Note: This is the twenty-sixth 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 26 - Aruji
The hadn’t moved much from the castle, they still could see its silhouette on the horizon. They were at the edge of a small forest, just far enough in to not be easily spotted by a dragon. They wanted to discuss their next move, but since Aeris had stated that he felt the coldness of Lias right arm through his scales, no one had said a word.
Although she was hugging Yukiko with both arms, she could only feel her warmth in her left. What was happening to her? Maybe it was contagious. But she felt as if she was losing control more and more. It had cost her a lot of concentration to make her right arm do what she wanted and not what it wanted.
Perhaps she should really go to the dragon priests, begging them to perform the final sealing, before she accidentally killed Yukiko or her father.
“What’s happening with mama?” Riko broke the silence, looking towards her father for an answer. Worry was written all over her face and Lia even thought she could see feat within it.
“I don’t know”, Ray went closer to her and stroked gently over her head.
Lia thought she could hear Dikon shout: “She is a demon! Kill her!” But the half dragon stayed back in the castle. “I’d like to face this tyrant rather than travelling with that demon!” Even though she had seen him like this before, the recent developments made her fear that he was right and she got the feeling that most of the others have started thinking like that as well.
Suddenly Yukiko got up and went to the others. “What is wrong with you? Lia isn’t the demon here! The demon is Bradley!”
“We know that much already”, Aeris sighed, “but something is happening to her that is unnatural. It’s …” He shook his head. Lia could see the fear within her father’s eyes.
“Whatever we do, we shouldn’t count on her powers, when fighting Bradley”, Phobos stated. “She might accidentally kill both sides.”
Lia looked down, tears welling up in her eyes. Those words felt as if someone had driven a dagger into her heart.
“But with all the dragons and three more dragon tears on his side, we won’t stand a chance”, Yukiko said. “We would need Felix, I am sure that he knows what to do.”
“Even if Felix is able to help her”, Felix kneeled before Yukiko, “I am sure that Bradley won’t let any of them out of his eyes now. I don’t think that we would stand a chance against him, Nina and Felix even without the dragons.” He put his hand on Yukikos shoulder and smiled a sad smile.
“What should we do then? Just give up? Just let us be chased down by Bradley?” Yukiko clenched her fist and shoved Aeris hand aside. “I can’t let him win!” Her voice started to quiver, “anyone but him.” She took a deep breath, looking into Aeris’ eyes. “I’ll get Felix back, even if I have to go alone!”
“And how do you want to do that?”
“I’ll just steal his tear. I am a thief! One of the best!”
Aeris looked at her in silence.
“Thinking back”, Phobos now got closer to her as well, “how did you manage to turn invisible even for us? Every other spell doesn’t work on dragons or half dragons. You have failed so before.”
The girl began to smile slightly. “I have asked myself why you were able to see me. You and Dikon. So I guessed it was because both of you were half dragon. From that I concluded that it might be a natural ability of half dragons and dragons alike to see something that the human eye is blind for. I thought that you might be able to see my body’s warmth, so I experimented a bit with the dragon that flew me here, and after lowering my body temperature to a certain degree, he couldn’t see me anymore.”
“You can change your bodies temperature?” Phobos stared at her with unbelieving eyes.
“Well … not any more”, Yukiko admitted, her smile dying.
“Then you can forget this plan as well”, Aeris said, standing up again. “You know that Bradley is the new chief of the black dragons? They can all see you! Some can even smell you!”
“Shall we just give up then?” Yukiko shouted so loud that Lia flinched. Maybe Bradley could have heard that. But … she was right.
“No”, Aeris answered. “I fear we have to give him the war that he wanted.”
“What do you mean?” Phobos asked the question before Lia could voice it.
“I’ll call my children together. The white dragons shall join this war!”
They all looked at him speechless, as he left them to go deeper into the forest.
A war between dragons. Lia could see once again the sky over Andragat, the day as the dragons attacked and she was made a dragon priest accidentally. Lia felt as if the temperature around them dropped suddenly.
“Should we wait and do nothing, while he rallies the dragons?” Yukikos loud voice brought her back from her memories. She stood up and took a deep breath. “There is nothing much that we can do. We can’t go to Felix and free him at the moment. I can’t go to the dragon priests and ask them for help either.”
“I could go”, said Ray. “I know a few of them quite well.”
Lia nodded. “They could be convinced to help. But they shouldn’t try to seal any of the dragons, they just should try to hold them at bay, until Bradley is defeated.”
“Because those dragons have not lost their mind, they are not outcasts and they will protect each other.”
“I understand”, Ray nodded.
“Then go, we don’t have much time.”
The half dragon nodded again and went to Riko. “You will wait with the others, understood?”
The girl nodded and looked to Lia. “I’ll stay and protect mama.”
“Good girl. I’ll be back as soon as possible.” Ray embraced her in a right hug and went deeper into the forest as well.
“That leaves only us five”, Phobos commented. “We can’t do much at the moment, so we should try to come up with strategies.”
“Maybe Lia can learn to control her powers? She would be a valuable in battle”, Yukiko suggested. “I think she got better with control since the battle with Dikon.”
Lia shook her head. “It does respond to my emotions or the emotions of the dragon within me at first. I could control them in our last battle, but it got more and more a mind of its own and I fear it is getting stronger.”
“In other words, you fear that, the next time you use your powers, it might take you over.”
Lia nodded. “Though I do not understand what happened in our battle. I didn’t even use magic and it turned black.”
“Maybe it is not your use of magic”, Yukiko suggested, “but something else.”
“But what could it be, then?”
“You said it responds to your emotions. Maybe it responds to your fear. And since you fear that you might be turning into something else, it reacts to that …”
Lia nodded. Yukikos theory was sound, though she still had the feeling that something was off about it all.
The castle was empty as well. Bradley was too late, of course. There wasn’t a trace of the ruling half dragon, there was no trace of Lia and the trace of Yukiko … there was too much to work with. The ice hadn’t even started to melt; the inner courtyard was unnaturally cold.
They did find the dragon that had brought Yukiko here and he had told him that they all had been here only an hour ago. All his foes had been here, even Aeris, which meant that the white dragons would probably take the side of his enemies.
He could see the large battle that was coming now. There was no way around it, if he wanted to keep control and he had to keep control or everything would end in chaos. Why wanted everyone to go their own way, to follow their own desires? That only ended in conflict, there would be no progress. The world needed someone strong at its top, someone, who led the way. Why wouldn’t they understand? Why did they fight him that much?
Bradley shook his head. These times would soon be over. There was only one human, one half dragon … no, one being that was in his way. He just had to remove Lia and then he would find a way to get Yukiko back.
Should push come to shove, he would need to make another sacrifice to reach his goals. But then again, those few lives were insignificant compared to the golden age that was to start under his rule.
“We’ll fall back to Eien”, Bradley announced. The lost black dragon offered to tell them where they had gone, but Yukiko was too smart to stay in an easy to locate spot. “We will show the white dragons that they picked the wrong enemy!”
“Yes, sir!” Yamira nodded and transformed into a dragon, offering herself for a ride once again. Bradley made a mental note to be careful around her. She was to eager to please him. Carefully he climbed onto her back and led her carry him to the castle that was now the new center of his empire – until Magneis was rebuilt.
Yukiko had troubles sleeping. Three days had passed since Aeris had left, flying from somewhere deep within the forest, keeping out of sight of Bradleys army. Three days since she was apart from Bradley and his army and she knew that he was preparing for the big battle that was to come. He probably was already down rallying his troops and now he was just waiting for them, patiently.
He could wait patiently, if necessary, but he hated it. A part of her found solace in that. It was like torturing him from afar.
Yukiko looked around in the small room once again. They had found a place in an inn, outside of a small village. They all had taken one room. One room for five persons. Phobos was sure that Aeris would find them there, because he was connected to his daughter, Lia, who was sleeping with Riko in her arms in one of the two beds. Phobos sat on the other bed, staring at them, Barnett sat in one corner and stared out the window. Only Yukiko was pacing up and down the room impatiently.
“Do you think Dikon might have tried to join Bradley?” She stopped a moment and looked to Phobos.
“No”, he shook his head, “he isn’t as dumb as Richard and won’t think that Bradley would let him join. I think it more probable that he is trying to find a way to free his daughter …”
“That is almost suicide”, Yukiko grumbled. Still, they wouldn’t have to count him as their enemy for now.
“Our Plan to attack Bradley is also almost suicide, especially since we do not know, if he had another ace up his sleeve”, commented Barnett.
“The more we wait, the higher the probability, that he will have another ace up his sleeve”, countered Yukiko. “Sooner or later we won’t have any other choice than to attack him.”
“Well, you are right at that …” He looked down from the window and to Yukiko.
“With the white dragons joining us, we only need to focus on Bradley, Nina and Felix”, Phobos peeled his gaze from the sleeping girls and looked to Yukiko. “Things might even get easier, if the dragon priests join us. The weapons of his army cannot harm the dragons or us half dragons.”
“Are you forgetting that neither Barnett nor I are half dragon? We don’t even have a drop of dragon blood within us. Leaving that aside, we can’t even do anything against the powers of the dragon tears.” Yukiko shook her head. “Especially this fifth tear will render me useless as well. Without magic I am just a scared little girl.” She bit on her lower lip.
“Bradley seems to have the better hand”, Barnett sighed and stared onto the ground.
Yukiko started gnawing on her thumb again. The situation seemed hopeless. She knew that she shouldn’t just give up hope, that there had to be something they could do, but she was close to losing it. There had to be a way to make this a fair battle. If only she could use some of her powers!
She stopped biting on her thumb and stared on the mark on the back of her right hand. It had hurt her many, many times before. Instead of hurting her, it should have helped her!
“There is something we could try”, Phobos whispered suddenly. “If that fifth tear is working in the same way as the walls of Magneis did, then there is way for you to use some of your magic.”
“What do you mean?”
“We need to make a dragon guard out of you. I know that this hasn’t been done for generations, but as long as there are no plans to seal a dragon within you, the process might help you to use magic.”
“What do you mean by dragon guard?” She felt a shiver running down her spine.
“That would involve … a dragon … and the only dragon … do you think Aeris would consent to that plan?” Barnett looked up.
“Yes, I think so”, Phobos smiled. “The stronger the dragon …”
“Would you stop making decisions over my head?” Yukiko raised her voice, making Lia mumble something in her sleep. At least she didn’t wake up. “I want explanations first”, she resumed with a lower volume.
“You remember the city walls of Magneis, where you passed with a sleeping spell?”
“That was sleeping gas, a small souvenir of Bradley’s.”
“So … that is some sort of magic without magic, right?”
Yukiko shrugged. She couldn’t explain how those grenades with sleeping gas worked.
“Do you still have some?”
Yukiko thought back. She had stolen several grenades from Bradleys armory in one night, but those weren’t many because of her limited space. “Maybe half a dozen.”
“We should make use of those. I don’t think that Bradley would think of us attacking him with his weapons.”
Yukikos spark of hope suddenly grew into a small flame. Of course he wouldn’t think of that. She nodded eagerly.
“Now, those city walls were built in a way, which allowed no one to use magic, except dragons, half dragons or dragon priests.”
Yukiko nodded again. “Yes, you said so before.”
“Which is because of the way magic works for most. Mages like you draw magic from their surroundings, while dragons have an inner source of magic. The wall is just cutting of the magic from the surroundings.”
“So, with that inner source of magic I could make use of mine as well?” She felt another shiver going over her back. Those tidbits of information were wonderful. Bradley couldn’t even know about that! They soon had two surprises for him!
“Dragon guards are baptized with the blood of a priest when entering the order”, Barnett explained. “It strengthens their body and mind for their tasks ahead.”
“The blood of a dragon priest is similar to that of a half dragon”, Phobos looked to Lia and Barnett, “though the first priest is said to have had blood from a real dragon. The effects are similar as well, but it doesn’t grant them an inner source like us or the first priest.”
“You know much about them”, Barnett commented.
“As do you, old friend”, Phobos answered.
“So, if Aeris would give me some of his blood …?”
“Then, yes, you should aquire an inner source yourself. The only problem is that it can be hard to persuade a dragon to give you his blood.”
“Well, since he seems to care about Lia and her life is at stake, he might make an exception … he even spared me”, Barnett said and smiled slightly.
Yukiko suddenly felt a large fire of hope and passion burn within her. She could easily imagine Bradleys puzzled face, when she started blasting him with fireballs from close range. “I’m in!”
Yukiko clung tight to Lia. She felt as if her whole body was burning although they were high up in the sky on Aeris’ back. They were on their way to Bradley, white dragons joining them left and right, heeding their leaders call. They were the only ones that would help them, the dragon priests had opted to stay neutral.
They had asked Aeris to make Yukiko into a dragon guardian as soon as he got back. The dragon had warned her that she needed several hours rest after that procedure, but she still went through with it in that same night, even before Lia woke up. It hadn’t been that grand of a ritual, just a little cut in both of their fingers, letting his mix with hers. Several minutes of silence had gone by until she started to feel a strange tingling within her finger and that was all there was to the ceremony.
The next thing she did was distributing the few weapons she had to the dragons that had already followed Aeris. She shortly explained them how they were used and that was it. Everything was fine for the rest of the night, she only felt slightly tired as Lia awoke, but she credited that to being awake the whole night. Despite that she wanted them to leave right then and there.
Shortly after takeoff she got dizzy and she got the feeling that the mark on her hand had started to burn and it had gotten worse since then.
“Are you okay?” Lia somehow managed to feel Yukiko’s forehead, turning half around. “You got fever!”
“I’m fine”, Yukiko said although she felt as if everything spun around her. They couldn’t lose more time now. Lia wouldn’t stop Aeris now, because of that? Lias voice seemed to be far away, shouting something … was it to her?
She had to stop her friend from doing something stupid. She willed her eyes open, only to see a bright light in front of her eyes.
“Finally you found someone”, she heard a voice she only knew too well. But that couldn’t be true? Some sort of mist formed into a shape in front of her eyes. It only took a few moments and then she saw … herself? No, something was strange, different. The eyes of the other Yukiko had the color of an amethyst.
“Who are you? What do you mean ‘I finally found someone’?”
“Who am I?” The other one smiled and nodded towards Yukiko, to her hand. “I am you.” She closed her eyes and came a step closer. “I am also the eye.”
“The eye … ?”
“I have waited so very long for you and now we are finally together once more.” She made another step closer and embraced her, giving her a feeling of security and warmth, whispering a single word: “Aruji.”
The eye of flows? The artefact she had touched although she wasn’t allowed to get close to it?
“Yes, that one.”
“But … but those pains … The punishment … the monk said …”
“Shhhht, stay calm.” The other girl run her hand gently over Yukikos head. “Those monks never understood me nor my nature. That temple was mine … ours. I have used it to wait for you and as I finally found you, I allowed time itself to catch up.”
“I … I don’t understand.” Why now? After all this time, all those years?
“I know that you have many, many questions. Let’s just say that the dragon blood accelerated a process that would have taken years, still. What I want … need you to do, is to trust me. If you do, I will be able to help you, when the time comes.” She released the tight hug, kissing Yukiko on her forehead. “Whatever happens, do not give up and help your friend. She will need your help soon.”
As Yukiko blinked once, the strange girl had disappeared. “What do you mean? Why will she need my help soon?”
No one answered. The bright light around her started to vanish instead, being replaced by darkness and the feeling of something hard below her. She could hear Lias voice from some distance, getting louder and closer fast.
“… you thinking?” She was shouting at someone. “A few novices were struck with fever for several days, and they only got blood from a dragon priest! Why haven’t you told me anything? Why have you let her go through with this?”
Yukiko smiled and opened her eyes. She got up and turned around to see Lia shouting at Ray, Phobos and Aeris. Her father was still in the form of a dragon and still flinched after every sentence.
“It’s because I wanted them to. They saw as well as I that we do not have much time, if we want to keep our advantages.” Yukiko interrupted Lia's speech and stood up. She wasn’t dizzy any more, though her fever had still to go down completely.
Lia turned and embraced Yukiko in a hug. “Why? Why are you so reckless, if Bradley is involved? I worried about you.”
“It is remarkable, that you got through it within a few hours. But Lia is right, you should rest a bit more.” Aeris stretched his neck and looked north. “We will attack Bradley early enough, and my children are still gathering.”
Yukiko nodded and returned Lia's embrace. They were the ones that had a few aces up their sleeve. Bradley would fall, she could just feel it!