War and Despair

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Chapter 15

It had taken Red Rage five days to find the Geomancer’s clearing, four days of walking herself to exhaustion. On the morning of the fifth day she finally found it.

Luckily, the little one’s scales hadn’t bled very often during the previous four days. Red Rage smiled down at the infant. She would never be able to go back to being a normal child, but at least she wouldn’t have to live in pain.

Red Rage stepped into the clearing and walked towards the house. She halted about ten feet from the house as two dragons charged out the door.

How did they even fit in there?

“Halt!” The larger of the two, an enormous black male shouted. “Don’t come any closer!”

“Calm down, fire breather.” Red Rage snorted. “I have business with the Geomancer.”

“What do you want with the Geomancer?” The smaller dragon, a rich dark brown female asked.

Red Rage held up the child. “The witches got her. She’ll probably die if she doesn’t get help.”

The two dragons relaxed and changed into human form. The large male turned into a tall dark haired, tan skinned man dressed in leathers, the female into a slender, dark haired, dark skinned young woman dressed in a white robe. They shared moss green eyes. Siblings?

“Where is the Geomancer?” Red Rage asked.

“I am the Geomancer.” The young woman said tiredly. “What happened to her?”

“I don’t know what the witch did to her. I found her like this.” Red Rage said, passing the baby to the Geomancer. “The blood wells up around the scales, she starts wailing.”

The Geomancer shared a worried look with the man. “I won’t be able to do anything for her for a while. Bring her into the house. This is my brother Seren. Who are you?”

Am I Maggie or Red Rage? Red Rage remembered the creature’s words. “It doesn’t really matter. Call me whatever you want.” She said as she carried the baby into the house. She held the girl while the Geomancer fixed a makeshift cradle out of a pile of blankets and a basket.

“Does the girl have a name?” the Geomancer asked as Red Rage tucked the baby into the cradle.

“Not yet. I haven’t decided on anything.” Red Rage said.

“I know that this is an odd question, but were you cursed into being a dragon by a witch?” The Geomancer said suddenly as they walked outside.

“Yes.” Red Rage hissed.

“I don’t suppose you killed the witch?” the Geomancer asked.

“Yes, I did. Someone needed to stop her. I will never be human again the girl will never have a normal childhood or life. She deserved to die.” Red Rage said coldly, her anger bubbling in the pit of her stomach.

“You killed her by strangulation.” The Geomancer waited until she nodded to continue. “We found her body today.” Oddly enough, the Geomancer sounded more sad than angry. “The witches have been stirring a cauldron that should be left to simmer, and they are paying for it. The dragon war has killed many humans and dragons, but the witches have created a monster that will not stop until it is dead or sits on a throne of corpses.”

“I don’t believe you.” Red Rage said. The Geomancer evidently thought that Red Rage doubted the creature’s existence.

“I’ve seen a witch that he killed. I’ve heard him kill another. He exists.” The Geomancer said.

“I know.” Red Rage said simply. “I’ve met him.”

The Geomancer pulled away, shock blossoming in her moss green eyes. “What?”

“He’s not nearly as bloodthirsty as you make him sound. He’s more, angry at the witches, for what they did to him, and me, and her. And sad at what he lost, what we all lost. He doesn’t want anyone to see him, but he wants revenge. Just like I did.” Red Rage said.

“What happened to you?” the Geomancer asked pityingly.

“I’ve been a dragon for eight years. Eight years is a long time. Long enough for someone to lose their humanness.” Red Rage murmured.

“How did it happen?” the Geomancer pried gently.

“I had nine siblings, and my parents. We were so happy. Then the ash-dragon came.”

A memory of a pale gray dragon rose to the front of Red Rage’s vision. Her sister screaming as a burning beam came crashing down on her. Her little brothers trapped behind a wall of flames, crying and whimpering. Her mother collapsed and sobbing with her dead older sister in her lap, burned beyond recognition. Her father with his skull broken into pieces by the dragon’s tail, lying in a spreading puddle of blood. A bloody arm hanging from the ash-dragon’s mouth, her youngest sister, her head tilted at an unnatural angle, eyes staring at nothing. A pair of hands poking out from under a section of wall. Her middle brother ripped to pieces. Her middle sister suffocated by the smoke. The smoke, the flame, the debris falling around her, her feet slipping in a puddle of her brother’s blood. The ash-dragon’s red orange eye meeting her brown ones.

Her sobs tearing out of her throat like a chick out of the egg. The dragon lunging for her. Then she was running. Running out of the wreckage of her home. Thorns tearing at her skin and clothing as she ran through the trees. The ash-dragon flaming at her, lighting the undergrowth behind her on fire. Surprising the ash-dragon for a moment by ducking behind a large tree. The next thing she remembered was flattening herself in a stream, pulling the ferns that grew around it over herself for extra cover. She had stayed there for an entire day, shaking and crying as the stream washed away the blood, smoke and dirt.

When she’d finally gathered up the courage to get out of the stream, she’d found her way back to what had been her home. The smells of smoke and burnt flesh had still clung to the rubble. Instead of sorrow this time, she’d felt cold rage. She’d clenched her jaws so tightly that she’d thought that they would break. She’d clenched her fists so tightly that they’d turned white.

Then she’d gone to the witch. She’d stood there and let the witch slash her hand. She’d watched as the blood collected in the basin. Then she’d been completely helpless as the fire entered her, changing her. The great red dragon had flown from the witch’s home. Red Rage had lived for eight years, wishing that she had died with her family, hating the ash-dragon and the witch, and her own stupidity and helplessness.

She shook the memories away and turned back to the present. The Geomancer was staring at her with large, concerned green eyes.

“And now they’re dead.” She whispered.

The Geomancer took her hand. “My mother is dead, too. She died to save Seren and me. I have two siblings that I’ve never met, I don’t even know if they’re still alive. I want to meet them, but the world’s not safe for me anymore. The creature wants Seren and I, we’re twins, born from the same egg. Our hearts hold a lot of power, and he needs that power.”

“I hope that you get to meet your siblings. Everyone should get a chance to have happiness with their family. The child and the monster are my family now, they’re all I have. I don’t want either of them to die. I don’t want anyone to die. Everyone has a family that mourn them, family that will be changed forever when they die. Anger was the only emotion I knew after my family died, emptiness later, confusion and sorrow now.”

“I will do my best with the girl.” The Geomancer promised. “Tomorrow I will probably have enough strength to heal her. Then you can leave. Go start a new life, away from the war, away from witches. Raise her as your daughter, marry. Forget about it all. Let your siblings and parents go. Find a new beginning, please.”

“I will once I find a new name. I can’t start over until I find a name. Not until I find somewhere that I can belong, where she can belong. Where the creature can belong.” She said, her voice dropping to a whisper with the last sentence.

The Geomancer rose stiffly and went inside. Red Rage spent the rest of the day sleeping. At nightfall, she finally woke. She spent the rest of the night staring up at the thousands of stars. She hadn’t felt so small since the night of her family’s death.

She felt a sudden stirring of restlessness, why was she lying here when there was something out there, calling to here. She’d lost one family, she wasn’t losing another. She needed to find an answer. A way to save the creature.

Near midmorning, the Geomancer picked the baby up and stared into her solemn blue eyes. As she concentrated on something that was in the child’s eyes, yet wasn’t there, brown and gold flecks drifted across her eyes.

Red Rage watched as the Geomancer reached into the baby’s chest. After a few moments, she slid her hand out and her shoulders slumped. Red Rage would have been worried, had a satisfied smile not have covered the Geomancer’s face. The baby giggled happily.

“I did it correctly this time!” She said to Seren. “I untangled the threads and didn’t break any of them! She’ll be okay!”

Red Rage had no idea what she was talking about, but she suspected that it had something to do with the Geomancer sticking her hand into the child’s chest.

“Thank you.” She said to the Geomancer. “I’m afraid that I must ask one more thing of you before I go. I need to go somewhere, to look for something, I don’t know where I’m going, or what I’m looking for. But I can’t take her with me. I will be back for her, but I need someone to take care of her while I’m gone.”

“We’ll arrange something.” The Geomancer. “I hope you find what you’re looking for.”

Red Rage leaned down and kissed the baby on the forehead. “Her name is Marigold, for her hair and scales.” She whispered to the Geomancer as she slipped by.

Red Rage walked into the trees. She didn’t know what led her there, but she found herself walking along a creek and to a small waterfall. Sitting in the lush greenery she found the creature. He wore a hood over his lumpy head. Before him was a small mound of earth marked by a large moss-covered rock.

“Hello.” She said softly, sitting down beside him. She pointed at the grave. “Who is it?”

“He was like the little one. Something that the witches had caught between human and dragon. He was almost dead when I got ahold of him. He died last night. He choked, he couldn’t get any air in his lungs.” The creature’s guttural voice said from somewhere under the hood.

“The girl is doing fine. I found someone to heal her. Her name is Marigold.” Red Rage said.

“That is good.” The creature moaned. “Where is she?”

“I left her with the healer. I’m going on a journey, to find something, I don’t know what yet.” Red Rage told him. “Can you teach me how to leave a name behind? Completely?”

“Stand underneath the waterfall and say these words: by the element of water, I let this stream carry away my name.” Red Rage did so.

“Do you wish to take a new name now?” He asked her.

“No. I will walk the earth nameless and swim the waters nameless until I find a way to save my family and find that which I search for.” The red haired young woman vowed.

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