Elemental Heir : Book 1 Of The Elemental Heir Series

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Chapter 20

Flying was like dreaming. Like I’d left the real world and all of its realities on the other side of some distant consciousness that I couldn’t quite remember. And much like a dream, some part of me knew that what I was experiencing couldn’t possibly be real, but I clung to it with childlike glee. The absence of worry, stress and thought was pure bliss.

I could fly forever, never wake up, and be glad of it.

At least, that’s how it felt at first...

Dristan had ascended higher than I expected , gliding us elegantly through the clear, blue sky just above the white, puffy tufts of the clouds, hiding us from any eyes that may be watching from the earth far below.

The first twelve hours of flight had been easy. But as we were now approaching twenty four hours of being in the air, aside from brief trips to the ground for bathroom breaks, I wasn’t sure how much longer I could last before I passed out. The thought terrified me. If I fell asleep, lost my grip, I could slip off of the dragon and plummet through the empty sky toward certain death.

Every time I felt myself begin to drift off, I would smack myself in the face. I’d done it lightly at first, but now I was full on slapping myself silly. It worked, for awhile. I found myself beginning to hallucinate, seeing shapes and objects in the sky that weren’t really there. I began to hear voices that I knew did not exist all the way up here. I’d even heard my mother singing to me, like she used to... Until she started crying, instead.

My beautiful dream was beginning to turn into a nightmare. I felt that I might go mad, in the silence of the sky. After so many hours, the whistling wind in my ears eventually grew undetectable, like I’d grown so used to it that it had stopped existing altogether. The silence, along with the absence of company, was starting to drive me mad.

Of course, I wasn’t truly alone... But petrified wolves and mute dragons were not much in the way of conversation. It almost made me feel even more lonely.

I’d pulled out my compass and realized that we’d been flying directly West the entire flight. The only thing I knew of that resided in the western area of the land was wilderness, mountains, and dangerous volcanos. No wonder no one had ever stumbled upon the Aviary.

Twilight was nearing, the once blue sky now turning into soft swirls of pink and orange, and I wished I could ask Dristan how much further we had to travel. If it was much longer, we would have to stop so I could sleep. And eat.

And just as I was about to shout for the Dragon to descend for a much needed break, he lowered of his own accord. We drifted down through the cold, misty clouds, and it caused my skin to dampen. It was a strange sensation. I could not see anything but white mist for what felt like ages. And when Dristan finally broke through the cumulonimbus formations, when I finally laid my eyes on the land below, I gasped in astonishment.

Surrounded by smaller mountains and a seemingly never ending expanse of forest, sat the most gargantuan volcano I’d ever seen. The peak ascended into the clouds from which we’d come, making it impossible to decipher just how tall it actually was. The black, cavernous, ancient volcano seemed to ebb and pulse with power, even at a distance.

I listened to the hammering of my heart as we drew closer, my breath coming in small gasps and my skin prickling with goosebumps at the unbelievable sight. It seemed to call to me. It was an ancient, all mighty structure, which in its very essence, screamed magic. It was like the mammoth, hollowed out mountain was reaching for me with invisible arms, urging me to come closer, to merge with it and learn of all of it’s magnificent secrets. I felt as if my very soul recognized it.

Beneath me, Dristan let out a sudden, piercing cry and I jumped as it sliced through the memorizing silence. It snapped me out of whatever trance I’d been in. And my eyes widened as several, distant, similar shrieks echoed toward us, as if in answer.

And my amazement was magnified even further as we seemed to pass through some sort of invisible barrier. A familiar, sweet and putrid scent filled my nostrils and my skin seemed to crawl with electricity, as we seemed to pass through whatever sort of magical ward surrounded the Volcano. It lasted about ten seconds, and although I could not see the invisible wall, I could feel it. It was made up of its own strange substance, which left me feeling as though I’d been rolling around in flour, or dirt.

And when we reached the other side, the roaring and crying of the other dragons grew louder, as if the invisible wall had been muffling their volume from the other side. I spied distant dragon’s flying above and around the volcano, but none came near us.

We drifted nearer to the volcano and I began to notice interesting details within the walls of its surface. My lips parted in unabashed astonishment as I noticed countless patios and doorways carved into the sides of the mountain. Porches, windows, and expansive patios covered nearly ever inch of it.

The entire thing had been transformed into a living, breathing colony. And then I saw the people. Nearly every patio was occupied with groups of magical beings, all of whom were waving at me and calling out with words I couldn’t quite hear. It was a welcoming committee.

The blood in my veins turned to ice, contradicting the heat that I could feel spreading across my cheeks. My eyes darted around the outer walls of the volcano, trying to count how many people were here, how many of them were waving at me, but there were too many to comprehend.

Hesitantly, I raised one of my hands in an awkward greeting as we flew by, and in response, cheering erupted from the vast collection of creatures. I smiled at the sound, completely lost and in awe at the incredible sight. Dristan let out a short, cheerful shriek and I began to laugh and wave eagerly.

We rose higher, toward the top of the volcano, and drew closer to what appeared to be an enormous landing pad. A rocky ledge extended outward from the body of the volcano, stretching about one hundred feet into the empty air. It was flat and sturdy, the perfect surface for dragons to land and take off.

I braced myself as Dristan glided toward it. I clutched his thorny spikes firmly and squeezed my eyes shut as his feet hit the surface and he ran along the rock. He slowed down, and stopped. And when I opened my eyes, I stopped breathing.

A few, very well dressed beings stood near the far back wall. They were watching us with intense interest, and I distracted myself from the sudden nervousness in my gut by looking around the space, rather than at them.

If I were to walk the length of the landing pad, from the wall, to the tip, I guessed it would take me a good ten minutes. It was massive, and only a small portion of the impossibly colossal volcano. I wondered how many room there could be in this place. One hundred thousand? Five hundred thousand? One million?

The landing pad was mostly empty, aside from an expansive collection of varying weapons, which hung from the walls, and weapon racks.

Dristan lowered his body, and huffed, signaling for me to dismount him. I slid off of his back and onto his leg, and then hopped down onto the black rock beneath us. Every little sound, including my feet shuffling around, seemed to echo around the empty space loudly. Whispers of the people near the back wall drifted toward me, and I stared at the ground.

Two figured approached us and began untying the rope which held the wolves on Dristan’s back. I glanced at them and realized they were both Dragon Chaimara. They were both in their natural forms, their wings tucked in close to their backs, and their twisted horns proudly mounted their heads.

One of the men was dark skinned, and had black, closely shaved hair. The other man had fair skin, and had hair the color of sunlight. It hung to the middle of his back, straight and shiny. Neither of the men were wearing shirts, but were dressed in elegant, black leather pants. I had a difficult time tearing my eyes away from their muscled torsos.

They had different colored wings than Dristan did. The black man’s wings were a breathtaking shade of deep purple, and when the light hit them just right, they glittered with varying shades of green and blue. The blonde haired man’s wings were the color of the forest, green, with hints of gold sparkling throughout. But they both had horns of black, like Dristan’s, and they were twisted the same way. Like spirals, reaching toward the sky.

When the wolves were detached, Dristan began to glow briefly, and emerged in his natural form beside me. I subconsciously stepped closer to his side, unsure of my surroundings and desperate for some form of familiarity. I looked up at his face and found him studying me intently.

“Are you alright?” He said softly.

“Yes.” I whispered.

The two dragon’s approached us and I pulled on a mask of indifference as I looked up at their towering forms, tucking away any hint of discomfort on my face. I didn’t want to appear afraid of them, but I knew they could probably smell my fear. Still, I stuck to habit, and attempted to appear brave and unaffected.

“Dristan, how disappointing, to see you have arrived in one piece.” The dark skinned one said in a deep, smooth voice that reminded me of bourbon. An arrogant smirk played on his lips as he stared at his Dragon Lord.

Dristan lifted a sculpted eyebrow. “Oh?”

“Yes, you’ve cost me one of my most prized possessions. See, we had wagers going while you were away. I bet that you’d come back with at least one missing limb... Seems I was wrong.” He said, his dark eyes twinkling.

I glanced between the two of them, both wearing expressions of stone. But then, Dristan’s lips twitched upward, and a huge, white toothed smile broke out across the black man’s face.

“I can’t say that I’m sorry for your loss.” Dristan said, grinning. And then he surprised me by bear hugging the man, and slapping him hard on the back a few times.

“It’s good to see you, old friend.” The man laughed, giving Dristan a few pats on the back as well. “Took you long enough.”

The long haired man stood still behind the other, his face blank, but his blue eyes sparkling with amusement at his comrades display of affection.

“Lord Dristan.” He said with a stiff nod, which Dristan returned, along with a small smile.

Then they all turned to me, and I felt my throat bob as I shifted my eyes between them. I tried to smile, but to my embarrassment, it ended up looking like a strange grimace instead.

“Brenya, allow me to introduce you to my most trusted friends. This is Warrick Orman, my first in command.” Dristan said proudly, gesturing to the dark skinned man beside him.

Warrick smiled warmly at me, the skin at the corner of his obsidian colored eyes crinkling slightly. He was classically handsome. His aura was somehow calming, and made me feel like I’d met him before. His gentle smile was contagious, and I found myself mirroring his expression without even trying.

“Pleased to meet you.” I said, extending my hand for him to shake. But instead of shaking it, he bent forward, lightly gripping my fingers, and lifted the back of my hand to his full lips. He planted a swift kiss on my hand, never breaking eye contact with me.

“The pleasure is all mine, Princess.” He said sweetly, bowing his head. I blushed scarlet.

Dristan cleared his throat and Warrick let go of my hand, the playful smile never leaving his face as he shot a glance at Dristan.

“And my second in command, Torryn Griggs.” He said, gesturing to the fair haired man.

Like he had done to Dristan, Torryn gave me a curt nod, no hint of emotion on his face. “High Lady.” He said simply.

“Hello...” I said softly.

“These two men have been looking after things while I’ve been away. They are two of the most loyal, honest men I’ve ever known. If you ever need anything, they will provide it. If you are ever in danger, they will protect you with their lives.” Dristan explained.

I nodded slowly, my brows raised. “O-okay.”

“And what of your third in command? Won’t you introduce her, as well?” A lovely voice trilled form behind me. I turned around and locked eyes with the female.

She was a dragon as well, her horns black like the rest of them, but her wings were the most unique I’d seen yet. They were devastatingly beautiful, blood red, with flecks of silver shimmering along the intricate scales.

Her face was heart shaped. Her eyes were amber colored, like honey, and her full, pouty lips were painted red, like her wings. Her long hair was caramel colored, and fell in waves over her back and shoulders, stopping at her belly button. She was dressed in a beautiful, flowing white gown. I felt plain and boring in comparison to her. She was the epitome of gorgeous.

“Andromeda.” Dristan said fondly from beside me.

An explosion of jealousy and bitterness went off inside of my gut as I watched her eyes slide to him, her face lighting up with a perfect, straight toothed smile. I gritted my teeth and balled my hands into fists at my sides.

“Brenya, this is Andromeda Price. My third in command, and oldest friend.”

She slid her golden eyes back to me and gave me a thin lipped smile. “High Lady Brenya, so nice to finally meet you.” She said sweetly.

I forced a smile. “Nice to meet you, too.” I said.

“Who else have you brought with you?” She said, leaning to the side and glancing over my shoulder.

“Two wolf chaimara. It’s a long story. For now, they’ll be kept in the dungeon until I can figure out what to do with them...” Dristan said, running a hand through his hair. “I have a lot to sort through. I’m sure you all have much to brief me on, since I’ve been away.”

“You could say that...” Warrick said with a grin.

“Andromeda, please show Brenya to her chambers. Discreetly. I don’t want her meeting anyone yet. We’ve had quite the journey. She needs some time to rest and adjust.” Dristan instructed his third in command.

“Of course.” She answered. “Princess, if you’d follow me, please...” She said, giving me another tight smile.

I glanced up at Dristan, suddenly feeling anxious that I wouldn’t be near him in this new place. He gave me an encouraging smile.

“Go ahead. I will check in with you later.” He said gently.

I stared at him for a few moments before his eyes began to harden. He hated it when I didn’t obey him right away. I lowered my gaze to his chest and bit my lower lip as I realized I wasn’t being given a choice.

“Brenya...” He murmured in warning. I noticed his fists ball up at his sides, his knuckles turning white. Then I realized that he wasn’t warning me to obey him, he was warning me to stop biting my lip. I instantly released it and pressed my lips together to keep from grinning.

“Yes, sorry... I’ll see you later, then.” I said, turning away from him.

“Take care of her, Andi.” He said darkly from behind me. The nickname caused another flare of irritation and jealousy in my stomach.

“Of course.” She answered sincerely. She turned and walked away and I had to nearly jog to keep up with her. We reached a large, heavy door and as we walked through it, I threw one last glance over my shoulder. Dristan was still watching me as his first and second mumbled to him quietly. I rounded the corner, still gazing at him, until my line of sight was cut off by the hallway.

A strange, glacial feeling settled into my bones at his absence. I walked in silence behind Andromeda as she led me down several wide, tall, twisting hallways. The walls were all made of the same, dark, shiny rock. Our footsteps echoing off of it was the only sound as we walked.

Brilliant, luminous chandeliers hung from wooden beams in the ceiling, and occasionally we’d walk over a large area rug. The walls were crammed with desks, chests, and wooden boxes, all adorned with candles and lanterns.

Fifteen minutes had passed, neither of us speaking.

“There will be a ball tomorrow night, to celebrate your arrival.” She suddenly said over her shoulder. “Everyone will be there. I can help you pick out a dress, if you like.”

“Oh... Yes, that would be nice. Thanks... ” I said as pleasantly as I could manage. I felt a bit guilty at my instant dislike of this woman. She hadn’t done anything to me. But still, I felt it. I wanted to trip her, or accidentally step on the back of the pretty, white dress she was wearing. I mentally scolded myself for being so petty.

Finally, we stopped at the end of a long hallway. There was a huge, stained glass window adorning the end of the hall, near a large, wooden door, overlooking the mountain range in the distance. The setting sun cast a golden glow though the multi colored glass and nearly took my breath away.

Andromeda turned to face me and gestured toward the wooden door by the window.

“These are your chambers.” She said flatly.

“Thank you.” I said, staring at her blankly.

“Mhm.” She said in the same, flat tone of voice.

I pulled the door open, but stopped when I felt her hand on my shoulder.

“My lady... ?” She said hesitantly.

“Yes?” I said warily, turning slightly.

“Have I.. Have I done something to offend you?” She asked, her brows furrowing slightly.

“Er, no... I just met you, after all...” I said, taken aback by her astuteness.

“Oh... It’s just... I can smell it, you know. Your irritation... And when I speak, your heart rate increases.” And on cue, my heart began to thunder against my ribs, like a caged bird.

“No, it’s-it’s not you... I just... This is all so overwhelming.” I lied.

“Oh, good... I was worried that you might be upset about mine and Dristan’s engagement.” She said with a smile, letting out a breath of relief. “For a moment, I thought I sensed an attraction between the two of you... So I thought... You were... Upset...” She trailed off.

I stared at her in dead silence.

Her smile faded.

Red hot, unyielding rage detonated inside of me as I stared into her eyes. My nostrils flared as I struggled to contain the emotion. My eyes stung as the fury burning my insides begged to be set free and unleashed. Her eyes widened and she removed her hand from my shoulder.

“I’m... Sorry?” I said through my teeth, my nails digging into the palms of my hands.

“Y-you didn’t know?” She asked, taking a small step back.

I stared at her, willing my eyes to turn to daggers and fly toward her heart, but to no avail. If looks could kill, she would’ve dropped dead on the cold, hard ground. My body began to tremble and I clenched my eyes shut.

“Lady Breanya... ” She whispered.

“Look...” I said through my teeth.” I am tired...”

“Of course, I’m so sorry.” She said swiftly. “Get some rest. Everything you need will be provided for you. Goodnight.”

She turned on her heel, her cheeks aflame, and scurried away.

I entered the room, slamming the door being me, not even bothering to look around. I sank to the ground with my back against the door, settling into a heap of nothingness.

And when I buried my face in my hands, the explosion of sobbing that erupted from behind my lips was sure to have chased after the wretched woman who had just shattered my world into a million, tiny pieces.

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