Rykal exhaled sharply while his tail tightened around her leg. Olivia focused hard on the tingles dancing along her skin, the way it eased any sort of discomfort and filled it with nothing but warmth and an odd sense of familiarity. Olivia pressed her lips together and stayed as calm as she possibly could but couldn’t fight the urge to let tears glisten her eyes. She blinked and tried to make them dry up but it proved to be useless. She felt the scales of the snake’s body brush roughly over her burning mark and Olivia contained the temptation to whimper. Her body trembled more than she could restrain and squeezed her eyes shut.
“Be still,” murmured Rykal.
Olivia only dug her nails into her palms. Suddenly, warmth filled the air and immediately, goosebumps rose upon her skin. Olivia did all but gasp as her eyes fluttered open. She soon regretted it as Rykal’s ajar mouth glowed with a vibrant blue. A dreadful thought told her that she would soon feel hotter than she wanted.
Rykal narrowed his eyes and deeply breathed in. The snake tightened its body around Olivia and moved it’s head over to her shoulder, looking at Rykal. The dragon shifter growled faintly before he breathed out sharply. Small flames of blue rushed from his mouth and all thoughts left Olivia as she jumped in fright. The snake hissed loudly. The fire engulfed the snake’s head and Olivia flinched at the horrible shriek that pierced her ears. The snake’s body suddenly exploded into ashes and it was gone.
The girl breathed heavily, her heart thumping wildly in her chest as if it would burst. All that remained from the green snake was nothing but ashes gathering upon her. She stayed completely frozen, unable to move and stared wide-eyed at her lap, her hands shaking uncontrollably.
“Olivia. . .”
Ticklish sparks invaded her shaking hand as another placed itself over hers. Olivia gasped and snatched her hand away, snapping her head at the dragon shifter. He frowned as he crouched beside her. She suddenly felt uneasy and swallowed the lump in her throat.
“Are you harmed in any way?” he asked, already looking for any signs of injury.
Olivia silently shook her head and rubbed her arms, feeling the bumps on her chilled skin. It was mildly comforting, considering she had felt the familiar goosebumps rise atop her skin nearly every day.
Movements caught Olivia’s attention and saw Rykal lean toward her with his arms spreading forward, an action to hug her. Quickly, Olivia scrambled to her feet and stepped back, not daring to look at the dragon shifter as she made her way to the small lake. Ash and burnt black scales fell each hurried step the girl took and it sent an uneasy feeling traveling down her spine.
Something about the snake felt off. Olivia couldn’t describe it well in her head, the best way to put it was as if it was too easy, like it was some sort of trap or trickery. The girl was wary but the next thing she felt was cold water splashing against her neck. Various shivers crawled at her skin but Olivia didn’t pay much attention to it as her hands formed a cup shape before splashing more water on her face.
She suddenly felt dirty and she wet her hands more before furiously rubbing her face and neck, gasping at how droplets rolled down her neck and underneath all the clothing she was wearing. A presence made itself known beside Olivia by clearing their throat curtly. The girl snapped her gaze up at Rykal and found his cold eyes seemingly glare down at her.
Something about his icy look stirred Olivia’s insides, it wasn’t the pleasurable feeling. no, more of dread. It didn’t sit well with her as Olivia averted her gaze back to the water and suddenly noticed a light at the bottom. Olivia frowned and leaned closer to the water, squinting her eyes. The light was so bright yet so dull that she couldn’t make out what it was. Around the edges were pointy things that seemed to look much like the tips of trees. The light then looked like the sky and Olivia frowned, it couldn’t be. No. Could it?
The dragon had dove straight into the lake and swam until he nearly drowned both of them and before Olivia blacked out she saw a light, a candle or torch. And then suddenly she was in a strange cave, crawling out of the small hole of water.
It all made sense, but Olivia couldn’t process the logic of how it worked. Was it like she was upside down? Or was she the right side up and the other place was upside down? But wouldn’t that make the cave another dimension or another world within the world? But how was that possible? The girl sighed as the cool water resolved the burning in her neck to nothing but a dull twitch.
“I’m going hunting,” Rykal said in a mutter.
Olivia didn’t respond though she could feel Rykal still standing behind her and fought the urge to look up into his dark eyes. She knew she had done something to annoy the dragon shifter, possibly her avoiding his attempt to hug her, but she didn’t want to be comforted by him.
Rykal growled under his breath before a series of loud clangs echoed the cave. Olivia jolted in her spot and snapped her head toward Rykal. He ignored her and dove into the water, splashing droplets everywhere.
Olivia noticed the thing Rykal purposely dropped, a metal pan. She then took a look at her surroundings; seeing a bed with blue and red blankets against the far wall, shelves on the wall next to her, and a small counter with a bowl on the opposite. She stood up on a rough, pale grey rug that covered the floor with a large hole in the middle of the cave. Olivia stepped closer and peeked inside the hole and saw ashes and wood, meaning it was for fires.
Olivia dismissed the thought of how old the cave looked with dust gathering on the shelves and counter and cobwebs littering the walls. The melted candles nestled thickly on the shelves told Olivia that she wasn’t the first to visit. She knew Rykal had lit them because each flame flickered a soft hue of blue.
The thought of the dragon shifter not with her made Olivia cross her arms and she walked over to the bed. When she sat, she stared at the small lake, questioning how it was possible for it to allow two worlds to co-exist, even if one was extremely small against the other.
The more the girl stared at the water, the more lost she became, the more confused she was and the more lonely she felt. Her dream of being free was far fetched, all she wanted was a friend, someone to lean on, or even feel the warmth of another human next to her. She missed Dreya and Meggan; Olivia half expected for Meggan and Kane to emerge through the water, apologizing and saying why they were gone for so long. Though somewhere in the back of her mind, Olivia knew that they weren’t coming back. She didn’t think it had anything to do with Rykal because the two of them got along like brothers. No, it was no doubt the strange feeling called love.
Thinking about it made Olivia cringe. She had never been in love before, she only had one crush on a boy after she started living in the orphanage. His name was Joel. Olivia shook her head at how obsessed she was over him. It was funny to think about. The way his blue eyes meeting her brown made her stomach twist and flutter in excitement. The way he raked back his blonde wavy hair that fell just above his ears left her swooning in admiration. And Olivia couldn’t even think about how he looked shirtless without a hot flush creeping up her neck.
She was crushing on him for nearly three years and she was sad when he had to move away. But before he left he promised Olivia that they would meet again. The words made Olivia’s heart flutter, but not as much as her whole body felt hot and light when he kissed her cheek. It was like he knew she had a crush on him and she didn’t hide it that well, nearly the whole village knew she did and some would chuckle whenever they saw Olivia staring at Joel. It was childish to think that it all happened years ago.
Still, though, there was a part of her that hoped she would see Joel again. And even after all the years, she still had a crush on him. He was so kind and funny. Olivia knew Quinstella would call her pathetic. Maybe she was right. Who would still have a crush on someone after years of not seeing them? It was hopeless, she was hopeless.
A slight breeze drifted into the cave. Olivia frowned and blinked out of her trance. The water rippled slightly and it felt colder in the cave. Olivia stood and walked over to the small lake. She looked in and saw the light had grown darker, not by much though. She guessed it was around evening either four or five. Rykal wasn’t back yet and Olivia sat down at the edge, cross-legged. She debated the odds against her going through the water to the other side. Would she be able to make it? It was risky as it was doubtful.
If she stayed, she would be safe until Rykal got back, then nothing but the unmistaken words about his kind would come swirling into her mind, demanding to be acknowledged. It was terrifying to think that her life could end sooner than she thought. As pathetic and useless as she was, she didn’t want to throw her life away, she couldn’t even call the past nine years living, it was more like watching the years go by with abuse in an empty shell, or like she stood still and everything, everyone around her was speeding past her; time sped up and she remained slow, watching the image blur past her before she could blink.
Olivia reached out her hand, her fingers stretched out and gasped at cold the water. Though, she wasn’t surprised because it was winter after all. Should she, knowing that it was completely stupid and she’d most likely drown? Olivia groaned and furiously dug her fingers into her knotty hair, she desperately needed soap and water. It was bad enough that her strange cycle of bleeding was coming soon. She could already feel the dull pain deep in her stomach.
Faye had told her that all women went through the same thing but men didn’t. It was weird that only girls got it. After Olivia said that Faye chuckled and said that it would be weird if men got it, it would be like men being able to get pregnant. It wasn’t even in the question of how odd that sounded.
Shaking her head, Olivia sighed in frustration. She was already dead. She just had to decide how she would, by a dragon shifter or by water? As depressing as it sounded, Olivia didn’t want to be chewed on then spat out, she’d rather drown. A single tear slid down her cheek and Olivia lowered her head. She knew she had to leave while she still could, who knew when Rykal would be back.
With a dry swallow, Olivia stood and closed her eyes. She didn’t pause or hesitate as she stepped off the edge and dropped into the freezing water. Her cheeks puffed out like a squirrel’s and the cold water surrounded her, quickly snuffling out her body warmth. Olivia quickly swam up to the surface and gasped loudly. With a rushed gasp, she brushed back the bangs sticking to her face and her teeth chattered before she could stop the shivers crawling up her skin.
It’s now or never,
Olivia looked down and took a deep breath. Closing her eyes she dunked her head underneath the water. The icy water submerged her and she quickly flipped her body down and used the edge to launch herself down. As she swam down, or up, she had an idea of hers to go to the edge of the enchanted lake where the rocks were and she would use it as leverage to pull herself up to the surface. She reached out to the closest rock and pulled herself to the wall.
The girl felt nauseous and pressed her lips into a thin line. Olivia pulled herself up to the next rock, reaching out and doing the same strategy. She did her strategy a few more times before she began to feel dizzy. Her head throbbed as if someone had slapped her head with a wooden spoon. Her chest tightened and Olivia squeezed her eyes shut and forced her body to move.
Her arms burned with protest but the girl ignored it and forced her mind to think about birds; how they flew freely in the air and chirped away without a care in the world. Olivia wanted to be the same, her dream of being free was inspired by watching birds whenever she could, whether it was a long gaze or just a glance above her. It was all the same to her.
A sharp sudden pain stung her palm, making Olivia snap her eyes open in shock. A bright light was lit above her, it was so close the girl could almost reach out and touch it. Olivia used all her might to push her body up. Her hand reached up and broke through the water tension, gripping the frosted ledge tightly. More desperate than ever, Olivia hoisted herself and gasped. Water rained from her as she deeply breathed in the cold air, filling her cramped lungs with much-needed oxygen.
Olivia hulled herself out of the lake and collapsed to the ground, not caring that she would regret it later. She breathed in deeply as the bitter snow encased the side of her face. For the moment, the girl breathed in the cool air, relaxing and releasing the tension buried in her muscles. But she knew she had to move, the rest had to end. With a shaky grunt, Olivia hoisted her sore body up onto her feet and brushed back the overgrown bangs stuck to her forehead. Her arms ached, her head throbbed, and her chest felt tight, but still, she walked forward.
Blowing warm air into her cupped hands, Olivia took in the evening grey sky and tall forest that surrounded her and the lake. The sun was setting in the west and it would rise again in the east. The girl changed her direction from south to east and walked to where she believed was the village of the woodsmen, thinking there were no mythical creatures.