Chapter Eight - Dangerous Relations
Zach walked into the large clearing and noticed Leah standing by herself near a small tree. Around her shoulder was a strap attached to a small wolf-skin sachet. He was not sure what exactly was in the bag, but he would not ask; it was none of his business. Honour, Zach's new dragon companion, was sitting under the tree with her and both turned as Zach approached.
‘Hello, Zachary,' the female centaur greeted, smiling at him.
He smiled back. ‘Hey. You do not have to call me Zachary. Zach is fine.'
She nodded, her eyes seemingly brightening. ‘Hello, Zach.'
Zach nodded towards Honour and asked, ‘So, where did the fairies go? I mean, they were here a little while ago.'
Leah frowned and replied before the dragon could. ‘They went back to Lord Barback's castle. They have enlisted me and one other to help train you.'
‘Who is the other?' he asked, looking around.
‘That would be I,' a male voice boomed behind him.
Zach turned and noticed a black-haired man walking out of the bushes surrounding them. As he stepped out, Zach noticed his bottom half was like Leah's except that instead of being blonde, like his hair, his was black. On his back, he saw the centaur had a red sword holder and Zach noticed a bronze hilt sticking out and wondered if the centaur thought he did not know how to fight.
Staring back at the centaur, he noticed his face was filled with excitement and anticipation. The centaur walked up to Zach, his hand outstretched. Zach, smiling, took the centaur's hand in his own and shook it.
‘Greetings,' the centaur man spoke kindly. ‘I am FieryTemper. I have been sent here to guide you in your task of becoming the dragon's master.'
‘Huh … how?' Zach mumbled. He looked down at FieryTemper's bottom half then back to him. He noticed FieryTemper's cold look and added, ‘No offence. I mean, you could probably teach me new things and some stuff I won't ever want to know and I'll stop talking now.'
‘Please,' FieryTemper spoke coldly. He turned to Leah and smiled. ‘It is good to see you, Leah.' She nodded and smiled in reply. He turned back to Zach and asked, ‘What knowledge do you already have?'
‘Use your manners, boy,' FieryTemper said, continuing to stare coldly at him.
‘Sorry,' Zach quickly apologised. ‘What did you mean?'
‘What have you learned in regards to how you fight?' he replied. ‘Do you know how to use a sword? Hand to hand combat? Any mystical powers?'
Zach smiled as he replied, ‘I know how to use a sword. Best fighter in my class, so I was promoted to guard.' He frowned when he said ‘guard'. ‘That's not good though.'
Leah smiled. ‘It shows you have promise.'
Zach smiled at her. ‘Thanks.'
FieryTemper crossed his arms and walked over. ‘Have you ever ridden a dragon before?'
Zach shook his head and FieryTemper smiled. ‘Then that's where we start.'
He walked over to Honour and placed his hand on the dragon's head. ‘My friend, I wish to teach Zachary here to learn to be able to fly with you. Will you allow me to assist him?'
Honour nodded his head, turning to look at Zach and said, ‘I like him.'
Zach smiled and replied, ‘So do I, but I do not think he likes me.'
FieryTemper turned to Zach and asked, ‘Can you please come over here.' His eyes no longer stared at him coldly but were now warm and kind.
Zach walked over, passing Leah and finally reaching Honour. FieryTemper stared at him and smiled, saying, ‘You will need to get on.'
Zach's eyes widened with shock. ‘Me? Okay … but I … ah …'
FieryTemper smiled and Leah walked over towards him. Standing next to Zach, she spoke quietly. ‘Don't be afraid. You and Honour have a special connection.'
He turned to face her and asked, ‘What do you mean?'
‘Remember when you first met him?' she asked him. ‘When you placed your hand on his body?'
Zach nodded. ‘Yeah, I felt some weird feeling inside. Like when you know something really exciting is going to happen and you feel so good and eager and just … well, excited. It warmed me and made me feel more confident, but I thought that was just the really hot fire surrounding me.'
‘That's right. Not the fire, I mean.' She shook her head before continuing, ‘He can give you strength and courage. You need only be with him or hear his voice. Move over to him and get on his back. Trust me, it will be fine.'
He nodded, smiled and walked over to Honour and shrugged. ‘No offence.'
‘I do not take any offence,' Honour nodded in reply. ‘It is normal to still have fear.'
Honour lowered his body, bending his knees, and Zach placed his hand on the dragon's body and felt the familiar warm feeling he mentioned before. He grabbed onto the top of Honour's body and pulled himself up, using the dragon's bended knee as support. Sitting on top and smiling, he rubbed Honour's neck.
‘That was easy,' he whispered.
‘That is not my neck. That is my tail.'
Zach frowned as the tail rose above him and Leah laughed as he realised he had hopped on backwards. After swinging his legs around, he managed to position himself correctly and moved to rest his hands on Honour's neck.
Honour lifted his body up and Zach fell forward, grabbing onto his neck. Wrapping his arms around the red shaft, Zach squeezed tightly, afraid of falling off. He was hanging under Honour's neck now, his legs wrapped around for added support.
‘I cannot breathe!' Honour screamed in his head. His golden eyes began to bulge out of his sockets as Zach squeezed harder.
‘Sorry!' Zach yelled in reply. He pulled himself back up and loosened his grip but did not take his arms away. He looked down at FieryTemper and asked, ‘There has to be an easier way, yeah? I mean, I can't hold on.'
FieryTemper, arms crossed, shook his head as he leaned towards Leah. ‘This is the dragon's master?' He looked up at Zach and spoke kindly. ‘Zachary, calm yourself. It will come naturally to you and Honour. You need only believe in yourself.'
Leah smiled at him. ‘We believe in you. You can do this.'
Zach smiled weakly in return and leaned down to Honour. ‘Okay, maybe we should do this like mommy birds?'
‘Like mommy birds? I do not understand,' the dragon replied, tilting his head on an angle to stare at him. On the ground, Leah and FieryTemper exchanged confused expressions as Zach nodded and smiled.
‘Yeah, like when mother birds teach their young to fly. I think they like, throw them out of the nest and they have to fly themselves back up.'
‘You want me to throw you in the air and hope you fly?' Honour asked, confused.
‘No, no. It is a metaphor story.'
‘About mother birds who chose to kill their young?'
‘No, about us trying to learn how to fly.'
‘I am still confused.'
‘Zach, can I ask what you and Honour are discussing?' Leah asked politely. Zach looked over at her and noticed the confused expression on her face.
Honour tilted his large head down before looking back at Zach with a smile stretching across his face as he asked him, ‘Shall we warn her about the murderous birds?'
‘Honour, forget the birds.' He smiled as he patted the dragon's head.
‘I was in the moment.'
Zach smiled at Leah and nodded. ‘What I am talking about is let's just do this. It will either work or not. Fly or fall.' He smiled and winked at Leah, who blushed. ‘It was more to convince myself to do this. Kind of a bad metaphor.'
‘I agree, but next time, chose a different metaphor.'
Zach patted Honour's head, laughing. ‘No problem, buddy.'
Honour nodded his head and asked, ‘Are you ready?'
Zach nodded and looked down at the centaurs. ‘Maybe stand back.'
Leah and FieryTemper nodded and took a few steps back as Honour began to beat his wings. Zach noticed immediately the powerful winds that Honour was creating and he began to tighten his grip on his neck.
‘Here we go. Hold on tight, but please refrain from choking me again, master.'
Honour pushed off the ground and hovered above it for a few seconds before shooting off into the skies. Zach held on as best he could and for a few moments thought he would fall off. As Honour soared higher, he finally realised he would not - he was the safest he had ever been.
Honour flew away from the forest where they were well hidden. Zach looked down and noticed the tiny dots that were the centaurs. As Honour flew through the skies and he gained more confidence in not falling off, Zach let go of his hold and held out his hands.
‘How is it, baby bird?'
‘Ha, ha, ha, I love it!' Zach screamed excitedly.
Honour smiled and asked, ‘How much do you trust me?'
‘With my life,' Zach replied, an excited smile on his face.
‘Then, hold on!'
Honour swerved to his right, turning on his side. Zach found himself holding on easily, the actions coming to him naturally. Honour tilted to his other side and finally began to spin in circles. Zach held on, laughing through everything Honour did.
‘Go higher!' Zach commanded, his voice filled with more excitement and confidence than he could ever remember having.
Honour roared, flew upwards and in moments, Zach found himself in the clouds. He held out his hand and felt the soft clouds pass through his fingers. He smiled as Honour began to fly smoothly through them.
‘This is beautiful,' Zach whispered to the dragon.
‘It is. I have not seen it in years,’ Honour replied, speaking sadly at memories long forgotten.
‘Why not?' Zach asked, placing his hand on Honour's head.
‘I have been in hiding. Without my master, I would not be as strong as I am now. I could not risk being discovered.'
Zach rubbed the dragon's head and replied, ‘Now you can soar as high or wherever you wish.'
Honour roared and flew downwards. As he fell towards the ground, he turned and headed back into the forest. Hovering for a few seconds before attempting to land, Zach noticed Leah and FieryTemper covering their faces from the winds created from Honour's wings.
As they landed, Zach jumped off and patted Honour's head. ‘Thank you, Honour.'
Honour nodded in response. ‘It was my pleasure.'
FieryTemper approached them, smiling as he spoke, 'You have done well. Good work Zachary.'
Leah, moving up next to her fellow centaur, also smiled at Zach. ‘Very good work, Zach.'
Zach smiled at her and replied, ‘Thanks. You kind of helped.'
She looked at him in confusion as she asked, 'How?'
He shrugged at her and replied, ‘Being you. You believed in me. No one ever has. Until a few days ago, no one did, I mean.'
She nodded at him, a smile creeping across her face as she began to slowly blush. ‘You are welcome.'
‘Ahem,' FieryTemper interrupted as he cleared his throat. The two jumped and stared at him with faces filled with guilt, both looking at him as if they were little kids being caught doing something bad. He stared at the two disapprovingly as he asked, ‘Shall we continue?'
‘Sure,' Zach mumbled, turning to Honour who stared at him and nodded in reply. Turning back to FieryTemper, he smiled and added, ‘Let's continue.'
‘Before we do, we have a present for you.'
Reaching over his back to the sword holder, FieryTemper pulled out a sword and passed it to Zach. He turned it over, staring at it in the light. The blade looked nice and sharp, the clean blade shining in the light. He turned it over in his hand and noticed how light it felt. He looked at the hilt and noticed it was covered in dark wolf-skin, tied continuously with white string across the grip. The bottom of the hilt was a nice light bronze colour that shone in the light along with the blade.
Looking at FieryTemper, he smiled and replied, ‘This belonged to my father. I thought it was lost after he … How did you find this?'
FieryTemper smiled in reply. ‘We have our ways. It is our gift to you. Do not lose it.'
Zach nodded, tears in his eyes. ‘Thank you.'
* * *
Sitting by the camp fire they had lit, Honour was asleep behind the sitting Zach and Leah. FieryTemper had headed off a few hours ago and had left them alone. He had taught Zach how to fire crossbows, though he preferred a sword, and taught him limited hand to hand combat. Leah had decided to remain behind and wait for the return of the fairies. The next day, Zach would be heading into Stelipse and she would not be able to follow.
Zach held out his stick to the fire, cooking the delicate meat. The fire crackled, sending little flares into the sky. Leah, holding out her own food, pulled hers back and began to eat. Zach pulled his out and took a bite. Flinching, he ripped it out of his mouth and turned to her in disgust.
‘What is this?' he asked her in horror.
She looked at him, confused, as she replied, ‘Meat.'
‘I know that, silly,' he said, rolling his eyes as he spoke. ‘I mean what type of meat?'
Zach looked down at it and laid it down on the ground. ‘Hate fish. It makes me sick.'
Leah frowned and looked down at the fish he had lowered, speaking softly as she apologised,
‘I am sorry. I had no idea.'
Zach turned to her in an instant and held out his hands. ‘No, don't get offended. I just … I should not have said anything. Don't get upset. Look, I'll eat it!' He picked it up and took another bite. He rubbed his stomach and tried to look like he was enjoying it. ‘See? Yummy …'
She smiled at him. ‘You don't have to eat it.'
‘No, don't be silly,' he smiled in reply, waving his hand at her. He took another bite and added, ‘I like it. What was I talking about?'
‘Seriously, stop if it is making you sick,' she replied, letting out a small laugh.
He turned and spat it out, wiping his mouth. ‘Oh, thank God. I thought I was going to be sick.'
She laughed. ‘Why did you eat it, then?'
He began to laugh and smiled at her. ‘So I wouldn't upset you.' She looked at him and he noticed for the first time her blue eyes that shone in the firelight. It reminded him of the ocean and he began to feel lost in them the longer he stared at her. He continued to smile at her and asked, ‘Do you remember when we met?'
She nodded, smiling. ‘Yes.'
‘You mentioned something about someone seeing the future. Who is it?' he asked.
She smiled at him. ‘A friend I have. I do not know her name, only that she dreams of the future. She speaks in silly riddles though, quite confusing at times.'
He frowned at her as he asked, ‘How did you know I was Honour's master?'
‘I'm sorry?' she replied, looking at him, confused.
‘You knew … somehow, you knew. How?'
She smiled sadly in reply, 'The lady told me I would know and when I saw you, I just knew.'
‘But how did you know?' he continued to ask as he stared at her and smiled. ‘I'm just curious, that's all.'
‘She said I would know because I would love him from first sight,' she said, turning away from him as her face turned bright red.
Zach stared at her and smiled. ‘Leah, do you love me?' He could not help but begin to laugh.
She stared at him coldly. ‘How could you laugh?'
He began to wave his hands, still laughing as he spoke. ‘No, no. It's just … well, the moment I saw you, I fell in love with you.'
She smiled at him and turned back around to face him. ‘I am glad to hear that.'
Zach shook his head and laughed. ‘Man. What is it with kids these days?'
Leah smiled and nodded before she began to frown as she continued, ‘We cannot be together.'
‘Why not?' he asked her sadly.
Leah looked at him with pain filling her eyes and answered, ‘Humans are not allowed to fall in love with mystical creatures and we are not allowed to fall in love with humans.'
He paused for a moment before he smiled at her. ‘That's it? Kind of stupid reasoning.'
She looked at him in shock as she replied, ‘That is a good reason. It is against the law.'
He laughed and shrugged his shoulders. ‘I don't care.'
‘Leah, it should not matter. How else do you think merpeople and elves have survived? Answer: by breeding with humans. Not to mention the witches and wizards.'
She shook her head. ‘I am a centaur. It is not allowed.'
He frowned for a moment and then smiled at her. ‘Then when this is over, I will become a centaur.'
‘What?' Leah asked him, shocked. ‘What are you talking about?'
‘Well, if you can't be with me by being human then I will be a centaur,' he answered, continuing to smile at her. ‘I'm pretty sure the fairies can do it, if not the witches or warlocks. I mean, I have heard stories of being able to transform creatures into humans, so why not the other way around?'
‘Zach, you would give up your humanity for me?' she asked him, a smile slowly creeping onto her face.
‘To be with you, if that's what I have to do, then sure.'
She smiled at him, tears in her eyes and she said, ‘How? How could we be like this? Feel what we feel?'
‘I don't know,' he shrugged. ‘I guess for some people, love at first sight is real. Or maybe we have finally both gone crazy.' He smiled at her and added, ‘I prefer the first answer.'
She nodded and looked into the fire as she spoke. ‘I have heard of stories of people who have fallen in love with someone they just met. I didn't think it was possible, but the moment I saw you,' she turned and faced him, ‘I just knew we were meant for each other.'
‘I know,' he nodded, smiling warmly at her. ‘The moment I saw you, I kind of thought the same.'
A small noise behind them made both jump and they turned to notice Honour looking at them. He nodded at both of them before lowering his head.
‘I am sorry. I did not mean to overhear.'
Zach smiled at him. ‘It is okay, Honour.'
‘What did he say?' Leah asked, turning from Zach to Honour.
‘He apologised for listening,' Zach answered as Leah looked away in embarrassment. Zach turned back to Honour and spoke to him in his mind. ‘Honour? Can you do me a favour?'
As Zach continued to stare at his dragon, Leah realised they were talking privately. Not meaning to interrupt, she slowly stood and walked over to the other side of the fire. Zach approached her shortly after and smiled at her.
‘Do you want to see something cool?'
* * *
‘This is beautiful,' Leah whispered, turning to face Zach. She reached out her hand and touched a cloud, feeling it move in between her fingers and watching it drift away. Zach had convinced Honour to take Leah and him up into the sky. It had taken a little positioning, but they had managed it.
Leah was sitting on Honour's back, Zach in front of her and her hands around his waist, her legs stretched over both the dragon's sides. It was not very comfortable for her, but it was worth it, she thought.
In front of her, the large moon shone brightly, engulfing them in its bright light. The stars filled the skies and twinkled as she stared at them. The white clouds drifted past them and they could lean out with their hands and touch them as they passed. She had never seen anything so beautiful in her life. The moon bathed them in its bright, warm light and Honour's scales shone brightly in the dark.
‘This is beautiful,' Leah repeated.
Zach turned his head to stare at her. ‘It is, isn't it? Honour brought me up here on our first flight.'
‘You seem at ease with him now,' she whispered.
‘Yeah, you were right,' he nodded. ‘It just feels natural.'
‘In battle, you two will be great.' She smiled at him, staring out in the distance as if in a trance. ‘I can see it now. Honour's strength and your courage combined will be an incredible force.'
‘We will be,' Zach nodded in agreement. ‘I can feel it. I feel different from before.'
‘You seem different,' Leah replied. ‘The same boy I met, yet different at the same time.'
‘I am,' he sighed. ‘It's good. I haven't felt this way since … since my family died.'
‘Why is that?'
Turning to face her, he replied, ‘I feel like I'm with my new family, if that makes sense. I know of the dangers ahead, but just right now, I feel at peace. I feel calm and happy. I haven't felt that for over a year.'
‘Master, I must rest if you do not mind. I do not wish to disrupt your … whatever you are doing.'
Zach smiled and patted Honour's head. ‘Take us down.'
* * *
Zach and Leah were sitting once again with Honour now asleep behind them. The pair sat next to one another, their hands close enough to be able to touch the other, but both still avoided this. Staring into the fire, Zach smiled at himself.
‘This has been a good day,' he spoke to her, turning to face her.
She let out a small laugh, smiled back and nodded. ‘It has been an interesting day.'
‘Can I ask you something?' he asked her. She turned to face him, noticing his serious expression and determination in his eyes. She nodded and he continued. ‘Do you think this Lost Son kid can stop Barback?'
‘You mean Lord Barback?'
‘I mean Barback.'
Leah stared at him for a moment, contemplating her thoughts before she answered. She nodded and replied, ‘Yes, I do. It has been prophesied he will win.'
Zach shook his head. ‘I'm asking you, not prophets. You have met him once before. Can he do this?'
She stared at him and smiled. ‘Not alone. With you and his companion Elizabeth, he will. He lacks the confidence to be who we need him to be, yet he seems to thrive on the support of others. In time yes, I do believe he will stop Lord Barback.'
‘Honour told me something interesting the first time I met him,' Zach mumbled, turning to the sleeping dragon as he spoke before turning back to Leah. ‘He mentioned that the Lost Son is half elf and half human.'
‘Correct,' Leah nodded in agreement.
‘He also said that there has never been anyone like him and that he is our future. What did he mean?' Zach asked her, his eyes now filled with curiosity and a little fear.
She frowned as she replied slowly. ‘In all of the mystical creatures, in all the centuries of being in existence, there has never been a hybrid. If a mystical creature mates with another, you have a half chance of being like your father and a half chance of being like your mother.'
‘Do you think it is because of his dad being human?' he asked.
‘I do not believe so. There have been stories of creatures and humans mating. You have said so yourself. It has always been humans and elves or humans and merpeople. Their children are born either mermaid or elf or human. The Lost Son is the first ever to be born a half-blood. Somehow, he is different. I do worry about him.'
Zach stared at her, confused. ‘What do you mean?'
‘He never lived in Bomcard and never knew his destiny? To place this on one person in such a short time …' She stared into his eyes and he noticed the fear in them as she finished, ‘I just feel that something could happen.'
‘What do you mean?'
She stared deep into his eyes, leaning in closer and replied, ‘I'm scared of his human side.'
Zach whispered to her, ‘Why?'
‘I believe his emotions may affect his powers. Elizabeth, in the brief time I spoke to her, mentioned that when they first met, he killed harpies when he was in danger, which is understandable, but when she attacked one of the corpses, he was angry with her and he destroyed it. You humans are more in touch with your emotions than we creatures are. If his emotions trigger his powers or amplifies them, imagine what might happen if he becomes angry or confused.'
‘His power is great,' Leah replied. ‘What if he becomes corrupted? What if this proves too much for him? What if he uses his powers for evil instead of for good?'
He shook his head. ‘I don't believe so. I believe he will be our savior.' She smiled at him as he added, ‘Besides, I'll be there with him. I'll make sure he stays on the right track.'
She smiled and lay down on her back, looking up towards the sky. ‘Zach, you have such a good heart.' After a few minutes of silence, she turned her head and asked him, ‘Zach, why did you join the guards?'
He turned to face her and she noticed the pain in his face. ‘I lived with my father, mother and one year old twin sisters on a farm just outside the outskirts of the castle. I would help my father with the harvest and one day he asked me to do it alone. He needed to stay back to do something he would not tell me about. He had some type of secret project not even my mother knew about.
‘Later that day, I came back and … there was nothing left. The house was on fire, the stock were dead. I ran everywhere trying to find anyone, but not even my sisters were spared. I … had to bury my whole family. A few days later, the guards appeared. They told me I could join them and they will give me what I lost - a family. I joined, but it was all lies.'
He looked up at the sky as he finished his story. ‘I was using them to find any information on who killed my family, but … I have never discovered anything.'
‘I am sorry, Zach,' Leah whispered.
‘Look!' he said excitedly. Pointing up, they both watched two shooting stars fly past them in the sky. He turned his head to face her. ‘Make a wish.'
She laughed and said, ‘You too. There are two stars.' They both stared at the stars and smiled. She turned to him and spoke sadly, ‘Tomorrow, be careful in Stelipse.'
‘I wish you could come,' he mumbled in reply.
‘You know I can't.'
He smiled. ‘You'll be there. Maybe not in person but … you will be there. With me, as corny as that sounds,' he laughed, rolling his eyes.
She leaned over to her sachet and pulled out a small item. Handing it to him, he realised it was a little bracelet. It was made of a green type of vine, looping though two other vines and making a complete circle. Attached to the joined rings were four white, pale stones. As he turned them over, he noticed strange markings on them.
Looking up as she placed it on his hand, he asked her, ‘What is this? It's beautiful.'
She smiled. ‘I made it. Take it with you. Then I'll be with you, like you said.'
Zach smiled, nodding and falling back down. Leah lay down in his stretched out arm and he pulled her closer. Staring up at the sky, the two fell asleep in each other's arms.