Chapter Seven: Dena
Tielo blinks at Dena’s confession, his facial expression moving from mild annoyance, to anger, and then back to mild annoyance. His amber eyes blazed whatever emotion he was holding back.
“Because,” he repeated slowly, “You. Fucked. Up.”
Dena flinched, her hands withdrawing from mine, and my heart shudders for her. To be faced with someone you love looking at you like that was a horrible thing.
“She’s been working hard to fix her mistake,” I say aloud, surprising myself, “She has lots of notes, the original spell and has variants that have sadly failed, but she has tried.”
Tielo’s eyes glimmer at me darkly before surveying the study. He sighs as he takes in all the papers, before dragging a hand down his face.
“So she has,” he says simply, stepping into the study at last, “How come we have a Goblin, a Dwarf Giant, Nightmare Crawler and a...”
He peers at me, perplexed, and I groan internally.
“A Dragon,” I say sourly, “but we’re still working on that.”
Dong scoffs with arms folded, throwing a look my way that said he called bullshit.
“It’s already worked out, Jadis. Blue flame confirms it, and there’s no wriggle room with that!”
As soon as his words were out, I feel Dena and Tielo stare at me more intensely before looking directly at each other.
“There’s a Dragon in my tower, Dena,” he says flatly, “You didn’t smell that she was a Dragon?”
Dena shifts uncomfortably and sniffs.
“I can smell that she’s powerful, but I’ve got a cold,” she admits with embarrassment, her pale cheeks glowing, “I was more concerned about the Nightmare Crawler.”
Pig looks up when mentioned, alert and with his long dark tongue hanging out. She grimaces when Pig stands to make a move towards her, but a look from Tielo makes him reconsider. Pig may be stupid, but he’s not that stupid.
Sequoia, I notice, isn’t listening to the conversation, but rather flicking through the book Dena had thrown at her. I watch her quiet concentration with her dark brows drawn in focus. Tielo notices but ignores, not deeming her presence a threat despite how she towered over him.
“Blue Fire or not, you were not invited here, and I don’t think your presence is required either. Please, can you and your party leave my tower immediately,” Tielo requested, his eyes on me.
I look at him, puzzled and annoyed.
“How about no?” I said, startling everyone in the room, “Due to you being neglectful to your student for an entire year, Dong had to live with the consequences of your apprentices mistake. We were forced to investigate for the sake of his homely comfort and feelings of safety, and for Sequoia’s ability for her and her guards to enter the forest when required also. So, Tielo Eastern, I reject your request for us to leave, because your actions brought us here.”
He glares at me, his face going impossibly still as he digests my words. For a brief moment I wonder if I’ve crossed the line, but he finally relaxes once more, moving to sit down in the chair beside Sequoia. She pays him no notice also, still peering into the book Dena had thrown at her.
“So this is the infamous Big Dong and The Armoured Giant, Sequoia Aouren? It seems we have a strange collection of individuals in our presence, Dena.”
His eyes move to Sequoia, noting her distraction, before he glances at me and Dong.
“Considering we both dabble in magic, we’ve never crossed paths,” Tielo mentions to Dong, extending his hand, “my apologies for making your living arrangements uncomfortable for the past year. Are you able to help us?”
Dong preens in pleasure at being called infamous, and masks it poorly.
“I may,” he responds, taking Tielo’s hand, “But only if Dena here can become my apprentice for a year. I’d like to give her hands on experience in helping us with the Legend of Destiny.”
Tielo’s expression shutters down again. He pulls back, giving a grunt of discontentment.
“The same Dena that made the forest horny?” He says dryly, looking bored, “Is that really a good idea?”
Dong nods, sure of himself.
“The very one. She didn’t run away from her mistakes and tried all year long. Her notes are dated.”
Tielo clenched his hand, a large popping sound crunching from his fist, before he released it once more. Dong, undisturbed by Tielo’s annoyance, scooped large piles of notes and brought them to Tielo, dumping them on his lap with a wicked gleam in his eye. For a moment Tielo looked shocked, and then frowned, finally looking through the notes seriously. Dena had shrunk back from the exchange of words, shrinking into the shadows in the corner of the study, but I reach for her, grasping her hand in support. Her red eyes glow at me, reflecting her feelings of gratefulness.
“They’re...neat,” Tielo murmurs, surprised, “Thoroughly organised, detailed, yet creative and original...no wonder traditional options to subdue the spell have failed. The traditional options do not apply to begin with.”
Dena moves forward, hopeful from praise that, from what I could gather, was extremely rare to hear from Tielo’s lips.
“In that case,” Sequoia finally says, “I think I know what we have to do.”
Dena’s eyes were wide when she looked at Sequoia, pleading with her not to speak. Whatever was in the book, Dena did not want us to discuss it in front of Tielo. She was beginning to shake her head, but Sequoia continued.
“The spell was cast in a state not born from just love, but lust. The wording dictates so. If Dena can quench that lust maybe it would stop the forest from being lusty. It’s gotten worse over the year, since you, Tielo, have been gone. Maybe the spell is tied to Dena’s feelings, and that’s what we need to address.”
Dena cursed colourfully under her breath from within the shadows, muttering about murder, blood and lies, while Tielo sat perfectly still, unblinking. He looked unfazed, turning towards Dena with the blandest of expressions.
“Dena,” he says dispassionately, “Do you lust for an old Elf like me, hundreds of years your senior? Who has married five times, had affairs, has multiple children and visits prostitutes frequently? Does that appeal to you?”
Dena moves from behind me, looking shocked.
“I knew none of that,” she admits, seemingly saddened, “You never said.”
“Because you were never important enough to know it.”
Her face looked stricken at that, as if he had just slapped her. His words stung me even though they were not directed towards me, and I saw Sequoia’s face cloud over in silent rage. Dong crosses his arms, looking ready to give a verbal beat down, but Pig takes his shirt in his mouth, stilling him from moving forward. Our eyes focused on Dena, waiting for her reaction to move out of being frozen in pain. Her eyes were still wide, flitting over Tielo’s face, as if still hopeful to find a glimmer of something there. Yet there was nothing on the Elfin man’s face, no matter how long she searched his features. He was completely, blandly uncaring.
“Your apprenticeship will continue with Master Big Dong, as there’s no reason to continue your apprenticeship here given your conflicted feelings of interest,” he told her, standing and moving to the desk beside her, “I suggest you pack your things tonight. Distance will hopefully fix your confusion, thus making the forest normal once more.”
Dena finally moved, smashing a fist on the desk, her eyes glittering. The wood splintered and cracked from the impact. It did not look like rage moved her, for her face did not hold rage. It only held despair.
“Confusion?” She said quietly, her eyes clear with clarity, “Is that what you really think? That I’m a confused, poor naive little girl who knows nothing of this world?”
Tielo looks back steadily.
She nods, seemingly coming to terms with the fact that Tielo Eastern thought of her as less. Sequoia clenched her grip on the handle of her axe, looking ready to swing it to stop Tielo from hurting Dena more. I wondered what she saw in the book.
“You will not see me again,” Dena says stonily, “And if we ever do cross paths, it will be as strangers. Nothing more, nothing less.”
Tielo wasn’t even looking at her now, but she searched his face for a reaction still, almost imploringly.
“I don’t know what’s sadder,” she tells him, “Your lack of heart or your lack of courage.”
His hands still on the papers, and he finally glances back at her. It felt like all the air had been sucked out of the room, and that I, Sequoia, Dong and Pig didn’t even exist. We were merely nothing. Just outsiders witnessing a moment from afar that was uncomfortable and painful to watch.
“What do you mean by that?” He asks darkly, an undercurrent of threat in his voice.
Dena smiled even though she cried.
“Because I still don’t believe you feel nothing. You’re simply scared to confront it.”
With the grit of his teeth he leaned over her. I stepped forward to stop him coming closer to Dena, but she lifts an arm to prevent me from doing so, her eyes fixed on Tielo’s every movement.
“There is nothing,” he says, sharp as a whip, “that I’ll ever love about you. You’re disingenuous. Deceitful. There’s nothing ladylike about you apart from your body. Elves don’t toy with dirty women, especially not Vampire halflings.”
To her credit, Dena keeps her head high. I, however, blast Tielo through the wall of the study, suddenly so enraged with his words and dispassionate face that I couldn’t stand him for a moment longer.
The flash of blue that lurched forward from my palms felt like the breath had been kicked out of me. I had the joy of seeing his shock before it smashed him off his feet and cracked his body through the solid stone. The air pulsed with magic as the dust settled. Tielo Eastern’s grave face glared at me from the rubble, shocked and angry.
“The only one not showing etiquette and decency here is you,” I inform him, having to grit my teeth to keep from saying anything more venomous, “I suggest you learn from today.”
He looks fit to argue, opening his mouth to fire words, but in an instant Dena is there. I had felt the air move as she sped past, but the silence of her movement had still unsettled me. She leans over him, no longer afraid and upset, and she grasps his jaw in one hand.
“She’s right. The way you talk to me is horrid, and I don’t deserve it,” she informs him, her words gentle despite her firm hold on him, “I hope you never fall in love.”
She straightens up, turning without looking back, intent on packing her things. I help her silently alongside Sequoia, while Dong chastised Tielo repeatedly in a long-winded lecture.
I wondered grimly if a prideful Elf like Tielo would ever learn from being blasted through a wall, or told that he was being an arse, but I concluded sadly that he was probably incapable. It would take something tremendous and huge to change Tielo’s mind, and even more time and effort to change his ways. Looking at Dena, at her beauty but dignified and fluid movements, I felt sad. If her feelings were affecting the forest, it would take longer for the spell to lift. Feelings do not disappear overnight.
We exit the tower without pleasantries. After hearing him speak to Dena as he had, we were all in silent agreement to leave and offer no nice last words. In fact, Sequoia threw the book she had read earlier at him, and promptly knocked him out, satisfying us all immensely. Dena didn’t look back at all, moving silently through the forest with intent to get as far away from the tower as possible. I knew she would talk eventually to us, this newly found apprentice of Dong, but I knew it wouldn’t be soon. She might never tell us because it had been so brutal, but I hoped she would smile again soon. Right now, even from a distance away, I knew she had tears streaming down her face.
“So what was in the book?” I ask Sequoia, intrigued.
She glances at me before grimacing.
“Poetry. The romantic kind. Sketches of Tielo...it felt like a journal of worship dedicated to him. But it was strangely pure and loyal. I don’t think the forest will go back to normal anytime soon.”
Dong grunts, sour with that idea, but he doesn’t comment. Pig trots next to him, blissfully oblivious to what had happened, and we move as one behind Dena, not wanting to intrude too soon or get too close while she needed time for herself.
“She’s powerful,” Dong comments finally, “Emotional power is the hardest to control or impose on others, but she did it to a forest for an entire year. Tielo is an idiot to let her go.”
“I think Dena’s right. He’s too cowardly to let himself love her.”
I dismiss her words quickly. I’ve known Dena for only a few hours, but I’d not allow her to be with a man who treats her like shit. She’s too powerful, beautiful and poised to be with anyone who talks to her like that. Was her love misplaced? Yes. For sure. Yet I was impressed by it all the same. Sequoia notes my expression with a soft smile, before finally she looks forward and swears colourfully.
Dena was walking away from the trees and towards the Aouren Estate, her cloak billowing behind her like a black obsidian river winding in the night. Her hair glimmers, flowing freely.
“Fuck, we didn’t tell her about the Orcs!” Dong remarks, panicked, “She can see the camp outside the gates, can she not?”
Sequoia starts running after her, armour clanging, just as Dena raises her hand up high. My nerves shiver at the sight, as if they were warning me about what I was about to witness. With the swoop of her hand, a billow of wind erupts from her in a crescent, tearing the tents apart. Orcs run screaming or stand stunned, staring at Dena as she marches towards them still. Her high boots click upon the road as she gets closer, stepping off the grass, and she raises her hand again, this time thrusting it forwards. The wind sears forward again, shredding the tents to smithereens, and all the while she continued to march forward, determined and dangerous. By the time Sequoia, myself, Dong and Pig reach her at the gates, most Orcs have fled or are too scared to move. I glance at them almost apologetically, because Dena had come out of nowhere with the intention to fuck shit up.
Sequoia nods at the guards to let us through. She knew the Orcs weren’t going to make a move after Dena’s display, so we all felt relieved when we entered the Aouren Estate.
It feels like a long time since being here. I wondered how Ardwen and Arla are, or if Elide will insist on having me bound with chains for dangling off chandeliers and jumping out of windows. My foot aches in memory as we make our way across the grounds, the five of us looking like the strangest group ever to travel together. At the sight of Pig the Nightwalkers clench their weapons, ready to strike if Sequoia gave the word, but when they realised Sequoia was nonchalant towards Pig, they lowered their weapons with wrinkled brows.
“Call my sisters,” Sequoia orders, taking her cloak off tiredly, “I must report to them immediately.”
A guard runs off to do just that, and Dena looks around curiously, immune to the stares surrounding her.
“This is cute,” she offers, folding her cloak over her arm, “How long had the Orcs been there?”
I grimace, feeling a little silly that the Orcs presence here had previously felt horrendously dangerous, and she had literally taken care of the issue within moments. But, I think suddenly, she didn’t kill a single person. Just scared the shit out of them.
“Like, almost two nights? They want my Blue Fire,” I explain, springing blue flames off my fingertips, “I’m apparently highly sought after.”
Her red eyes survey my Blue Fire, lips pursed, and arched brows drawn together.
“It’s very pretty,” she remarks, “It’s hard to believe you blasted a full-grown man through a wall earlier, when it looks so calm and soothing now.”
I stare at the Blue Fire, letting it spread towards my palms. I wish it could heal, or neutralise, or something that sounds good and wholesome. I have no motive to kill anyone or burn a Kingdom to ashes. If I could, I’d run away with my sisters to a cabin in the woods, spending our days blissfully unaware of matters residing in the Kingdom. Yet, I think, extinguishing the flames, Destiny seems intent to paint me as a villain.
“I’ve never used it like that before,” I tell Dena, wondering if my actions were indeed villainous, “It felt like someone kicked me in the back when I did it.”
She looked half bored as she lounged against a guard. He blushed furiously but didn’t move.
“Have you tried not going full pelt?” She drawled, “It doesn’t feel controlled.”
Moving into the foyer, I considered. There was never a thought in the strength of the flame or impact. Just that I could do it.
“I have no idea,” I finally concluded.
She shrugs, leaving the poor guard, following me deeper into the foyer. Dong was listening to our conversation quietly, seeming quiet for once. I would have expected him to join in or inform us of something, but instead he listened, looking thoughtful walking alongside Pig.
We gathered in the great hall, taking in the glow of candlelight, and how it gleams off silverware and gold. Maids bustle about around us, their long skirts sweeping trails behind them, and we wait. I glance around anxiously, awaiting for Sequoia to appear in her shining armour, looking fierce and with a plan. Considering the mess of escaping together to the woods, and then meeting Dena and hopefully having a plan in order for the forest to not be so horny, we still hadn’t addressed the fact that I was supposedly greatly, and direly dangerous. I pick at my fingernails, not wanting to be face to face with Elide once again, but knew it was only a matter of time.
Dena stretches next to me, like a long-legged cat.
“What on earth are we waiting for? I thought we were being guided to private chambers to sleep,” she mentions sleepily, her red eyes drooping closed for a moment, “Is this to do with your fire?”
I nod shortly, wondering if Sequoia had relayed the entire story about the forest to her sisters, including how Master Tielo Eastern had being attacked by my own hand with the very Blue Fire that was said to burn Kingdoms to ash.
“Well, yes,” I replied hesitantly, “I had escaped with the intention of running away, and that’s how me and Sequoia found ourselves in the woods. I jumped out the window.”
Dena blinks without a hint of surprise. I was beginning to think that she was immovable emotion wise unless it concerned something she deeply cared about. I regard her carefully, taking in her stone white features that barely moved.
“I’m sorry about earlier,” I said to her quietly, “He said really shitty things that I don’t believe to be true.”
Dena freezes, looking like I had poured a bucket of ice water over her. Her eyes slide to me with quiet disdain.
“Although I am thankful for your kind words, please never mention it again.”
We remain silent after that exchange, and night falls deeper and darker as we remain waiting. Dong is gorging himself on fine wines and succulent meats at the table, his curled shoes bouncing as he excitedly wriggled his legs in glee. Pig waits for scraps at his side, and the maids stay clear of Pig completely, sneaking around him as though fearful he would spin around and bite at them. I keep my eyes trained on the double doors which I think Sequoia and her sisters Elide and Brina will appear from, but jump in surprise, when a shadow falls over me. Sequoia takes a seat next to me and grasps my hand, looking tired and weary.
“So,” she announces to the room, her voice loud and clear, “We must journey to the Kingdom to see the Queen. We must convince her to let us train Jadis as though she is on our side. We have to establish that Jadis means no harm and poses no threat to the Kingdom. In order to do that, I wish to train her myself and alongside Dong and Dena, but in return, we need a team of people to study and decipher the Legend of Destiny once more.”
My mouth drops open, stunned that Sequoia, within days of us being wed, had complete faith in me that I was harmless. It was more than my father had ever done. More than what the villagers had ever done, despite watching me grow from an awkward gangly child to an even more awkward and defiant adult. My sisters were the only ones to have ever put their faith in me, and to see someone else do it, especially considering our relationship, made my eyes prick with tears. I feel my heart throb, and I clench my teeth and hang my head to avoid displaying the emotions that bubbled up inside me. Her voice was so unwavering, so absolute, that I felt indebted to live up to her expectations and then exceed them.
Of course Elide had to shit on my happiness.
“She threw herself at a chandelier, jumped out a window, and then the two of you remained missing for almost two nights. How is that harmless?” Elide asked in a harsh tone, “We were close to searching the entire forest.”
Dena laughs harshly, making Elide shoot her a pointed look.
“The woods are under a spell of mine at the moment. If you go in there you’ll be fucking like rabbits. Have you ever seen Troll Deer? Very fascinating,” she tells Elide direly, “But what can you do if you can’t even deter Orcs at your gates?”
Elide flushes with rage, stepping forward with a mind to tell Dena, and possibly show her too, what she was capable of. Dong throws a grape at Elide, stopping the angry outburst before she could get close to Dena. He gives a fear inducing glare, one that rattled my bones, and Elide, surprisingly, listened and stood back.
“As I was saying,” Elide continued sourly, “There is no reason to trust Jadis.”
Sequoia shrugs, uncaring for her sisters cruel and harsh words.
“Are you injured, dear sister?” she asks, raising her brows, “Does her mere presence scare you? Because dear sister, it should. I’ve watched her send a fully grown man, hundreds of years her senior and capable of magic, through a fucking wall. She didn’t even look tired afterwards. It comes easily to her. As easy as breathing. You should be scared, as that is what nature dictates, and you cannot fight nature. However, she would be even more terrifying if she does not learn how to use her powers. A rampant Dragon with no control, is far scarier, than a Dragon who has mastered their ability, and knows they are safe and trusted. Treat a snake like a monster and poke it with a stick, and it will bite you.”
Elide clamps her mouth shut, not liking how reasonable and stern Sequoia is being. I watch her face go through various emotions, before settling grimly on acceptance. Sequoia’s hand squeezes mine under the table, offering support, and I feel myself bubble with feelings again. Feelings that jittered in my chest and sounded like a bell vibrating through me. I couldn’t look up, emotions threatening to disarm me, but I squeezed back, grateful that even though I felt lost and confused, Sequoia remains by my side, as a mountain of hope.
When Elide does not answer, Sequoia continues.
“We ride tomorrow at dawn.”