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Chapter 13

The Sleeping Dragon

It was a cloudy morning in the shadow-covered Forest. Astrid woke to the cheerful chirping of a blue, and yellow feathered, bird; drinking from a small puddle of collected rainwater. She had opened her eyes, and found that Tesmorlah was already up, and had caught, and been eating, one of the blue and yellow-feathered birds, for breakfast! About the size of a chicken, these birds were! She quickly rose up and brushed the leaves off of her cloak, then, looked over by the sleeping dragon, and saw that it was calmly, and deeply, in a slumber. She walked over by Tesmorlah, and when Tesmorlah noticed her, she had offered her some of the bird, saying. “Here Astrid, you’re hungry!” Astrid looked at it with disgust, and said. “No thank you… you can have it.”

Another pretty blue and yellow-feathered bird, flew by, and Tesmorlah, thinking that Astrid didn’t accept her offer, because she had eaten part of it; nimbly stood up, and whacked the bird with her clawed hand. It dropped to the ground, and Tesmorlah gathered up her catch, and sat back down. She then turned her head to Astrid, and held out the dead bird, for her to take. “Here you go. One all to yourself!” Astrid gave Tesmorlah an eyeful of shock, and said. “You can’t be serious? You expect me to eat that?” Tesmorlah’s face, turned to a quite confused one. “I don’t understand? Why would you not take it?” Astrid looked at the bird, and then, looked back at Tesmorlah. “It is unprepared; I would have to cook this, in order to eat it.”

Before Tesmorlah could reply, the sleeping dragon had awoken, stood up quickly, and immediately seized the bird, grabbing it from out of Tesmorlah’s hand. The dragon didn’t do what she expected it to do, which was devour the bird, no; it pierced a stick through instead, and blew fire, torching the bird. Astrid was surprise to see it had awakened so easily, and got up on its feet like how it did; and so agile too.

The dragon handed, the bird on a stick, to Astrid. “Here! Now if you don’t mind… I would like to get some sleep!” The Dragon laid down, shut his eyes, curling up, and cradling his head in his arm. Astrid pulled off one of the bird’s wings and took a bite. She chewed a couple times, stopped for a moment to understand the chard morsel she had put in her mouth, and then, continued to chew; and took the next bite, more acceptably. It wasn’t that bad; but in her picking and biting of it, came a bit of noise. Then a noticeably loud crunching was executed by her, and the dragon, opened his eyes in irritation, staring at her. Astrid looked back into the reptile’s eyes, and continued to chew.

Yes. The dragon knew he wasn’t going to catch anymore rest, so he stood up, stretched his wings, and his limbs, and sat down, leaning back on a tree. Tesmorlah dangled the partially eaten bird up over her gaping mouth, and dropped it down her throat, satisfyingly, and swallowed it loudly. Another bird had flown by above them, and the dragon, tilted his head up, and blew a discrete amount of fire. The fire blew so hot, it cooked the airborne bird instantly, and as the bird fell to the ground, the dragon held his mouth open from under it, mimicking Tesmorlah; and caught, and swallowed it, showing her up, and egging her on.

Astrid finished, chewing to clear her mouth to speak. “You don’t seem to hold much honor and respect for yourself, or, others… are you grateful that I saved your life! Why don’t you seem grateful?” The dragon turned to Astrid, in a slow blink of his scaly eyelids. “My family, my brothers...died in that battle… and now, I have nothing left... It’s not that I am ungrateful; it’s just... that I wish I could have died along with them...” Astrid had a different outlook, from what she put together of her thoughts, and gazed at the dragon; as it looked away mournfully. For a moment, they were caught in silence. The dragon, then, turned his head, to face Astrid and Tesmorlah, bravely. “Forgive me… I do thank you for saving my life! My name is Gremoff!” Astrid replied, earnestly. “My name is Astrid.” Then Tesmorlah gave in sequence. “My name is Tesmorlah!”

Something had been different now. Not just between them and the dragon, but in the Forest around them, and Tesmorlah was the first to know of its manifestation. She had held her head up high and rose up on her feet. “It’s time to get moving! I sense something terrible… something terrible is going to happen! And it’s coming… from this direction!” Tesmorlah pointed off into the distance, and they all stared into the depths of the East, as if staring into the depths, of the very dissent, of hell. A path that would lead to their doom, promising, ultimate danger awaited for them within the shadows. The eyes are the windows to the soul; they felt those windows broken, having their souls shattered from them.

Tesmorlah... what a name. The name Tesmorlah had been familiar to Gremoff. He thought for a moment, searching in his mind, of where he had heard it before. “You are the Dragon Queen! One of the oldest dragons in the Forest!” Tesmorlah gazed down upon him, as he rose up. “Yes! You are correct.”

Astrid finished eating the bird, and threw the stick, along with the remains, off to land, wherever it would; joining the rest of the leftovers, and scattered feathers. She wiped her mouth, and had begun a long stride, off in the direction, of where Tesmorlah had pointed out, as being dangerous. This was what she feared, but even still, Tesmorlah followed her. Gremoff apprehended the idea, and hesitated on this action; he stayed put, until Tesmorlah turned to him, as she realized, he hadn’t been following. “We could really use your help; are you coming?” Gremoff started after them. “Yes! I was just wondering if you both wanted me to join, or not. Gladly, I will.” Astrid was fanciful, by this absurd idea, of Gremoff’s; his company not being welcomed. “Of course we want you to join us! After all… why do you think I saved you?” The gray-scaled dragon, hurried up to walk alongside Astrid, and looked at her, with his bright blue reptile eyes, and said. “What are you? You’re like no other Creature I’ve ever seen? Where is the rest of your kind?” Astrid replied, as she glanced at him, and looked off into the distant Forest in front of them. “I am not from this Forest… I have come from the bottom of the Mountain!” Gremoff grew examinate about her, then, he slowly dropped his pace, to walk beside Tesmorlah, speaking in a hiss, into Tesmorlah’s ear, as he watched Astrid with a troubled stare. “Shouldn’t she have been given the Crystal?” Tesmorlah looked over at him, and gave a little laugh. She then, turned her eyes to Astrid, and said, loud, so she as well, could hear. “I was going to give her the Crystal… but she saved my life, and I respect her, and understand, that she didn’t want to be a dragon… but I was having second thoughts about giving her the Crystal… though then… she proved to be better use as a witch! Her power and abilities, are far greater than a dragon’s!” Gremoff bothered her with no more questions, saying nothing further, after she explained; nothing had to be said. He accepted, but silence doesn’t always mean acceptance... it could be, of a matter of words, not being accepted, by the ears surrounding. They continued on, for a while, in gentleness. Then, strangely, and suddenly, a strong wind blew through the Forest; and then, in a startling horror of peculiar occurrence, the calmness came back. The Forest was overtaken by an unnatural movement. Tesmorlah looked behind them, watching the wind. “Astrid, I feel a abnormal change in the atmosphere…there is something very wrong… and I fear we must hurry our pace, if we’re to stop this origin in time!” Astrid paused, and turned to face them; and then, climbed up onto Tesmorlah’s back. “Then Let’s go… Tesmorlah and Gremoff! Fly fast!”

Tesmorlah and Gremoff, jumped up high above the trees, and violently soared through the cloud-infested sky! What was in store for them ahead, was something they had not understood fully. Far beyond, they saw, there to be, something they had no idea to expect! A massive amount of the Forest, had been desolate, and a doom-stricken swamp. They peered at it, in horror, of what it brewed and boiled up, from the earth; but it wasn’t like they were about to turn around and go back, no; Tesmorlah and Gremoff, continued on towards it, cutting through the air, with tenacity and haste.

Astrid looked onward, with a fierceness gleaming in her eyes!” From below them, a fireball came, blasting up; and lodged itself into Tesmorlah’s wing, and burned a hole right through! Astrid looked down, enraged with a vengeful heart, as Tesmorlah screeched in pain, and plummeted forward, scraping over the tree tops. Astrid put her hand out in a claw manner, right under them, and spoke in a harsh chant. A flat transparent, rectangular surface, had appeared underneath them, and supported, and raised Tesmorlah up from drifting down, losing altitude. She slowed quickly, and stood on top of this magic rectangle surface, that now levitated above the trees. Gremoff dove down to fight, landing on the Forest floor. He looked around, but saw nothing! He roared, in such an agitated behavior, so the enemy would know of his presence, and struck a nearby tree with his claws.

Suddenly, right in front of him, appeared a pale-haired man; his head, faced downward. Such a pathetic enemy. His dense brows hid his eyes; eyes that Gremoff, had almost been afraid to uncover; the very mask of evil. Gremoff swung his claws at the fiend, but he disappeared, before his claws touched him. Quick little devil; he did this, as if to mock Gremoff; and Gremoff had become consumed by extreme fury!

Astrid left Tesmorlah lying, on the transparent rectangle, and jumped down to join Gremoff. A blasting wave of light, blew out from the impact of her feet, when she hit the ground. With total hunters awareness, she explored the area with her quick eyes. Everything was silent and still, then, all of a sudden, a strong wind stirred up, unsettling the ambience. Harder and harder, it blew, as if a tornado had been near! Would she have to use her magic to obstruct this hazardous obstacle. She would’ve had; if it had picked up anymore; she would be lifted off her feet, and carried away! A cloud of black fog, appeared in front of them, and a grown man’s image, came into view, in the midst of it all. The raging storm! The wind blew the black fog away, and revealed him then, more clearly; he stared at Astrid, with an evil, conniving seduction, in his gaze. But Astrid was not prey to his display of devilish charms. She quickly gave a whisper, and pulled her hands together. Violent screeching of gathering energy, sounded, as she threw a blue liquid sphere of light, hard at him! He stared into her eyes with a sick expression, but just before the sphere reached him, he had vanished! The liquid blue orb, effervesced, and crashed into a tree. It created a layer of ice, that spread out over the surface of it, until it covered the whole thing. An echoing laughter came from every direction, creating a choir of laughs. Astrid turned, and scanned the surroundings, determined to achieve sight of him; then, looked at Gremoff, who moved closer to her, in better defense against this threat; Astrid and Gremoff, now stood back to back. The laughter stopped, but the wind still blew, sending a branch soaring straight at them! Gremoff turned, and flung his tail, slamming it to the ground with all his might.

Astrid spoke loudly in an unknown language, then, threw her hands out! A white blazing oval of fire, blasted off, and then, had separated into four even smaller ovals of fire. Each one of them, moved out to all four sides of Astrid and Gremoff, then, stopped. The four white ovals began to flash, one after another, in sequence; and right at the moment Astrid stopped speaking, the wind ceased, and then, the ovals disappeared.

There was a still and quiet atmosphere, for barely a second, then, the laughter came back; this time it had been just one voice. The man appeared, ten yards from them; the laughing stopped, and they both faced him, and prepared to defend themselves! He just stood there for the longest time; he didn’t speak, and he didn’t move. Astrid and Gremoff, watched patiently, and kept completely still and silent, also. Now not only were they ambushed by this fiend… their thoughts were ambushed as well. He had got inside their heads, as a whispering voice; it was like he was right next to their ear, at first; but then, they realized, he hadn’t moved from where it was, he had stood; not even a little. “Join me and I’ll spare your lives!” Astrid and Gremoff looked at each other, to see if the other was going to accept this devils obnoxious command. Neither of them said, or did anything, in response. They just held their ground, and thought: don’t listen to him!

The man’s voice, came and spoke inside their heads again. “So… you tell yourselves not to listen to me… but why would you have to convince yourselves of that? Join me or die. Shouldn’t you be able to do what you want to do… which is live?” What an obnoxious demon. Astrid had been abject to the voice within her thoughts. “You won’t fool me, with your trickery!” Gremoff didn’t think anything, except of how angry now, the man had made him! Gremoff rose up on his hind legs, and gave out a fearsome roar, while staring him down, about to act upon his anger; and then, had lunged at the man. He didn’t think of being cautious, in keeping a safe distance; would this be his demeanor; he wanted to be rid of this pest already; he just wanted to kill him, and have it over and done with!

The man put his hand out, as if he had been gripping a sword, but there was nothing in his hand! Gremoff saw this, and jumped up into the air, roaring once more. He flew over, above the man, and blew a monstrous rolling flame, then, circled back, to execute yet another attack. It was unbelievable; when the flame cleared, Astrid and Gremoff, saw that he had not even been burned in the slightest bit! Not even the farthest edge of his white cloak, had been affected by the flame! As Gremoff still flew mad towards him, the fiend had held out his hand and shouted something... something that Astrid understood perfectly to be black magic! She quickly took off, as fast as she could towards him. Gremoff was in serious trouble, he was unaware of; but she knew. The fiend faced Gremoff, and had been forming a mysterious dark ball in his hand; then, he sent it off towards Gremoff. Astrid had her hand out, and waved it in a circular motion, creating an iron chain, and then, she threw it. It took flight, spinning in the air over the man, about to bind his hands together. But then, this devil had vanished once again; just as he did the last time she threw something at him! The dark ball hit Gremoff, and he crashed to the ground. Astrid ran over to him, and looked for the damage that had been done, but there hadn’t been anything done to him; that she could see! His flesh wasn’t injured, or broken anywhere at all. After a while of inspecting him further, Astrid calmed down, and started to stroke his cheek gently.

Then all of a sudden, she saw his eyes open freakishly fast, and stare blankly up at nothing! His eyes, then, had turned red as blood, and his scales covered over in black! Astrid watch in trepidation, then, frantically backed far away from him! He stood up and search for her with those blood red eyes. Astrid quickly hid behind a tree, just before he had spotted her. She peeked out from behind, and found him to be sniffing the air; and then, had found her scent! She pulled her head back, as he turned and moved, creeping closer and closer to the tree she hid behind!

His head came to the side of the tree, and then, he took a whiff of the bark. She slowly inched around the vessel to the opposite side, as he twisted his snout around it. Astrid was beyond herself. Poor Gremoff! He had been infected by the dark! But who... and where is that man that had infected him? Where did he go? Then, the voice came back, to interrupt her thoughts, and toy with her mind. “My name is Heckyeth… and… I’m right here… inside your pretty little head!” Astrid replied in thought, as she continued to slowly slither around the tree. “So you’ve turned my friend Gremoff into a Dark Creature! And let me guess… you are going to do the same with me!” Heckyeth responded with a laugh. “No! I did not quite do that! I am controlling his mind! And you won’t be able to hide from him much longer… once I tell him where you are!” Astrid asked, demandingly, in her thoughts. “What do you want from me?” Heckyeth answered, with low-slung seduction in his voice. “I want you, Astrid… I want you and need you, more so now, than when I used you to destroy the Tree of Beginning! Astrid, my darling… join me, and together we will rule this Forest, as King and Queen… we will be unstoppable!” Astrid put an end to his sick delusion. “I will not join you... on your path of destruction! You’re going alone!”

Just then, she jumped out from behind the tree, and froze Gremoff with a blue, lighting up, liquid! Heckyeth’s anger was greatly antagonized, by Astrid’s refusal of his offer, and he screamed inside her head, in a thousand voices. “No, you will meet destruction my sweet!”

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