders.
“Can you take me to Azir?” I inquired, “This is taking too long, even with you guiding me from above and these damn arrows that seemed to have disappeared. I know you can do it.”
“Are you sure Mother? I have never teleported anything other than myself.” Abraxas blinked his Amber eyes.
“Yes. Get me out before I set this maze ablaze.”
“Yes, Mother.” Abraxas answered verbally then carefully positioned himself on my shoulders in a more stable stance. His wings enlarged to accommodate his Mother’s petite height and size. He wrapped them around her from behind, embracing her tightly; talons firmly dug into her shoulders. Feeling the young woman flinching beneath his talons he urged, “Don’t move Mother or you could wind up in a place between places.” he glanced down looking into her brown eyes. He snuggled against her cheek as his scales ignited in his own reddish Aura.
I stood hearing a loud buzzing-like crackling sound around me then began feeling a strong breeze as energy gathered. Suddenly, my body felt extremely warm with pins and needles stabbing at every nerve in my body and in an instant, holding my breath, Abraxas vanished in a burst of fiery energy inward. It was as if being sucked into a void. I don’t know where Abraxas was learning these new skills, but they were certainly done without my knowledge. Or perhaps, he’s maturing faster than I thought and growing into his full powers. It wouldn’t surprise me.
Azir paced listening to the nightly crickets chirp and magical energies hum when that silence was broken from a faint sizzle being heard. Continuing to listen, he moved toward the sounds’ disturbance, observing sparks hovering in midair before him, beginning to swirl in a circular motion. Removing his Scimitar from its sheath in a slow withdrawal, a fiery center appeared before erupting outward, pushing him backwards to the ground; his sword thrown from his hand. A small figure appeared before the fire had completely vanished. He watched as a petite woman rolled to the ground; the cobblestone wasn’t gentle against her fall and a small dragon hovered then landed on the fountain’s ledge. Azir leaned on his elbows before he slowly stood, adjusting his tunic, belt and tribal hat. He watched as the young half-breed laid engulfed in steam and a faint fire, breathing heavily and slightly dazed. He scampered toward her attempting to help her from the ground, but her Aura blistered his hands. He moaned in discomfort pulling them away.
I shook my head, blinking my eyes as I glanced up at a tall graceful figure standing before me dressed in tribal attire. My mouth muttered words that the figure couldn’t hear, nor were they words I could understand. Crawling toward the fountain I pulled myself to my feet in shuffling stumbling steps while catching my breathing steadily. I adjusted my jacket, combed my hair back off my face and straightened a sword that hung in its sheath down my back. Fixing the strap across my chest, gazing in Abraxas’ direction, I tilted my head urging in shock,
“Don’t ever…do that again.”
“Then don’t ever ask me to do it again.” he answered sarcastically.
“Oh, you think you’re a little smartass, do you?” I mocked verbally, knowing I was rubbing off on him a little too much; some motherly influence. Hearing grunts from my right I turned; there stood the Nubian Jinn, “Azir, are you alright?” I turned to him, gesturing at his hands that glowed healing the blistered skin.
“Yes, I’m fine. I’ve never…never mind.” he shook his head then glanced back and forth between Abraxas and I, inquiring curiously, “How did you do that!? You…teleport!?” he gestured toward me, “I didn’t think half-breeds can.”
“We can’t.” I dusted off my jeans, “THAT...whatever that was...was all him!” I looked down at the small Zyphyn, “And speaking of which...where did you learn that!? It was so intricate and methodical.”
“Indeed it was.” Azir picked up his sword holding it down at his side momentarily before sheathing it.
“Like you, Mother...I have been learning about abilities and strengths. All when you sleep for I wasn’t sure if you would be proud, so I kept them my secret.” he lowered his head.
Those last words hit me hard. Even Azir felt sadness for the creature.
I reached out, picking up his small form from the fountain’s ledge, holding him in my arms.
“Of course I’m proud! Don’t ever feel otherwise.” I stroked his scales.
“As lighthearted as this moment is, I think we should be on our way.” Azir advised then turned away, leading me around the other side of the fountain, “Stand there…” he pointed to a single pale stone.
“Why? What’s it going to do?” I argued.
“Nothing.”Azir chuckled, “It’s just a safer place to stand.” he grinned.
“Oh…” I bit my lower lip, “okay.” I followed his instructions and holding onto Abraxas, he and I watched as Azir knelt down, touching the cobblestone ground as if searching for something specific.
“Mmm…” he moaned, “here we go.” he pressed on six stones sequentially in a combination of some sort. Once pressed, the stones revealed runic symbols carved on them then vanished as the Jinn stood, standing behind me.
“Is that it?” I turned looking up at Azir.
“No. Wait…” he nodded once then suddenly, the ground around the base of the fountain shook; its water rippled before the stones began disappearing, revealing a set of natural steps leading underground. He grinned, pleased to see the lock still worked after five centuries.
“More stairs leading underground.” I complained bluntly, “Where do those lead?”
“It’s another passage I created, leading down to Axeon’s cavern.” Azir bluntly replied as he created another green orb that hovered; its light was equivalent to a 10 watt bulb. He said nothing more as he swiftly swept past me, disappearing down the stairs.
I glanced down at Abraxas then stared down, as we heard Azir’s voice call out,
“Are you coming?”
“Yes, yes...don’t get your sword in a twist.” I answered; Abraxas flew ahead into the narrow space, offering his own illumination, with his scales aflame. The light blended beautifully with the green orbs. Following the spiraling steps my hands felt the rough walls until we arrived on the other side of Axeon’s cavern; the grand dragon seemed anxious; his wings twitched as if ready for tonight’s flight. Taking in his magnificent existence, doubt and worry lingered in the back of my mind but weren’t afraid to rush from my lips, “Is Axeon feeling well enough for the flight and with riders on his back?”
Before Azir could speak, Axeon answered as he held his head high; his eyes stared down at our small forms,
“Yes, young Keeper…I am suitable for flight but the extra weight might present a problem for I have never flown more than one rider. But, I will attempt it. You should not weigh much.”
“Thanks…” I mocked, “and you’re light as a feather.”
“I beg your pardon?” Axeon didn’t understand the joke.
“Never mind, Axeon.” Azir stroked the dragon’s shoulder then began his climb upon his back toward his thick neck, situating himself between smaller spikes, “Yzavela…” he urged then leaned outward to his left, reaching out his hand for mine and with one strong pull backwards, my feet lifted off the ground and roughly scraped against Axeon’s scales before I grabbed hold of the spikes, steadying my balance before I too, wedged myself between smaller spikes to accommodate my fit, “Are you alright?” Azir glanced over his shoulder.
“Yes.” I adjusted then opened my jacket as a small black rat climbed out that tucked itself in an inside pocket, “Are you?” I asked Abraxas who squirmed around in the pocket before his black nose emerged wiggling in the air.
“Alright, Blue One...we are ready.” Azir instructed.
Axeon moaned as he turned, focusing his attention toward the large opening straight ahead leading out of the cavern underground.
“Whoa!” I held onto the spike in front of me tightly, feeling the swaying motion of the dragon’s movement; both rhythmic and powerful as if riding upon an elephant’s back. I’ve ridden on the dragon’s back before but still, the experience is something I’d have to get used to.
Approaching the cavern’s rough entry, there was no shore or beach, just sharp steep cliffs and rough walls. Axeon paused at the entrance with his head fully emerged outside. I glanced around seeing there was a thin ledge to brace the dragons’ stance, then focused my eyes around us; the vast Irish Sea stretched in all directions.
“Are you ready? Hold on!” Axeon questioned, glancing at the riders on his back.
“Indeed.” Azir nodded.
“Yes.” I agreed reluctantly.
Axeon growled as he swiftly pushed off the cliff, giving no warning; such speed and agility. I screamed for I felt as if I were on a roller coaster of which I fear! He leveled out as he grew higher; blending in with the clouds. Gliding smoothly with the cool night air tickling my face, I felt a sudden case of Vertigo hit me but admiring the fabulous view of the stars and Axeon’s wings stretched out on either side, the fear subsided.
“I forgot how this felt.” Azir admired the view then spoke over his shoulder, “You must be used to it yes?”
“Not really, no.” I answered, “This isn’t something I do often. Axeon or Abraxas or not. I like my feet planted on the ground.” I felt my stomach jumping into my throat.
Swerving his body around in one swift turn, Axeon hovered above the island; it looked smaller from the altitude of which we were. With the slow movements up and down as his wings kept him in flight, it was then he pulled his head back before pushing it forward, making an unsuspected nosedive; he closed his wings for a faster descent.
I released a Banshee-like scream that echoed in the dead silence; poor Azir cowered his head, hearing the loud piercing screech in his ear. After tonight, I think I might have made him deaf.