The next morning, I farewell Lex and the other fledglings. Girls and boys were all counted for, thirteen all up. Most of them look like they’ve just been woken up from a deep sleep; hair ruffled and tired eyes were shared all round.
I didn’t sleep well either.
Now I was at the end of the main cave that led to the dewy grass of the forest and it was clear that I was the first to arrive.
No one else is here yet. The princes and Althor were meant to meet me here, ready to fly me back to their Horde of Fortune.
So, I wait by a boulder lodged into the ground, and I sit on top, crossing my legs and twiddling my thumbs. I was told not to bring anything with me besides the clothes I wore. So, I breathe in the forest air and wait, until I finally hear thumping from inside the cave.
A Dragon was finally approaching. My mind automatically reaches out to see who it is, and all I get is fuzzy vibes. I’m confused until I see the amber scales sparkle in the morning sun as Althor rounds the last bend and heads straight toward me.
On the end of his tail is a rattle of chains and I see a stumbling boy follow Althor out. He has tape over his mouth, and his wrists and ankles are also shackled.
This must be the prisoner Althor had wanted me to interrogate. I frown.
Well, now all we needed was the princes to arrive and then we’d be off. I glance over at Althor as he stops beside my boulder.
I was open to talk to my family, but anyone else got silent treatment most of the time. Althor nods his head in acknowledgment of me and I jump down to my feet and raise an eyebrow at the boy stumbling along behind him.
The chains were connected to the end of Althor’s tail. I reach to the boy’s mind so I can read his name.
Good morning, Roi, I test out the prisoner’s reaction. His eyes almost pop out of his head as I speak to him and he trips along the many rocks he has been navigating on the cave floor.
His knees slam into the ground with his fall and I wince.
Roi obviously didn’t expect me to get into his head so easily.
You’re flying with me, princess, Althor politely lowers his head for me to climb onto his neck, however I hesitate. Althor knows what I’m going to ask and he answers for me, my nephews left hours earlier. They’ll welcome you when we arrive. Don’t worry, Luvenia, I’ll keep you safe on this flight.
I smile tightly and push my black hair behind my shoulders as I climb up onto Althor’s amber scaled neck.
As I do so I see green eyes staring at me from the forest beyond. A moment later, Lochness comes suddenly stalking out of the forest and brings his Dragon head nose to nose with Althor’s.
Take care of my baby, one scratch on her head and our alliance is over, Lochness threatens naturally, as always, and I roll my eyes.
“Dad, please don’t,” I snap, “I can take care of myself.”
I expect so, Lochness meets my mind with a gentle tone, and he rounds off back into the forest.
He is only acting as a father should, Althor is amused as he tells me this, hold on tight, the take-off is the most dangerous part of flying. You don’t want to slip.
It’s all the warning I get.
Althor takes off steeply and I hear a muffled cry behind him. I look over my shoulder at the wrong moment to see the prisoner dangling from Althor’s tail helplessly. I almost slip and have to quickly clench my thighs so I don’t tumble right off the back of him.
Careful, Luv! Lochness snarls into my mind, angry I’ve been so careless.
I told you to hold on, princess, Althor is amused again and I just frown and face forward, not bothering to look over my shoulder again, sit comfortably now, the flight won’t be too long, an hour or so. We’ll be entering a hot spot for magic when we get close. You might feel a little light headed. We live inside a rocky canyon, once you see the forest turn to desert, you know we’re getting close.
I don’t reply.
The rest of the flight is long, cold, and chilly. I spend the whole time working myself up about how the princes left without me. It annoyed me that they were meant to be my escorts but left early. However, I was ultimately relieved that I avoided having to sit on one of their backs for the flight.
So, I should be happy.
Except... I was feeling nervous and anxious about my arrival.
The Requiem Mountains were my home.
But I was no longer in my territory.
I had heard that the Horde of Fortune was known to be located in the Canyon of Gold Dust. A rarely travelled to location.
I had no idea what to expect.
Eventually, the forest turns to sand and nothing but dead shrubs and harsh open skies. The horizon was now bordered with an endless amount of barren landscape.
It was pretty-dull out here. At least there didn’t seem to be many people.
I grimace, just as I think that, I’m proven wrong.
A little green patch appears where I spot a tiny city of humans in sandstone housing. Many wells and fields of cows suddenly appear. Hmmm... I think of Lex when I see the live-stock and I grin.
Not thirty seconds after that, the land starts to give way into a rocky mountain like area. This was the canyon. It shimmered in the sun with the flecks of gold dust. Hence it’s name.
It suddenly becomes a whole lot more interesting as we start to descend and rocks in the cavern start to take shape... into stone Dragons. Althor flies even lower between two mountains of rock. The canyon opens up into a tiny valley. Not much green, in fact, hardly any green at all. Just a tiny stream and a few wild flowers.
The whole valley was lined with boulders and the massive stone Dragons.
Not alive but completely dead.
It is at this point, just before we land, that my mind feels lighter than it has ever felt before.
Althor hits the ground smoothly and there are more groans of pain from behind him as the prisoner drags with the landing. I hear the chains clink and I cringe at the noise.
As Althor lowers his head for me, I’m looking around the canyon with starry eyes. Up two sides of me were sheer cliff faces connected to more mountains of rock. Along these cliffs were many caves dotted within the rock.
I find my feet and I look for signs of life.
I can’t see anyone.
I glance up further when I hear a crunch of claw-to-rock in the far distance.
On top of the cliff edge are two blue Dragons, cobalt and midnight. They sit side by side from hundreds of meters up, looking down on me with twicthing tails.
I turn around to face Althor, a smirk on his Dragon lips.
Welcome to the dead Horde of Fortune, princess. It’s good to have the light of your soul here. I hope you enjoy your stay.
“Where is my room?” I ask, narrowing my eyes.
This trip is for you to meditate, sweetheart, your ‘room’ is wherever you want it to be.
Althor turns and snaps his tail, dragging the prisoner along with him.
I watch as he disappears into a large opening into the cliff face after he climbs up multiple boulders.
I’m left by the stream where I lean down and gulp up some fresh water.
If you need help, Sylvan works his way into my mind, ruthlessly and with no welcome at all to their home, you come to us, ‘princess’.
I shut him out and pause while I’m on my knees by the stream. I’m holding my breath, furious with his words. I wanted to scream at him – and I barely manage to hold myself back.
I couldn’t believe my luck.
So now I was dropped off in a dead Horde, in a dead Canyon, with hosts that didn’t know how to accommodate a guest. I get up and turn around in a 360 to gauge where the hell I should go to next.
Annoyed that the princes are simply watching over me from the top of the cliff, I aggressively get back into both their heads.
Get me food, I snarl at both of them, an order.
Ask nicer, spitfire, Sylvan drawls through my mind and I just glare up at the two domineering Dragon forms.
Never, I growl back at them and a deadly silence seems to fill the void.
Until Thaddeus breaks it.
Head into the cave to your right and you’ll find a realm of water pools, moss, fruit, and plenty of shade. It’s yours to explore.
Thank you, I growl begrudgingly back to Thaddeus. I didn’t know whether to feel relieved by his answer or not.
Wasn’t it odd for him to decide to help me after I just snapped rudely to both of them?
I was playing with you before, Luvenia, Sylvan mocks me with a dark chuckle, you’re so sensitive. We’re your assigned escorts so we’ll make sure you are well accommodated. Trust us on that.
I glare at them because I don’t trust their intentions at all.
Sylvan was far too smooth with his words. He knew how to manipulate my feelings.
Thaddeus, on the other hand, I may have considered dumb... but... I wasn’t so sure.
Sometimes the quiet ones were just the calculating ones. Thaddeus was almost like Hael, I guess. Sometimes Hael wouldn’t say much, but it just meant he was planning his success thoughtfully and objectively, before controlling the Requiem Horde under his rule with no chance of failure.
Dragons were not simple creatures like humans. I already expected that Thaddeus and Sylvan would both scheme things together.
That’s what scared me and made me nervous.
I was already tempted to make my call to my fathers to get me the hell out of here.
...that would mean risking an alliance.
Gritting my teeth and sucking up my stupid feelings and anxiety, I turn and head towards the cave opposite to where Althor had disappeared into. I try to move quickly, and I stumble a few times. I feel helpless in this new territory. The rocks were so hot they scorched my bare feet and hands, so I had to move swiftly.
I eventually make it to some shade and smoother ground as the cave entrance opens up in the cliff face before me.
I hurry further inside, gawking at its massive size.
I move quickly while my Rogue nature was inclining me to find a hole and disappear into it for a while, until I could figure out what to do.
Thaddeus and Sylvan wanted to ‘eagerly’ take care of me.
Hence, finding a safe place seemed to be the most logical thing to do.
Once I achieved that, I could work on my ultimate plan; to make the princes completely disinterested in my presence here.
I already think ahead – if I can find pools of water within this cave?
I could go for a swim.
I’d be able to show them I was nothing special.
Not to feel self-absorbed in my own issues but... I honestly didn’t believe that I was that attractive. Despite the desirous thoughts I read off slaves and Dragons, all I knew is that most of them seemed to go back on those thoughts within days.
And, oh gosh, don’t get me started on the men who had directly approached me to make conversation. If they had tried to flirt, or even just talk to me?
They had all completely disappeared off the face of the earth the next day.
In other words, once people got to know me, it’s like they thought I was repulsive.
I couldn’t think of one man nor Dragon that had lasting interest in me for more than a week.
So, I knew my body or perhaps my personality scared most men once they got to know me.
I would simply do the same to the princes.