Walking down the long corridor, the sea was now darker, flanking the fortress. The air was blowing stronger, accompanying Daphne, enveloping her in the freshness of the evening. Her hair began to dry with the salty air that haunted her. Forming light curls on the ends of the strands.
After arriving at a junction at the end of the long corridor, she continued to the right. Where both sides of the new aisle were bordered by huge windows. To her right, she continued to see the sea, and on the other side, huge rocks covered with small plants began to appear. An extensive meadow above the rocky mountain was spreading out in the distance.
Daphne was unexpectedly jolted when a thunderous roar shook the ground beneath her feet. As she looked in the direction of the sudden cry, her eyes widened as the head of an immense dragon floated in the air aided by its mighty wings that shook the entire body covered in dark scales.
She did not know what to do, whether to keep walking or stand there staring into the dragon’s red eyes, not understanding exactly what the creature wanted from her.
Not sure what she was doing, she began to move slowly, watching the mythical beast moving with her.
Little by little, she gradually lost the fear of a possible attack. Instead, she had the impression that it was guarding her wherever she was going.
When she reached the corridor’s end again, a not very broad spiral staircase was the new route to take. Down each step, the dragon was no longer in her sight.
At the end of the descent, an open iron door was waiting for her. She went through it, meeting again the dragon who was flying in circles above her head. The beastly eyes watched her, and her wings began to flap in another direction. Daphne didn’t think she understood it well, but it seemed as if the creature wanted her to follow it, and she did.
The short grass on the ground made the journey more comfortable. There were no trees or rocks in the way. A large piece of land covered only with dark green vegetation made its way around it. The breeze coming from the sea embraced her skin like the freshness of spring. A smell floated in the air, the mixture of the scent of grass and sea breeze.
A voice mixed with laughter was heard. The closer Daphne got, the more she could see who was responsible for such joy.
Her brother James had a furrowed brow, his voice startled above the others. “I don’t need any help from any of you.”
“Oh, come on, James!” Another louder voice mocked. Because of his build, Daphne thought he must belong to Myron.
“All this time and not even a kiss?” Clearly, she saw Teias now.
“I respect women” James was talking angrily again.
“I think we should give him one of your demoness, Myron,” Stelios laughed out loud.
“I don’t need any help from any of you! I don’t want just any woman. I’m just waiting for someone special.”
“There’s no such thing as a special someone, kid.” Lorcan then talked.
Teias mockingly clicked his tongue and looked at Lorcan. “Are you sure?” and with smirking eyes, he gestured to Lorcan. Daphne was behind him, closing in.
The group immediately fell into an uncomfortable silence. Only James showed a sincere cheerfulness when he saw her. He kissed her on the cheek and took her to sit next to him.
The simplicity of her apparel made her look even more attractive. At least for Lorcan. Her loose, cascading hair, her amber eyes, and the pale yellow of her dress were the spitting image of a nymph. Lorcan could hardly take his eyes off her.
However, she did not notice how he stared at her, and as usual, James did.
She sensed the change in the atmosphere. The laughter disappeared, and now the severe faces and elusive glances were what remained.
“Here,” James gave her a wooden cup.
“What is it?” Daphne asked after smelling what was inside.
“It’s wine,” replied his brother.
With the mug brought to her lips, the delicate and sweet texture of the drink ran down her palate, finally gliding down her throat.
“Do you like it?”
“Yes, what is it made of?”
“It tastes delicious,” she said as she took another sip, this time a larger one.
For a while, there was an uncomfortable silence. Daphne knew perfectly why the mood had changed.
And although her neutral expression was what she showed to the world, inside, she felt uncomfortable, and the feeling of not being welcome in a group was both painful and unpleasant.
Her eyes focused on the ring of fire that illuminated those around her. Woods were feeding the not very big flames. Staring at the crackling of the fire, her mind went into a state of emptiness, moving away from reality.
The flames’ heat began to warm her face, and she craved that heat for some reason. Her body was attracted by the fire that snaked around and approached her, wanting to become that confidant she needed. The rush was overwhelming, and her mind was making her believe that those flames were too close, not intending to do harm, but rather to please her desire.
“Daphne?” A voice like an echo brought her out of that place where no one else was but her.
When she came back to reality. She stepped back to protect herself. A flame suspended in the air was so close to her face that only a forward movement could burn her.
Daphne stood up. Frowning at the flame still hanging in the air, she looked up and found those who watched her incredulously surprised by such an outcome. As she crossed eyes with Lorcan, she looked at the ground, trying to avoid the intensity of his gaze and clearing her throat. “Excuse me.” She left there in a hurry. What was happening to her exactly?
“Daphne!” James called her. But she still didn’t look back. “I’ll go check on her.”
“It is not necessary,” Lorcan said. And he was gone from there.
“Did you see that?” Stelios asked.
“Yes, Stelios, we all saw it,” Maret spoke bitterly, swallowing her wine in one gulp.
“How did she-” continued Stelios.
“Stop digging into that matter,” Teias interrupted him in his General rank tone.
“But, how could she manipulate the fire? James, did you know about it?” Stelios spoke again, ignoring Teias’ order.
“Stelios!” Teias shouted at him. “That’s none of your business.”
“Teias-” Myron began to speak. “It’s none of our business, as you say. But I think we have a right to know how she did it. She’s Rothvaln’s whore, and she’s here with us now-“.
“My sister is no whore!” James got up in a rage, threw the mug of wine on the fire, and walked to Myron. “Daphne is the most honorable and courageous woman I have ever known. I know you all hate her; as to why I don’t understand. I also happen to know that Rothvaln wants her, but she has never succumbed to his feelings. I am here now, thanks to her. No man will ever be worthy of her. But it’s better to criticize and talk without knowing the facts, right? While all of you were doing nothing, she was getting Lorcan out of that place. And enduring the punishment of the King of Demons because of all of you. In the end, you are just a bunch of ungrateful fools.”
James stormed out of there. Regardless of Lorcan’s order to stay, he went to find the only person in this world who mattered to him.
The lords just stayed there. Without uttering a word. If James had not forged a friendship with them, his head would surely be rolling now for addressing them in such a manner.