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Chapter 9

Lithia and Jack

Lithia led Jack through a bubbling marshland. Up to his ankles in slimy mud, he tried to keep up with her, until he found himself, stuck and unable to move his legs!

He jerked hard for his right leg to move, but it didn’t move, even the slightest. He then, looked to his left leg, and strained to lift. But, it was a useless effort as well! Jack screamed in alarm and desperation! “Lithia! Help me!”

Lithia glanced back at Jack, discovering him to be up to his thighs in quicksand! She ran towards him, ripped a branch off a small dead tree on the way, and reached out for him quickly, exclaiming! “Grab on!”

Jack held onto the branch for dear life, as Lithia, pulled, and gradually began to yank, fighting against the stubborn quicksand! The brittle branch, snapped in the center, which threw Lithia back, by the sudden release of tension! Jack continued to cling to the other half, and dim-heartedly, sank back down, into the black earth that swallowed him up hungrily; half of his body, lost in the dark, murky pool.

Lithia lied on the ground, all covered in mud when she spotted a giant tree, appearing, as if it was about to fall down, and then...she had an idea! Lithia jumped across the quicksand, leaping over Jack, and sped off towards the tree! She ran to the other side, opposite to the weak, and rotten part, and pushed it en route for the unfortunate skeptical; and, inevitably, it began to fall… and crashed over the pit, creating a makeshift bridge, over to the other side. The pool of black death, bubbled and blistered.

Quickly, maneuvering up onto the fallen tree, Lithia ran to the focal point of it, knelt down, and reached her hand out to Jack, commanding. “Grab my hand!” Jack snatched her hand, and with all her might, she pulled; his body, slowly rising out of the dense quicksand. She jerked him on over, and next to her, onto the wide sapling lumber. Jack was saved, limbs almost pulled out of joint, but he was in no position to complain, he was alive. They lied there, aside each other, exhausted, breathing heavily...

Completely occupied by the feat she had just succeeded, Lithia did not recognize, at first, there to be, a growing, irrepressible, and systematic, repeated pattern of movement; which had been brought to her attention, as an all too familiar sound. What was this sound...footsteps. The footsteps grew louder and louder, then came to a muffled stop.

Jack and Lithia turned their heads up, to find an unmistakably manly figure, standing at the full extent end, of the fallen tree. They hastily rustled up upon their feet, and the full image of the stranger, was revealed. The figure was not just a man, but a spiritual being; believed to act as an attendant or messenger of God, a giant angel; but he was not alone. That was when Angelus and Helen came into view, and gathered up from behind this angel, to stand at each side of him. “I’m ill of mind! Angelus is that you?” Angelus turned his head, making direct eye contact, and reassured Jack. “Yes.” Jack Glanced at Helen, then returned his attention to the angel, inquiring. “What is he?”

Cristoph answered for himself, for he was not an article of examination. “I am Cristoph, the Mydite Warrior! I’m assuming you were not told of me... a Mydite, is a dragon protector–” Cristoph shot his eyes from off Jack, and at Lithia, noticing, she was not just of the Cloud Clan, but someone he recognized all too well; and there she was, standing right there, in the flesh, before his eyes. He widened his sight, speaking in amazement. “It can’t be! You’re the Guardian of the Cloud Clan!!! The Queen of Forever… The Maiden of Madness! I thought you were lapidified, at the place of the Enchanted Sacred Stones; petrified into a living statue!” Lithia gave a sly smirk, and slowly closed in on him, running her index finger down his arm. “Did you miss me?” Those eyes... those eyes that were petrified, had now petrified him. She walked away playfully, back to Jack’s side. “So Jack, these are your friends you were looking for, and now you have found them!” Jack replied. “This is only Angelus and Helen! There are more! There’s my brother, Adrian, and the rest; Eric, Samantha, and Mark.” Helen broke the objecting news solemnly. “Mark is no longer with us.” Jack replied, precipitously surprised. “What do you mean?” Angelus explained. “He was turned over to the darkness, taken, and changed into a Dark Laughing Elf… well... that’s what they are called, according to Cristoph!” Cristoph corrected. “What I said, was, that they “were” Laughing Elves, but what to call them, after they have been polluted by the Dark; I would not know... it seems to make sense to call them Dark Laughing Elves; in result despite.” Jack held his head down, rubbing his eyes. They all stood silent, for the deep regret and wrong, committed to Mark. Then Jack exclaimed, shattering the moment. “Do you think the others could still be alive?” Angelus answered him grievously. “We don’t know… but let’s hope for the best...”

It was getting near nightfall. Complaining about their feet earlier, Cristoph carried Helen and Angelus, and Lithia carried Jack, until it was decided, that it’d be best, to stop for the night.

Lithia began making a hut, just like the one she made for Jack before, and Cristoph helped; gathering the moss and branches, while she built the shelter.

He flew towards her, once again, with his arms full of moss, landing on the large branch. When she discovered his reappearing presence, Lithia stood up, wily striking a pose. “I’m finished, no need for any more!” He laid it down on the massive branch, of which they stood upon, and looked down at Jack, Angelus and Helen, on the ground far below.

Lithia jumped down from off the branch, with Cristoph following. He was fluttering his wings, to make a landing, by the time her feet met and compressed the ground; she walked over to Jack, who looked at her intuitively, of what to expect, and spoke, while yawning. “I know!” He stretched out his arms, rose up, and then, moved en-route to her. She held him like a baby, and leapt up into the tree, landing precisely on the branch, where the secured shelter had been, ready and waiting. Cristoph huddled up Angelus and Helen together, and zoomed up to Lithia, with his strong enduring wings. He wasn’t as quick as Lithia, but he could definitely outlast her, when it came to endurance. Cristoph let his mind wander back to when they played together as small children; he smiled fondly. Helen, Angelus and Jack, crawled inside the little lodging, and laid down to sleep, falling fast into slumber. Lithia had planned on standing watch all night, until Cristoph approached her, with a kind invitation. “I made a nest, while I had gathered moss and branches for you earlier. You’re welcome to share it with me, if you’d like!” Lithia replied, surprised. “How did you find the time?” Cristoph answered, in an unanticipated, gentle, mischievous manner; so unexpected, it caused her skin to tingle momentarily. “I have my ways.”

“Alright, yes! I would like to share your nest! ”Cristoph took hold of her hand firmly, but not too tightly, for he remembered, she never liked to be led too forcefully, by a male of any sort. He jumped into the air, gliding to the next branch up, and that guidance, was enough for Lithia to take note of, with her exceptional abilities, and sense; she bounced up with him, in reflex, complimenting his movement, predicting his next move. He landed gracefully, in a large bowl of moss, releasing Lithia from his hold, so sensually, it was as if he was releasing her from an enchantment; a spell, he had cast on her, using no magic, other than his magical charm. A charm that any female, or anyone in that regards, would have to be a fool not pick up on. It was so natural for him as well, for how angelic he was, couldn’t tell when he did it knowingly or unknowingly; but he fit the part perfectly. She observed how he definitely, somehow, found a way to take his time, to build the nest; the weaving, was very neat and intricately put together. Admiring further, the carefully woven moss mattresses; Cristoph asked her. “Which one do you desire?” Lithia replied, barely suspicious, and on the most part, grateful. “You, certainly must have known, I was going to be, oh so, willing to share your nest; I’ll take this one!” Lithia plopped down on the nearest of the two, and fell into slumber comfortably. Cristoph looked at her, chuckled a little, and then, went over, lying down on the second.

Cristoph woke, and found, that Lithia, was sitting on the edge of the nest, chin resting on both hands, watching him sleep. Cristoph rose up, and her eyes followed with his movement, as he stood, and straightened out. The sun, streaming through his locks, brought an awareness to Lithia. His hair appeared, just how it did, the following day; perfect, without even the slightest flaw. Strange how she never noticed, this God like characteristic about him. “You sleep so peacefully!” Cristoph looked at her amusingly. “Unless you were expecting me to have nightmares; is there another way one can sleep?” Lithia giggled, then smiled, and then, stood upright and said, passing him. “Well… after all, you are a sort of angel...it’s only natural to be normal to you.” Lithia jumped down to the next branch below, and walked towards the hut, tightly bound to the tree with vine like ropes, she had twined together ever so skillfully; as was everything she did. Angelus, and then, Helen, had awakened to the thumping approach of Lithia’s glossy Quinrylack leather boots. She pulled back the draping organic curtain, causing Angelus, and Helen, to block the sunlight in response; but they drew their arms down, for the light pouring into the moss hut, proved to be subtle. It was a misty morning, and the diminutive amount of sky you could see, was overcast, leaving most of the trees dressed in shadows. Jack grumbled, and rolled back and forth, as Angelus nudged him. “Wake up Jack!”

Lithia grabbed Jack’s leg, uprooting him from his slumber, and held him upside-down, dangling in midair. Jack opened his eyes, screaming, as becoming conscious, for the first time, of how far they had been from the ground. What a way to wake up! He dangled from Lithia’s grasp, whimpering. “Okay! I’m awake! Please put me down!” Lithia lowered him to the branch, and he clung to it, for dear life, lying flat, as soon as Lithia let go.

Angelus and Helen, who were inside the hut, investigated their bags for food, but found their rations were diminished. Lithia bent down, to peer into the hut. “Are you coming out?” Nox woke up and started moving under Helen’s jacket, to find his way out. He stretched out his little dragon arms and said. “I’m still a bit tired though.” Helen and Angelus both quickened to exit. “Yes we’re coming out!” For they feared being dragged out as well!

“We have nothing left to eat!”

Helen added. “Yeah! And I’m so weak, I won’t be able to walk without something to eat.”

Jack unzipped his pack, seeing that his food had depleted also. “I don’t have any food left either!” Cristoph landed on the branch, right behind Jack, as Jack announced. “I’m so hungry, I could eat a dragon!” Cristoph brought solution instantly. “I’ll get you some food!” Lithia, then said to him. “Oh no you won’t, I’ll get them something to eat, while you stay here and protect them!” Lithia jumped down swiftly from the tree, and started running off, shouting back to them. “I’ll be right back!” Cristoph sighed under his breath. “Stubborn brat-queen…”

The day wasn’t going to get any brighter; the massiveness of nature’s branching structures, did an excellent job of helping at that. Some trees were so close to one another, angled in such a way, patches of sheer darkness tricked Lithia, in making her believe, it was still night, and surely, the light, pouring through the branches, cradling Cristoph, Jack, Angelus and Helen afar back, had been nothing more than intensified moonlight. But, splashing through a puddle, coming back into the morning’s glow, the truth of day was reassured.

And it was there, where she had found what she was looking for; something edible. A bush, decorated in lustrous berries; plump, round, purple, mouth-watering delights; yellowed, where the plant met the juicy delicacies. Just as she slipped out a knife to relieve a great load of decadence from the plant, she heard a deep profound growling from behind her. Body perfectly still, she moved her eyes, to determine how close the source of the growling had been to her. She obtained it was a mud dragon, and it was too close to contribute to comfort; typical, considering the puddles, spread out around the area.

Followed by a loud, but low wailing, a great deal of folded claws, crashed down to crush her! She quickly sprung up, becoming airborne, haphazardly, evading the blow, and athletically caught hold of an extending branch. She swung around once, let go, and went shooting up into the air like a bullet! Immediately, she had somersaulted and unfolded above the dragon, and landed onto the muddy beast’s back; before he even knew what happened. It was then, when she understood why the mud dragon attacked her; it was a Dark Creature! She acted fast, driving her sword into its brain. The Mud Dragon collapsed, while she leapt to the ground. The steel blue reptilian eyes, remained open, though the thing was surely dead. Impulsively, Lithia walked over to the bushel of berries, ripping half of it off, while with the other hand, she grabbed hold of one of the dragon’s white horns, and dragged it back to the tree, of safe haven; where the growling stomachs waited.

Cristoph, paced back and forth, the length of the tree branch. He kept a sharp eye out for danger, while also, watching for Lithia’s return. Then, at that time, a sudden, all too strangely familiar sound, had crept to his earshot; a far-afield dragging! They looked up, to see where it had been coming from, but none of them could see a thing, in the pure, seemingly evil infested, darkness; in the very forefront of space and time, for all they knew. Angelus took Helen’s shaking hand. The tantalizing sound of dragging continued; and they waited in anticipation. It was more than poignant; then, coming into view, as if they were all blind for a time, and now had perfect vision, allowing them to see; they spotted Lithia far off, as clear, and as real, as ever; yet, they couldn’t make out what the burden, was she had been dragging. It wasn’t that they couldn’t see it, it was foreign, just all around no recognition, on the most part; they couldn’t compare it to anything. It was undeniable, and no mystery, that Cristoph would be the first to recognize what it was exactly. As soon as he figured it out, he brought enlightenment to the confusion, feeding their wandering minds. “She’s dragging a Mud Dragon!”

Jack stood up with a gaping mouth. “How can you tell? It could be something else.” Cristoph looked at Jack, and then, looked back at Lithia, while, very gargoyle like, scratched his shoulder with his wing. “I know it’s a Mud Dragon, because of its unmistakable and unique white horns… if you inspect closely, they are in high-set degree… unlike any other creature. Look, you see; hard to miss!” Jack squinted to perceive and understand, what he had meant, about the horns, and said. “Yes! But barely!”

“We are eating dragon... Lithia is bringing a dragon for us to eat?” Cristoph detected oddness to Helen’s question. Her voice cracked, and the question wasn’t directed in a way, where it sounded like, she had been seeking an answer; but Cristoph, was ready to hand out information, always. Though he wasn’t quite akin to the ways of humans, hadn’t been around too many, for too long... though, nothing need be said here. Helen was on the segment, of a whole, just meaning to be humorous a thing, and it was clarified, when, shortly after… she said, with a signified chuckle. “Why, I am not surprised.”

Should he confirm regardless, when the answer was so vividly in front of them, might as well had been shouted from the tree tops. Cristoph snickered a little. No. To be as alert and aware as possible, was the most important thing, no more pondering in his thoughts. They all agreed on that, by their actions, intentional, or, unintentional. In a state of shock, how could one sit back and converse. They would have to be raving lunatics, to deal with this, and all that has led up to this point, so nonchalantly. They were starved; Lithia was bringing a solution to the problem, and living in the moment wasn’t just important, but mandatory; for the next few seconds, even, could be their last.

“What does dragon meat taste like?” Cristoph answered. “It has a mildly sweet and salty succulent flavor, with tenderness of the flesh, that falls apart in your mouth!” Helen’s mouth began to water, and she became more aware of how hungry she really was.

“Does it taste more like beef or chicken?”

“Beef? Chicken? What are these?”

In mockery of the way Cristoph articulated himself, Helen replied. “Chicken is a fowl, and beef is a ruminant.”

“I’ve never heard of such creatures! I’m sorry... I can not tell you which one tastes most like dragon.”

Jack deviated to Cristoph, as he finished talking, and then, passed a glance across Helen and Angelus. Something put him on nerve; just as he was looking away, he darted wild-eyes back immediately, and shouted with extremity to his voice. “What is that thing on your shoulder?” Helen showed no disturbance. “Oh! This is Nox. I rescued him.” She stopped to snicker a bit, and then, continued. “He’s been on my shoulder ever since.” Expecting the worst of a thing, to blaze a path through hellish horror, then, only to be proven wrong... dead-wrong, is something one would have to experience, to know what it’s actually like; and right now, Jack had been set straight, and it was getting to him. “So he’s friendly?” Helen answered. “Yes… he is quite friendly!”

“Can I have a look at him.” Jack said, holding out his hands, for the little specimen.

“Yes, if it’s okay with Nox!”

Jack slowly reached out his hands closer, but just as he was doing so, Nox had startled Jack with such a retort. “No! Don’t touch me!” Jumpy to the supernatural of a talking dragon, yes, it was really getting to him; he lost his balance, and fell down upon the branch, screaming in panic; Helen thought him to be a little too hysterical, as he almost slid off! Luckily, Cristoph grabbed his arm, and pulled him back up! Jack looked at Nox, with surprise, then, looked away, and said no more.

Lithia stopped at the bottom of the tree. “Here’s your sustenance! Bring them down here Cristoph, I’ll start the fire.” Lithia wasted no time; she left the dragon, lying at the base of the tree, and strode off, collecting kindling, and piling it up. When done with that task, she found two good sized logs, and set them aside, pulling flintstone out of her pocket, to strike them together. Cristoph landed with Angelus, Helen and Jack, and as soon as he did, they curiously neared closer to the dead dragon. Heat radiated from the body. Cristoph wandered over by Lithia, who was trying to get her fire setting lit. Cristoph had something else in mind, regarding lighting the fire. A light grew and emanated from Cristoph’s arms, covering over a pale liquid flame, and the fire started, blazing beautifully; it was a brilliant sight; the light surfing over his rolling muscles, crashed down, like a wave, and disappeared! Lithia turned her head to Cristoph, and gave a sly smile. She arose, pulled her knife out, and walked over to the dragon, carving a chunk of flesh out of the leg. Cristoph soon joined Lithia with five strong sticks, and said. “Come here you three, and take a tool!” Angelus looked at Helen, and gestured for her to be the first to get a spear, from Cristoph. Angelus then, got his, and Jack came up after them, and took one, as well, as Lithia stabbed the meat on each end of the points.

Walking over to the fire, Helen humorously, said to Angelus, alongside of her. “Did you ever think you’d have to eat dragon meat?” She chuckled, and nudged him, and then, he replied. “Yes! In fact, it’s been my life’s dream!” Nox moved close to Helen’s ear, and said. “I can’t eat dragon! But I need to eat too!” Lithia, who was piercing a chunk of meat on Jack’s stick, looked at Nox on Helen’s shoulder, and shouted to Helen. “I picked some berries, if you want some of them with your meat.” Helen replied. “Great! I’ll take some!” Lithia went on the other side of the dragon, and grabbed a bush full of berries. She walked swiftly to Helen and Angelus, who were halfway to the fire, and handed it to her. Lithia looked at Nox, smirked mysteriously, and then, walked back towards Cristoph, who had been getting messy with the food preparations.

How peaceful these events of the present were; much like a normal camping vacation, and interestingly enough, they had not been interrupted by any other beasts or creatures. The scent of dragon’s blood, must be keeping them away; but having the ruthlessness, and rabid temperament, of the Dark Creatures, it wouldn’t matter; those things would attack, and without having reason to. This really was a horrible place to be… this Forest...

Jack passed Lithia and headed to the fire, where Angelus and Helen were, roasting their breakfast. Lithia walked up to Cristoph, and said, with a chuckle. “Nox is going to love those berries!” Cristoph replied. “Yes he will!” Lithia stabbed her chunk of meat, onto the end of her makeshift utensil, and started towards the fire. Cristoph followed not far behind, then, came up beside her, and asked. “Why did you… why did you turn yourself into stone?” She looked at him sincerely, and said. “I felt I had nothing left! But then, when Jack came along, I was needed… I knew I had to help him. For the crisis of which I felt in his troubled heart, made me remember the pain… of which I feel… I could never rest, knowing I didn’t help this poor man, who undoubtedly, and desperately, needed my help.” Cristoph looked into her eyes with cheerfulness. “You have such a big heart Lithia, I’m proud of you.”

They came to join the others. Lithia went to Jack’s side, and Cristoph stayed, and stood by Angelus, both holding their breakfast over the fire, at the same time. Helen pulled her stick out of the fire. The meat was well cooked, and it smelled divine.

“Mmm, I can’t wait to try it!” Cristoph suggested wisely. “You better wait for it to cool.”

Angelus took his out, and said to Helen, after taking a short look around. “You want to come with me, to sit over on that log, while we wait for it to cool?” Helen replied eagerly. “Of course!” Helen followed Angelus, with Nox, eating berries on her shoulder. They sat down on the log, and Angelus said to her, teasing. “So what do you think of our first date?” Helen bent over and laughed; he slightly smiled, as he handled his meat, testing the temperature. It was fairly cooled on the surface. Angelus ripped a small piece off, and held it up, to inspect it.

“Here, you try it first!”

“What…? Are you afraid?”

“No! I’m just being a gentleman, and letting you try it first.” Helen tilted her head back, obnoxiously, and opened her mouth; and Angelus placed the morsel in her mouth amused. Her mood changed; she was flabbergasted. Helen closed her eyes, as she began to chew, and mumbled. “Mmmmm! This is so good!” Angelus broke off another piece, and put it in his mouth, and it was so delicious, that he too joined Helen in mumbling. “Wow! Mmmmmm… it’s magnificent!” It was unlike anything they’ve ever tasted; and the flavor so rich, yes, the best they ever had; they acted like savages, gobbling up their morsels.

Jack watched Helen and Angelus, eating, and couldn’t wait till he tried a piece himself. The grease from the meat, dripped on the fire, and sizzled. Jack gloated at his, as it became ready to eat, and walked over to sit with Helen and Angelus. Helen and Angelus, were talking, finishing up the rest of their breakfast, until they saw that Jack, had been approaching them. They stopped talking, but continued to eat. Jack sat down in between them, and immediately, jammed his face into the meat, taking a huge bite! But as soon as the meat was in his mouth, he spit it out and yelled. “Ah! Man, burned my tongue!” Jack took deep breaths, with his mouth widely open; and waited for his meat to cool, before making another attempt to consume the tantalizing tastiness.

Cristoph and Lithia were still holding theirs over the fire, while slowly rotating every once in a while, so the meat cooked evenly. Lithia looked over to Cristoph and asked gently. “Where is your dragon Dolmel?” Cristoph bowed his head. “Dolmel and I, had come into the clutches of a Dark Dragon, after fleeing from battle. The dragon had its bite on Dolmel’s head, and would have killed her, if I didn’t do something quick! I stabbed the Dark Dragon in the heart, but as I did, the Dragon’s mouth flexed and closed tighter on Dolmel’s head. Her skull was crushed, and there was nothing I could have done to save her... She was gone…”

Lithia put her hand under his chin, and lifted his face, turning it to hers, and looked into his eyes, authentically meaningful. “I don’t want to see you sobbing about it any further. She is gone, and she’s not coming back... so avenge her death… by destroying the Darkness once and for all! We are going to the Tree of Ending, Death and Dark!”

Had his ears deceived him! Cristoph was astounded, at Lithia’s command, of their next coordinates... the Tree of Ending! He didn’t expect this, it caught him off guard, whiplashed his knowing-Lithia-all-too-well completely. He thought differently of her now. He saw her as a fearless warrior! He stood up, straight and tall, and said proudly, pounding his right fist to his chest. “Yes. We shall go back and destroy the Tree! And to avoid Bougsmeith… we will go around the marsh!” Lithia laid her stick down, tilted up from the dirt on a rock, and went over to the tree and began to weave a moss bag, and strap, to put over her shoulder. She, then, plucked off ten of the tree’s large leaves, and laid them in the bottom of the bag. She walked back to Cristoph and set the bag down, then, picked up her shish-kabob, sat on the rock and ate.

Cristoph sat down to eat as well. He hadn’t regretted anything that had changed... and changed him... and changed Lithia. Along with all the good and the bad, he liked this; he ignored the bigger picture, for he would have chosen to never go back, even to a happier time… even if all he had to do, was, say a magic word. Yes, things were different now, but sitting with Lithia there, at that moment, he knew he could learn to let go, and move on.

At late morning, after Lithia carved more steaks off the dragon, cooked them, wrapped them in leaves, and put them in the moss woven bag; she made known to Angelus, Jack and Helen, her intentions in Destroying the Dark Side for good, and they strongly agreed with ultimate understanding. They set out on this new quest; Cristoph, Lithia, Jack, Helen and Angelus. And so they walked out, headed to the edge of the swamp, on their way to the Tree of Ending, Death and Dark.

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