Note: This is the twenty-fourth chapter of a small novel I wrote. If you would like to read it off-site, you may download a PDF. The PDF will be updated every week with the next chapter. This project is now also available on DBooks
Tides of Magic - Dragon Tears
Chapter 24 - Luxana's Child
Luxana grabbed his side, dragging herself further along, but leaned heavily on him. She had grown weak, too weak to keep up with his pace. What was he thinking?
He stopped and put a hand on her cheek. Although it was a deep red it felt cold. Her gazes was empty and she didn’t really notice his hand. “Are we there yet?” Her voice was so quiet that he almost didn’t hear it. She fell into his arms, breathing heavily, her eyes closed.
“You can’t sleep now, do you understand?” He shook her lightly, hit her cheek. She didn’t open her eyes, her breathing was shallow. “Hang on, please, hang on!” He let go of his case and the weapons, leaving only the pistol at his leg. He pulled her onto his back. She wasn’t even much heavier than the bag he had carried before; she was much too light for her size. Her head leaned on his neck, so he could still hear her breathing over the unyielding wind.
Barnett kept going. There had to be somewhere, where they could stop and warm up.
Step by step he felt his sister getting weaker. There was even a moment where her breathing stopped, but then she started coughing and continued breathing, a strange warm spreading over his back.
They had to leave this cold, find some place where they could rest. Suddenly he could see a small cabin on the side, Light flickering within, promising warm and comfort. He felt relief as he started going towards the cabin, speeding his steps up.
He hesitated a moment in front of the door, fearing that it could disappear, then he knocked and went inside, not waiting for an answer.
A man turned to him, his eyes shimmering golden, his hair white. He seemed surprised to see them and closed the door to the small oven that kept the cabin warm. “You have to be insane to wander these mountains in this snow storm.” He stared at them, judging them. “Who are you?”
Luxanas coughing spared him from answering. Barnett didn’t even notice how the strange had stepped next to him as he tocuhed the forehead of the girl on his back.
“I want answers to my questions later”, he grumbled. “But before then we have to tend to your girlfiend.”
Barnett didn’t correct him. Maybe it was for the best that he thought her his girlfriend. Maybe it would keep him from getting dumb ideas.
He helped him carry the pale form of his sister to a bed.
“Get her clothes off. As wet as they are, they are going to steal the warmth she desperately needs.” The man turned and went back to the oven, working with a pot.
Barnett looked to him a moment later, making sure that he didn’t look, and started to remove Luxanas clothing one by one until she lay half naked before him. He only let her keep the small red gem around her neck. It was pulsating a faint but soothing red light, as if it was warming her. After pulling the blanket over her, he turned to the stranger again.
“You should change out of your clothing as well”, the stranger adviced as he turned towards him, a small wooden bowl in his hand, it contained a steaming aromatic liquid.
Barnett nodded thankfully while taking the bowl, put it down on the small table and removed his own clothes. Exhausted he sank down against the wall. He should be next to Luxanas side, give her something to eat and drink. He took one sip of the soup, it went soothingly down his throat. In a moment he would replace him at her side, he just had to relax for a moment … the warmth of the soup was good for his exhausted body. He drank the rest of the elixir and closed his eyes. He only needed to rest for a minute …
Barnett woke hours later. The snowstorm had passed and he felt refreshed. What had happened just before …
Luxana! As fast as he could, he scrambled to his feet and ran towards the bed. She lay there peacefully, breathing slow, her head a deeper shade of red and she had a wet cloth on her forehead.
“She has high fever.” The stranger’s voice startled him. “You should rest for a while longer as well. There is nothing we can do right now.”
Barnett turned towards the white-haired man. He wasn’t sure if he should thank him. He felt powerless and was angry at himself.
“Sit down”, the stranger said, pointing towards the table. “Tell me why you wanted to cross the mountains during a snow storm.”
“We …” Barnett hesitated, before sitting down slowly on the table. What should he tell him? The truth? He didn’t know anything about this world and a plausible lie was the last thing he could think of. “We needed to flee”, he admitted. It was the truth, without telling too much.
The man stared at him, his face unreadable. After a few terrible long seconds of silence he nodded. “I see.” He gave Barnett his hand and he took it. “I am called Aeris.”
“Barnett”, then he nodded towards his Sister,”and she is Luxana.”
Aeris seemed to stiffnen up slightly for a second, but he started to smile a moment later. “Welcome to my humble abode.” He leaned back once again and looked at the girl. “You should take good care of her. She has accepted a heavy burden.”
“Why is that?” Barnett gulped a bad feeling down.
“That small red gemstone, the dragons tear has bound itself to her”, Aeris sighed. “You don’t know what that means?”
Barnett shook his head. Why should he? But why did he know about these stones? Did he accidentaly return to the realm of the dragons? If so, it was only a matter of time until his life was over. Maybe they would spare his sister. But he had also heard of dragons wanting virgins_…
“Not many know about the dragon tears”, Aeris’ voice pulled Barnett out of his thoughts. “But there is something you … no she need to know. She mustn’t show the tear to anyone. The consequences could be devastating if it falls into the hands of those knowing its secret.”
“Why?” Barnett’s eyes widened, as he felt fear spread within him, but Aeris never answered his question. “What devastating consequences?” He raised his voice, wanting an answer. He felt rage as his feelings of helplessness and powerlessness increased.
“She would become a tool, a weapon”, Aeris answered with a sigh, “a prisoner in her body, while being controlled by someone else.”
Barnett gulped once again. They had to get rid of that stone as soon as possible.
“Even if you try to hide it somewhere or bury it, it will find its way back to her or to someone that will use it. The binding is permanent, until she dies.” Aeris got up, looked one last time to Luxana and went out the door. A few lonely snowflakes fell from the grey but calm sky.
Barnett looked down on his hands. Was everything that he did wrong? He felt extremely helpless, his rage increasing more and more; rage that was directed at one man only: Bradley! Everything was his fault! There wouldn’t have been this mission without him. Luxana wouldn’t have been called to service without him. They wouldn’t have had to flee without him! He imagined himself choking his superior, pressing his hands down on his throat … I didn’t help at all. His rage only got stronger, as his imagination still managed to taunt him. He hit the table with his fist, hard. The pain managed to soothe his rage and after a few more hits, he had himself back under control, the pain had won. Still, he knew that his rage would come back once he saw Bradley again.
Minutes went by in silence until he went to the bed and sat down next to his sister. He stroked lovingly over her face. Aeris was right, she had a high fever. He took the wet cloth from her head, cooled it in fresh water and wrung most of the water from it, before replacing it on her head once again. Wasn’t there a doctor in this world?
As the pain receeded he felt desperation rising within him once again, tears running down his cheeks as he sobbed softly next to the one person that was most important to him.
Her health didn’t change much over the next few days. He mostly stayed at her side or talked to Aeris – when he was in and not somewhere outside in the snow. He had told him that he lived up here alone most of the time, because he didn’t want to have much to do with people, so he was avoiding them.
Besides some very few sentences they didn’t speak much, none of them wanting to tell more than necessary of their secrets. At least he suspected that Aeris had a few secrets of his own.
Somewhen on the fourth day, Luxana opened her eyes and smiled up to Barnett. “I’m back”, she whispered with a weak voice.
Barnett took one of her hands into his and smiled, tears in his eyes. He felt as if some sort of weight had been lifted from him. He lifted his sister and pressed her towards him.
“I was afraid to lose you, so very afraid”, he whispered into her ear.
“Don’t worry about me, dear brother”, her voice was soft and caring albeit its weakness. “I won’t leave you, yet”, she whispered and patted his back with one hand. After a long moment, she pushed him gently from her, looking towards Aeris. “Would you mind introducing our host to me?”
Barnett nodded and let go of her, reluctantly. A part of him was still afraid to lose her.
“This is Aeris”, he said, trying as hard as possible to sound friendly, hiding his anxiety, as there was more than one way to lose a loved one.
The white-haired man nodded towards her. “You have returned to us”, he said friendly.
“Of course, I can’t leave my brother alone.” She winked towards him and made him smile. It was as if those two had some sort of unspoken secret between them.
“I can imagine.” He made a few steps towards her, giving her a bowl of soup. She took it smiling and began to eat it. Aeris stood at her bed and watched her every move.
He knew now that they were siblings. He wouldn’t …
Barnett shoved his jealousy aside. He was seeing ghosts. Aeris hadn’t shown much interest in her until now, why should that change suddenly? A part of him wanted him to get Luxana as far away from Aeris as possible.
“You should rest some more”, Aeris voice was incredibly soft all of a sudden, making Barnett shiver. “We should go and visit Akaria as soon as possible. You are in need of a healer.”
“Akaria?” Barnett looked up to Aeris.
“It is a city at the base of the mountain. A few days there and she will get healthy once more.”
“Thank you, Aeris”, Luxana smiled.
“Lay back down”, Barnett took the empty bowl from her. Her head was still red.
His sister nodded and sank back on the bed. She closed her eyes and was asleep once more within a few moments.
“How far is it to Akaria?”
“About a day’s march.” Aeris sighed, his face unreadable and devoid of any emotions once again. “We should be able to leave here in a few days’ time.” He turned and left the siblings alone once more.
Barnett pondered to search for their cases. The weapons and shirts were probably unusable by now: Encased in ice and buried under a deep layer of snow. He needed to trust his own strength and the pistol still strapped to his leg, should any problems arise. He had a bad feeling within his gut.
“What should I do?” He asked his peaceful sleeping sister, but Luxana didn’t answer.
They stayed another three days in the cabin, with Aeris now being more inside and next to Luxana than before, especially when Barnett was asleep.
Barnett thought something was strange as he awoke to both their laughter on the third day. Luxana wouldn’t … No. She was a girl that could get anybody to laugh, as if it was her special talent. Why was he always getting jealous of Aeris? Luxana was his sister! He once again shoved those thoughts aside before getting up and joining them at the bed.
Luxana looked a lot better than before.
“Good morning, dear Brother.” She smiled. “Aeris says that my fever has gone down.”
“She should be strong enough for the way down, especially if we take turns carrying her. We should make use of the moment, as the sun is shining and will be, for a long time.”
Aeris seemed somber next to Barnett. He just couldn’t imagine him laughing. “Good”, he said nodding, omitting that he would like to carry her alone. It was a foolish idea born from his jealousy. He would collapse before they reached the base of the mountain.
“Then we should go now”, Aeris stood up and threw Luxanas clothing to Barnett, leaving them alone a moment later.
“Why are you always this … stern?” Luxana frowned while she changed into her clothes. “You can really stop any fun, just by being there.”
“I’m sorry”, Barnett answered, smiling sadly at her accusations. “I’m just worrying. Very much.”
“Don’t.” Her voice came from under the sweater as if she was reprimanding him. “Whatever you are worrying about, you can’t change it at the moment. Put it aside!”
“Yes, your majesty!” His answer made Luxana laugh once again.
A moment later she stood before him, fully dressed, although her legs were shaking. He supported her on the way outside, where Aeris was waiting for quite some time already. Barnett took Luxanas weight for the first part of the journey.
His sister didn’t mind changing the one she mostly spoke with every other hour. Somehow she had enough things to share with both Aeris and Barnett and it finally came to pass that he could see the other one smiling. He shook his head, noticing that he didn’t participate in their talk anymore, but observed them closely, like a predator, waiting for the right moment to attack his prey. Aeris never made any suspicious movement.
As they arrived in Akaria, Barnett had to admit to himself that he was overreacting. It was just Luxanas nature to make everyone smile. Literally everyone, which was one of the things he loved about her.
It was late already, so they found an Inn, rented a room and found the healer on the next day. He gave her a few herbs and something to drink, but otherwise confirmed that she would be fine in no time.
Just as they left healers house, Aeris turned to leave. “You will be fine now and I need to get back to my place.”
Barnett took a deep breath and smiled. He still thought that he might steal her from him.
“Please stay a few days longer”, Luxana suddenly hung at Aeris’ arm, looking up to him with large puppy dog eyes. Barnett always got weak when she did that. How had she been able to perfect that gaze so much?
“O… okay … I’ll stay a while longer.” Even Aeris melted to the power of that gaze.
With Luxana using that gaze, those days turned into a month. Aeris caved in and the month turned into a year.
Barnett joined the city guards. He had expertise as a soldier and could continue guarding his sister and the townspeople like that. But as he returned one day, he felt like he had failed at his job. Aeris had asked her to marry him and she … had agreed; without asking him.
He finally had to admit that his small sister had become a woman, a woman capable of making her own decisions.
Barnett needed time to accept that and after another three years, he started searching for a wife. Luxana had been happy with Aeris, very happy. Barnett soon found a young woman, that seemed to like him and he liked her as well. Reija was a beautiful young girl, the daughter of the baker and she was also interested in more.
Then, on the day, where he finally gathered enough courage to speak to her, it was Luxana that changed his plans once again. With a bright smile on his lips she told him that she was pregnant.
All the worries that he had managed to bury over the past three years, surfaced once again and he started to avoid Reija for the next few month. Needless to say that she started to dislike him soon after, and then came the day where his dream of having a happy, healthy family, was smashed into pieces.
He ran down the street as fast as he could. Aeris was already waiting in front of the door.
“The women threw me out”, was his greeting, his faces as emotionless as ever, when talking to Barnett.
“How is she?” Barnett gasped for air, wanting his pulse to calm down.
“It’s bad. The fever has caught up with her.” The white-haired man sighed. Sadness was shimmering through his mask of indifference.
“Is a healer with her?” Barnett looked around, full of worry.
“Then we need to …”
“It’s of no use”, Aeris interrupted him. “She won’t survive the night.” He turned away from him.
“What do you mean? Where are you going?” Finally that man showed his true colors. “You can’t just leave now! She is your wife! What will happen to her child?”
Aeris stopped, looking back over his shoulder. “My wife is dying and I can’t do anything for her. I can’t take care of the child and it wouldn’t be safe with me.” He shrugged.
“You bastard”, Barnett shouted, full of rage. “I always kinew …”
Suddenly Aeris stood in front of him once again, his hand around Barnetts neck, chocking all other words. “What is it? What did you always know, you petty thief?” His fingers dug into Barnetts throat painfully. “You know, I have spoken to my brother Yargyuu. You are responsible for her fate, in every way imaginable.”
Barnett had trouble breathing. Yargyuu? Wasn’t that the name of the dragons chief?
“I should have killed you already! But my love to my wife has stopped me to do so.” He lifted Barnett with his hand, growling deeply. “Now I am unable to kill you because of that child! Don’t ever come before me again, when it is older!”
Aeris tossed Barnet aside, against the next stone wall. He got dizzy as the air was pressed out of his body. He fell to the ground. As he recovered enough to get up again, Aeris had alredy vanished, the growl of a dragon resounding through the mountains, causing him to shiver.
Luxana had the child of a dragon within her. She was dying because of that. That Bastard had just used her and now he wanted to use him to take care of his brat.
Despite his pains, he dragged himself to the door of the house, hearing the cries of his sister only too clearly through it.
He just ignored any traditional laws and went in. The cries of his sister had stopped, the ones of a small baby were resounding instead.
“It’s a girl”, he heard a woman say. Was that Reija? He saw the woman give the child to her mother.
“Close the door”, ordered another woman. Barnett took a deep breath and closed the door, before he straightened himself and went over to the group of women. “From outside!” He ignored the shout of outrage.
“Let him be”, his sister said with a weak voice. “Do you want to hold your little niece?” Luxana smiled innocent.
Barnett got closer and fell to his knees next to the bed. His sister seemed weak, her cheeks red and droplets of sweat on her forehead. But still she seemed the happiest girl alive at that moment.
“Please look after my little Lia”, she showed him the small baby with its few red hairs. “You are the only one she’ll have, when I am gone.”
“What are you talking about? You’ll get healthy again.”
“No”, she shook her head weakly. “I have been living on borrowed time. I have already died five years ago. But … I have to thank you for the time here, for letting me meet Aeris. Promise me to look after Lia. And don’t hate Aeris.”
She looked at him with a face he couldn’t say no to. He finally nodded and took the child in his arms.
“This is now hers”, Luxana gave the small red gemstone to Barnett. “Give it to her, when she is old enough.”
Barnett nodded once again, enclosing the gem within his hand.
“I wish I could see you grow up”, Luxana whispered, her voice growing weaker with every word. “Good bye, my child. Good bye, dear brother.”
She closed her eyes smiling and just stopped breathing. He felt hot tears running down his cheeks; his sobbing was drowned by the crying child in his arms. He pressed it gently towards him and noticed that he couldn’t hate it, even if he wanted to.
After long moments of silence, the women took the child from him and wrapped it with a diaper.
They left him alone, let him deal with his loss himself … even Reija.