The woods were particularly thick that day. Not literally, of course, but for reasons Luci could not explain, it just felt more closed in than usual, and she felt the need to pick her way more carefully through it than normal.
She’d come to live in Miss Gildenglove’s care some three years ago, and though she had grown accustomed to the severe woman and the quiet life the two of them lived, now and again Luci felt the need to get away and explore the countryside.
And so it was that she had recently started to do with the Spindlemark forest. Something about this place felt mysterious to her, more so than any of the other forests that lie scattered across the Fjordsgate, and she was determined to find out just what lay hidden within. To that end, she had set upon an extended venture, even going so far as to pack herself a lunch and bring an extra skin of water. She had thought of taking a bedroll with her as well, though she did not wish to test her guardian’s patience that far; not for a few more years, anyhow.
The scarlet-haired child dipped her head down to avoid some low-hanging limbs. She stood only four feet off the ground, but even she was forced to duck down and crawl on occasion as the woods had grown so rampant and unyieldingly that it seemed even its inhabitants had done with it, leaving behind them few trails to follow.
Luci’s silvery-blue eyes lit up when her ears caught the sound of a brook, and she quicked a little, heedless of the brambles and vines that gripped and tore at her stout red coat. Sviet fabric was woven to be particularly hardy, after all, so as to better defend against the cold mornings.
Eventually, she burst from the thicket, panting a little, and beheld a glistening brook, not even a foot wide. It was clear as a sapphire, and she nearly fell into it in her rush to its banks.
Truly, there was nothing like the taste of fresh spring water. No doubt this little stream trickled down from the mountains overhead, fed by the glaciers at its summit, for it possessed a pleasing minerally taste. She drank her fill of it and subsequently drew some of it into one of her waterskins which she’d half-emptied on the way there.
As she did this, her eyes drifted up and around her. The forest here was still rather thick, perhaps even thicker if that were somehow possible, and the terrain had changed from mostly flat to hilly and rocky. As her eyes scanned, however, she spotted what looked to be a clearing of sorts---rather more of a gully between several hills where the foliage was sparse and there looked to be a congregation of large stones.
This seemed an ideal place to take a short break and perhaps enjoy her lunch, for it was already getting towards mid-day, though one could hardly tell as the canopy above nearly entirely shrouded the sky.
Once her waterskin was filled, she lept over the small stream and continued towards it, a small assortment of noises erupting from her stomach as if summoned by the thought of food.
When she’d gained the clearing, she stopped just inside and looked around. It really was an odd sort of place. What she’d thought to have been several large hills surrounding it turned out to be one, long hill that wrapped itself around the clearing and in the center of it all stood a glistening pool into which one of the forks of the stream she’d just been at poured out. The stones, too, were curious, in that they appeared to be patterned around the pool, the ones closest to her being smaller, and arranged in several rows.
She marveled at this strange instance, wondering if it were a natural occurrence. A glance around noted little to say that it wasn’t as there were no signs of previous habitation, nor were there markings suggesting that this place was frequented by animals.
With little else to go on, she asserted to have her lunch first, and then investigate upon the matter shortly.
It was this in mind that her eyes were drawn to a long, wide, flat-topped knoll about waist-high which extended out of the base of the great hill. Here there were no stones, a fine place to pitch the little blanket she’d brought.
She did so, careful to smooth out the edges, and then with all the subtlety and grace of a toad, plopped hard down upon the surface, quite pleased about how soft it felt.
Unbeknownst to her, however, this act had not gone unnoticed, and a crease of dirt some four or five feet from where she stood snapped open as the girl planted, revealing a great golden orb buried slightly into it. Presently a black slit parted within it and shifted about. Eventually, it settled itself upon the girl, and the amber-hued eye--which was about the size of her whole head--stared at the little creature.
Luci had not even so much as noticed, for the eye was behind her and she’d felt no inclination to check her surroundings further.
Imagine her surprise, then, when a blast of hot air erupted around her, sending the blanket flying and her tumbling to the ground.
Once she’d collected herself, she stood and looked around in bewilderment. What in the world had happened? Nothing appeared to be out of place, though she’d a good idea of the direction that the sudden gale had come, and so she approached the hill again more slowly. As she did, she began to make out two wide holes in the mound just behind where she had been sitting. Were those there before?
Curiosity overcame caution, then, and she bent down to look into the holes with eagerness. A warmness met her face as she did as if this were the chimney of some oven or forge, and a strange musty aroma issued forth in short waves.
Still more curious, she put a hand forth and gently touched the dirt around one of the holes. Nothing happened, however, and so she grew bolder still, endeavoring to put a finger slightly inside.
Still, nothing, although it was relatively deep and...moist?
By now her whole hand was inside and she instinctively began feeling around until her fingers touched the walls of the miniature tunnel.
Of a sudden, the golden orb once again snapped open, and this time Luci was in a position to notice. Her eyes shot up at the sight of movement, and the lids of the strange eye narrowed slightly upon spotting her.
All at once, a deep rumble pervaded the clearing and Luci had enough sense to withdraw just as a small, licking gout of flame spat out from within the two holes that she’d been investigating.
She wheeled back, stumbling over one of the stones and landing against another, causing her to yelp pitifully and grasp at the back of her head. She could feel a small knot beginning to form, but fortunately, it failed to break the skin.
She sat up dizzily, her empty stomach now a tempest of ill fury, and sought to regain herself. As she did, however, she began to grow aware of the earth before her churning violently. The mound that she’d meant to make her table came away from the ground, lifting up as dirt trickled off it like waterfalls.
Eventually the thing began to take on a form of a long, triangular-shaped object easily the size of a small house, and what’s more, it was connected to a long, serpent-like neck that was further buried into the hillside.
A rattling from not far behind her brought her gaze to settle on a small congregation of rocks that, in similar fashion, shuddered and moved on their own. Her eyes traced the sharp talons of the clawed appendage, a sense of awe mixed with fear taking hold of her, and she scrambled back until she found herself at the edge of the little pond.
In time the whole of the clearing began to shiver to life. A long, finned tail rose forth from the far side of the pond, while the great hill began to shake away a great cloud of dirt, revealing a pair of green, scaled wings. And as the woken creature’s full, lizard-like form came into view, there could be no denying what it was.
Luci sat paralyzed at the edge of the stream. Part of her wanted to stand up and make with all haste back to the sanctity of her home. Surely Gildie, in all her great knowledge and power, would know what to do.
Yet another part of her altogether was suddenly excited. After all, it was a dragon! In Lenore, no less! And besides, it didn’t seem particularly interested in eating her. In fact, it seemed quite lazy, and once it had managed to avail itself of the earthen raiments that had settled about it, its head merely hung lethargically in the air, listing now and again as it looked around.
She moved a little, then, crawling forward so that she was kneeling behind a rock. The thing was massive! Judging from what she could see of it, and guessing at the rest, she thought that it could have filled two city blocks. Not that she’d ever seen two city blocks to actually compare, but certainly it must be! If not bigger!
Eventually, she raised her head and, feeling nothing threatening about the beast that loomed over her, stood. The great creature noticed this and shifted to look at her. It lowered its head so that its snout was within a few feet of the child, and a low rumbling issued forth from betweenst its clenched jaws.
“That’s enough!” she said sternly, snapping her fingers towards the creature and giving it a look of displeasure. This altogether caused the creature to cease its growl and instead stare at her with what appeared to be a look of amazement.
“Just because you’re cranky from being woken up doesn’t mean you can be rude,” she continued, “Though I apologize for sitting on your nose.”
The creature snorted, its lips parting briefly in such a way so as to show a glimpse of its jagged yellow teeth. Her eyes widened a little.
But clearly, it had no interest in eating her, for it turned away and let out a great yawn, seeming to forget her, though not for long.
Luci leaped upon the stone, the sudden motion of her small form causing the dragon to return to her.
“Can you understand me?” she asked the creature as it drew in her scent, the heat from within wafting over her. It made no reply, however, and when it grew bored, it shook its head lazily, the brush of fur that trailed along its lower jaw and down the underside of its neck wavering like grass in a gentle breeze. Once done, it lay its head back down on the ground where it had originally been, breathing in hushed rumbles.
The creature’s lack of aggressiveness spurred the girl to further daring, and she hopped off the rock, approaching the creature. its eye swiveled to meet her, and another low growl issued from its gullet, but it made no attempts to stop her, no doubt perceiving that the girl posed it no threat.
Luci stopped within a few feet of its head, gazing all along its body in wonderment. Nearly the whole of its scaled body was a deep viridian, accented by the various horns--which she hitherto had mistaken to be stones that had littered the ground--and a few other patches and curves of its body, which were an ivory tan.
Still, it made no motion save to watch her, although even this it eventually lost interest in, once more closing its great amber eyes and issuing a loud, weary sigh that shook the nearby trees. This, of course, further emboldened the girl.
She placed a hand delicately on the creature’s neck, careful to stand just behind its head so that if it did snap at her, she would likely be too close for it. As she did, so she felt along the smoothness of the scales, her fingers crossing ever rough line and every crevasse the came by.
The beast uttered a low protest, and she withdrew her hand, if only for time being, for she would surely try again later, and instead walked over to an old stump that sat a few feet away from the dragon’s head. It was here that she planted herself, sitting cross-legged before it.
The creature focused a gaze on her after a few moments, and she could swear that she saw it roll its eye in displeasure. This made her smile, and she laughed aloud, bringing her hand to her mouth to stop it short.
The dragon reacted with a huff, turning its head slightly so that she had to crane her body to put herself back in its gaze.
“What’re you doing here, anyway?” Luci asked, though hardly expecting a response. Maybe it couldn’t talk after all? Were the stories wrong, then? She’d read more than her fair share about dragons out of Gildie’s books, and they had always been depicted as wise, intelligent beings with exceptional magical prowess. Was this one broken?
Ah! An idea occurred to her and, wasting no time, she slid off the stump and onto the grassy ground below. There she began collecting a number of small rocks and pebbles, arranging them in a circle. This done, she held her hand over the construction she’d made and her eyes flashed with a faint brilliance.
The dragon, which had been trying its best to ignore the small child, jilted slightly when a stream of tiny rocks fluttered through the air before its eyes, swirling around a moment and then gliding through the trees like a ribbon. The creature lifted its head, following the rocks with a sudden interest.
The little band of stones flew in and out of the trees before finally returning to the clearing and back to the girl, where they formed a ring around her a spun slowly. Thus the dragon stared with renewed interest, now no longer in the stones, but the girl, and once more took in her scent a little more deeply than before.
When it had done, the massive head once more sunk to the ground, though this time its eyes remained locked straight upon her. This caused her to smile, and she was about to make the stones dance again when a glint emanated from its gaze.
All around her, several large stones wrested themselves from the earth and floated laboriously into the air, coming to a rest some twelve or so feet above her head. These, too, arranged themselves into a large ring and spun in a fashion likened to her own.
A giddy smile lit on her face.
With a flick of her wrist, the stones once again fell into a ribbon-like line and began flitting around the clearing as if held by some frolicking fairy.
Her smile grew even wider when she saw the larger rock circle do the same, a small rush of wind following in their stead. Wherever she made her little string of pebbles go, the boulders followed, and she laughed again as the two of them danced in this way. Who would have thought that this would have been so much fun?
Presently, however, she flicked her hand again and the tiny stream of rocks spun into the treeline, winding through them like a snake coiling through foliage. She had expected to have won this particular show of expertise, but soon a great crash was heard as the larger stones, too, attempted to circumvent the forest thicket. Being too wide, the boulders smashed one after another into the trees, the line breaking apart and falling motionlessly to the ground.
Luci had covered her eyes with her hands at this, and when she opened them, she saw that several large trees had been all but demolished. The dragon, meanwhile, groaned slightly, seemingly more disappointed that it had lost the little game than causing such damage.
She laughed again, this time loudly and long, at the end of which the dragon shot another stream of hot air out of its nose at her. She put up her hands in defense, however, and when it had stopped, she reached forward.
The creature was motionless as the tiny being’s hand rested on the end of its snout. Nor did it make any other move as she gently stroked its muzzle.
After a while of this, Luci’s stomach began to growl again. This alerted the dragon, who once more sniffed at her inquiringly.
“Oh, sorry,” she said, “I’m just hungry. I haven’t eaten all day!”
With this, she got up and retrieved her satchel, which she had originally placed on a nearby rock--an actual rock, by some stroke of luck--and also the little blanket. She brought both back with her, spreading the latter on the ground where before the dragon’s head sat. The dragon sighed again and the cloth immediately flew up and clasped to the creature’s nose, which Luci pulled back down, respread, and then made sure to weigh down with rocks on each corner.
This done, she sat down on one side of the blanket and began unpacking the satchel, drawing forth a few pieces of bread, some cheese, and salted pork, all of which she started to flay apart with the help of a small knife. Of these things, the knife gave the dragon pause, and Luci put it back in the satchel when she noticed her new friend recoil.
Once done, she felt the creature sniff at her again--or rather, at the food in her possession. With as long as it had been asleep, certainly, the creature was hungry?
After cutting away a share for herself, she held up the rest of the cheese to the creature, whereupon the dragon’s jaws parted. She thought for a moment, realizing it would probably not do well to have it eat directly from her hand, and instead tossed the bit into the open mouth before her.
The jaws clamped down and she heard the sloshing of a tongue somewhere within. The creature seemed approving, or at least she thought so, and she next held forth the bread to see if the same response would be given.
The creature sniffed again, but presently snorted in protest again. Fortunately, Luci had foreseen this and was careful to withdraw the morsel before it could be blown out of her hand.
“Picky,” she said with a grimace.
The dragon huffed.
Lastly, she presented the rest of the pork, to which the dragon hardly needed to hesitate. It even moved a little towards her this time, and she hurriedly threw the pork before it could do much further.
Once again she listened to it eat, after which the creature’s head lifted and drew over to the pool of water at the center of the clearing. A long, milk-colored tongue slithered out from between the creature’s jaws and no sooner lapped a few times at the water before the pool was little more than a puddle.
The head settled back down near her again, seeming to realize that she was no longer offering food, and instead watched as she consumed her portion. All the while she attempted to commune more with the creature, asking questions like what it was doing in the middle of the forest, how old it was, if there were any more like it.
These questions and all others that followed, however, were met with silence, so the girl began coming up with her own answers.
“I bet you’re a hundred thousand years old!” she exclaimed all at once. This garnered no reaction from the creature beyond a gentle huff that, as far as Luci was concerned, must have been a disagreement. Clearly, she had understated its age, then.
“Twenty hundred thousand!” The dragon looked away, or perhaps it rolled its eye again. Whatever the case, its interactions with her only encouraged the scarlet-clad child to pester it on and on until such a time as she happened to look up.
Somewhere along the line, the sun had all but passed beyond the open canopy. That meant it was well after mid-day! If she did not begin her trek home soon, she might not make it before dusk!
“Oh no!” she said aloud, standing up suddenly. She turned to the dragon and bowed. “I’m sorry Mister Dragon, but I have to go now, ok? I’ll come to visit you again soon, though! I promise!”
The dragon merely watched her as she began to collect her things, only lifting its head to watch her place the satchel on her back and begin to move away.
She stopped and turned, a big smile appearing on her face. “I promise, ok?”
The dragon remained silent, once more resting its gargantuan jaws on the dirt bed it had created. It merely watched her depart, then, and before long its great form was out of sight through the foliage.
But there was no time to dwell upon it, and Luci’s mind now turned to the task of navigating her way back out of the woods. The map in her head was only so useful as long as she could easily see, and if she were to get caught out in the woods by the time the sun fell, she might be stuck there all night!
Of course, the few hours that passed had done nothing to thin out the encroaching vegetation, and Luci found that she still had to pick and poke her way through.
In a bid to quicken the pace, she opted to take a small trail that led the same way she’d intended to go, though, by the time she realized that she’d turned an entirely different direction altogether, it was too late.
She stopped at what appeared to be the foot of a small cave that was dug into one of the hills, panting wildly and looking around. The brush here was particularly thick, and she couldn’t see anything that looked like a treeline leading out from the forest, nor could she get a glimpse of where the sun was.
Now what? Going back was the most logical thing to do, and it certainly was better than--
Movement in the brush caught her eye. This was the first time she’d seen any hint of another creature in the forest, and it startled her more than she thought. An incantation rose to the surface of her mind and she readied herself as whatever it was approached her.
Out from the thicket barreled a shape no longer than her forearm, and about half as thick, covered all over with patchy brown fur of varying shades. It had a decidedly mouse-like figure, though it had a long, slender body and it’s face looked slightly bear-like.
She marveled at the thing, having never seen anything of its like before, and with as much bravery as she’d met the dragon, she slowly came towards the rat-like beast.
The ferret watched her carefully, seemingly unafraid of her and even reached its head out as she came within a few feet to sniff at the air before it.
It was altogether such a cute little thing that Luci had by now completely forgotten about the fact that she was lost in the woods, and presently bent down to touch it.
She let it sniff at her hand a few times, a smile creeping over her lips as it did, and she thought she saw an amber hue deep within its beady little eyes. Once it was comfortable, she ran her finger along the top of its head, which it seemed to approve of, and it stood up to grasp at her hand with its claws.
Suddenly, however, it became alert and it let out an odd, low chirp before backing away quickly. This puzzled Luci. Normally she had little trouble with animals, especially small creatures like this one...
A twig snapped behind her and she spun around, seeing a shape emerge from the cave, a row of white teeth bared from its lupine jaws. It was a great, silver-coated wolf!
It let loose a furious growl as the whole of its form came from out of the cave. It was bigger than she was; stronger, too, and its eyes read as those of a hunter who has spotted prey.
She had precious seconds to act, and her eyes lit with blue brilliance just as the wolf began its charge. As it did, she drew her arm back and thrust it forward. The soil beneath her feet sprayed forth, too, creating a thick cloud that aimed straight at her adversaries face.
Her ploy succeeded, the wolf stopping suddenly and beginning to thrash about wildly in a bid to recover its sight and thus giving the girl time enough to make a break for the trees.
She knew that wouldn’t keep it long, however, and as she ran, she began to turn incantation after incantation over in her mind. None were particularly helpful. Gildie had yet to teach her much in the way of complex arcana, and so she was limited in what she could do without an implement or a sigil. Not much, to say the least.
The sound of her pursuer was faint, but certainly there, and she knew it had the upper hand.
She’d lost all sense of direction as she ran and presently came upon what looked to be yet more unfamiliar territory. She was going even deeper into the woods than before, and the shadowy canopy had all but blotted out all light here.
A shrill howl followed after her. It wasn’t far behind, but she’d managed to snub it for a few precious moments, and she had every intention of making use of that time. She bent down, feeling over the dirt. Still soft.
No sooner had she bent down to her task when the sound of panting could be heard approaching rapidly. A few seconds later and the beast’s form rocketed through the thicket, intent on running her down.
Yet as it passed over the ground where she had been, something long and thin burst up from the ground, immediately twining itself around the wolf’s leg. Then another slithered around its midsection, and a third, a fourth. In a moment the lupine figure was held fast by an array of tendril-like forms, all of which groaned against the creature’s fury like the sound of creaking boards.
Luci sat panting, her back against a tree and her hand flat against its trunk. The light in her eyes faded and she sank a little. That one took a little more out of her, even with the hastily drawn sigil she’d drawn in the dirt to aid her channeling.
The wolf continued to rage madly against the wooden tendrils, but there was no escaping from the grip it was held in. Eventually, the creature would work its way loose, but she’d be long gone by then.
With that in mind, Luci stood and carefully circled around the creature, though it still made every attempt to snap and tear at her to no avail. When finally she’d made her way out of the darkened part of the forest, she looked around frantically. This would all be for nothing if she couldn’t get her bearings.
Fortunately, the sky above was beginning to grow dimmer, and a faint tinge of orange against a few clouds far above showed her which way the setting sun was shining from.
Thus informed, she broke off towards the north. If nothing else, she could just keep a path in that direction and would certainly find the forest’s edge so long as she could beat the sun.
As she moved to take a step, however, a loud snap from behind her sent a shiver up her spine. She wheeled around and saw that despite everything she’d put into strengthening the roots of the tree, the wolf proved the stronger!
Well, that was that, then. She didn’t have enough strength to pull off many more spells like that, and it would surely catch her if she tried to run.
“Elucidara, you must understand. Sometimes when we have a strong connection to a certain kind of magic, it can be dangerous.” Gildie’s voice echoed in her mind as she contemplated. But what other choice was there?
Snap! Snap! She could see the wolf arching its body around to try and face her, pulling with seemingly insurmountable strength.
She looked around, seeing nothing but tree after tree for as far as she could. This was the absolute worst place for this, especially considering what had happened last time.
Another crack of wood called her back. No more time.
Luci’s eyes began to shimmer once more, and she clapped her hands together in front of her. The soft blue glow, however, suddenly changed, turning a brilliant orange, and the air around her began to visibly quiver. The grass around her, too, began to shrivel up and blacken.
By now the wolf had nearly broken free, and in another moment it was charging her again, maddened to berserker’s fury by its repeated failures to catch her. It was even heedless of the fact that the air around it was growing warmer and warmer as it approached.
Luci held her breath. An eerie light was starting to emanate from between her clasped hands, one that altogether felt wholly terrible and destructive.
Yet before neither she nor the wolf could act further, a brilliant yellow bolt shot past her, slamming into the oncoming beast with tremendous force. This not only knocked the wolf prone but also sent it tumbling into a nearby puddle where it lay for a moment as if in a daze.
Luci, too, was dumbstruck, the air around her resettling and her light going dormant once more. She looked around for what had made the yellow streak, only to see it shoot up from the ground and into the tree. From there the glittering yellow bolt spiral its way from limb to limb, disappearing briefly now and again only to shoot like a falling star through the canopy until it reached the spot where the wolf now struggled to its and shook its great white mane.
Out came the amber beam, ricocheting off the trunk of a nearby tree and once again smacking square into the wolf’s side. This time it had held less force, and the beast was knocked sideways but retained its footing.
A third time it struck the wolf, issuing forth a yelp from the creature as it did so. Having had more than enough of the glittering ray, however, the creature quickly turned tail and ran, its adversary chasing it for some distance until it was well out of sight.
Luci could do nothing but stand there blinking and wondering. That streak had not been of her doing, certainly and, looking around, there was no one else to be seen. Did she have a hidden ally, then?
She jumped slightly when she heard a rustling in the foliage ahead into which the wolf--and the yellow streak--had disappeared. What should emerge from the thicket, however, was none other than the long, rodent-like creature which she had seen before!
The creature wove its way along the brush and the rocks, eventually coming to stand a few feet from her, and she bent down--or rather collapsed--onto her knees. The creature balked a little, but then carefully crept back towards her again, and she put a hand out, palm up, to greet it.
The ferret once again rose up, clasping its tiny claws on her fingers as it had before, and sniffed around until satisfied. Whereupon it leaped up and into her grasp.
She stood and held the creature closer to her face, “What in the world are you?”
She half-expected the little beast to reply, but it didn’t, and so she turned her thoughts inward. Her mind drifted to the tiny white skybeast that accompanied her master. Gildie had called it a ‘familiar,’ which were magical beasts that shared a close bond with certain meijai.
“Is that you, then?” she asked, a smile appearing on her face. “Are you my familiar?”
The creature looked at her as she spoke, and, making little chirps that were barely perceptible unless right near one’s ear, climbed up her arm and subsequently dove headlong into one of the pockets of her coat.
She laughed aloud at this and shook her head, “Aren’t you a fidgety one?” She thought for a minute. “I think I’ll call you that. Fidget!”
The creature poked its head back out of the pocket briefly as if to accept the new name and then just as quickly disappeared again.
She chuckled, “Alright then, Fidget, let’s go home, ok?”
Of course, she needed no further aid in finding her way out of the forest, although by the time she achieved the summit of the little hill upon which her home sat, it was already well past dark. Gildie was waiting, her fury held back behind a forbidding countenance.
“You have some explaining to do, I think” were the first words out from her mentor’s mouth.
“I--” Luci said hesitantly, “Well, you see, I was exploring in the woods and I ran into a timberwolf.”
“A what?!” Gildie exclaimed, her face growing pale as she began looking the girl over. “Are you hurt?!”
“No! No,” she said. “I made a friend, too, and he saved me! Here.” With that, the girl reached into her a pocket and produced the little creature which looked about groggily.
Gildie gave a bemused look at the tiny creature. “This rat saved you?”
“He’s not a rat,” Luci said obstinately, “He’s my familiar. He turned into a little yellow bolt and shot through the air like he was out of a crossbow!”
“A...familiar?” Gildie said, her eyes fixed on the creature in disbelief. That...wasn’t possible.
“Yep! He and I are friends now!”
She trailed off as she watched Luci’s bright smile begin to dim and turn. Gildie wished for all the world that she’d not said anything.
“I mean, I can’t believe it!” she said in an effort to salvage it. She even forced away her concern and managed to smile a little. “You best take good care of him.”
“I will!” she said, at which point she ran into the kitchen and placed the little creature down on the table before beginning to unpack everything she’d taken with her.
As she did this, Gildie stood silently watching from the doorway. But it wasn’t her young ward that she fixed her eyes upon; rather it was the tiny critter that now galavanted across the table.
Eventually, it noticed her gaze and stopped, its eyes meeting hers. She briefly caught the amber hue within the little black orbs before the creature spun around and leaped into the air, at once turning into a brilliant golden streak that shot like an arrow just as Luci had said across the room and ducking into her ward’s bedroom.
How can this be? To Gildie’s knowledge, a familiar did not simply appear to a meijai. Rather, that link was forged through years of disciplined communing with a certain creature, and even then, the creature’s ability to use magic was measured by its master’s directions. This little rat thing seemed to be able to call upon it on a whim and without Elucidara’s intervention.
This was no familiar. This was...something else.
In the days that followed, Luci eventually returned to the forest, and to the very spot where she’d met the great green dragon. She didn’t make any mention of it to her mentor, for she assumed that Gildie would have wanted to drive it away for fear that it might rain destruction upon the countryside now that it had awakened.
Yet the dragon had vanished, and left no trace of where it had gone.
“I hope it’s doing well,” she said one day as she looked upon the barren, hill-less glade. She was talking to Fidget, who was pacing back and forth across her shoulders.
As she said this, the little creature gave pause and looked out over the scene alongside them. It stood motionless for a time, but eventually grew bored and stuck its nose in her ear, which issued a shriek from her.
“Oh, alright, alright. Let’s go back, then. Goodbye Mister Dragon, wherever you are!”
And with that, the two departed; master and familiar. Two souls now woven together by fate, and each of them holding within them something far more than either appeared to be.
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