Kindle became aware of her surroundings slowly. At first, she could just see blurred shapes moving around. Content to simply be alive, she lay quietly while a chorus of birds sang cheerful melodies nearby. She came to herself suddenly, like a blurred image snapping into focus. She sat bolt upright and realized, to her horror that her wings were not there.
She was in a brightly lit log cabin, littered with all manner of books, bottles of liquids of various colors, scrolls, and small trinkets Kindle didn’t recognize. Fear gripped her. She let out a strangled cry. Flick flew in the window and landed by her makeshift bed.
“Kindle! You’re awake! Findar! Findar!” he cried.
The door to the cabin opened - letting in the bright golden light of midday - and two figures quickly entered.
It was Kael, and someone Kindle didn’t recognize. She looked at Kael in horror.
“My wings! What happened?” She buried her head in her hands, suddenly overcome with memories.
“I wish I could say `well-met` Kindle,” said the man Flick had called Findar.
He was dressed in brown cotton robes over a white tunic. His face was weathered and his hair and beard were a dirty white, but his eyes smiled and his voice was oddly comforting.
Kindle sniffed, a tear falling from her eye. “Some Knight I turned out to be” she said.
Kael sat down beside her and spoke softly. “Indeed, you are really something, Kindle.”
Kael shook his head in wonder.
“You fought off creatures that would make a grown man faint in fear and yet you think yourself a failure? Kindle, you are a wonder.” he leaned down and looked her in the eyes. A smile quirked his features.
“What are you s-s-smiling about?” she sobbed.
“While you have suffered a great loss, Kindle, you have purchased something perhaps of greater value.” Findar said as he gave Kindle a small cloth to dry her eyes. Flick flew out of the cabin without a word.
“I’m smiling, Kindle, because we have gained a great ally. And he has something for you. He knew we were coming. Just not when. Else he’d have come to us sooner.” Kael said quietly.
Kindle slid to the side of the little bed - no more than a pile of small blankets - and tried to stand.
“Hold your horses, Kindle” said Kael, gently holding Kindle back on the bed. “Findar has healed your body, but you are very weak.”
“What difference does it make? I’ll never fly again, Kael. My dreams of being a Knight are over.”
“I wouldn’t be so sure of that.” said Findar. “You see, the gift I have for you, it is from the Fairy Queen herself.”
Kindle looked up into Findar’s eyes. “You are going to do far more than just fly again. You are going to become a true Fairy Knight!”
Kindle stared at Findar. “Please don’t jest with me, wizard” she said coldly. “My life is as good as over.”
Kael beamed. “You are so melodramatic, Kindle.” Kael smiled. “Findar has explained to me the nature of your gift. Before you go run yourself through or some foolishness like that, please listen.”
Kindle sniffed loudly and rubbed her nose.
*I would never let you do that* echoed Cirrus.
“My sword! Where is my sword?” Kindle said suddenly. She cast about wildly, only to get dizzy and fell back on the bed.
Kael’s face grew concerned. “I wasn’t serious, Kindle. Why do you want your sword?”
Kindle shot Kael a dark look. “It means a lot to me. It will probably be my only means of protection now that I’m land bound.”
Kael reached into his vest and revealed the sword. “I cleaned and sharpened it, though it really didn’t seem to need either”.
Kindle smiled despite herself.
*It was really quite demeaning, Kindle* the sword said in her head. *Being treated like a common sword. The nerve of this Mage to manhandle me thus.*
*You’ll live Cirrus.* she thought. Then her face fell, remembering her wings. *Unlike me...*
Slowly Kael handed the small sword to Kindle as he watched her carefully. “Findar, no more beating around the bush.”
“Kael is right, Kindle. The Fairy Queen received word of your efforts to become a Knight.” Findar walked across the room to a huge wooden chest. He passed his had over it several times and the chest seemed to shimmer at times.
“The Queen was adamant that you were to accept this gift as soon as it was possible to get it to you. The Fairies contacted me and swore me to protect this gift with my life.”
Findar opened the chest and returned with a small bundle. He handed it gently to Kindle who looked at it questioningly.
“Your fingers are working OK Kindle?” chided Kael. “Open it.”
Kindle frowned and slowly unwrapped the bundle. Soon she held a small armlet made of delicate threads of gold.
“It’s beautiful.” She turned it about in her hands slowly.
It felt warm to the touch, as if it were alive.
“Decades ago, Kindle, there were many Fairy Knights. They fought side by side with the greatest of heroes -” Findar began in a manner of a teacher lecturing a student. He paced back and forth across the room as he spoke. “The Fairy Knights were renowned for their great courage and ferocity.”
Kindle raised an eyebrow. “Even with my sword I’ve only managed to be a minor nuisance. Most enemies could kill me with one blow. How could a Fairy face down anything bigger than an ill-tempered cat?”
Findar smiled. “With that.” he gestured to the armlet. “You see, there was a time when, many magical creatures made pacts with one another for mutual protection.” he paused. “One such pact was forged between Fairies... and Dragons.”
Findar looked at Kindle, letting his words sink in.
Kindle’s eyes widened. “Dragons? Why have I never heard of this? I don’t remember any stories about Fairies riding Dragons.”
“And you wouldn’t, Kindle” said Findar, smiling. “Fairies never rode Dragons. I’m sure you’d imagine how many squashed Fairies there would be around giant Dragons.”
Kindle cringed. She felt again the acute loss of her wings. Tears began to flow again from her eyes.
“Egad, Findar. Find some measure of sensitivity for our dear Kindle.” Kael said. “I’ll tell you straight, Kindle. This armlet is not just a decoration. Within it lies the very essence of an ancient Dragon. It gave up its life as a living creature to bond with a Fairy Knight. ”
“What? Bond? What do you mean?” Kindle was astounded. She held the armlet as if it were a snake about to strike her.
“He means, dear Kindle, that the Dragons transferred their essence - their abilities, strength, skill in fighting, the very things that made Dragons so feared across The Realm into armlets like this one.”
“Why would a Dragon give up its life for a Fairy?” Kindle asked.
The words they were saying still buzzed in her head like angry bees. She looked down at the armlet. She was surprised to realize that the flowing design of the armlet resembled a Dragon in flight.
“A hundred years or so ago, there was a great war going on. Many Dragons and other magical creatures were being slain by an evil force that threatened the very existence of the land. Dragons that were near death in battle would elect to transfer their souls into armlets so that the armies of Good could battle on. Only Fairies were deemed worthy of this honor due to their incorruptible nature. The Fairy Knights became a legendary force for good. They were often overlooked or underestimated until it was too late.” Findar continued in his lecture voice.
Kindle nodded. She know all about being underestimated. She remembered her encounter at the Council with Hrogthor. She closed her eyes.
“What does any of this have to do with me? Why this history lesson?”
Findar gestured to the armlet. “Because, dear Kindle. You are to become the first true FairyKnight in a hundred years. This is one of the last of the original armlets. They were all thought to be lost in the ancient war, but a few survived. The Fairy Queen has been keeping this one safe for a very long time.” Kael eyed Kindle appraisingly.
“Are you up to the challenge, Kindle? This is everything you’ve ever hoped for. Becoming a true FairyKnight.” Kael grinned.
Kindle gripped the armlet tightly. “Of course. What do I do?”
“Just put on the armlet, Kindle” Findar whispered. Suddenly nervous.
Kindle slowly slipped the armlet on her right wrist. Pain erupted across her body like a thousand lightning bolts. Kindle screamed.
Suddenly Kindle found herself standing in an ancient stone castle courtyard. The sounds of battle echoed all around her. The air was thick with dust. Kindle coughed. Pain wracked her body once again. When her vision cleared she realized she was not alone. There were stones lying all around her, and a huge gaping hole in the ceiling of the chamber she was in. The room was large - cathedral-like - with stone pillars holding up an immense ceiling. Some of the pillars had collapsed and were tossed like twigs about the room.
In the middle of the huge room lie the source of the destruction. Amid stone blocks the size of houses lie an enormous red dragon, its body twisted in an unnatural direction, and an immense spear pierced its side. Kindle shook in terror. The dragon was the largest being she had ever seen. It had iridescent red scales that were now dulled by dust and rubble. The dragon’s body bled from countless wounds and blood pooled almost to Kindle’s feet. The immense creature opened its wagon-wheel sized eye and looked at Kindle.
*I was expecting someone a bit more... substantial* a mature-sounding female voice sounded in her head.
Kindle fell backward in shock, landing unceremoniously on her backside.
*You don’t even have wings. What kind of a fairy are you?* the voice was tight with pain.
All the events leading up to this point came flooding back to Kindle. She stood and stamped her feet on the rubble strewn ground.
“I AM A FAIRYKNIGHT!” she screamed. “My wings were ripped from me in battle with creatures ten times my size. Not something I would expect the likes of you to understand!”
The dragon’s voice chuckled inside Kindle’s head. *That’s the spirit, little fairy.*
The dragon started a spasm of coughing - kicking up dust throughout the room. The battle continued to rage outside the huge room.
“Where am I? What is this place? A moment ago I was in a cabin in the woods. Now I’m..” Kindle started.
*Here, with me.* the Dragon said. *This is the place where I died.*
Kindle was stunned.
*I gave up my life here - my essence preserved in the armlet you seem to have found. I chose this instead of a clean death so that I can strike back at our enemy even from death!* The mound of rocks covering the dying dragon shifted with the force of her body trashing in anger.
*I had hoped for a strong, noble Fairy. Not a little stripling like you* The Dragon grumbled.
Kindle stood defiantly, resisting the pain that suffused her body like a storm. “Fine, you sorry excuse for a Dragon. You can keep your powers and spend forever here in this whatever it is. I can find my way without your help!” She turned away abruptly.
Tears ran down Kindle’s dusty face, leaving trails of pink skin.
The Dragon’s eyes closed. *I can see inside your heart, Kindle. Perhaps I am wrong about you*
The Dragon breathed a heavy shuddering sigh. *It appears we need each other. I apologize for my ill-chosen words. My mouth has given me no end of troubles in the past.* The Dragon’s head fell to the floor with a crash.
A sudden yearning filled Kindle. Forgetting her fears, her pain, and her anger she turned back and ran up to the huge head. She reached out to touch the Dragon’s face.
*Wait. This cannot be undone. We will be bound together for the rest of your life, Kindle. Can you live with a creature such as I?*
Kindle smiled despite herself. “Can you?”
The Dragon chuckled. Kindle reached out and touched the soft skin of the Dragon’s face. The world exploded into numberless points of light. Power filled Kindle. Power like she had never known. Overwhelmed, she passed out. Before she faded completely she felt herself say “I don’t even know your name...”
*My name is Deltia, little one*