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In the Moonlight - Part 1 (Unedited)
I did not know why I stopped by the tavern. I just jumped off Zoran without really thinking about it much. My legs seemed to work on their own. I didn’t need rest, I wasn’t hungry or thirsty. There seemed to be no reason for my coming here. I felt a little bit as though there was some force, not pulling me, but rather gently tugging me. In any case, I entered the bar.
It was a loud, noisy little place, with crude wooden tables and foul-smelling, drinking, laughing men. A serving wench dodged the tables and laughing men skillfully, balancing a tray topped with tall glasses of beer and ale over her head. I spotted an empty table in the corner, close to a burning fireplace. This time, both I and the faint tugging wanted to occupy the seat; I wanted to be alone, far enough from the men to hear my own thoughts. I didn’t know why the tugging wanted to lead me that way, nor did I attempt to figure it out.
I sat down in the seat and slung my bow and quiver over the back of it. I speculated again what was so special about this particular seat in this particular tavern.
The sounds of the joyful men faded into the background of the scene at which I was presently located. I was too deep in my thoughts to hear their laughing as clearly as when I walked in. It would’ve taken a very loud sound to snap me out of my thoughts.
And, of course, such a noise was quite inevitable. The loud shattering of wood as the table two down from my own (in the parallel corner of the room) suddenly fell sounded through the room. The only sound now came from a mysterious cloaked figure that was smaller than the five fuming men crowding it. And that sound was loud bickering. Very loud, enraged bickering.
I couldn’t tell what the men or the girl (by the looks of the cloaked figure) were shouting, nor did I think I wanted to very much. I just looked on at them, just like everyone else present in the tavern. One of the large men pulled down the girls hood, and another put his large arm around her waist, cooing in a drunken manner. I looked at the girl’s face, light finally shed on it after being concealed by the complete darkness the hood offered. Never before had I seen such a sight. As soon as the hood was pulled off, synchronized gasps sounded through the room. The girl was beautiful. No, that was a gross understatement. She was extraordinarily picturesque, maybe even more beautiful than a goddess of beauty. Her dark, almost black hair cascaded down approximately to the ends of her shoulder blades. It was slightly wavy, mainly at the tips. The left side of her face was completely covered by her hair, and a few thin, shorter bangs hung over the right side. Her lips were full and red, and her chin was small yet very defiant. I could not see her eyes, but I didn’t have to see them to know they would be as beautiful as the rest of her face, the contours of which were not angular, but definitely not soft either. I didn’t have to see her eyes to know she was mad. I could tell that from the set of her jaw. I didn’t know how I could tell, but somehow I could. I stood to assist her, my hand on the hilt of my sword, but she didn’t need my assistance.
I watched, astounded, as she raised her arm, fist at the ready, and lashed out at the man who was still holding her waist. She punched him across the face, and he fell in the corner, too surprised to speak. Two seconds before he was knocked off his feet, the girl’s left arm flew to her right hip, where she produced a knife form beneath her cloak. As soon as the knife was in her small but strong hand, she pulled a short black string at her neck and, in a swirl of black fabric, pulled off the clock. She twirled it in the face of one of the men and a companion in the process, though.
The cloak’s removal exposed that the girl was wearing tall, dark brown riding boots possibly made of the finest leather. She was wearing pants, instead of a skirt, that were also leather, but they were completely black. My eyes flickered to her blouse, wondering just how unusual that would be, especially for a girl. But she definitely wasn’t wearing a blouse. Instead, her entire upper body was engulfed in a tight-fitting black piece of attire that reached up to her neck. There were several metal clasps that stretched down the front of her shirt, and they shined like the stars against a moonless midnight sky. Her black clothes were as dark as her hair. Midnight black.
Face still hidden behind an impenetrable veil of hair, I watched as she struck another man in the nose with the heel of her hand. He groaned loudly, and grasped his nose. When he pulled it away to inspect the damage, it was covered in blood.
“You broke my nose!” he grunted.
“Oops,” the enigmatic girl said sarcastically.
With all men but one left preoccupied, she turned to the last one, the knife flashing brilliantly and maliciously in the yellow gleam of the many candles lit around the room. He was the tallest of the men, about twice the size of the petite-looking girl. He loomed threateningly over her, but she just met his eye fiercely and fearlessly, and stood perfectly upright, unafraid. She kicked out suddenly with her right foot, swinging to the left to remain balanced. She kicked him straight in the middle of his large stomach, and the man doubled over in pain, so that he was about her height now. She took the opportunity to beat him without hesitation, and leveled the blade of her knife with his throat in less than a moment. She pressed him this way up against the wall. The man’s eyes seemed ready to pop out of his head any second now. He started to move his hand a fraction of an inch, but the girl just pressed the blade harder to his throat.
“Try.” That was all it took to stop him. One word. Try, she dared him. And he didn’t.
The girl retracted her blade and turned around. The man exhaled what I presumed to be a sigh of relief, and the color started returning to his face gradually. Then he decided to seize the opportunity and endeavored to skulk up behind the girl. She was prepared. Driving her elbow ever so quickly and forcefully into his stomach, she said simply, “Bad idea.” And with those sturdy, tough parting words she moved to assemble her belongings in the corner table.
Gradually, the discussions returned to the room. They were filled with wonder and amazement at the girl’s fighting. I spotted her in the corner, and then I remembered that tugging that brought me here. It pulled me again, harder this time. I had no choice but to obey, and I was surprised that I was guided straight to the girl’s table. I stopped by it, unsure of what to say. As she was putting away her possessions, she caught a glimpse of me starring at her and straightened up.
Her gaze met mine for several seconds until she blinked her large eyes. Her eyes were not the dark brown I’d expected to see, although I was not surprised to find that they were a beautiful blue. It wasn’t a gentle hue, although I supposed that it was before she became filled with the hate and rage. Her eyes were like a sky blue color except just a shade darker. They had a determined, cold set to them. So busy was I wallowing in her beauty I almost didn’t notice the tugging sensation throb harder and then stop as soon as I looked into her eyes. Was she…
Was she the reason I felt the tugging? She must’ve been- it ended the moment she raised her penetrating gaze.
That was when something strange began happening to me. My heart started to flutter wildly, my stomach felt as though it was completely empty, yet full. I suddenly became tongue-tied. I think I like this girl. That was the only thought swirling around my head. That and how beautiful the girl looked.
“Hello,” I said. “My name is Caleb. I, uh, I saw your fighting skills, and I must say you are the best fighter I’ve seen in a long time. In fact, the best fighter I’ve seen in my life, I think.”
“Oh, yeah, as if I haven’t heard that before,” the girl said with an edge in her beautiful voice. Then she started to say something else but evidently thought better of it, closed her eyes slightly longer than a blink, and then said, “Listen, I know I’m a good fighter, and I also know you are kind of tongue-tied right now, aren’t you? Yeah, happens all the time. So, what exactly do you want?” A small gleam of impatience settled in her eye.
I tried to make something up, because I couldn’t very well tell her that I was pushed and pulled here by some tugging sensation. I resolved for trying to stall her until I made up a better question. “What’s your name, for starters?” I said as I racked my mind for other possible questions, and finally came up with one.
“Is that the best you can do? It’s Selena. Why do you need to know?” she said with and edge in her voice.
“Well, I think you’re a great fighter-”
“You already made that perfectly clear,” Selena interrupted, an arch of impatience in her dark, delicate brow.
“I thought maybe you could teach me a few things,” I finished and detained my breath.
There was amusement in her voice in the girl’s voice when she answered. “Teach you? As in reveal my combating secrets and techniques to some stranger? Not going to happen. Besides, what could you possibly offer me in return?”
I thought about it for a moment, then I came up with something. It would be a huge gamble, but I felt like I had to spend more time with her, or I might just lose my mind.
“Step outside and I’ll show you,” I offered, nervous. I had never showed Zoran to anyone. Nobody of my generation ever saw a live dragon.
Yes, that’s right. Zoran is a real dragon, and I am his dragon rider.
I cannot fully describe how I felt when I first saw Zoran. I was plowing my family’s field when a swift and sudden dark shadow engulfed me and my work in its inky grasp. I hadn’t known what to think although I didn’t have much time to fantasize about it or consider it. My instinct was to look up and without I did. I saw a dark figure flying across the sun above me. At first it looked like a bird and a lizard combined and enlarged.
The moment I looked at it, the head of the animal snapped around and its large fiery eyes peered right at me. The silhouetted beast curled around in flight, and I realized with a sickening feeling where it was headed. Straight at me. Paralyzed with fear, I couldn’t move at all, not even to blink my eyes, twitch my hand, wrap my fingers tighter around the hilt of the plow, nothing. All I could do was stand there as the beast advanced toward me eerily.
And then he landed right next to me. We stared at each other for a long time. Slowly yet quickly, the safety and privacy of my mind evaporated. I somehow knew that his presence was doing this to me. I tried to mentally grab at the last bits of safety but they, too, soon faded. I reached out into the darkness, tried to pull something back, when a voice entered my conscience.
Don’t resist. I was meant to find you, just as I am meant to stay with you until the day the gates of death separate us. My name is Zoran, I am a dragon, and you are my dragon rider, the voice in my head said. No, you cannot change such a fate, it answered in response to my frantic mental questions. That was when it dawned on me that the voice belonged to the dragon. As I looked at the dragon, I saw that the corners of his large mouth twisted up, a sharp, white tooth gleaming menacingly. Yes, I am speaking to you telepathically. We dragons cannot communicate verbally.
I involuntarily thought about the danger this giant beast could pose. I wanted to run far away, as far as I could go and as fast as I could go.
I cannot hurt you. Well, I actually can, but I neither want to do it, not am I meant to. We are one now Caleb, and the sooner you embrace this, the better.
That was what happened the day I met Zoran. Sure enough, he never hurt me, except once, about two months after I met him. We were playing both of us young, both of us needing exercise. A spike on his tail caught my leg, and my leg started to bleed. I was well in less than a week’s time, but Zoran almost couldn’t live with himself for about two weeks. I finally yelled at him once and told him to get over it. I was mad; he had been pestering me about it for weeks on end.
So now, with Selena being so close to finding out, I was extremely anxious.
“Fine. We’ll see what this surprise of yours is, and then I’ll decide whether to train you,” she said, strength and power embedded in every note of her beautiful voice.
So she would see him. This was a large risk. It wasn’t only my secret to keep and reveal, but also Zoran’s. I knew it but I was willing to reveal any secret to Selena just then. I would do anything to spend more time with her. I had no thoughts of why or how. All I knew was that it was nearly crucial for me to spend more time with her. I was almost consumed by this desire, though I had no idea why. My thoughts were interrupted by the beautiful ring of her voice.
“Are you going to show me or not?” she said impatiently, arching one perfect, dark eyebrow.
“Right,” I said, heading for the door. When I was halfway there, it dawned on me that I should help Selena with her belongings. But when I turned around, she stood there, a large leather bag in her hand, piercing blue eyes staring at me. How could she have been so fast? I wondered. Instead of pursuing the matter, I continued my way to the door.
As I stepped outside, I found that it had become much colder than it was before. I glanced back at Selena; her delicate body showed a tiny, barely visible hint of a shiver. I pulled of my own jacket. She looked at me with untrusting eyes.
“You must be cold,” I said, offering her the jacket. She looked from me to the dark-colored fabric. I wondered briefly if she was raised by her parents to be untrusting, or if her life’s experiences shaped her to be that way, to be so questioning. If she was questioning because of what happened to her, how old was she when it happened.
Finally she reached for the jacket and took it. I felt a cold hand brush against mine. That exact instant, my heart jumped nearly a hundred leagues, I became dizzy, and it felt like a volcano erupted in my stomach. I blinked quickly, and then looked at Selena. What happened? Did she feel that, too?