[Chapter Thirty Four]
The storm was nothing but a bad memory, the drying water droplets a reminder as Exiron flew on. As much as he wanted to stop and rest, he couldn’t. He could hear the sirens below him, screaming for him to land, singing their angel-like voices to lure him down. Only he could hear it, though, he didn’t care if Raegel decided to jump off and join them and break a few bones in the process. If he were honest, their voices were alluring, adding to the temptation to land. He’d doom the group and would only feel the guilt toward his Dragella, the snake questionable, and the elf he’d swat like a fly if he could.
Exiron picked up his pace, beating his heavy wings harder and harder to try and put some distance between him the dark mermaids. The only thing keeping him from landing was Olivia’s heartbeat and his injuries that kept him awake. Exiron knew for sure he had lost many protective scales during the fight, the female dragon was swift and fast compared to him. It angered him mostly that he could barely land a full impact on her. Maybe if he wasn’t injured by the lightning then he might’ve had a better chance.
The coldness didn’t help his wounds. His scales were there to protect him from the harshness of the elements, winter especially. His scales kept the warmth in and the cold out. Fallen scales left him as cold as the chattering elf. His eyes drooped. The sight of the dark blue sky urged him to close his eyes. It so greatly tested his will to stay awake as he yawned, catching a cold wind inside his mouth.
"The sirensss are behind usss, dragon. You may relaxxx,” the snake hissed.
Exiron then noticed the snake had coiled around one of his smaller horns protruding from the side of his head near his ear. ”Are you certain? I still hear their voices singing to me,”
"You ssstrain your earsss too much. Anxxiety isss what you feel,” Salvesta replied, poking out his forked tongue.
Exiron sighed and slowed down, flapping his wings gently to just a settled glide. The wind pushed along with him to which Exiron was grateful for. He nodded. ”Thank you. I am grateful you do not have a similar personality to the goblin of an elf,”
"I ssshare the ssssame gratitude for not sssetting my body on fire,”
Exiron chuckled, low and deep. ”I apologize for the inconvenience. My human equal can not speak the reptile tongue as I can to communicate with you,”
From the depths of his mind, Rykal grumbled at the dragon and in return, the dragon grinned mentally. Salvesta hissed softly, a small chuckle of his own. ”Apology acccepted. Your equal did not underssstand my intentionsss at the time,"
Exiron nodded and gently flew lower, wanting to put space between him and the dragon kingdom lurking above. ”If I may, what are your intentions? Is there a reason you cannot live a life as a normal snake?”
"The sssame differenccce asss yourssself and the human. I feel a connectionnn toward the girl. It cursssesss me to be at her ssside for eternity. Death doesss nothing but caussse pain of reincarnationnn. Only when the girl has acccepted the connectionn isss when I feel death. If ssshe diesss, I follow her into the afterlife,"
"How unfortunate,” Exiron murmured.
"It will be if the girl turnsss to the darknesss,”
Exiron flapped his wings a few times, taking his passengers higher into the sky. ”What gives you the impression Olivia will follow the path of darkness. Do you speak about the enchantress’s words?”
"Yesss. Countlesss timesss, dragon. Countlesss timesss the sssituationnn hass played out. Countlesss more the human becomesss the darknesss. I feel asss though the girl’sss fate wasss meant for more than a normal lamia,”
"What should happen to her when the bond is accepted?” Exiron asked and Rykal pounded at his mental mind, forcing Exiron to snarl without realizing.
"I fear a great evil will consssume her being. A power that ssshe will not be able to control,"
Exiron remained quiet and somehow he knew the answer before Salvesta answered. Raegel was awake, judging from the overly loud yawn and Exiron clenched his teeth. He so utterly desired the damsel of an elf to accidentally fall off his back and join the sirens below him. It would bring him the greatest of joy and relief. Salvesta hissed and slithered toward the saddle again.
"Foolisssh elf. Dinning on your flesssh will sssatisfy my hunger,"
Raegel screamed and Exiron felt him jump. “I wasn’t stealing anything! I’m just hungry!”
"Keep your voice down, you ignorant dullard," Exiron hissed.
“Oh, calm down, you overgrown lizard,” Raegel snapped back. “The pride and joy won’t wake up,”
Exiron gritted his teeth right against each other as his nostrils began smoking. ”If Olivia wakes up, you will have the pleasure of dealing with her temper,”
Raegel scoffed. “Pfft, little Olly, doesn’t have a temper. She’s like a mouse!”
Olivia began groaning and Salvesta hissed loudly. ”Ssshut your tramp, both of you! The girl isss waking up,"
Sure enough, Olivia’s mind was beginning to wake up, thinking about what all the fighting was about as a groggy groan left her lips. There was a perk to marking his Dragella. Raegel cursed loudly and Salvesta hissed at him. Exiron remained quiet, not wanting to take the blame for waking up his Dragella.
Olivia began to stir and felt irritated to hear Raegel shouting in her ear about Salvesta hissing at him. Her body felt the full harshness of the wind, courtesy of Raegel using the whole cloak around himself. She shivered and sat up from Raegel’s chest. Her head was throbbing, her muscles were sore and exhausted from fighting off the sirens, again courtesy of Raegel not even giving her a warning. Exiron growled and Raegel scoffed at him.
“I don’t need your ′I told you so’ snappy jaws!”
His head was right next to her ear and somehow he found the audacity to use her a shield by sitting right behind her, no wonder she was sleeping on his chest. Salvesta snapped his fangs at Raegel and he shrieked in response. It painfully pierced through Olivia’s ears and the last thread of her kindness snapped.
“Oh, would you all just shut the god forsaking hell up!” Olivia screamed.
Raegel gasped at her mockingly. “Pride and joy is awake!”
“Shut up! Just shut up, you coward excuse of an elf! It’s one thing to blame me for getting you into this mess. It’s another thing to not warn me about the siren. And it’s another thing to not try and help me,” Olivia shouted. “In fact, I can’t hold it against you because your mindset is only on yourself, you selfish idiot. But do not, and I mean, DO NOT, think you have the audacity to wake me up, take my cloak, and use me as a personal shield just so you can keep warm!”
“I was cold! You weren’t using it,” Raegel grumbled.
Just the sound of his voice made Olivia’s blood boil over. “Were you the one got dragged into the icy water? Were you the one desperately fighting off the sirens? Were you the one who couldn’t breathe?!”
Raegel remained quiet and tucked the cloak tightly around him.
“No,” Olivia snapped and ripped the cloak from the elf’s body. He protested and Olivia sent him one of the most menacing death stares. “Don’t you dare complain. You don’t deserve the warmth or the kindness I’m giving you,”
Raegel crossed his arms and grunted under his breath. “I hate —”
“If I hear your voice one more time I’ll throw you into the sea. I’m sure the sirens will be happy to see you if you survive the fall,”
Raegel didn’t say anything. Olivia wrapped her cloak around her body and saw the green snake watching her curiously. She narrowed her eyes at him, not in the mood for anyone and Salvesta looked away. He shivered ever so slightly and guilt gripped her heart. She grumbled under her breath and made an opening underneath her neck.
“Get in. I can see you’re cold,” the girl grouched.
Salvesta slithered hastily into the opening and coiled around her body. Olivia was grateful she was still wearing her sweater; it would give Salvesta and her extra warm. Exiron’s body vibrated a little, she heard him chuckle.
“Shut up, Exiron,”
The dragon instantly stopped vibrating and Olivia slouched forward. It wasn’t even morning and already Olivia wanted to jump off the dragon’s back herself. She closed her eyes, tightly holding the cloak against her body and wanted to fall back asleep. But it wasn’t easy falling asleep on the back of a flying dragon with a chattering elf behind her. As much as she didn’t want to, Olivia unwrapped the end of the cloak. It flew in the wind and slapped against Raegel’s face.
“Take it before I change my mind,” muttered the girl and Raegel eagerly grabbed the cloak.
He didn’t say anything at first, sighing at the warmth closing in around him but Olivia felt his eyes on her. “Thank you,”
Olivia scoffed. “The one genuine answer I’ve gotten yet,”
Raegel didn’t answer but at least his chattering had quietened. Salvesta hissed softly, loosening his hold on Olivia’s body which meant he was asleep. Olivia was slightly envious. “At least one of us can sleep,”
For the rest of the night, Olivia was awake with a bitter chill flushed in her face. Raegel laid against her back, snoring loudly and Salvesta occasionally popped his head out of the cloak underneath her neck a few times for some fresh air. Olivia did notice the claw marks on Exiron’s wing, the way he would gently flap it, and the small quiver. No matter how much Exiron tried to hide it, he was in pain and Olivia hated that there was nothing she could do to help him; she couldn’t even convince him to land with the icy sea still below them.
Olivia couldn’t imagine how tired he was after flying nearly a full day. She could only guess it was liking running endlessly without stopping to match his struggles. The girl hoped that he would be able to make it through the rest of the trip.
The sun peeked up above the sea horizon, spreads of yellow and orange mingled with the night blue and created a canvas of vibrant colours. Olivia watched the sun climb above the sea and low into the sky until it grew too bright to look at. Exiron yawned loudly and shook his head, flapping his wings with more force to bring them into the few wandering clouds; he stayed away from the thick layer of clouds towering above them.
"Are you awake?” Exiron asked.
“Just me,” answered Olivia.
The dragon tilted his head back and frowned at the elf sleeping her back. ”Your kindness for the elf astounds me,”
Olivia chuckled half-heartedly. “You’re not the only one,”
Exiron turned his head forward again and spoke with a bittersweet tone. ”I do not understand why you thought to bring him along with us. The travel with him has created the difficulties Rykal warned you of,”
Olivia sighed and felt Raegel stir. “I thought I saw something in him, Exiron. I honestly saw someone other than a thief and I wanted to help show him there isn’t just evil in the world,”
Exiron’s body rumbled as he sighed. ”Do you think perhaps, he does not wish to accept your kindness? He has shown nothing but hatred and walls since you paid his debt,"
“That’s why I want to help him. There’s more to this life than what he’s seen,”
"Do not assume, Olivia,” the dragon warned. ”Everyone chooses their own path for a reason. Raegel has chosen the life of a thief for a reason we should not concern ourselves with,”
“The same way you choose the life of exile?” Olivia muttered though it didn’t sound as harsh in her head.
Exiron’s body stiffened. His scales hardened and Olivia crossed her arms. For some reason, she was annoyed with Exiron’s silence. Raegel suddenly shot up, yawning dramatically loud and stretching his arms high up. Olivia rolled her eyes, knowing he was listening the entire time.
“Morning, Olly,” Raegel greeted.
Olivia turned her head over her shoulder and cocked a brow at him. “Someone’s in a happy mood. What’s with the Olly?”
Raegel shrugged. “Too lazy to say your name. Olly works for me,”
Olivia nodded her head slowly and turned back, a little weirded out. “You sure you weren’t listening to our conversation?”
“What?” Raegel gasped. “I wouldn’t try. I am a humble thief,”
Olivia hummed with a suspicious tone and decided she was hungry. “Is anyone else hungry?”
“YES!” Raegel shouted out, already reaching for the packed sacks.
Exiron remained quiet and yawned. Olivia glanced at his sharp jaw full of equally sharp teeth as Raegel handed her the sack. She glanced at it in surprise and turned to Raegel.
“I’m surprised you didn’t —” she cut herself off when she saw the large chunk of meat in his hand. “Take any. . .”
He gave a deadpanned look. “I said I was a humble thief, not a humble elf,”
Olivia ignored him and reached inside, taking out a small portion and calling for Salvesta. He popped his head up from under her neck and stretched his neck out. He nabbed the pork from her hand and lowered his head inside the cloak again. Olivia helped herself to a small portion of the cold pork, not complaining that there was no warmth. Salvesta poked his head through the opening again as she finished and Olivia gave him a stern gaze.
“You’ve had your share, Salvesta. Exiron will need the food the most,”
Salvesta crawled out of the opening and slithered over her shoulder. Raegel gasped. “Get off me! Get off me — what? No, don’t take my breakfast. Hey! Stop it!”
“Just share with Salvesta, Raegel. You took the biggest piece and Salvesta took the smallest,”
“But it’s my breakfast,” the elf whined.
Olivia gave him a shrug. “It’s either your breakfast or you,”
Raegel grumbled under his breath muttering to stay on his own side. Olivia shook her head. Steadily, she undid the band keeping her securely on the saddle and felt a cold chill running down her spine. She slowly stood up and Raegel gasped, shouting at her to sit down. Olivia assured him and, tightly holding the sack of pork, she walked toward Exiron’s head. She held out her hands to balance herself while wind thrust against her. Her legs were shaky and her balance was wobbly. Exiron flapped his wings gently, gliding through the puffy white clouds and turned his head slightly. Olivia’s brown eyes connected with his widened yellow.
"What are you doing, Olivia? Sit back down,” he urged.
Olivia ignored him and dropped to all fours. Raegel yelled in alarm and Olivia slowly crawled her way up to the top of the dragon’s head; his scales made for good grip and helped her climb up. When Olivia was up, she held onto Exiron’s largest curled horn and slowly stood up. A harsh breath of air exhaled from her lips and Olivia thought about the possibilities of giving Exiron his share of the pork.
His left hand unexpectedly reached up near her and Olivia quickly gave him the sack. Exiron took it from her and brought it to his open mouth; the girl felt his jaws chewing up and down and she braced herself against his horn, sliding down until she securely sat against it. Exiron handed her the nearly empty sack and Olivia took it and had a small piece herself.
"Thank you,” Exiron murmured.
“You’re welcome. You need it more than any of us,” Olivia replied.
Exiron nodded his head softly. Silence overcame them and it felt awkward to Olivia. She didn’t mean for her words to be harsh. She was just trying to prove a point. “I’m sorry about before. I didn’t mean to say that offensively,”
Exiron’s body rumbled softly and he rose above a little cloud. ”I did warn you not to assume, Olivia. I may have chosen the path of darkness but under no circumstances did I choose the path of exile,”
“I understand,” the girl responded softly.