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Legends of Azaria: Catalyst
I was in the middle of one of the crazy dreams I seem to have every night, when my bed started to shake, and screams made their way into my subconscious. My eyes snapped open when I smelled smoke. Great fingers of fire made orange shadows dance on my walls. The house I had lived in since infancy was burning.
“Zephyra!” a voice called. It was the voice of Seda, the closest thing I’ve ever had to a mother. I sprung out of bed and sprinted out of the room, jumping at the sensation of smoldering wood against my feet. Out in the hallway, I looked around desperately, and seemingly out of nowhere, a hand grabbed my wrist. My head snapped in that direction, it was Seda.
“Zephyra! Come this way!” Seda said again. She went upstairs. I ran after her, and it was a race against the flames. We ran to the ladder that led to the roof. She motioned for me to climb it, she followed me. On the roof my breath stopped. The thick forests that had once surrounded me so completely were reduced to miles upon miles of ash.
“Shadows,” Seda explained vaguely. A crash came from downstairs, Seda gasped. “Go!” she shouted, looking at me, “Now!”
“Not without you!” I turned, sensing something to my right; a dark figure loomed over me, hooded, so its face was indistinguishable. It reached over and grabbed Seda.
“GO!” she shrieked. With a horrible noise, it held her up and ripped her in half. She crumbled into dust and disappeared. That’s when my mind started to comprehend what was happening. Rage, hotter than the inferno around me, filled every inch of my body. I was about to launch myself at it when its hood came down. What was under it was so hideous that my blood froze. Its eyes were blacker than night. No pupils. No iris. No white. Just black.
Its screech sent out sound waves so strong you could feel them. Its breath was rancid. Its teeth were like decaying knives. A black wrinkled hand, with long evil fingers reached out to grab me. I stepped backwards, and off the roof. A split second of horror ran through me before my wings snapped open, but it was too late, the beast was already on me. Sharp claws broke through the skin on my arms; a stinging pain attacked my nerves.
I screamed. It rang out like a bell, breaking in agony. Talons raked down my arms. Finally, I fell from its grasp. I also fell from consciousness. The impact with the ground brought more pain, though it felt like I was floating down like a feather. Down. Down. Down.
I woke up with a start, my head hurt like hell. I blinked away morning blurriness and looked around, I was lying in a circular room with arched windows that went down to the floor all around its circumference. Each one had its own set of semitransparent green curtains. I was lying on a large, dark wood four-poster bed. A tall dresser, the same color, stood beside it. The bedding was simple yet plush, in cool pastel colors. I stood up and instantly felt lightheaded as the blood rushed from my head. I regained my balance and examined the room more. A thin banister stood in the middle of the room and curved into the floor. I walked over to one of the arches and jumped back, startled, at the extreme height I was at. Creeping forward once again, I looked out over a misty mountain range that had a blue tint. Trees covered them like a lumpy blanket. An extensive series of foothills led to sloping mountains, which in turn, led to jagged, snowcapped peaks. “Beautiful, isn’t it?” a voice came from behind me. I spun around, nearly falling off the ledge. “Who are you?” I demanded.
“Hmm, you don’t know me? That’s a first.” She said smugly, “I’m Dysis, Goddess of the Sun.”
I raised an eyebrow, “Sure you are,” I said. I was pinned against the wall before I could blink.
“Do not cross me, girl,” she said.
“Heh, or what?” I said, then she spun around and threw me onto the floor.
“Or what? I’ll…” My nails morphed into claws as I flew back at her, cutting her off as I smashed her into the wall.
“You ignorant little…” Again she was cut off, this time by another figure, emerging from the narrow stairway.
“Dysis!” the woman said sternly, “that’s enough.”
I let go of her arms, glancing at the red marks I made.
“Go downstairs and cool off.” Dysis disappeared down the stairway, giving me one last disdainful look.
“I’m sorry she disturbed you,” the woman who had just come in said, “allow me to introduce myself, my name is Chione, Queen of the Gods.” I stepped back and looked her over. She was wearing an off-white gown with flower details that curved up her torso and bust. Her hair flowed from her head in a thick, dark, wave. Her eyes were a warm brown color.
“Alrighty, then,” either I’ve gone crazy, or she’s gone crazy, either way somebody had lost it, and she sensed my skepticism.
“Zephyra.” That’s, odd, she knew my name. “Do you know where you are?”
“Ah, not really, I just woke up and I was here.”
“You’re at Quatrares.”
“Quatrares, the home of the gods and goddesses.”
I looked out the window again and looked around. I had to admit, the place looked genuine. Stone towers, mine being the highest, spiked up from the ground everywhere. They were all somehow connected to the main building in the center. It all sat on a valley that was itself on top of a mountain. I looked back at Chione.
“I’ll leave, I’ll leave right now, if you don’t tell me what the hell is going on.”
Chione sighed, “Hephus set the Rectarus on fire.” The Rectarus was the sector of the Forest Realm that I had lived in. The other three were called the Adahy, Hayes, and Berian. There were nine realms in Azaria; Forest, Mountain, Coast, Desert, Prairie, Sky, Ocean, Island, and Swamp.
“Who’s that?” I asked.
“Hephus is the Shadow of Fire.” She said.
“A shadow? What do you mean a shadow?”
“Not a shadow in the way you’re thinking, Shadows are essentially gods gone bad. They fought against us in the Vidar War.”
“Why did they turn bad?”
“An ancient grudge, we are descended from the Greek Gods. Greece is a country that exists in the world parallel to ours. The Shadows are descended from the Titans, the enemies of the gods.”
I decided not to even ask what she meant by parallel worlds. I was extremely confused by what she was saying, and yet something inside of me told me it was true.
“What does it have to do with me?’ I asked her.
“You, Zephyra, are a lost goddess.”
“How am I a lost goddess?”
“The Shadows were killing the children of the gods to keep us from gaining numbers, even after the Vidar War. Your mother, Phylyra, gave up her life so you could live. You were given to Seda, who was given the responsibility of caring for you until you were old enough to come back and live with us, we planned to wait a few more years, but Hephus threw off our plans with another attempt on your life.”
“My mother, “ I said, the word was foreign to me, “what was she like?”
Chione smiled warmly at me, “Phylyra was the Goddess of Music. She was one of the kindest people you could ever meet, and trust me; I’ve met a lot of people. You couldn’t help but feel happy when you heard her voice. She was beautiful, you resemble her in many ways.”
“What about my father?”
“Your father was a Greek God, Aeolus, God of the Wind. He fell in love with your mother when she visited his world.”
“So…what am I the goddess of?”
“You, Zephyra, are the Goddess of the Wind.”
Two days later, Chione, with the help of Callia, the Goddess of Beauty, had me all dressed up. I was wearing an aqua blue dress with a halter neck and a skirt that went down to my feet. I was wearing high heels that made me five inches taller than I was. My eyes were done up dramatically, with my eyelids covered in dark eye shadow that ended a little past the corners of my eyes to form a wing shape. My lips were painted red, and my face was covered in powder. My hair was curled and put back into a bun at the nape of my neck, and the feathers on my wings had been washed and brushed into place. In short, I looked almost nothing like myself.
Slowly and carefully, I began the long descent down the narrow spiral staircase that ran through the center of the tower. It was tedious and took forever, plus, my feet felt like they were on fire before I was even half way down.
Twenty minutes later, I had finally reached the bottom. I found my way to the ballroom and was completely overwhelmed by the number of people there. In my entire life, I had never seen so many people in one place, which wasn’t surprising being that I was raised in a cabin in the woods. I felt awkward as soon as I entered the room. Nobody stopped what he or she was doing, but started looking at me and whispering about me to whomever they were with.
I wandered around looking for a familiar face. I spotted Chione in the crowd, moving around effortlessly as if she had been born here, and for all I knew, she was. Before I could reach her, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around and saw a group of teenage boys about my age standing there.
“Hey, hottie, “ one said, “haven’t seen you here before.”
“Uh, yeah,” I said nervously, “I’m new here.”
He laughed. “I’m just messing with ya, sweetheart, I know who you are.”
“Oh, ah, okay.” I said, they laughed again.
“Hey, Az,” one in the back, the only ne not laughing said, “come off it.”
“Come on, Levi,” Az said, “have a little fun.”
“Have a little fun? How ‘bout you have a heart? Stop being a jerk.” Az approached him aggressively but Levi stood his ground. “I am not going to fight you,” Levi said calmly. Az sighed heavily and stalked away from us with the others in tow.
“Sorry about Azazelius, he can be kinda a bully.”
“Oh, it’s fine, I just don’t really know anybody here so I don’t know what to say.”
“Well, you know me, my name is Leviticus.”
“Hi, my name is Zephyra.”
So, as it turns out, Levi was the God of Light. After we were rid of Az and his cronies, Levi took me out to a garden that my tower happened to overlook.
“So,” he said, “the last few days have been pretty crazy for you.”
“Yeah, I have no idea what I’m doing at all.”
“I kinda guessed that too, you looked pretty lost in there.”
I cringed, “It shows.”
He shrugged, “Sorry to disappoint you.”
I laughed, “It’s cool.”
“Well, I’m here if you ever need me,” he said warmly.
I smiled, “Thanks, Levi, that really means a lot.”
“Hey, no problem,” he said. Suddenly, a figure emerged from the door leading to the ballroom. It was Dysis.
“Leviticus!” she shrieked, “what are you doing out here?”
“Relax, Mom, I’m fine.” Mom?
“Well get back in here, people are asking about you!”
“I highly doubt that.”
“Do not talk back to me, young man!” What the hell? She flashed a dirty look in my direction, “Come back inside.”
He took my hand and led me back inside with him, I could feel Dysis’s eyes burning into the back of my head.
Back on the dance floor, he held me in his strong arms as we danced carelessly around the room, weaving in and out of the hordes of people. He wasn’t exactly an expert at dancing, but Seda had shown me a few things, so we could manage by putting our skills together. As we danced, he told me about Quatrares.
“Etta would probably be one of my favorite people here. She’s like everybody’s grandma; you’d love her, and speak of the devil. Etta!” I turned around and saw the cutest old woman ever walking towards us. “Etta!” he continued, “there’s someone I want you to meet.” Levi bent over to hug her when she got to us.
“Good evening, Leviticus, how are you doing?”
“I’m doing great, Etta, how are you.”
“Just wonderful, dear. Now who was it you wanted to introduce me to? Ah, yes, Zephyra, returned to us at last. I’ve been meaning to talk to you, perhaps tomorrow when you’re feeling more rested.”
“I’ll be looking forward to it, “ I said back to her.
“Well, I can’t wait, have fun you two.” She left with a wink.
“She’s adorable.” I said to Levi.
“I know, right? I just love her.”
“Did she really mean what she said about talking to me tomorrow?”
“I think so, she means pretty much everything she says.”
I shrugged and we continued to dance lightheartedly.
Etta was true to her word about wanting to talk to me, because the next day she showed up out of the spiral staircase.
“Oh, Etta,” I said, “you didn’t have to climb all the way up here, I could’ve come down.”
“Nonsense, dear, I’m not that old, and I could do with some exercise anyway.”
“Oh, OK, then, I’m glad you could come.”
“Of course I came, I said I would, didn’t I?”
“Well, yeah…I guess so…”
“Now, I have some very important things to tell you.”
“Zephyra, I knew your mother very well. In fact, I delivered you. I remember the day perfectly, your mother loved you so much, she gave up her life for you.”
“So I heard.”
“Before you were born, an oracle told Phylyra that you were brought to us for a purpose. An oracle told your mother that purpose, and I am here to tell it to you.”
“Should I be excited or afraid?”
“Both,” she said after a couple of seconds of thought.
“OK, I’m scared.”
She laughed, “Well, we best get down to business, have a seat.” I did what she told me and waited anxiously for her to start talking.
“Soon after you were born, the Shadows were captured and imprisoned on the island of Gethin. A couple weeks ago, they escaped, which is why they were able to find you and attack you. It’s only a matter of time until they come for you again, even here you aren’t totally safe.” She looked out the window as if to check and make sure they weren’t coming now.
“They have a plan to take over this world, and our parallel, by bringing them together. The only person who can stop them is Tetralius, who now lives in our parallel world. You must find The Gate of Oblivion, cross the Sands of Time, find the gate that leads to our parallel, find Tetralius, bring him back, and if all goes well, save the world.”
I gave her a blank stare, what? I didn’t even know what to say. “How am I supposed to do that?”
“Find Mada, a genie,” said a voice from behind me. I turned, it was Chione.
“Who?” I said, wondering how the hell she got into my room since I was facing the stairs.
She paid the question no attention. “You start now,” she said definitely. My vision started to go black and I lost my balance and fell backward. When I hit the ground I was in a different place entirely.
I was sitting on my ass on the side of a busy street, people bustled by, paying me no attention. I stood up and brushed off my pants and looked around. One of the first things I saw was a huge banner that said SYLON. Sylon? The capital of Azaria? That’s over a thousand miles from the Mountain Realm. How the hell did I get all the way? The answer came to me right away, Chione had somehow transported me here, the jerk. I thought back remembered what Chione had said to me before she sent me off, find a genie named Mada, whoever the hell that is.
I started walking down the street looking for anywhere that might have a genie. I was wandering into what I thought was a vacant alley way when an arm came from behind me and put me in a headlock. Struggling to breathe, I grabbed his arm, yanked down, bent forward, and tossed him over my shoulder. Another man on my right grabbed my wrist and I quickly twisted out of the grip, just in time to be shoved and pinned to a wall buy the guy I just threw to the ground. He started to reach his hand up my shirt but I kneed him in the groin and brought him to his knees. I delivered a front kick to his head and hopped over his body. The other man tried to lunge at me, but I dodged out of the way and sprinted out of the alley and into the crowd, losing them in it.
Shaken, I resumed my genie search. I walked for about twenty minutes when a small shop caught my eye. It looked exotic and its walls were adorned with colorful cloth and multi-colored strings of beads hung from the ceiling. I walked in and approached a woman sitting in the corner.
“Excuse me,” I said, “I have kind of a weird question to ask.”
“Ask,” said the woman in a foreign accent.
“Alright, do you have any idea where I can find someone by the name of Mada?”
She looked up. “So it is true, Zephyra has returned to us.”
“Wait, what? I’m Zephyra.”
“So you are,” she said, standing up, “wait here.” She ran into a back room and returned quickly with an antiquated but shining lamp. She knelt down and held it up to me with outstretched arms.
“My Goddess,” she said in reverence. It probably goes without saying, but I was felt really awkward.
“Um, you don’t have to kneel,” I said awkwardly. She stood up but kept her head bowed. I carefully took the lamp from her hands and she took a few steps back and looked at the lamp expectantly. Slowly, it started to tremble, gently at first, but quickly becoming more violent until it fell from my hands. As it crashed on the ground, green smoke floated out of it and it exploded and a short person with flaming orange hair materialized.
“Well it took you long enough, didn’t it?” he said.
“Do you have any idea how long I’ve been trapped inside that lamp? A very long time!”
“I’m sorry, but I don’t see how that’s my fault.”
“It’s all your fault! I’ve been waiting over a century for you, mostly waiting for you to even be born!”
“Okay, then, fine, I’m sorry.”
“No time for apologies, Sylon is about to be attacked.”
“What?” Just then, I heard an explosion in the distance, followed by yelling and screaming. “Oh s***,” I said. Mada snapped his fingers and smoke swirled around us until I could no longer see what was beyond it. When it dissipated, we were standing outside a small village on the edge of the Forest Realm.
Leviticus stormed through the halls of the main palace in Quatrares and marched fearlessly up to Chione.
“You can’t just leave her there on her own like that!” he shouted.
“She’s not alone, she’s with Mada.”
“Mada? A genie? That’s almost worse than being alone!”
“Well what do you suggest I do?” she said edgily.
“Send me there, let me help her.”
“And why would I do that?”
“If you don’t send me, I’ll find a way to get there myself.”
“Fine, have fun with that.” She turned away and walked off. Leviticus was left there twice as determined as before to somehow get to Zephyra. He turned and sprinted down the hall.
“Alright, where are we now?” I said, getting fed up of being dropped all over Azaria.
“Far away,” replied Mada matter-of-factly.
“You asked where we were, we are far away.”
“Far away from what?”
“Fine, let me rephrase my question, what town is that?” I pointed to a village that was about a hundred yards away.
“Well, going by the sign, that would be Reven.”
I looked, he was right, there was a sign that I somehow missed. Right. I started walking towards the town’s gate, not caring whether the little son of a b**** followed me or not.
Reven was small, really small. The people inside were going about their daily business, but looked up as we passed by, as I’m sure visitors were a rarity in a town as small as this. “Why did you bring us here?” I asked Mada quietly.
“Apparently, there’s someone you’re supposed to meet.”
“Not another genie, I should hope. I already can’t stand the one I have.”
“Funny, but no,” he said smugly, “this time it’s a human.”
“Whew,” I said, wiping my brow in mock relief, “How am I supposed to find them, don’t tell me they’re hidden away in the back room of a store also.”
“Good guess, but no, they’re not in town, they’re in the woods.”
“Then why did we come in here?”
He shrugged, “I dunno, I was just following you.”
“I am literally this close to punching you in the face.”
“Don’t think I won’t.”
I shook my head in disgust and walked faster. We quickly reached the opposite gate and started walking towards the edge of the woods. I could tell it was the Adahy Forest because it was at the edge of the Forest Realm and the trees were deciduous, not coniferous. “How do we find them?” I said, entering the woods.
“Why do you expect me to know everything?”
“Isn’t that the sole purpose I’m stuck with you, you know stuff.”
“No, I have another purpose, also.”
“And what’s that?”
“It’s a secret.”
“Can’t tell you.”
“Whatever.” Suddenly, a girl dropped down from above me and threw a punch. I blocked it right before she threw another. I countered and threw a punch of my own. I don’t know how long we went at it but I’m pretty sure Mada just stood by and watched. Finally, I had her pinned against a tree. Oddly, she smiled and said; “Now let’s see how good you are with weapons.”
“Tivon!” Leviticus said, dashing down a hallway that led to outside.
“Hello, Leviticus!” said the God of Nature.
“Tivon,” Levi said, catching his breath, “I need to borrow a pegasus.”
Tivon smiled, “I thought you might ask for that.” He whistled, and a huge, jet black winged horse appeared from behind a corner.
After what seemed like an eternity of people coming at me with various pointy objects and the like until I felt like I was going to collapse from sheer physical exhaustion, I finally got to rest. I crumpled to the ground in a heap, closed my eyes, and quickly made the decision not to move for a very long time. I drew a long stream of oxygen deep down into my lungs, savoring the feeling of my bronchiole tubes being completely full for the first time in hours. I tightened every muscle in my body and held it like that for a few seconds, before releasing them all in unison, letting every ounce of tension slowly melt from my body. I rolled over onto my back and lie spread-eagle on the forest floor, breathing in and out steadily, as I focused my thoughts on the breeze that blew across my face, gently tousling my hair and lifting my shirt up an inch or two, drying the sweat on the pale skin of my abdomen and cooling the rest of my body.
The girl’s name was Sieza, and as it turns out, she wasn’t alone. She had a boy, Danieli, with her. Mada and I were supposed to meet them in the forest so they could start my combat training and guide us to our next destination. For a short time, I could hear them talking in the distance, but their voices faded as I retreated into the sanctuary of my mind.
By the time I had opened my eyes, I could see the stars shining brightly above me, and the moon cast a glowing crescent image on my retina, although partially obscured by the leaves and branches of the towering trees around me. A campfire burned bright orange about a hundred feet from where I was. I got up slowly, cracking my joins as I did so. I carefully made my way over to the others, my body still awakening but my mind alert. Danieli, Sieza, and Mada all looked up at me as soon as the firelight touched me, making me visible.
“Hey,” Sieza said, smiling, “glad to see you’re still alive. How you feeling?”
“Sore,” I groaned.
“Same,” she said, stretching her arms and arching her back, laughing. I walked over and sat down next to her, my bones and muscles protesting as I lowered myself to the ground.
“So, what’s the deal with you two,” I said, motioning with my hand between Sieza and Danieli.
Sieza nodded and started. “When I was twelve, I ran away from my orphanage because I had some romantic dream about wanting more out of life, so one night, after everyone had gone to bed and fallen asleep, I snuck out my window and never looked back. A few days later I found myself in Dajerel, a town somewhere around fifteen miles away from my orphanage.” She looked at Danieli, raised her eyebrow, and he started talking.
“My father was the Lord of Dajerel, and I was his eldest son. One day, when I was in town, trying not to be recognized, I bumped into, and I mean literally bumped into, a girl around my age who looked like she had been sleeping in the forest.”
“Which I had been,” Sieza interjected.
Danieli continued after a pause, “I soon realized that I shared her romantic ideal of a life full of adventure, so I, too, stole off into the night, and have never returned since. A few weeks later we came across a cave, and while exploring it, we found two odd looking stones, which turned out not to be stones at all. They were eggs.”
“Eggs for what?” I asked, shooting him a confused look.
“For that,” he responded, pointing up into the sky. At first, I didn’t see anything, but then two large shapes came into view. It took a few moments before it dawned on me what they were.
“Are those…dragons?” I said in awe. They circled closer until finding an empty spot large enough to land in amongst the trees. Danieli and Sieza walked over to them as I sat there dumbfounded. The two dragons were immense in size, one was deep blue, like the sky at the beginning of night, and the other was a sort of purple-pink. The pink one extended its neck so Sieza could stroke the top of its nose.
“This is Aliaya,” Sieza said to me. She motioned with her head for me to come over, so I stood up slowly and made my way over to where they were. I kept walking until I was standing right beside Sieza. Aliaya lifted her head and turned it until she was looking me directly in the eye, and I could feel the hot puffs of air that came out of her nostrils as she exhaled. Without warning, I felt a foreign presence enter my mind. My Goddess, I heard inside my head, it is an honor. Then she bowed her head until it was touching the ground. I felt the ground vibrate as the other dragon approached me and bowed his head as well.
“They’re talking to you, aren’t they?” asked Danieli. I nodded slightly.
Zephyra, I felt a masculine voice calling my name from inside my head, my name is Eromayo. Long ago, dragons were numerous, and we served the Gods. We fought next to you during the Vidar War. Many of us were lost that day, and there are few of us left. We will help you in your quest in whatever way we can.
“As will we,” said Sieza. I looked at her, confused.
“We can hear them too,” she explained. We watched Eromayo and Aliaya fly off into the night and disappear. They told us that they had found a cave relatively near where we were camping, and would be spending the night there. Danieli walked back to the fire and put it out with a bucket of water. I jumped when I saw Mada in the shadows, having almost forgotten that he was there.
“I don’t like dragons and dragons don’t like me,” he muttered.
“That’s alright,” I told him, “I don’t like you either.” He stared at me for a few seconds before informing me that he was going to sleep. The rest of us followed suit. I wrapped myself up in blankets, as I always did, and after a while, I drifted off to sleep, still feeling the presence of the dragons.
“Alright,” Sieza said the next day, “time to learn your archery basics. Ever shot a bow before?”
“As a matter of fact I have not,” I responded.
She smiled. “Then this should be interesting.”
Danieli walked over to us. “That stump over there is the target.” I looked, about fifteen feet yards away was a stump on its side with rings carved into it.
“Aww, you mean we’re not using Mada?”
“Unfortunately not,” said Danieli, “Okay, so here’s the bow. Stand with your pointed ninety degrees away from the target.”
“Okay,” I said, following his directions. “Now what?”
“Now you nock the arrow,” he stood behind me and guided my hands, “now only hold the string with three fingers, and squeeze the arrow a little bit to keep in place.”
“Alright, got it,” I said.
“Okay, now slowly draw back to the corner of your mouth.” I struggled, but finally got it drawn completely.
“Okay, now aim at the center at the target, and let go when you’re ready.”
I aimed the tip of the arrow at the bull’s-eye and released the string. The arrow flew a couple of feet over the target.
“Damn it,” I said.
“That’s okay,” said Sieza, “it could have been worse, trust me.”
“Try again,” Danieli said. I hit the edge of the target this time. I practiced for the rest of the day until I could consistently hit the inner half of the target. I went to bed that night with my arms and fingers feeling as if they were going to fall off.
When I woke up the next morning, Eromayo and Aliaya had returned.
“They’re going to take us to Saadet,” Sieza told me, “There’s a girl there named Rai’eve, she’s the daughter of the local Lord. She’ll continue training you.”
“Yeah, about that,” I said, “why exactly do I need training?”
Sieza sighed and looked at me. “There is a war coming,” she said distantly, “there is a war coming and we need you to survive to fight in it. You are the catalyst of everything that is to come,” She said the last part with an ominous tone in her voice while looking me straight in the eye. We held each other’s gaze for a few seconds before Sieza broke eye contact, and, using one of her scales as a foothold, climbed onto Aliaya’s back. I followed her up, and was surprised by how hard the scales were, they looked like precious gemstones. I wondered what it would feel like to fly, without actually doing the flying myself. I looked over at Eromayo and saw Mada sitting in front of Danieli, lying flat against the dragon’s back with his eyes closed, clutching his scales so hard his knuckles were white. I laughed and Danieli looked over at us and shrugged.
“Ready?” he asked.
“Yep, all set,” Sieza answered. I felt my self being lowered as Aliaya bent her knees and pushed off the ground, much like I did when I took off. I resisted the urge to unfurl my wings as we left the ground. I grabbed onto Aliaya’s scales to keep from falling off as we flew at an angle to gain altitude. I loosened my grip and eventually let go almost entirely as we leveled off. I carefully leaned over and looked down at the endless expanse of trees below us that were speeding past. I looked out and saw snowy mountain peaks way off in the distance. I threw my arms out to my sides and spread them out wide. I laughed loudly and Sieza looked back at me, smiled, and laughed with me. The wind rushed past us, roaring in my ears and drying my eyes and mouth.
Before long, darkness fell. I rubbed my arms and shivered as the air became cooler as it got later in the evening. The night was crystal clear, not a cloud in sight. The stars twinkled above us, reflecting off the dragon’s scales. Sieza and I took turns sleeping on Aliaya’s back.
The next morning, Sieza woke me up by tapping me on the shoulder. I slowly opened my eyes and looked at her.
“Hmm?” I mumbled sleepily. She pointed out in front of us and I shifted my eyes to look. I gasped softly when I saw it. Far off, the sun was just barely starting to creep up over the horizon. Its light cast brilliant hues of pink and orange on the clouds above it. Then Sieza angled her arm down to point to a large clearing in the distance.
“That’s where we’re headed,” she told me. I nodded as we started to descend. In the middle of the clearing was a town, and as we got closer I could see a crowd of people gathered near the gate. From then it took about five minutes before we landed. I slid ungracefully off of Aliaya, falling to my knees as I hit the ground. I stood up quickly and brushed off my pants. I stretched my legs, which were ridiculously sore from sitting for so long, and I finally looked up. Above the gate was a sign with a single word carved into it; Saadet.