Chapter 26 Destiny
“Woo!” Rowan exclaimed, flipping a tattered chunk of the red material off him as he climbed out from under the ruined balloon. Akari was giggling at his joy as she climbed out of the basket somehow unscratched.
The Thunderbird reappeared from out of the gray clouds, continuing its icy assault. Valeena felt a pulse of energy and fought back this time; her own rain powerless against the strong beast.
“I’m no match for it!” She cried out, shielding her eyes from the hail that fell in painfully large clumps.
A fire feebly sparked to life on the Thunderbird’s back, causing it to flip and turn madly in the air. It released an ear-piercing screech as the fire spread to its beautiful blue wings, the bird flapping madly to put it out. Without warning, the beast took a nosedive into the lake, the violent storm ceasing at once.
Valeena could feel her heart beating angrily in her chest; a loud drum pounded in her ears. Aira crawled out from under the balloon, her leg covered in red jelly from the strawberries. She glared heavily at them, not saying a word as she made her way to the lake.
As she reached the shore, the Thunderbird burst out from the water, its back raw and ebony from the fire. Bloody blisters covered its spine as it glanced at the four of them briefly before fleeing, babying it’s injured wing.
Rowan tried to offer Aira his tin with the healing gel, but she smacked it hard out of his hands, throwing it violently, the tin skipping like a rock across the water before sinking out of sight.
She said nothing as she gingerly scrubbed the jelly off her leg, revealing burned flesh underneath. Tellah laughed, kicking the balloon with a thunk.
“Well, to be honest, we, um, made it farther than I thought we would!” Valeena saw no humor in their crash as she acted as though her back was not aching.
“Something big is coming.” She had her blue eyes trained on the northern horizon, the storm dying completely. The air felt alive, the world a little too bright. Valeena could not quite explain what, but something felt different.
Tellah, who was now gathering the pieces of the balloon, said, “I’d have to agree with you on that. That, um, Thunderbird wasn’t lost; he came here for a reason.”
“To attack a stupid strawberry floating in the breeze!” Aira spat, throwing a gooey ball of jelly at the old man. It struck Tellah’s robe and stuck there; giving the illusion he had just been shot. He looked disappointed as he dropped the balloon edge on the ground.
“I tried to help you, you ungrateful cow!” He mumbled, making sure the word ‘cow’ was nearly silent. Aira didn’t answer as she climbed to her feet, walking along the water’s shore.
“Caspian is that way,” Tellah informed her, pointing to the north. Aira continued walking several more paces before casually changing directions. Acting as though she had meant to travel like that.
“Thank you,” Valeena said to Tellah, smiling. “It was actually fun to float in a strawberry. Until we crashed, that is.” She laughed, Tellah joining her.
It was Aira. Rowan had chased after her and was making faces to mock her. His intent was to make her laugh, but he only succeeded in making her angrier. Valeena sighed, turning her attention away from the childish display and offered to help Tellah clean up.
The aging man waved her away as he folded pieces of the red material up, stacking them as best he could.
“To be honest, I have, um, done this several times. I fly in my balloon as far as it’ll take me. Then, when I, um, inevitably crash, I set up my home there and start again.”
Valeena smiled as she asked, “What’s your final destination?” A dreamy expression crossed Tellah’s face as his eyes flickered towards the dimming sky.
Valeena caught up to Rowan, and Akari with ease, the sun melting into the lake water behind them, turning the vibrant blue sky into a canvas of pinks and oranges. They trudged up the green hill, spotting the sandy colored wall of Caspian in the distance.
“We’re nearly there. Hopefully, we can reach the walls before midnight.” Rowan spoke, the wind light and crisp. The world was silent; it was unusual for the evening to hold no symphony of crickets chirping, no birds singing in the trees. Valeena felt the icy fingers of fear grasping her spine.
Rowan sensed it too, scratching at the back of his head as he nervously glanced around. Aira was acting far too calm, but her eyes never stayed still. She casually peered over her shoulder, rubbing her arm just under her lilac tattoo. She sneered when she saw Valeena and turned her head forward with a loud hmp!
Akari was walking beside Rowan, bouncing and smiling. She did not seem to notice that something was clearly off.
'Or maybe she is just better at pretending everything is alright.' Valeena thought as the young girl spun in a wide circle, her arms extended to their full length.
Akari giggled as she nearly bumped into Rowan, who forced a smile on hie red face. He glanced skyward then back at his feet, ignoring the nagging feeling that was gnawing in the back of his mind.
Queen Maylee was reluctantly making her way back to her castle in the Star Kingdom. She was still upset over the fact that she did not have a real dragon in her possession and opening pouted. She refused to even spare a look for Steel or Seto when they had inevitably returned empty handed.
Queen Maylee stared at the lovely statue of the beast the emperor’s assistant had given her. It was a small, ebony dragon resting on a ruby star, just like her own kingdom’s crest. It was very beautiful but it was not, however, a real dragon.
A roaring sound echoing in the night startled the Queen and nearly jumped out of bed. She searched her room, her eyes wide in fear before realizing the sound was coming from her own daughter.
Princess Aurory was sleeping loudly in the room across the hall, her snores reverberating in the quiet ship. She had appeared disinterested at the small statue when she had discovered it was not edible.
Queen Maylee hurled the beast at the wall, a maid yelping as it shattered near her head.
‘The ship is moving far too slowly’, Queen Maylee thought as it glided on the top of the raging ocean waters. ‘And the moon is far too bright’.
Queen Maylee flipped the heavy quilt off her legs and waddled to the window, shielding her eyes from the brilliant light of the moon. For a moment, she considered turning the lights off in her cabin so she could correctly evaluate just how bright the moon was. But the fear of the darkness prevented her from following through.
“Get me Thanos.” She said, a smiling forming on her hideous mouth as the maid scurried out the door. Moments later Thanos emerged carrying a small black and gold tea cup that was resting on a saucer. He looked irritated at having been disturbed but knew his words would land on deaf ears.
“Your majesty,” He began, watching in disgust as the oversized woman bounced on the balls of her feet like a small child, the front of her white nightgown getting soaked by the rain. “Princess Aurory has prepared you a cup of tea. Please, drink it. It will help you to sleep.”
“Tea? No. She makes it far too bitter. Which is odd for someone who eats sugar with a spoon... Look, the moon!” Queen Maylee turned her excited back to Thanos and pointed at the brilliant moon, glancing over her shoulder at him, smiling.
Thanos sighed. “Yes, the moon shines upon us every night. Tonight is no different. Now, drink your tea.”
Queen Maylee sighed and waddled back into bed, doing her best not to strike Thanos. She reluctantly reached for the tea and took a small sip of the dark liquid. It was just as bitter as she thought it would be.’ Perhaps one of the ladies at Kingyosou could teach her the proper way of preparing tea.’ The Queen thought as her daughter’s snores continued to rip through the cabin.
Thanos waited until she had drunk every drop of the tea before leaving her to marvel at the moon, shaking his head at her childish behavior.
The sun had set long ago before they reached the creamy sand colored walls of the beautiful kingdom of Caspian. The Kingdom itself was nestled against the coast, the waves lapping at its walls. A dormant volcano resting on a massive island sat dangerously close to borders of the kingdom. The people that resided in the city were known for wearing gorgeous, long robes made of light colorful fabrics, making Valeena envious of their beauty.
The city was sleeping, but the lovely scents of spices and smoky incense still hung in the air. Valeena saw no guards outside the open city gates or any soldier patrolling the city itself. Candles were resting on tiny tabletop altars outside of every door, each candle flame creating a different color. The castle itself was not separated from the city but seemed to be a continuation of it with benches and trees resting parallel to each other for the citizens. A large fountain of a griffin had been placed in the center of the courtyard, spilling water into the sky.
It was odd for Valeena to be in a Kingdom with no guards or soldiers at every turn. She wanted to visit every corner of the lovely city but her head was starting to ache, and her crystal felt warm. She would have to wait until the morning.
Akari had removed a lovely pink paper fan from her sash and was waving it absentmindedly, taking in the sites of the sleeping city. Rowan had spotted an inn and paid the required fee for the last available room, Aira diving into the only bed and not moving.
Rowan chose an oversized, caramel colored chair to flop on and sat with his legs over one of the arms. He smiled like a fool as he laced his fingers together, humming.
Akari selected the sand colored love seat as Valeena settled into the couch, wondering if she’d even sleep at all with this pounding headache. She could see Rowan rubbing at his temples as well, his eyes wide open. He had taken a bit of the ointment rubbed it across his forehead. Aira was also messaging her head, trying her best not to look at them.
Akari seemed perfectly content as she stretched out on the love seat, still fanning her lovely face. She yawned loudly, announcing that she was tired.
Heavy rain began to fall in, sharp, icy drops outside their window. Valeena paid it little attention as her headache steadily grew worse, sending pulses of white hot pain trailing through her body.
Suddenly, an earthquake violently shook the room as the wind ripped the tan shudders off the window. Outside, people were screaming madly in the streets as an alarm sounded, barely making itself heard over the din of the wind and rain. The once dormant volcano had irrupted without warning and was spewing ash into the air as lava leaked into the ocean with an angry hiss.
Everything seemed brighter, even the light of the stars was visible through the clouds. The moon itself was glowing as vibrantly as the sun. A candle that had been sitting on an altar near the window exploded, sparks landing on the ugly drapes as they blew madly into the hotel room. Smoke and steam filled the air as the material caught fire and was quickly extinguished by the heavy rain.
Valeena held her head tightly in both hands as she rolled off the couch and into the floor, tears draining from her eyes. The pain was increasing as the burning sensation on her forehead grew.
“Oh, no,” Valeena mumbled as the pain engulfed her and she fought to stay in the land of the conscious. She had just turned sixteen.
END OF BOOK ONE
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