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Seeking Hope: A Fairytale

By almostawkward All Rights Reserved ©

Adventure / Fantasy

And So It Begins

Once upon a time there was a village in the mountains that was suffering from a famine that had overtaken the land. Their king had refused to send them supplies, since they were isolated from the rest of the kingdom, and traveling there was treacherous, so the people decided to take their salvation into their own hands.

At the top of the mountain resided the most powerful creatures known to mankind: dragons. Dragons, as well as being the wealthiest creatures of all time due to their lust for anything gold or silver, were also the main source of magic in the land. These creatures were who the people turned to for help. The dragons refused to aid them with their magic, and they also refused to part with their wealth in order for the townspeople to buy supplies for their survival.

However, there was one woman with whom the dragons found favor. She had been visiting the dragons’ cavern ever since she was a child, and, even though she was grown and married, she still paid the dragons an occasional visit and spoke with them of matters of every kind. She had begged the dragon chieftain to help her village, but he had refused. Nevertheless, they were still on good terms.

Though, one day, she fell ill. This would not have concerned the townspeople so much had she not been with child. Her husband grew worried for her throughout the months as her condition grew worse. On one cool afternoon, her husband gathered her up in his arms and carried her up the mountain to the dragons’ lair. Once they had arrived, he pleaded with the dragons to use their magic to save his wife and unborn child. The dragons, seeing that their friend was near death, willingly agreed.

But there would be a cost. The chieftain told the husband that in order to save his family, they would need to cast a spell that they had never cast before. Since the child was too sensitive to receive any other kind of antidote, they would have to use a kind of magic that originated from the dragons’ own source of power. To do this, they cut off one of their scales and clipped off the sharp tip, which revealed a clear liquid that they made the mother drink. This would give enough power to heal both mother and child; however, there was a possibility that it would permanently affect the baby. So, in return for their assistance, they told the father to bring his firstborn to their lair once he had reached the age of five. The father reluctantly agreed, seeing that it was the only option he had.

The magic worked even better than expected, and the mother recovered within the next few days. The child was born the next week; although early, he was as healthy as one could be.

Over the next five years the child grew in strength and knowledge, and once he had grown to the age of five, his father took him to the dragons’ lair.

The child was strange. He was able to see the future in his dreams, and he showed signs of knowing magic. The dragons investigated this and soon found that the boy possessed most of the same talents and abilities as themselves as well as having a similar lifespan. They concluded that they had aided in the creation of a human-dragon hybrid: a monster. Most of the dragons were afraid of him. But the chieftain, said to be the oldest dragon alive, grew fond of the boy and taught him everything he knew.

As the boy was developing his skills and furthering his education, his hometown was on the brink of death. The famine had lasted 75 years, and most of the citizens of the village had starved over time.

Once again, the people begged the dragons for assistance. The dragons once again refused, but this time, the boy overheard their pleas. He asked the dragons why they would not help, and they replied that it was not their duty to interfere with fate. The boy grew angry at this, and that night, he snuck out to the village and made it so that the crops were once again fertile.

The people were overjoyed when they awoke the next morning, seeing that their crops were once again prosperous. The boy, satisfied with the happiness of the people, returned to his home on the mountain. However, awaiting him at the top was the chieftain and his advisors.

Since he had gone against the chieftain’s will and helped the human race, the boy was cast out from the dragons’ lair and forced to survive on his own.

“Wait!” a feminine voice spoke up, stopping the reader from continuing. “If he had been with the dragons for around 75 years, wouldn’t he be an old man instead of a boy?” The young man, who had been reading from the brown, worn book, rolled his hazel eyes and sighed deeply.

“It says that he had a similar lifespan to the dragons, so he probably doesn’t age the same way we do.” The woman squinted at him.

“You really are obsessed with this story, aren’t you?” He slammed the book shut.

“I am not obsessed! It intrigues me,” he argued. She chuckled.

“You’re obsessed.”

He playfully poked her in the side before giving her a one-armed hug. Even though she didn’t understand his fascination with this particular tale, he still loved her more than he loved anyone in the world. Within the next month, they would be husband and wife.

“Don’t you want to know the history of our village?” he asked. She shrugged.

“It is interesting, but you take your interest way too far,” she teased.

“I can’t help it! The story took place hundreds of years ago. I could be a distant relative of this dragon-human hybrid,” he said.

“I doubt it,” she responded. “The story never said that his parents had any more children.”

“But it never says that they didn’t!” he reasoned. She pecked him on the cheek.

“You’re adorable,” she hummed. He raised an eyebrow at being called adorable, but he did not care as long as the word came from her lips.

Screaming coming from the direction of the village made them both jump up and run back home. Once they had returned, they saw several raiders rummaging through the cottages. They were masked, so they couldn’t see their faces, but they could see that all of their gazes were fixated on the couple.

“Claire, run!” he told her.

“No! Not without you!” she shouted as she grabbed his arm.

He didn’t listen to her; he only shoved her off to the side—towards safety—and stepped towards the approaching men.

“Is that your girl?” one of them asked with a hoarse voice.

“Yea,” he replied. The man chuckled.

“Not anymore,” he said as he took the large stick in his hand and hit him over the head with it, immediately knocking him out.

“Joshua!” Claire screamed, hoping he would hear her. But the men quickly gagged her, muffling her cries.

By the time Joshua woke up, the raiders had already disappeared, along with his fiancée. He panicked. What would he do without her? He couldn’t possibly live without her in his life. He resolved to find her; the only question was how to do it.

Like with most situations in his life, he went to his book for answers. He flipped to a page he had read a hundred times, but he knew he needed to read it again.

He fled to a forest far away from his home, where he now resides and continues to practice magic. It is said that he assists those in need. To summon him, one must go to a private place and call him by name or with the following words....

He closed the book in frustration.

“But what is his name!” he yelled in frustration. “The book never says!”

He gazed intently at the book and traced the worn cover with his finger. The title was worn, but he could just make out the word.

Proelium.

The book had said that he could read the incantation. He didn’t have to know the man’s name. At least, he hoped he didn’t.

“It has to work,” he breathed to himself. “I don’t know if it will, but it has to.”

He packed a small bag of supplies and traveled a day away from the village. This was the most private place he knew of. He decided that he would say the incantation once the sun had gone down.

Once the time had come, he boldly declared the words written in the book.

Yvridiká érthei kai na mou chorigísei to aítimá mou!”

He waited for a moment in hopes on an answer, but there was only silence.

“Why?” he asked in defeat. “It should have worked!”

“It did,” a voice replied from behind him. Joshua jumped in surprise and whipped around to face the figure behind him.

He was surprisingly young; he could not be a day older than twenty. His short, dark hair was kept in a style that was unusual for this time period (the hair on the top of his head was slightly longer while the hair on his sides did not even fully cover his ears). His clothes were also of a peculiar fashion. It looked similar to what a noble would wear, but it seemed abnormal for anyone in this kingdom. The fabric clung tightly to his well-toned body in a leather-like style, but it still looked flexible enough for him to move or even to fight. His deep, piercing blue eyes carefully scanned the man who had summoned him, observing and studying him.

“What do you want?” he asked in an unamused tone.

Joshua was star struck. He had wanted to meet this man for a long time. He had not even been fully sure he really existed, but now, he was standing right in front of him. He had so many questions, but he forced himself to stay focused on the task at hand.

“My fiancée has been kidnapped,” he said. “I need you to help me rescue her!” The man sighed.

“Ah yes. It is always a woman,” he muttered, more to himself than Joshua. “And I suppose you want to be the hero?”

“No!” Joshua objected. “I just want to see her safe. Please, will you help me?” The man stared intently at him, his eyes penetrating Joshua’s soul. His face was unreadable, and Joshua could only hope that he would take pity on him.

“Fine,” he agreed. “I will give you my assistance, but it will cost you.” Joshua gave him a confused look.

“When the book said you aided those in need, I assumed that you didn’t ask for anything in return,” he said. The man raised an eyebrow.

“You would think that wouldn’t you? But magic, especially mine, comes at a cost. So do you want my help or not?”

“Yes, of course I do,” Joshua replied. “But tell me, what will you want in return?”

The man shrugged.

“I haven’t decided yet. You currently have nothing I want.” He extended his hand out to Joshua. “So, deal?”

Joshua eagerly shook his hand, agreeing to whatever terms this man would decide upon sometime in the future. The man smiled, and with a wave of his hand, they suddenly appeared in a comfy, well-furnished room inside of a large castle.

“I’m afraid that I cannot directly go and retrieve your fiancée for you,” the man said. “This quest is yours and yours alone, but I am not cruel enough to send you in without any skills or training. So, I will train you in the art of combat until you are ready to take on her abductors.” He set a hand on Joshua’s shoulder. “I will make sure you don’t die, but the rest is up to you. Now, get some rest; we start tomorrow.”

Suddenly, Joshua remembered all of the questions he wanted to ask plus more.

“Hold on! Where are we? Is this where you live? How long have you been alive? I’ve read so much about you, and I can’t believe you’re standing right in front of me! What’s your name? How-”

“Joshua!” The man interrupted him. “That is all a conversation for another day. Just rest. I’ll wake you at first light.”

“Wait…how did you know my name?” Joshua asked nervously. The man smirked.

“I know many things,” he said ominously. Joshua gulped.

“Well, since you know my name, do I get to know yours?” The man sighed.

“I’m afraid not; that is information I keep to myself.” He thought for a moment before smirking. “But you may call me Doran.”

-

For the next several weeks, Joshua underwent sessions of rigorous training. He learned how to wield a sword, which he had never even seen in person before. Doran was a skilled teacher—brutal but skilled. He had him complete certain tasks for him as a part of his training. Some of these tasks seemed meaningless while others put Joshua in constant peril.

“Today, you will be retrieving something for me,” Doran told him as they walked up to the edge of the dock, which overlooked a large, fog-covered lake. “A diadem. It has certain magical properties that I require, so I want you to go and get it.”

“That doesn’t sound too difficult,” Joshua remarked. “What do you need it for?”

“That’s none of your business,” Doran hissed. “And don’t underestimate your task. The diadem is guarded by a magical creature, so you will have to use your newfound skills to assist you. Expect no help from me, for I will not be joining you.”

“How am I supposed to bring down this creature without magic?” Joshua panicked. “I need your help!”

“I would be of little use anyway,” Doran replied casually. “Since my magic originates from the dragons, my natural element is fire. In this environment, I am naturally at a disadvantage.” He handed Joshua his sword. “Cut off the creature’s head to kill it. If you succeed, I will deem you ready to take on the men who stole your fiancée.”

“But…what if I fail?” Joshua gulped.

“Then you die,” Doran replied. With those words, a small boat approached the dock, which Joshua climbed into. Once he had sat down, the boat pushed off by itself and headed straight into the thick fog.

Once the boat had reached a small island in the middle of the lake, Joshua jumped off and began his quest. The island wasn’t large; it was not even five minutes before he had explored the entire terrain. Stopping his relentless search for a moment, he scratched his head in confusion. The creature was supposed to be here, but it did not appear visible to him.

He sat down by the shoreline and brought his hands down to the water for a drink. As soon as his hands were fully submerged, a thin, cold hand grabbed his wrist and pulled him under. Luckily, he was able to regain his balance and stand back up, since the water was shallow.

The creature was strong, but Joshua was stronger. He forced the creature up on the shore, where he could see its entirety. It was a beautiful creature with a feminine-like appearance. It would have appeared human had it not been for a slender, gray tail in place of legs. She had green-blue eyes, much resembling the ocean, and damp, golden hair, but her features were not what captured Joshua’s attention. Upon her head sat a delicate, silver diadem with a large red jewel at its center.

“G-give it to me,” Joshua stuttered, holding out his hand. “I don’t want to hurt you.”

The creature screeched, deafening him, and attempted to wiggle back to the water. Joshua stepped in front of it, blocking its path. This angered the creature, so it hit Joshua with its powerful tail, sending him tumbling to the ground. From out of nowhere it grabbed its sword, which was made of a swordfish’s spear-like snout, and stabbed him in the leg.

Joshua cried out in agony while clutching his blood-soaked leg, letting his sword fall out of his hands. Though his vision was blurred because of the pain, he still attempted to look for his fallen weapon. The tips of his fingers finally gripped its hilt, and he grasped the sword triumphantly.

The creature screeched again, summoning the waves to crash onto the shore, disorienting Joshua. As the waves began misbehaving and the thunder roared above them, the creature began to plan its escape. Joshua noticed this and decided that he had to finish it. With every last bit of his strength, he stood up and brought his sword down upon the creature’s neck, severing its head from the rest of its body. The head fell to the ground, and the storm ceased.

Joshua breathed a sigh of relief and pried the diadem off the creature’s head. After he had claimed his prize, he went back to the boat and let it take him back to where his mentor was waiting.

“You’re alive,” Doran said, rather matter-of-factly. Suddenly, the image of the lake disappeared from around them, and they appeared back at the castle.

“Barely,” Joshua panted as he sat down in a chair while Doran stepped behind a table, where he had a variety of magical items set upon its surface. Joshua stretched out his throbbing leg and winced in pain.

“You’re fine,” Doran stated unsympathetically. “I’ve seen men survive wounds worse than that.”

With a snap of his fingers, the diadem vanished from Joshua’s hand and appeared on Doran’s desk. In return, Joshua’s leg had completely healed; he felt no pain whatsoever.

“That’s amazing,” Joshua commented, astonished. He stood up; his leg felt better than ever.

“It’s a one-time thing,” Doran warned. “Don’t expect me to heal you every time you get hurt.”

He lifted the delicate diadem up carefully in his hands, taking great care in handling the silver. Then, he gripped it harshly with one hand and pried the gem off with the other, saving the gem and throwing the rest of the beautiful creation carelessly off to the side.

“Now,” he began, setting the gem down on the table and walking over to Joshua. “I believe that you are ready, but I still want you to face one more thing.” Joshua sighed in frustration.

“What would that be?” he asked.

Doran’s eyes glowed as a sword appeared in his hand. The craftwork on the handle was ravishing. He had only heard of this weapon in legend. It was forged of a dragon’s fire and the purest form of magic. Doran smirked once he saw Joshua’s stunned face.

“Me.” Without warning, he attacked him. Joshua’s reflexes were quick, so he was able to block Doran’s sword before it ran him through. He gulped; there was no way he would be able to win against a man who had been doing this for hundreds of years. He summoned all of his strength to push his opponent away, and he retreated an arms-length from him, where they began dueling.

“Good,” Doran commented as they sparred. “But not good enough! Do you really expect to save her like this? You’re holding back; you’re afraid. Wipe your fears from your mind! This is a real fight. Make your movements swift and precise. All you need is one lucky blow to take me out,” he taunted him in order to teach him.

“I…I don’t want to hurt you,” Joshua said as he focused on blocking Doran’s blade.

“Don’t worry about that,” Doran told him. “Suck it up, and kill me!” He was able to corner Joshua by the table. Their blades crossed, and Doran stepped closer to him, moving the blades dangerously close to Joshua’s throat. “Use the terrain, boy,” Doran growled as he shifted his eyes towards the table to indicate what he meant. Joshua nodded and rolled over the table, putting it in between him and Doran.

“How was that?” Joshua asked.

“Not bad,” Doran replied. “But you still have to get close in order to drive that blade into my chest.”

As Joshua thought about what to do next, Doran leapt up on the table and used it as a launching pad for another attack. Joshua instinctively blocked his head with one of his hands and held his sword so that it extended outwards. Doran yelped as the blade went straight through his body and into his heart. He grabbed Joshua’s shoulder in order to keep his balance, and he squeezed his eyes shut, trying to ignore the excruciating pain.

“Does that mean I win?” Joshua asked as his mentor stood upright.

“We’ll call it close enough,” Doran said, looking down at the small knife in his hand which was pressed up lightly against Joshua’s side, not even piercing the skin but would have delivered a deathly blow had Doran put any force behind it. Doran grabbed the sharp edge of Joshua’s sword and pulled it out of him in one quick motion, making him grunt quietly as he tried to hide the pain he was in.

“Are you alright?” Joshua asked with concern in his voice. The sword had delivered a fatal blow; Doran should not be standing.

“I’ll be fine,” Doran waved off the boy’s concern. “I’ve lost count of how many times this has happened. I have the durability of a dragon, so not very many things can kill me.” Doran grabbed a cloth and held it over his open wound.

“Why are you treating it?” Joshua asked. “Can’t you just heal yourself?”

“I could,” Doran answered. “But I don’t want to,” he sighed deeply. “The pain reminds me that I’m human, and I wouldn’t trade the scars it will leave for anything in the world.”

They made their way over to sit down next to the fireplace, which Doran lit with a snap of his fingers. They were relieved to find warmth and comfort after the long day. Joshua sighed as he leaned back, his thoughts drifting to Claire.

“Will we get her back?” Joshua asked sadly. Doran nodded.

“I’m sure we will. You look as though you’ll do anything for her,” he replied.

“I would,” Joshua said. “I love her.”

“Would you die for her?” Doran asked. Joshua paused for a moment to think.

“Yea. I think I would,” he said with a small smile. “Sorry I keep talking about this,” he apologized to his mentor. “I wouldn’t expect you to understand.”

“I do,” Doran replied as he looked down at his hands, which were sitting in his lap. Joshua’s eyebrows furrowed in confusion.

“Wait. You do?” Doran slowly nodded.

“I was in love,” he said. “Not too long ago actually. She was…” he sighed deeply. “She was everything to me.” He took a flask out of his jacket, unscrewed the lid, and took a quick drink. “Guess that makes me just as pathetic as you,” he said as he forced a chuckle from his throat. Joshua gave him a sympathetic glance.

“Who was she?” Joshua asked curiously. Doran took another sip from his flask.

“Her name was Madison.” He paused for a moment. “I was told, by dragons and humans alike, that I could not feel love. I’m not completely human, so they classified me as a monster—a freak of nature. I believed this for over five hundred years, until I met her.” A ghost of a smile appeared on his lips. “She cared about me, regardless of what I was.”

“What happened to her?” Joshua asked curiously. Doran closed his eyes and drained the rest of his flask before letting it fall to the floor.

“I have many enemies,” he continued. “She went out one day, and one of them got to her. A few days later, one of my acquaintances told me that she had been murdered.”

“I’m sorry,” Joshua said sympathetically. Doran set his head in his hands.

“That happened four months ago,” he said. “Even now, I know that I will love her for the rest of my life.” He sighed deeply before turning to face Joshua. “We’re alike in a lot of ways. I knew it the moment you agreed to whatever terms I decided upon to save your fiancée.” He slapped Joshua’s back. “I promise you, by this time tomorrow, you will be reunited with her.”

“Thanks,” Joshua said with a small smile. “I just hope we’re not too late.”

A few weeks before:

Claire was thrown into a dark prison cell. Once the iron door closed behind her, she quickly looked around, disoriented by the strange surroundings and desperate to find a way to free herself. She pounded on the door, but it was in vain. The door showed no signs of budging. Frustrated, she sat herself in the middle of the floor, awaiting the next time the door opened, so she could make her escape.

Alas, that door was never to open. When the guard came back, he shoved a piece of bread through the bars and let it fall to the floor; he didn’t even carry the keys with him. Claire was aggravated by her failed escape plan, but she was beginning to feel hungry, so she quickly scarfed down the small loaf of bread. However, this did not satisfy her hunger. A few minutes later, the wild growling of her stomach echoed throughout the nearly empty dungeon.

“You’re still hungry?” a soft voice giggled next to her. Claire quickly turned to face the direction the voice was coming from. The girl looked to be in her teens. Dirt covered her face due to all the time she had spent in this prison. Her clothes were nothing but rags, and she looked extremely malnourished. “Here,” she said, extending half a loaf of bread out to her. “It will take a while to adjust to the food portions around here.”

“Thanks, but you look like you need it more than I do,” Claire told her. The girl handed her the bread anyway.

“I’m used to not eating; you’re not,” she said. The chains that bound her hands and feet clattered as she walked over to Claire and sat next to her. Claire took pity on her. The metal had dug into her pale skin, leaving ugly, red marks. Her eyes were dark, almost appearing lifeless, but she still smiled brightly at Claire.

“Thank you,” Claire said as she gratefully accepted the bread. “I’m Claire. What’s your name?” she asked.

“Madison,” the girl replied.

“How long have you been here, Madison?” Claire asked. Madison shrugged.

“I’m not sure.” She gave Claire a curious look. “They don’t usually bring people here without a reason. What’s yours?”

“I don’t have one,” Claire told her. “I was just with my fiancé when they took me.” Madison looked down, deep in thought. “Do you know why they brought me here?” Claire asked.

“No. I’m sorry,” Madison apologized sadly. “But…they haven’t spoken to you at all?”

“No,” Claire said as she shook her head. “Not a word.”

Madison tucked her dark hair behind her ear, revealing a large smile on her face and a twinkle in her dark eyes.

“Good! You can escape!” she cheered. Claire gave her a confused look.

“There’s a way to escape?” she asked. Madison nodded and pointed at the wall to her right.

“There’s a secret door. You’ll have to avoid the guards, but it should lead you out.” Claire jumped up, and sure enough, there was a secret door.

“What are we waiting for?” Claire asked as she ran back over to Madison and tugged on the chains that bound her wrists and ankles. “After we find a way to get rid of these, we can get out of here!” Madison’s dark, brown eyes widened in fear.

“No!” she objected as she curled up into a tight ball. “Go without me.”

“There’s no way!” Claire shouted as she struggled to free her new friend. “I’m not leaving you here.”

“You have to!” Madison told her. “I have to stay here; I have no choice.”

“Everyone has a choice,” Claire said. “Why would you want to stay here anyways?” Tears welled up in Madison’s eyes.

“I-I don’t want to stay here, but they told me that they would kill the man I love if I tried to escape,” she whimpered. After wiping the tears in her eyes with her sleeve, she looked back up at Claire. “You said you had a fiancé right?” Claire’s cheeks turned red.

“Yea. His name is Joshua,” she said.

“I can tell that you love him,” Madison commented. “Your eyes lit up when you said his name.” She reached over and took ahold of Claire’s hand. “Go. Escape. Run back to Joshua and live out the rest of your life.” She smiled at her. “Go and be happy.” Claire squeezed the girl’s thin hand.

“I’ll come back for you,” she said with a determined look in her eye.

“Please don’t,” Madison told her. “Do me one favor, Claire. Forget about me.”

“What? How could I-”

“Please,” Madison pleaded. “Please forget.” Claire gave a half-hearted nod and turned to leave. “Good luck, Claire,” Madison whispered as she watched Claire disappear through the hidden door.

Claire was so relieved at the feeling of being free that she threw caution to the wind. She didn’t wander far before a few of the men spotted her and ran her down.

“Hey, look, boss,” a thin man said to a heavy-set one. “One of ’em tried te git away,” he sneered. The heavy man shook his head in disapproval.

“Put her by herself in the cell nearest to the door. I think her boyfriend will be here for her real soon,” he chuckled. There was something about his tone that didn’t feel right to Claire.

“What are you planning?” she spat. “Don’t you dare hurt him!” An amused smile spread across the heavy man’s face as his eyes locked with Claire’s.

“Your boyfriend is not the target we’re after, my dear,” he said with a sly voice, making Claire feel sick to her stomach.

“What do you-” she was interrupted.

“Lock her up,” the heavy man commanded. “And make sure she doesn’t get out this time.”

Present:

Joshua woke up that morning feeling confident. He knew this was the day he was going to get Claire back! Doran did not seem as eager as Joshua, but he seemed ready for a fight.

“Remember,” Doran warned him. “Don’t hold back. You might have to get your hands dirty, but it’s for her.” Joshua nodded in agreement. After their chat the night before, he felt that he understood the hybrid just a little bit better.

“How are we going to get there?” Joshua asked, seeing no horses as they walked outside.

“We’re going to fly, what do you think?” Doran replied sarcastically. Joshua’s eyes almost popped out of their sockets in amazement.

“You can fly?” he asked. Doran nodded.

“We could teleport, but we don’t want to make a scene. It is best if we have the element of surprise on our side.” Dropping his sword on the ground, he was suddenly surrounded by a blinding light. After the light had subsided, a grayish-brown dragon stood in Doran’s place.

“You can turn into a dragon!!!!!” Joshua shouted, hardly able to contain his excitement.

“It’s one of the perks,” Doran replied in a carefree tone, but in all honesty, he was letting himself show off a little. “Climb on. It isn’t a long flight from here.” Joshua did as instructed.

Flying was the most incredible sensation Joshua had ever experienced in his life. He could feel the wind on his face, his dirty-blond locks were blowing gently in the breeze, and he felt like he was on top of the world. It was much faster than walking or riding, and it ended all too soon. He couldn’t wait to share this experience with Claire on the way back home.

Once he had jumped off the dragon’s back, the light enshrouded the figure once again, and Doran returned to his true form.

“That was so cool!” Joshua said as he beamed from ear to ear.

“Don’t get used to it. I’m not a taxi,” Doran growled. Joshua gave him a strange look. “Sorry,” Doran apologized, realizing that the medieval boy would have no clue as to what a taxi was. “It’s a future-thing.”

’So, he can see the future,’ Joshua thought to himself. ‘I guess that explains a lot.’

“Keep in mind,” Doran told him. “This is your fight. I’m only here in case you find yourself in a tight spot.”

“I know,” Joshua said. He took a deep breath. “I’m ready.”

“Not dressed like that!” Doran scolded. “If you’re going to be the hero, then you need to at least look the part.” He waved his hand, and Joshua’s peasant clothes vanished, leaving durable, leather-like material, similar to Doran’s, in their place.

“Neat,” Joshua commented as he admired the new contents of his wardrobe.

“Now, let’s go. We’re wasting daylight,” Doran said as he looked for an opening into the abandoned fortress.

Once they found a way inside, they discovered that a heavy-set man and a thin man, along with about fifteen others, were awaiting them. Joshua was filled with panic once he saw Claire trapped in the thin man’s grip.

“Claire!” Joshua cried out as he saw her. Doran stopped him before he could step forward.

“Wait,” he warned him. “It’s a trap.”

“You’re right!” The heavy man laughed. “As you can see, hybrid, your abilities are useless here.” Doran extended his hand, testing his magic, but it would not work. The man laughed evilly as Doran’s attempts failed. “We sprinkled unicorn blood around the building to make sure your power would be restrained,” he continued.

“What’s going on?” Joshua asked. The man turned his attention towards Joshua.

“I’ve been planning this for years,” he explained. “Did you think it was mere fate that the very book that fell into your hands would contain the incantation to summon a hybrid dragon that could help you save the woman you love? Did you think it was pure coincidence? Foolish boy!” He chuckled. “I’ve been residing on the outskirts of your village for some time, and I knew of your obsession with history.”

“It’s not an obsession,” Joshua grumbled under his breath. The man ignored him.

“So, I conveniently placed the book where you were sure to find it.”

“But why?” Joshua asked once more. The man’s eyes narrowed.

“You were a pawn in this game. It was all so I could capture the hybrid,” he replied. He glared at Doran. “I am going to kill him for what he did,” the man stated darkly. “He burned my village to the ground twenty years ago. He took everything from me, so I will take everything from him.” He smirked and turned to Doran as he pulled out a golden sword. “Do you know what this is?” Doran took a cautious step back, giving the man his answer. Joshua gave them both a confused look.

“What is it?” He asked. The man grinned, which showed his eagerness to explain his plot.

“This is a sword made entirely of gold and dipped in the blood of a phoenix. It is the only weapon that can kill a dragon.”

“Now, you’re powerless and mortal!” Joshua told Doran.

“Yes, I’m aware of the predicament we are in,” Doran stated with an annoyed eye-roll. Joshua’s eyes fell on Claire, who was struggling in her captor’s grip.

“What’s going to happen to Claire?” Joshua growled at the man. He replied with his signature chuckle.

“Since I am no longer in need of her, she will die, just as you will.”

“No!” Joshua yelled in protest as he drew his sword and ran towards the man keeping Claire captive. Scanning the layout of the room, he was able to easily maneuver around using the techniques Doran had taught him. It was not long before he had killed the thin man and freed Claire from his evil clutches.

“You came for me!” she shouted in happiness as she hugged him.

“Of course I did,” he replied, making sure to turn her away from the direction of the fifteen men who were awaiting the word to attack.

“Oh, and there is something you should know,” the heavy man continued, as if nothing happened, facing Doran. “The love of your life is alive.” Doran’s eyes widened.

“No. That’s impossible. They told me she was dead!” His voice sounded hurt but it gave away a false sense of hope.

“They lied!” he spat. “I’ve been keeping her captive here for months. I just made it look as if she had been murdered.” He smiled maliciously. “I told you I was going to take everything from you, but I want you to watch as I do it.”

“Where is she?” Doran growled as he stormed over and gripped the man’s throat. The man gasped and dropped the golden sword on the ground. “Tell me, or I will kill you here and now.”

“Doran!” Joshua called towards his friend, concerned about his emotional stability.

“Shut up,” Doran snapped back at him. “You got what you came here for. Now, it’s my turn.” He turned his attention back to the man he was slowly killing. “Where. Is. She.”

“K-kill them!” The man barely managed to choke out the command to the men standing behind them. All at once, they drew their swords and advanced towards Joshua and Claire. Joshua also drew his sword. He knew he couldn’t take them all on at once, but he had to try.

“Joshua, no!” Claire shouted as a sword nearly made contact with his chest. Before it came any closer, she jumped in front of him, the sword piercing her body instead.

“Claire!” He caught her before she could fall, and he tried to pull her out of danger. Meanwhile, he skillfully swung his sword and was able to take down the man that had stabbed her. As he looked up to fend off their other attackers, he was met with the sight of the rest of the men lying dead on the ground. He looked in Doran’s direction, giving him a questioning glance.

“My magic is made stronger with rage,” Doran explained, keeping his eyes locked on the heavy-set man. “They’d need a lot more unicorn blood to hold me down indefinitely.” He squeezed the man’s neck tighter. “Do you hear that? You’ve lost! You can never win against me. No one can! Now, tell me where she is!” His hand still clamping onto his neck, he slammed the man into the ground. His head cracked open, sending blood oozing onto the floor. The man laughed loudly, despite the pain he was in. He knew he had lost, but that did not mean that he could not deliver one more blow.

“I lied to you,” he chuckled as he coughed up blood. “She is dead,” he said. Seeing the look on Doran’s face, he decided to take it one step forward. He looked Doran in the eye. “I was the one that killed her.” Doran’s eyes shone a crimson red as he ran his blade through the man’s heart, abruptly ending his life. Standing up, he calmly turned to Joshua and Claire.

“What happened?” he asked, seeing Claire’s limp body in Joshua’s arms.

“S-she tried to save me,” Joshua told him as he brushed a lock of her bright, red hair out of her face. He looked at Doran. “Please tell me that you have some sort of magic that can save her!” Doran bent down and felt for a pulse; it was still there.

“I do,” he replied. Joshua sighed in relief.

He remembered Doran’s warning about magic coming at a cost, and he knew that he had already stacked up a great debt to this hybrid, but that didn’t matter. In the end, all that mattered was her.

“I don’t care what it costs me,” Joshua mumbled under his breath just loud enough for Doran to hear. “Save her.”

Doran nodded his understanding and took something out from his pocket. Joshua recognized it as a dragon scale. Doran took out his knife and cut off the sharp tip. Then, he brought the scale to Claire’s blue lips, forcing a clear, glittering liquid into her mouth. It reminded Joshua of the story of how Doran’s mother was healed of her illness, and how Doran was made into what he was.

“It won’t have any other effect on her besides healing her wounds,” Doran told Joshua, reading the look on his face. “She’ll be fine.” A moment later, Claire’s eyes fluttered open, and the color returned to her skin. A smile spread across Joshua’s face as he hugged her tightly.

“What will it cost me?” Joshua asked Doran. Doran’s gaze dropped.

“Nothing,” he replied. “This one was on me,” he said with a small smile as he stood up. “Now let’s get you two kids back home.”

-

“My part of our agreement is finished,” Doran stated as he teleported Claire and Joshua back to their hometown. Joshua stepped forward.

“Thank you for all of this. Now, tell me, what would you like in return?”

“I’m still not sure,” Doran replied. “But be prepared. One day, I will come to collect.”

“Take care, my friend,” Joshua said as he extended his hand out to Doran. Doran immediately frowned.

“No. We’re not friends,” he said as his gaze fell. “I’m afraid you won’t like me very much once I’ve decided to call in that favor.” Nevertheless, he shook Joshua’s hand. “Now, go, live the life I never could.” He gave the couple a small smile before disappearing in a puff of smoke. Once he was gone, Claire wrapped her arms around Joshua’s neck and grinned up at him.

“Well, I think our wedding has been delayed for far too long,” she said. Joshua beamed back at her.

“I completely agree,” he replied.

-

About a year later, Joshua and Claire were married, and they were living happy lives in their village. Joshua just received a job as a blacksmith while Claire was usually at home with their newborn. Their baby girl was the light of their world. Life seemed to be perfect, and they were so wrapped up in it that they almost forgot about the deal they had made with Doran.

Hearing a knock on the door, Joshua stood up and went over to answer it, leaving his daughter in the tender arms of his wife. Swinging the door open, he saw the familiar face of the dragon-hybrid, who was leaning against the door frame.

Doran was covered in blood and dirt. His hair was disheveled, and he was panting heavily. Joshua was a little concerned upon seeing the multiple arrows that were sticking out from his sides. Doran looked up, his eyes bearing into Joshua’s.

“It’s time for you to hold up your end of the bargain,” Doran said with a smirk.

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