[Chapter Twenty Six]
"It is one of dragon shifter’s traditions, to put in light words, to claim a certain other, significant half, soul mate, destined lover, or however the term works for humans. What Rykal foolishly did will change your relationship with him and I, however, I sense as though you are already experiencing, say said thoughts or desires. . .”
There was no denying the blush pinking Olivia’s face as she tried to bury it beneath her pale cheeks. The dark fantasies were beginning to creep back into her memory and Olivia quickly shook her head and cleared her throat.
The dragon continued. ”With this being said, Rykal has indeed claimed you as ours. I have seen your confusion when we call you Dragella. This brings forth another tradition that connects to one large one, roots growing from a tree per say. . .”
Olivia stayed silent. She took in every word and let it sink in. Though, the dragon paused for a bit longer than she wanted.
The dragon growled under his breath and shook his head. ”I am sorry, Dragella, but Rykal is forbidding me from explaining further due to his. . . insecurities. The topic I am discussing is tender to both of us and it will reveal everything that relates to our intentions,”
Olivia groaned in anger, tired of Rykal keeping things from her. And she wasn’t going to let Rykal ruin her chances of finally getting some answers. “No, Exiron. Don’t listen to Rykal. He’s not here to have any part in our conversation. Please, tell me more,”
Exiron grunted and flapped his wings uneasily. ”Do not make me choose between my equal and you, Dragella,"
“Please, Exiron, it’s killing me that I don’t know what’s happening. It freaks me out not knowing what your intentions are. The more you and Rykal keep it from me the more I feel like you’re just going to kill me,” Olivia begged.
Exiron remained silent for a few moments and Olivia knew he was fighting with Rykal from the way Exiron’s body was rising in temperature. The girl knew Rykal was stubborn and strong-willed and wouldn’t change his mind so easily. It irritated the girl and she made a mental note to confront Rykal about it later.
“Exiron,” Olivia called. The dragon perked his ears back. “It doesn’t have to be a full explanation. It can just be a root of the tree,”
She tried to make it light and carefree when it hardly was, though Exiron understood what she meant. ”Very well. I have answered your first question without revealing too much for the imbecile to throw a tantrum over. What is your next question, Dragella?”
Olivia sighed. “I was going to ask you why you and Rykal call me that, but I’m guessing Rykal wouldn’t like it?”
Exiron nodded. ”As I said before, it will reveal our full intention with you,”
“Well, there are two other things I want to learn about, but I don’t think either of you will want to tell the story of that yet,” Olivia replied.
"What might that be?”
Olivia was hesitant but nevertheless answered, “The first would understanding more about your exile —”
Exiron’s body abruptly tensed and Olivia felt his scales become firm. ”Do not ask about the past. It is for another time,”
By the cold depth of his voice, Olivia didn’t dare say the other, which was knowing why Rykal could change from blue to red. Instead, she decided to ask something simple.
“How old are you?”
Exiron cranked his neck around and turned his head back to face her. His face was much larger than her entire body and Olivia subconsciously lowered her body firmly against his. He tilted his head in curiosity and the dragon mused, ”I have forgotten my age. But I do remember aging over two centuries,”
Olivia’s jaw dropped. “That old?!”
Exiron narrowed his eyes and blew a puff of smoke into her face in which Olivia coughed. ”I am young for my age. Other dragons would be greater in age and wisdom,”
Olivia dropped her head into Exiron’s scales and blew air from her lips loudly whilst hearing the dragon laugh. “And here I am only near twenty years old,”
"Rykal is near the same age in human years. Twenty three which results in my age of two hundred and twenty two,”
Olivia blew larger sums of loud noises from her lips and breathed out, “That. Is. Amazing. I have never met someone so. . .”
Exiron’s body vibrated with amusement. ”As old as I am?”
“Yes! It’s incredible. How old is the oldest dragon you know or heard of?” Olivia asked, unable to contain her curiosity.
"I have heard rumors of a dragon as old as over two hundred centuries old. Though, I have met a dragon as old as seventy centuries,"
“That old?! I haven’t even met someone older than sixty!”
Exiron’s body rippled with laughter and Olivia couldn’t help but smile. She felt so at ease with Exiron. Even though he was one of the most intimidating and terrifying creatures she’d seen, he was so kind and easy to be around. He didn’t scare her as much as she thought he would and she never knew she would be able to get along with him, much less have a relaxed conversation. Olivia rested her head on her arms and watched the sun glint through the clouds. She breathed in the fresh air and sighed calmly.
A question had been floating around in her mind and she decided to voice it. “Exiron. You said my relationship with you and Rykal will change because Rykal has claimed me. Could you explain more about that?”
The dragon hummed in response. ”Indeed. Rykal had not planned to claim you now when you know so little. However, the fool lost his temper and marked you at the wrong time. Now that you are marked by a dragon shifter, you will tend to develop certain feelings for us as we will toward you,"
“What kind of feelings?” Olivia asked.
"That is something Rykal wishes to tell you when he thinks is good. I agree as well. The matter is a heavy subject to discuss,"
“Come on, Exiron. There must be something you can tell me,” Olivia pleaded.
Exiron was quiet for a while whilst Olivia sat up and looked over his body, gulping how high they were. Heights wasn’t one of her strong points and would rather have her feet planted on solid ground. Her stomach twisted in knots and Olivia cupped her hand over her mouth, keeping down whatever she last had. She looked away and laid on her stomach again, taking deep breathes to calm herself.
"I will tell you this, despite Rykal’s demanding not to,” Olivia perked her head up at Exiron’s voice. ”The mark you bear will attract the attention of others, both good and evil. But do not let that make you think the mark is a bad omen, as Rykal fears you may run away because of the dangers it will bring,"
Olivia sighed. “Is he really that insecure about me running away?”
Exiron released a breath of blue fire above him and growled under his breath. ”We were frantic of your disappearance, Dragella. We feared you were taken and held captive. Though, when we found you, we realized you were not kidnapped, you had run away. Why you did, we did not understand at the time. I had warned Rykal to tell you bits and pieces of our intentions so you would not be afraid of us. I saw the look you gave us, eyes holding terror and I knew to keep you in the dark as Rykal had would end badly. Little did I know the Fantasy Hunters were waiting for our arrival.
"Olivia, we felt betrayed for your actions, though I understand why you did them. There is nothing to say that would have made you feel less frightened of us, but I hope you see now that we mean no harm. Rykal was not in the right mind when you were nursing us. No one had made us, made him, feel so terrified of losing someone we held dear the way you did in decades.”
Olivia gripped Exiron’s scales tightly and sighed. “I had no idea you both felt that way. I’m sorry. I never believed in fantasy creatures, and when I found out they were real, I freaked. Rykal said I wouldn’t understand which made me think about those traditions the books mentioned. I didn’t believe them at first but after thinking about it, dragon shifters steal maidens and sacrifice them to dragon lords or lock them in towers for all eternity or eating them for pure power, it sounded so real. I mean if you’re real, then so were the books. So it made me think the worst. That’s why I ran,”
Exiron grunted. ”I have never heard such deceptions in my life!”
Olivia hummed in response. “I’m glad to hear it,” the girl decided to change the subject. “By the way, where are we going?”
"A place where fantasy creatures of all kinds can live without disturbance of any sort by hunters, particularly the Fantasy Hunters,”
“And humans?” Olivia asked anxiously.
Exiron twisted his head back to her for a moment before facing ahead again. ”Humans are difficult. Some are kind to the mythical whilst others are not. Some may not care you are there, some may have a grudge. However, we are approaching,”
Olivia felt uneasy. She looked down at the land, noticing they weren’t beneath a forest anymore. The clear snowy land was stretched out with a frozen lake. The sun cast a shadow of Exiron’s body that sped past the scenery.
“How long have we been flying?”
"We left soon after you fell unconscious and since then we have been flying for roughly a few hours at most,"
Exiron began flying lower and lower to the ground and Olivia felt a tight knot in her stomach. The dragon landed softly and stretched out his neck to the ground allowing her to climb off. The girl looked around finding only a few frozen trees on small hills. Ahead of her was a tall hedge that reached near Exiron’s height, all the leaves were frozen which was a little odd for Olivia’s liking. There was a peaceful silence in the air and Olivia didn’t find comfort in it, it chilled her spine. Loud cracks and growls filled the air and Olivia jumped. She turned her head as smoke gathered around the dragon as he began to shrink. Olivia watched with amazement until she remembered the first time Exiron shifted and Rykal was standing there naked.
Quickly, the girl shot her head forward and crossed her arms. She distracted herself by using the tip of her boot to trace small circles in the snow. Then she felt someone behind her and Olivia couldn’t help but clenched her fists. Turning around, Olivia’s eyes meet with a piercing blue and without thinking, Olivia reached out and slapped him. His head whipped to the side and Olivia narrowed her eyes at him.
“Try something like that again and don’t expect me to be there when you wake up the next day!” Olivia snapped.
Rykal’s head stayed to the side, his hair covering his eyes. He didn’t say anything for a moment or two. “Do you remember about Kane and Meggan?”
Olivia frowned. “What?”
The girl felt a pang of guilt seeing the red mark on his cheek as Rykal lifted his head and looked at her. “Do you remember about the bond between Kane and Meggan?”
“Uh, yes, kind of. Why?”
Rykal began walking toward her and Olivia tensed. He stopped beside her and Olivia turned and looked at him. He glanced at her. “It’s the same as ours,”
Olivia turned her body around as he began walking toward the hedge. Olivia watched him with a puzzled expression and wasn’t sure how to take his answer. The same bond as Kane and Meggan? A conversation between Meggan and her replayed in her head,
“Okay. Can you tell me about you and Kane?”
Meggan nodded with a smile. “It was love at first sight. When Meggan saw him, she knew it was him. Kane was her mate. A special bond that will last forever,”
Olivia blinked at her, both confused and worried for her friend. “So. . . you two are in a relationship then? A romantic couple?”
Meggan looked at her weirdly and nodded her head. “Mate means romantic couple. Doesn’t Olivia know that?”
Olivia’s eyes widened and her cheeks burned with heat. Glancing at Rykal her heart thumped wildly and butterflies fluttered in her stomach. It all suddenly made sense but Olivia didn’t understand why of all. . . creatures, why her?
“Olivia! Are you coming with or standing there to freeze over?” Rykal called over his shoulder.
Olivia pursed her lips and went running after him. “Bastard’s acting like nothing happened,”
When she caught up with him, he stood in front of the hedge, there didn’t look like there was a way around it and Olivia reached out for it. Solid ice meet her bandaged hand and Olivia ran her hand across the rough frozen leaves.
“What are we doing here?” she asked.
Rykal glanced at her and before walking forward. Before she knew it Rykal walked straight through the hedge as it rippled as if it was nothing more than a reflection on the water. Olivia gasped and stared at the hedge. It was solid just a second ago and Olivia reached out for the hedge again. Solid and icy.
“Rykal?” she called, hoping to hear a response.
Nothing. Suddenly, he reappeared in front of her and Olivia jumped back. He wore a grin and held out his hand. Olivia looked at it hesitantly and looked over his shoulder, his wings were through the hedge along with the back of his body; the hedge itself was rippling like the wind disturbing the water surface. It made her head feel dizzy and the girl blinked away. Slowly, she took his hand and glanced at him with uncertainty.
“Do you trust me?” he murmured.
Olivia cocked her brow. “I don’t know if I should,”
Rykal rolled his eyes and held her hand firmly. Olivia breathed out shakily and couldn’t calm her racing heart. She felt nervous and a bit scared. What was going to happen? She touched it twice and it felt icy and normal. Rykal gave her a reassuring smile and the girl felt her heart jump in her throat. Gripping his hand tightly, Olivia felt Rykal pulling her forward. She stepped forward before Rykal abruptly pulled her through, not giving her time to process it.
Silence came over the open land, snowflakes floated in the strong wind and an orange fox remained in the same spot as it did when the dragon landed; its body buried beneath the snow as it laid there, watching the girl and dragon shifter disappear through the hedge. It stood up and shook the snow from its fur coat and trotted away.