The thumping is soft, at a fast pace as I watch the small creature from afar, its indigo wings carrying it fast across the sky, barely in my view before it is gone. My ears can still pick up the noise its wings make and the heating of its tiny heart, the noise echoing in my ears. The valley is filled with these small birds, dark creatures that most people do not pay attention to here in this community. A small village of sorcerers and sorceresses, old allies of my father and the man that has sworn to help me adapt to this new form. Four months ago he made that promise to me that he would be there to help me adjust, to protect me, and to make sure the beast within me would not destroy me. However, I am not the same person I was when I came to Iduna, for I am no longer unsure of what to think of my father or his objective here. I see the way he watches me, how he constantly asks about how I feel, the thoughts in my head, and how he does not cower in fear when I use the power within me, but is amazed by it. My father is not with me because it is his fatherly duty to protect and provide for his kin, but because he sees what I could do for his cause here in Iduna.
The slayer of demi-gods is what my father is known for, called Heka by the population of Iduna as they see him as a murderer and demon of their land. Few allow my father to take shelter within their villages or tribes, and before we came here to this village in a valley, my father was an ally of elves where everything went wrong too fast. A powerful elf was my father’s friend an ally, an elf who had consumed the soul of a fearless dragon and had even destroyed the essence of a god herself. Everything went wrong when my father unleashed havoc on dinner that night four months ago. I made my decision and saved the man my father was trying to kill, and in that decision, the elf, Lucretia, attacked me and I found myself piercing her body with the blade of my knife. That night, the soul of the dragon trapped within her found its new host in me, altering my DNA and acting as a catalyst for my life to spiral out of control without any limitations.
Looing back to the blue sky above, another one of the dark birds flies by, my eyes picking up every detail of its feathers, the black eyes of the creature, and the sharpness of the talons upon the fragile creature. Four months back I was unable to do so much of what I can now, how I can hear almost any movement, how my eyes can see even the smallest detail, my nose can pick up the scent of a wolf four miles away, and my strength...it only grows as the days pass by. Lucretia had the soul of the dragon within her for five decades, never allowing her mortal form to fully feed off the dragon’s soul in fear of it destroying her, but for me, the dragon’s soul bonded with mine at full capacity. A mere human, my strength nothing compared to an elf’s, and yet I am still alive while months ago I was unsure of when my last breath would be. Nothing seems the same anymore, how my body seems to never sleep, how I always have a desire to run and try to wear myself out, and a feeling deep within me that begs me to release it.
Most days I spend my time exploring the valley, trying to find new locations to perhaps spend the day reading a book my father has given me or a new landmark to climb and look over the valley from. With several massive mountains that surround the valley, the north side of it is open, a small patch of land that ends at a sudden cliff leading to the dark ocean below. My father isolated us at the rim of Iduna, away from the commotion of the power of Kyril, the only friend I ever made in Iduna. Sure, labeling us as friends is a far stretch as I saw him as my way to find my father and he saw me as his soul mate, but out of anyone I have ever met here, he was the only one willing to listen to me even after I tried to escape him. No, I do not see him as some angel, for he did break the portal back home to my mother, but he knew forgiveness more than anyone else here. In the end, he figured out I was not just a human, but the daughter of the human that had killed his father. Kyril saw past that in the end, owing his mercy to the connection and admiration he felt for me even though he knew I could never give him the companionship he wished to have between us. At our last moments together, he told me we would meet once again on the battlefield, at opposite sides as he feared not even I would recognize the person I will become. His mother, the goddess Dregh who crafted fire and dragons, she told me she had plans for me, telling her son he was so foolish to overlook my importance to this realm. Dregh’s fate predicted that I would murder someone the day I found my father, and that the exact moment those things happened, they would act as a catalyst for the power I would soon possess.
Have I experienced that raw power she said would make the heaven’s tremble in my presence and the gods fear me? Nothing to that degree, but I have experienced surges of power flowing through my veins that cause the floor beneath me to shake and everyone around me to cower. Once, while I was out in the forest with my father as we were training with swords, he mentioned Kyril, causing me to lash out, only, my emotions did more damage as the anger within me caused a darkness from within me to release a shockwave that caused all the trees around me to snap and fall over. The ground beneath me that day looked like it had been struck by lightning, the leaves upon those trees burnt, and my father looked at me with a spark in his eye. I know my father, if he heard of what Dregh wants me to do for her, he would gladly send me off to her and not respect my dreams to one day return home to my mother and his wife.
I stand up from the bolder that overlooks the small river below where my feet are dipped in, the cold water only becoming warm the moment it touches my flesh. Undoing the knot at the bottom of my dress, the material sweeps the forest floor once again, the dark gray fabric thankfully covering up the marks upon my flesh. Every dress I own is exactly the same, barely showing any skin beside my face, neck, and hands. Months ago I would have been fine wearing something a little more low-cut in the front, but now, now my own appearance makes me not afraid of who I have become, but of the dragon soul within me altering my entire appearance. My eyes are the most striking fear that scares people away, for the indigo set of orbs I have seem hollow to most, like an abyss that no light can ever touch. Thankfully my eyes distract from my skin. My sleeves just barely cover my wrists where dark blue scales cover my wrists and fade away as they run up to my elbows. Lucretia and Dregh, both of their chest’s held scales that circled a visible heart. It is now the same for me, navy scales darkest around the location of my heart and they fade away as they go to my collarbones. But most of all, the feature that freaks me out, is how visible my pumping heart is when no clothing covers the area. With every pump, every movement my heart makes, anyone can see it, my heart holding a dark blue hue as it makes me feel fragile.
“Candice,” a familiar voice calls out, my father grabbing my attention as he walks over to me. “I’ve been looking for you since noon.”
“I needed some fresh air,” I respond, hopping down from the rock as my father stands tall before me, arms crossed as those dark eyes look me over. “You know I am not a fan of the elders walking about me like I am some creature.”
Heka shakes his head, pinching the bridge of his nose as he knows how worked up the elders make me, how they treat me like some unequal individual. “They are simply afraid of you.” Yet the children of the village adore me, always wishing to be around me, mesmerized by me. In fear, their parents told them that the gods send me as a warrior to protect their village from monsters of the dark. While the children adore me, the adults fear me, not because they think I would try and harm them, but because my presence in the village could attract people like King Kyril of Iduna. But I know Kyril will not come after me, for he wishes to cause me no harm in the haven he believes I have created. “They fear that monster will come for them because of you.”
I let out a deep sigh, shaking my head. “Funny, for almost everyone I have ever met in this realm think you to be a monster rather than Kyril. Unlike you, Kyril knows the importance of mercy, respect, and has never done anything to be called a monster. Just because he is half god do you label him as a monster.” Heka becomes annoyed with my statement, our father-daughter relationship still shaky as I know he is not with me because he wants to be with his only child. “What do you need from me anyway right now? I left the meeting because they do not respect my ideas.”
“Candice, not every society here is like Kyril. That man only listened to you because he wanted to keep you around, to one day lead you into his bed and not let you go until someone more attractive crossed his eye.”
That hurts. My heart clenches and a knot in my stomach forms as I want to slap him. “I cannot believe mother thought you were some great guy, for you are worse than, Kyril, Heka, for you have killed children.”
“Because it is our family duty to make sure that these supernatural pose no threat to our world. We help balance out the threats of this world, so our friends and family back home can live in peace.” I want to knock sense into my father and make him see that these people are no threat to the human existence. “Kyril is one of those threats.”
“You could also say I am, father, for I am not purely human anymore.” He knows what I say is right, for not only am I powerful, not only do we not know what I am anymore, but we also have no idea of what I am capable of now. Perhaps when I allow my father’s cause here to be complete and he no longer requires my abilities, I will join the list of names among who he has killed. “I am not capable of returning back home because you see I pose a threat to everyone around me back home.”
Heka shakes his head, trying to form his next statement. “I will make sure you can return, Candice.” I want to believe him.
A roar fills the air, shaking the ground beneath our feet, the trees swaying due to the sudden noise as I pick up an unfamiliar smell. Snapping my head to the left, I see a shadow forming overhead, another roar sounding through the air as it is ear-piercing, loud and low, threatening as I can feel my skin paling and goosebumps rise. “Candice, we must return to the village,” father states, voice shaky as he is worried. “That is no noise a pleasant creature could make.”
What could the creature be? It smells of smoke, of ash, and the ocean as well. I take a step back, getting a better look to the sky as I see all the birds from before have disappeared and the forest is silent. My eyes look across the sky, and as they stretch towards the mountains, a massive shadow of the beast covers half the mountain side. Its wings spread far and wide, and as they flap, the trees sway violently in the air, my hair blowing crazy as my jaw clenches. “We must leave now, Candice.”
“Go, I will be right behind you,” I respond, looking back to my father with a stern look. He knows I will not leave, he knows what I have just come to realize about this dragon. “I have business to attend to.”
Like the father I know him to be, Heka strays off from me, heading back to what he believes to be safety as I look up to the sky once more, the dark creature circling the entrance of the valley a mile away. I know where I must go. Taking in a deep breath, I pick up my chin and begin the small hike to a bridge I crossed four months ago.
The creature’s shadow circles the valley, my ears picking up the sound of my father and the villagers yelling instructions for shelter and taking defensive positions. They are readying themselves for the attack of a beast, but I do not expect this beast to attack the village, for this is not a stray beast. Unlike their eyes, I can pick up the woman who controls it, the goddess who created these creatures with her bare hands and breathed fired into their souls. I knew she would come back soon, especially with a remarkable entrance.
Soon enough I am seeing the old bridge, made of a dark gray stone, the massive claws of the beast gripping the rails of the bridge, its long neck raised high as it overlooks the bridge and the small creature that approaches it. It sees me as an unfamiliar creature, not knowing what to make of me yet as it cocks its head to the side, his dark yellow eyes locked on me. With dark purple scales that shimmer in the sunlight, wings that are tucked in but even while compressed, anyone can tell those wings could outgrow a building, and the woman at his side, she ties up the frightening view. She could have easily made a grand entrance on her own, but riding one of her creations to me was just for show.
“Dregh, what a pleasant surprise,” I greet, nothing flattering in my tone as she takes in my new appearance, a smile crossing her face. “What brings you here?” Her dark eyes glance towards me, eyes that remind me of Kyril’s as they hold every feature of the universe, only, unlike her son, her eyes hold every nightmare of space. Black hair pinned back in a sleek ponytail, her sharp cheekbones reminding me of the creature beside her, pale skin making me think of the moon, and her dark purple heart twisting in her chest.
Dregh’s smile only widens as she steps away from her dragon, taking in my new appearance. “You try hard to hide that heart of yours.”
“It does not sit well with me,” I respond, knowing she talks about my heart that is now visible like hers. “Why are you here, Dregh.”
“You killed, did you not? You did exactly what I said you would when you found your father.”
I scoff. “You should be thanking me for that, for I did save your son’s life.” I saved Kyril before my father could kill him, and in return, Lucretia attacked me. “But I forgot you gods care nothing for your offspring as they are merely entertainment.”
The dragon roars, head lunging forward towards me as I dodge, sliding a good two meters from the dragon’s snout as it inspects me only further. “Yes, we gods care little for our children that do nothing to impress us.” I want her to cut the crap and tell me what she has come here to say. “It seems like my friend is curious, Candice, for he smells you out to be a dragon yet discovers you in human form.”
“Why are you here, Dregh? To annoy me?”
She laughs, shaking her head as she does so. “Do you not wonder what you have become, Candice?”
“I wonder that every second. I also wonder if my body will not be enough to sustain the dragon’s soul within me and it will break free, leaving me dead.”
The dragon pulls away, stretching out its wings as my eyes widen at the sight. The wings are spread far, almost reach the edges of the mountains that form the beginning of the valley. “That is why I am here, Candice, to help you live a day longer.” What does she mean by that? “You see, for you are correct in your fear, for that fragile body of yours will not sustain the dragon’s soul within you to see the day you return to your mother.”
My throat runs dry as fear runs through my body. “So any day the dragon’s soul could break free and kill me?”
“Not just kill you, Candice, for it does not work instantly. Soon enough, your body will decay painfully, with no control, and when it is time for your very essence to be destroyed, you will have gone insane.”
She knows exactly which cards of hers to play.
“What do you want me to do, to save myself?” I ask, feeling hopeless as I know Dregh holds the key to my survival and to see my mother again.
The sun becomes blocked by a dark cloud, the wind picking up as the temperature drops. Dregh steps forward, a darkness surrounding her as she holds out to me a small bottle filled with a crimson substance. “Just do a few little favors for me.”