Release the Butterfly
Frolin sat in the dark cell, his back against the stone wall with just a tiny trickle of moonlight streaming in from a small window far above his head.
“Are you sleeping?” Sarnay’s soft voice seeped in from a small gap at the base of the wall that separated the two of them.
“No… Are you alright?” he replied and leaned forward with the moonlight shining through his long white hair.
“Yes. I suppose.”
“You don’t sound alright”
“Well I’ve never been locked up like this before. I don’t really understand it. How long do you think they can hold us?”
Frolin laid down on his side and pressed his face to the floor as close as he could to the small gap in the wall to try and see Sarnay in the next chamber. Sarnay was one of several Shrkai who were recently part of the exiled dragon clan. She and her human sister Millaney were the first dragon riders and together they led their team of dragons against the invasion that threatened the territory north of the Shrkai border against the dragon clan of the Shrkai. Frolin could just see the moonlight reflecting off the dark skin of her arm that dangled over the side of the cot she lay upon.
“Well we really haven’t violated any laws. We didn’t actually help Millaney break Darvin out of that store room and technically speaking he was being held by the academy staff who is no real authority, so a good speaker should have no problem getting us released.”
“Well then why did they arrest us?” Sarnay asked, as she sat up on her cot and looked down at the gap that Frolin was peering through.
“The priest who had been Darvin’s guardian seems to be acting on his own authority. We should speak to the council”
“Well we can’t do anything from in here!” Sarnay shrieked with a sense of panic in her voice.
“Well…” Frolin started to say after a great deal of thought. “There is a way I can get us free, but escaping could be a new charge they could add against us.”
“Anything! Anything! Please. I can’t stand being locked up like this.” Sarnay dropped to the floor and slid her hand through the gap and Frolin held her shivering palm in his own.
Sarnay and Millaney had met Frolin just recently, as they were one of hundreds of potential students to join the academy, Frolin was on his fourth and final attempt to join. He was an extremely brilliant and gifted inventor, even inventing his own bronze goggles which he currently had positioned on his forehead, but he wasn’t as physically endowed as many of the other youth his age and had failed to climb the academy mesa wall three years in a row. This time he was able to climb up due mostly to the encouragement from Sarnay and Millaney.
After a short moment, Frolin stood and reached under his cloak. He retrieved a small ornate well-crafted box and set it on the stone floor. He then retrieved a small key and fit it into the keyhole on the box. He turned the key slowly to the right until it clicked and the lid popped open. The moonlight flickered off the wings of a small bronze crafted butterfly resting inside the velvet-lined box. Frolin gingerly reached in to remove the shimmering creature and turned it gently over to expose an even smaller keyhole on the underbelly of the winged mechanical marvel. Using a tiny key on the same ring with the key that opened the box, Frolin inserted it into the mechanical butterfly and wound its inner workings causing it to rattle and vibrate its tiny wings. After Frolin removed the key, the butterfly stretched out is bronze wings and hovered in front of Frolin’s face. Frolin smiled and raised his right hand and ran his thumb and index finger over a spherical gem set in a ring on his finger. The gem light up reflecting a dull green light off Frolin’s shadowed face. The butterfly fluttered about the room, as Frolin practiced controlling its flight with the rolling of the gemstone. Once he had sufficient control, the butterfly swooped up to a small window in the huge wooden door and flew out of the room.
Frolin lowered the bulky oversized bronze goggles he had resting on the top of his head over his eyes and turned a small dial changing the many different lenses on his goggles until he found the right ones and he was then able to see what the mechanical butterfly saw. He guided the bronze mechanical insect over to a key dangling on the wall and with the turn of a small knob on the side of his ring, he controlled the tiny legs of his mechanical pet until it flew over and picked up the key. The weight of the large key caused the tiny butterfly to drop in altitude until it beat its wings fast enough to compensate. The butterfly then turned to fly straight toward the door to his cell and Frolin looked through the eyes of the butterfly until the keyhole became visible in the shadowed room. He carefully guided the butterfly toward the lock sliding the enormous key compared to the size of the butterfly into the opening and unlocked his door.
He flew the butterfly to him and retrieved the key from its grasp, then gently lowered it back into its box. After the mechanical insect rested upon the felt lining of the bottom of the box, Frolin flipped through his goggle lenses until a clear lens was in place, then quietly snapped the box closed, returned it to his cloak and ran out to unlock Sarnay’s cell door.
Hearing a key turn in the lock, Sarnay stood up and raised an eyebrow when she saw Frolin stand in the doorway with a broad smile on his face.
“I won’t ask…” Sarnay said shaking her head, as she walked toward him. “Let’s just go.” Sarnay walked past Frolin and down the long dark shadowed hallway. Frolin turned to follow and together they walked outside the unguarded, empty holding cells out into the bright moonlight. After a short distance Frolin walked beside her and Sarnay reached out to hold his hand, as they walked together toward the center of Shrkai City with the suns rising over the desert mesas over their right shoulder.
Further away up in the tallest peaks of the Mahfoga mountain range, with dragons perched on its roof, the suns bright orange glow pierced a window at the base of dragon castle. Millaney lifted a leg exposing her pale young skin dripping with soapy bathwater to the suns amber rays. She then plopped a large soaked sponge on her slender calf and squeezed out the scented, soapy water and ran the sponge along her leg. She then quickly pulled her leg back in and ducked her head down into the water so that only her bright blue eyes were visible through strands of wet blond hair.
“Father!” she wailed when she realized he was the one who had just barged through the door to her previously silent bath chamber.
“I thought you could use some more hot bath water” Millorny replied holding a large steaming pail of water with both hands on the wood grip of the pail’s stout wire handle.
“No I think I have enough now thank you. I’ll be done shortly.”
“Oh alright… I’ll just set it here.” He set the pail up against the stone wall and backed out of the room and closed the door.
A short time later Millaney entered the back room of the bottom floor of the tall castle tower, where Millorny and Gaitlynne were already sitting at a large wooden table with plates of food set in front of them and a third empty plate set out for Millaney. Millaney ran a brush through her hair, as she walked over to a wooden barrel set against the wall opposite side of the room from a massive hearth with a few burning logs set in its gaping mouth. Millorny looked and saw how his daughter was dressed in a bright colored thin dress that was hemmed just above her pale knees with lace matching stockings.
“I don’t know why you wear your good clothes when you’re just going to put a drab chillsuit on over it,” he remarked, as he dunk his wooden spoon into a gourd bowl of stew.
“Well father it’s not always how you look in clothes, it’s how they make you feel,” she remarked, as she retrieved a piece of fruit from the barrel. Millorny looked at Gaitlynne an exceptionally tall female with the blood of a narghon beast mixed with her human blood running through her veins. Gaitlynne was recently transformed into a full dragon and still holds the title Dragon Queen and lives with her dragons on in a high tower on one of the tallest peaks in the Mahfoga mountain range that separates the desert region of the mighty Shrkai nation and the Annuvian territory to the north. Gaitlynne, who was dressed in a thin loose shirt and baggy shorts, just shrugged her shoulders, as she picked up a piece of rare beef with her fingers and bit into it, then picked at her teeth with her fingernail. “Besides I won’t need to put the chillsuit on until later this morning or this afternoon when the suns get hot.” Millaney strode over to sit down at the large wooden table near her father.
A short time later after she finished eating and packing her clothes, Millaney eased open the door to a small chamber down the hall. She stood in the doorway looking in the dark room waiting for her eyes to adjust to the dimmer light. She watched, as Darvin’s body propped up on a wooden chair slowly came into focus. She met Darvin only a short time ago while he was on house arrest. She and Darvin quickly became friends and when he learned her father had become possessed by a vengeful spirit, he broke out of his confinement to come to warn her. Together with Sarnay and Frolin, they tracked down her father and fought the spirit, extracting her from Millorny just moments before she ascended as a new goddess. Darvin who was already badly weakened by withdrawals for a suppressive drug he was forced to take while in custody didn’t survive the encounter. They found his body under the rubble after the small temple in the desert was destroyed.
An image of a time in her recent past soon entered Millaney’s mind. She and Darvin floated together on a raft along the underground river that flowed beneath Shrkai city…. She lay back, while he continued to push them along the clear cool water. After a short time, the ceiling became much lower and the river flowed into a narrow tunnel. Darvin continued to push the raft navigating through the hanging stalactites until the ceiling got so low he had to lie down on the raft beside Millaney. They lay together allowing the raft to float along with the slow current of the river with only the light of the lamp shining in the dark passage. Millaney reached out to take hold of Darvin’s hand.
“I don’t fear you. I’ve seen and known people with darkness in their souls. I see none in you,” she smiled at him, as he reached over to brush a lock of hair away from her face, which was so close to hers, their noses nearly touched. They lay together holding each other in their arms, as the raft floated through the tunnel brushing up on the stalactites that dangled from the low ceiling dipping into the surface of the water. Millaney tilted her head and moved her nose to the side and eased her soft lips closer to his until their lips met in a brief kiss.
They continued to lie together looking into each other’s eyes, as they floated through the tunnel. A short moment later the tunnel widened and light from an opening filtered in. They sat up on the raft, as it drifted toward the opening. Darvin caressed her cheek with the tips of his fingers, then put his hand behind the back of her neck and pulled her in for a deeper kiss. Their lips mingled in a series of soft kisses with the raft approaching the opening and more and more light shining on them.
As he felt her soft warm lips upon his, he reached up a trembling hand toward her breast. His open hand hovered in the air so close to her clothed breast, that his fingertips could just feel the lace of the material, but he could not bring himself to move his hand any closer. The raft finally broke out of the tunnel, with the midday heat of the sun instantly warming them, as they continued to embrace. Darvin lowered his hand and broke off the kiss. He turned to the side and they both looked forward at the scene before them. Millaney rested her head on his shoulder, as the raft floated toward the east bank of the river. Tall shade trees and desert shrubs lined the sides of the river. Darvin finally stood up and grabbed the pole.
“We should probably start back before we’re missed.”
….Back in the small room in dragon tower, Millaney thought of what to say to him, but nothing came to mind. After a long moment, she heard her father call from down the hall.
“Millaney whenever you’re ready,” she smiled hearing her father’s voice despite his insistent tone. “I want to catch the first boat back north and put this whole ordeal behind us.”
“Thank you,” she spoke barely above a whisper then kept an eye on Darvin’s face, as she backed out of the room and closed the door.
The suns were rising over the mountains already warming the chilled ground below, as the two of them climbed up on to Dahvy, the dragon Millaney named after her mother. They flew out into the sky piercing the golden glow of the early morning rays of the combined yellow suns over their left shoulders.
“I still don’t see why I couldn’t fly on one of the other dragons,” Millorny said, as he moved Millaney’s blowing blonde hair away from his face, as he sat behind her on the saddle with the curved high leather padded back reaching up to his shoulders.
“Gaitlynne was saying she doesn’t want the dragons being ridden.”
“Well alright, but what about the other two you raised?”
“Tralla is with Sarnay and Patrahleera must be out hunting or maybe he’s with her too.” Millaney called back through the cutting wind, as they swooped down through thin clouds toward the desert city below. “I’m going to land you at the docks, then I’ll find Sarnay to tell her goodbye, or maybe ask if she wants to come up with us and stay for a visit.”
“So you’re not even going to try and return to the academy?”
“No… I’d like to, but we left during admissions week. We’d probably have to re-apply next year.”
“Alright well… just don’t take too long and tell Patrah goodbye for me.”
“I could take several days, even a week or more perhaps and still fly up to Schilling Harbor before your ship arrives.” Millaney said, as her dragon spread out her wings and started to land at some busy ship docks on the river, where the crowd parted giving her dragon a wide berth to land. Dahvy lowered herself close to the ground so that Millorny could climb out of the saddle and step down.
I’ll send a wagon or something to get my trunk, if you could pack it for me please,” he called out to her, as the dragon turned and prepared to take flight. “I’ll see you in a few days!” He watched Millaney wave back to him, then with a flap of her wings and push off with her powerful legs, the dragon was quickly in the air and flying out over the nearby desert hills blowing dust amongst the hardy shrubs that took root in the barren soil. Millorny turned toward the bustling port area with wooden buildings built by the humans set in sharp contrast to the adobe mud structures in the city built by the Shrkai. He stepped across a hard packed path, as a large odorous domestic reptile pulled a wagon full of goods away from the port destined for the market outside of Shrkai city.
Two Shrkai soldiers carrying polearms with black studded leather armor over their white chill suits were sure to notice Millorny stepping in to a warehouse with the name “Schilling Ship Lines” written on a plaque over the door. One of the soldiers got the attention of two other soldiers standing a bit further away and the four of them moved in on the warehouse, just after Millorny stepped in.
“When is the next vessel headed to Schilling Harbor?” he asked, as he walked in to the office and past the counter. A human worker behind a large desk lifted his head and looked at a marked schedule on the wall with pins made in the shape of galley ships, then looked down at a log book.
“Well Mr. Schilling the ‘Spotted Rooghon’ is loaded and set to leave soon, but it’s headed east and won’t make the loop back to Schilling Harbor for a few weeks… The ‘Raspberry Tart’ is headed to Schilling Harbor, but it just started loading… I don’t think it will be ready before tomorrow afternoon at the earliest.” Millorny stopped in his tracks, as he neared the door to his office. He turned to look back at the worker and was tempted to have that ship sent empty, when another worker spoke up.
“Well sir the ‘serendipity’ is loaded and ready to sail, but the crew is on layover.”
“Really? Who’d want to layover in this heat?... Round them up and tell them I’ll give them a bonus to set sail and take an extended layover back in Schilling Harbor.” Millorny turned and stepped to grab the handle to his office door confident he would be leaving soon. The second worker got up from his desk and grabbed a white chill suit off a hook and stepped toward the door, just as the four Shrkai soldiers were stepping in. The worker gave the soldiers a strange look, then stepped out of the building. The other worker who still remained at his desk stood, but otherwise made no attempt to hinder the four soldiers who proceeded directly to Millorny’s office door.
Millorny was packing some personal items into a leather bag when the soldiers filtered in to his office. He stopped and watched, as they spread out in front of his desk and aimed the blades of their polearms directly at him.
“uhh can I help you gentlemen?” he asked in a serious, but sarcastic manner.
“You know why we’re here, now just step out from behind that desk,” one of the Shrkai soldiers told him.
“In that you are quite mistaken, had I any thought of why Shrkai soldiers would need to apprehend me, I’d have come to them.”
“Just come out from that desk!” another soldier demanded just as two of Millorny’s employees stepped in to the office with loaded crossbows aimed at the heads of two of the soldiers.
“Now let’s all try to stay calm.” Millorny voiced, as he put down his bag and put his hands out with open palms. He glanced at his sword hanging in its sheath from a peg on the wall, but quickly dismissed the thought. “We are in Shrkai territory. We agreed to abide by their laws. All I want to know is what it is they want of me.” The Shrkai soldiers looked each other over and one of them spoke up.
“One of our own was murdered! You viciously stabbed him in the throat when you were on the hunting trip.”
Millorny lowered his hands and took a step back and the men with the crossbows took careful aim at the soldiers.
“Look I’m sure this can all be worked out.” Millorny put his hands back up as he re-thought his position and wanted to calm everyone down. “Just take me to see the high priest. I’m sure he’ll be fair in his decision.” The soldiers eased their posture and looked each other over then nodded. Millorny directed his men to lower their crossbows and he stepped out from behind the desk.
Millaney’s thick blond curls whipped in the wind, as she flew out over the desert city. She flew between the tall mesas with the people below looking up as she passed overhead. Her dragon spread out her wide leathery wings, as she slowed to land on the flat stone roof of one of the homes built into the foothills on the northwest side of the city with the tall peaks of the mountains stretched out in the background. Dahvy lowered herself close to the roof, as Millaney slid down off the saddle and stepped onto the firm stone roof. She instantly felt the thin dry morning air which was already heating up, as she stood near her dragon and straightened her dress. She reached into her pack behind the saddle and removed a thin white robe with frihar, or rechargeable chill-stones sewn into the lining, called a chillsuit. She then dug through and found a wide bright blue ribbon which she tied around her waist and pulled out a brush to run through her hair. She finished brushing her hair and was tying a smaller matching blue ribbon in her hair, when she heard a voice calling her name.
She eased her way toward the edge of the roof with her still saddled dragon resting like the Sphynx right behind her.
“Millaney,” Patrah the ex-sovereign of the Shrkai dragon clan who raised Millaney on the exiled island after finding her as an infant beneath her mother’s body after a shipwreck called out from the courtyard of her home near the front of the building trying to keep his voice low so only she could hear him. “Where is your father?” he whispered, when he saw her head appear over the edge of the roof.
“I left him at the docks,” she replied with a worried tone sensing her Shrkai great-grandfather’s caution.
“Good maybe he got away.”
“Away?” she asked with a heightened tone of near despair.
“Please you must fly off immediately for Annuvian territory.”
“We are planning to return, but I must find Sarnay first to ask if she wants to come up with us, or at least tell her goodbye.”
“NO!... You must go now! I’m sure they saw you fly over and they will be here soon.”
“Patrah… You’re scaring me. Please tell me what’s troubling you.”
Patrah took a look out over the valley below, then in a more relaxed voice he started to explain. “They want you for aiding that boy’s escape, but I’ve already spoken to the council on your behalf and they’re inclined to not seek any action against you,” he paused and sighed deep before continuing. “but one of the soldiers in your father’s hunting party was found brutally stabbed to death.” Millaney instantly pulled back from the edge of the roof after hearing those words. “Wait Millaney please don’t get involved,” Patrah pleaded from below, but heard no response. Millaney rifled through her pack still tied to the dragon behind the saddle. Sensing her heightened state, Dahvy turned her head and shuffled a bit but stayed down low enough for Millaney to continue looking through her pack and find her weapons. “Millaney you can’t get involved especially with using your dragon it will start a war!” Patrah shouted up at her. She paused for a very brief instance, but continued to strap on her sword and load up with daggers in smaller sheaths on her belt and pulled up her chillsuit to tie a dagger around her thigh just above her white knee-high stockings and around the outside of her baggy bloomers. She mounted a quiver of arrows on her back and hooked a longbow to a leather strap that dangled along the side of her dragon then climbed up into the saddle.
Her dragon stood up and spread out her wings, as Patrah watched helplessly from below.
“One person is not worth starting a war over,” Patrah shouted out to her, as she flew off the roof and out over the city.
“I’ll not lose him again!” Millaney shouted back, as she flew out over the city.
“Good luck my dearest child.” Patrah spoke quietly from the deck of the home, as he watched her fly out into the sky with the glow of the morning suns shining on her and Dahvy.