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 Serenity

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Blaze
Incendo Clan WhiteLighter
Incendo Clan WhiteLighter


Posts : 94
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Join date : 2012-06-21

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Mutations: Flames surrounding paws and flicker from ears & tufts of fur sticking up from her ears
Age: Eighteen years

PostSubject: Serenity   Mon Jul 09, 2012 3:27 am

Serenity

      If it seems rough, it is because it is the first time that I have ever written something in first person.


Chapter One

    Life is a blissful event of wishes and heartaches, but when the heartache was this beautiful then it is easy to see why life is worth living. In the dark twilight sky, the first of the celebratory fireworks was making an explosion. Its illuminating blues and reds sent a wave of cheerful gasps and awed coos through the crowd gathered in the pavilion of the castle. A parade would be beginning now, signaling the joyous occasion.

    My brother, Kale, was married earlier this day. He and his wife were long gone, but the celebration would last for about a week. I was hopeful that it would not be this rambunctious the entire time, but I have my doubts. The last time one of the royal siblings was married off, I was ten, and that was fifteen years ago.

    So, naturally, we celebrated.

    The last war had begun twenty years ago, and ended with the marriage of my eldest sister, Kaili, to the prince of the Sevryn Kingdom. Our kingdom, properly named the Utulivu Kingdom, rarely engaged in battle with any other kingdoms, but it was not uncommon for arguments to break out between our lord and the lords of the other kingdoms. We were a community of seven kingdoms set upon the mass of land that we call Alamea.

    When my father does get involved with a war, though, it is usually with good reason. Or so he says. I could not see why death should be the solution for anything, but however the kingdom lords wanted to solve their disputes was their business. My only duty was to stay out of the way and keep an eye out for any suspicious behavior.

    Suspicious behavior could be the man skirting through the crowds, hidden by a dark hood. It could also be the woman distracting a merchant while her starving children quickly grabbed fruit from his stand. Or, perhaps it could be the teenage pair slipping out of the crowd and into the forests that had terrible legends surrounding them.

    From my perch in a chair that sat in front of the window overlooking the crowds, I was well hidden. I had a button that would alert the guards to come running, should I find anything to be detrimental to the celebratory atmosphere. Because the details of what I saw were so intimate, that the eyes of other people would miss them, I would not report them.

    My father and I had a secret, one that would rip me from my safe home in the sturdy castle walls. Unlike the safe humans that dwelled in the city, I was gifted. My sight was enhanced, and there were other things that would get me shipped to another place, hundreds of miles away, to the Tower of Serenity River, where those gifted in magic are trained.

    Father said that it was the only a way to keep the kind that I was born a part of in one place and to suppress the ideas of outcry. It might be feminine compassion, or my tendency to stick up for the suppressed, but it seemed awfully rude to trap people inside a tower so that they can grow into people who would not be able to fit in socially when released from the tower.

    Letting out a sigh, I rested my chin on my clenched fists and continued to watch. The orchestra played a jolly tune to which many danced. Drunken laughter and giddy chuckles chimed in to the tune, and the world felt surreal.

    I could leave. I could just slip away now and never worry about hiding anymore. I could learn to develop whatever gifts I was granted and become something more than a political pawn. Children and leading were not my forte anyway, so why not?

    The thought of the look on my father’s face when he discovered that I was gone put a damper on those ideas. Even though I knew that he was doing the best for me by holding the truth about my gifts in the dark, I wanted to be free, like the adventurers in fairy tales. Dragons had been gone for over a hundred years, but there were other threats in the wilds that could be a danger to the people. I could make new friends; have allies that would have my back through the thick and thin, despite what I was born as.

    Like that would happen,” I grumbled to myself. The last thing that I could do was hurt my father. He had done so much to see if there was any trace of magical lineage on either side of my parentage, but there was nothing that he could find; naturally, if there was any magic in the family, it would have been left out of records, so that we would be left alone by the heads of the Serenity Tower.

    As far as I was concerned, that tower that stood over the river that flowed through four of the seven kingdoms was a much more appealing place to be than here. It was too noisy, and not being able to join in on the celebration was something that was a bit of a dampener to the joy that was supposed to be felt by the entire kingdom.

    A twinkle in the sky might have been the first hint, but the parade was marching, and fireworks were spewing into the sky, illuminating it to the point that it would have been impossible to tell whether or not I was really seeing what might have been incoming forces. A long and bright fabric dragon composed of dancers that made up the movements and appearance of the glimmering snake of a beast began the parade with their fluid movements.

    Entranced, the activity in the sky went on without notice to my sharp eyes. My heart ached to be among the people traveling with the parade. It was all so magical and enchanting. I wanted desperately to be a part of it, but as I had been told before, it was not the duty of royalty to partake in such festivities. Unless we were riding and waving daintily, parades were not something we were to be a part of.

    I heard the footsteps behind me, but I paid them no attention. The parade and fireworks were magnificent.

    Unfair, is it not?”

    My heart nearly leapt from my chest at the masculine voice and was accompanied by a yelp of shock. I was not being touched – no, heaven forbid that I be touched by an ally. Not turning from my position, and keeping my gaze locked on the dancers in the parade, I scowled. Embarrassment burned the tips of my ears as I grunted, “
    Life is not fair, Elian.”

    His chuckle told me that he did not believe that I meant what I had said. “
    Well, Keahi, you have a point, but I believe that you need to unwind a little. Watching the festivities cannot be that fun,” he taunted. “Come on. I bet that your old man would hardly notice.”

    I had no time to think about what I was doing. I was acting without thinking, something that I had a tendency to do. “
    I cannot afford to leave my post, Elian!” My fist collided with the solid armor that protected his chest. As a member of the royal guard, one of Elian’s established duties was keeping an eye on me to make sure that I did not get into trouble. “Besides, I know what you are getting at. I am not going to fall for your little games.”

    My arms folded across my chest victoriously. There would not be any dragging me away from my post tonight to partake in partying.

    Just then, shrieks rose into the air and the earth shook. I was flung into the hard armor that protected Elian and into his strong arms. “
    What was that?” I demanded. I turned my back for ten seconds, and now it seemed as though the world was falling apart.

    There was no vibration to signal a chuckle as Elian held on to me. I hated feeling defenseless, but I was not the one to be fighting, I had no armor. The screams outside my opened window only got more frantic as another chorus of shaking threatened the foundation of the castle. This time, though, it was accompanied by a noise that could only be described as an explosion.

    I believe that we are under attack.”

    I wanted to be taken back five minutes and only be worried about silly Elian and his teasing. Now this serious Elian had taken his place and was holding steady as though his life depended on it.

    Things steadied long enough for me to run to the open window and see an ominous wall of burning flames. My heart dropped to see the people scrambling about and fleeing. “
    I cannot believe this,” I breathed. It was hard to watch all of it, but there were things that should be done. In an act of not knowing what to do, I pressed the button that would summon the guards into action. The buzz ran up my arm until it felt as though I had been hit with a softball, and the tingling remained long after I pulled the palm of my hand from the button.

    You know that the guards are more than likely already in action, right?” asked Elian. His cheery face was paled with what could have been nausea as he looked over into the illuminated darkness that had taken the world that had seemed so peaceful for our entire lives. It was now chaos.

    Mutely, I nodded. It felt like a natural response. If there was trouble in the kingdom, press the button to launch an immediate counter-attack. Now that there actually was trouble, it seemed pointless to need a button. Anyone who had missed out on the fact that there was trouble here, where everyone in the kingdom was, would have to be either dead, or caught in a coma. As far as I knew, there could be plenty of dead people, due to these fire balls that were falling like cannonballs from the sky.

    Whistling air rang through my ears as the next orb of disaster launched straight for the castle pavilion. I was frozen in terror, but there was a force to react for me. In the next moments, a few things became clear to me.

    Utulivu Kingdom had made someone, somewhere, angry. This someone obviously had powerful friends. Next, we were likely going to be at war now. If not, then we would be wiped from the floors with scrub brushes, because everyone in the kingdom was dead.

    When I crashed to the ground, it felt like something had cracked. Pain spiraled through my chest, but the deafening roar in my ears hardly gave me time to sort through all of it. Things felt like they were going immeasurably slow. The floor moved as Elian crawled to the corner of the floor and the window. There was a three-foot tall gap I saw the door to this room, and from under, I could see straight to the door. The door to the room was standing ajar, and I was able to watch as men ran by. A pair stopped and looked in to see what was going on. I knew not why Elian had picked this spot to cower, but his experience was enough to make me trust him.

    Light illuminated the room and heat seared everything. Sweat wasted no time to come to life to cool my body, but the heat was impossible to not cringe away from. I let out an involuntary whimper as I watched the two men crumple in agony. Their cries fell on deaf ears as they twitched and writhed. Death seemed pretty okay right now.

    If burning was a fast way to go, then I could deal with that.

    The heavy weight on top of me could go, though.

    Things had gone eerily still with the passing heartbeats. As though it was a bat to the chest, the world resumed at normal speed, but it felt hyperactive. Elian stood and helped me up. His armor was burnt, and he was sweating. The heat had done enough to scare us into submission, but we were relatively safe from the harm that had come to the other men.

    The sounds of the surrounding world leaked back in like a sudden burst of rain in a dry spell. The screams of everyone that had been down at the celebration had become less noisy. The crackling of fire was another one, but the smell was more disturbing. Crinkling my nose in disgust, I tried to shift to look at Elian. He looked terrified.

    The whistling air, the balls of fire; whatever had sent them at us had done a good job of shaking us up. “
    Elian, we have to go help people,” I begged. I may not be the queen, or even the oldest daughter of the family, but I cared about the fate of the people that were governed by the rule of my family. They had not done anything that warranted such a tragic turn of events.

    A firm grip on my shoulder stopped me from leaving. I turned to look into Elian’s brown eyes, illuminated to show the concern that shook him to his core by the fire. “
    You cannot go out there, Princess. I must take you to safety.”

    The people need help, too!” I pleaded. Shaking off his grip, I ran to the window, which was strewn with scorch marks from the fire. It seemed odd that the fire had enveloped the room, but that there was no orb to be engulfed by it to attack in the first place.

    The fires lit the sky to reveal something that I had not expected to ever bear witness to. In the clouds of ash and smoke that rose in the air, a large shadow crossed. If that was the shadow, I would hate to see the actual beast that had caused this destruction. The lands were torched and charred, and the surviving people looked as though they were just as lost as I felt.

    I was removed from my view of the outside world and led away from the room. Without there being things in there for the fire to burn, it had gone out.
    I hardly noticed.

    My mind was on the huge shape of darkness that I had seen. Shouts came from every which direction, but they were not making sense to my ears. How could this be happening?

    Twists and turns that I had followed for the entirety of my life seemed foreign now as I saw pale faces run around like chickens with their heads cut off. The ground floor was teeming with heat and flames that seemed to grow back, even after being put out by the men working at keeping the castle from becoming a ruin.

    Above, there was a loud noise, like two hard surfaces coming under pressure that could flatten a mountain. The castle shook, and crashing was accompanied by screaming.
    Our pace hastened.

    When a guard caught up with us, he brought news that I could not process. What could he mean by saying that the west wing had been leveled? Vaguely, I realized that my room was in that wing, along with all of my training equipment. What kind of force could just knock over part of the building? It was made of marble and concrete and other substances that were supposedly indestructible.

    We were led to the back of the castle, but before we reached the exit, we were turned and taken in a new direction to a part of the castle that I had never been allowed in before. However, we were halted so that a trap door could be opened, and we were led under the earth.

    Which of my family members were there? Which guards had made the journey to this place? In the darkness of the cavern that we were led through, I could not tell. No one spoke, except to give the occasional order to duck, or watch our step.

    The light that filtered from our destination was welcomed with open arms. I looked around me and at the faces that would be my only fellow survivors, I assumed. The royal family, that is, we children to the king and queen of Utulivu, numbered at eight. My eldest sibling, Keanu, had been ten years my elder. He had been killed by an assassin hired by the kingdom of Xochitylu. Next was Kaili, and she was happily ruling another kingdom alongside her king. After her came me, and my younger siblings consisted of Kale and Kalea. They were twins, but Kale had left shortly after the wedding that had taken place at high noon to go on a honeymoon with his wife. Kalea was trembling against the rock wall of this cavern with her head buried in her hands.

    The next three were Kiele, Kai, and Kelii, respectively. Kiele was six years younger than me, and she seemed to not be here. Kai and Kelii were twins, like Kale and Kalea, but the two were brothers, rather than brother and sister, like their elder siblings. The two were two years younger than Kiele, and both seemed to be here. Kai had sunk into a chair and had slumped with his upper body propped by the table that stood next to the chair. Kelii was looking about as though this was the most exciting thing that had ever happened to him.

    Moments later, though, Kelii was shaking Kai worriedly. His twin responded with a grunt, which seemed to be enough for him.

    Father and Mother were there, of course, but they looked to be in worse condition than all of us combined. They looked over us, and took note of out condition.

    When my mother looked at me, her expression changed to one of terror. I was swaying on my feet, but I would be fine. Shock was nothing to worry about, compared to the hundreds of dead people that were littering the castle pavilion and with the large shadow that I had seen. Nothing that I had ever studied was that big and could fly like that.
    Maybe it had glided?

    Now I was just lying to myself to save everyone here from the terrible, terrible truth. I was being despicable by thinking that I could ignore the truth. The fantasy of a lie seemed so much safer than anything right now. Father could retaliate against another kingdom and I could go to bed, wherever that might be.

    Mother exchanged words with father in a private manner. I could not be bothered with curiosity. All this excitement had worn me out, and all I wanted to do was sleep it off. I swayed back, only to be caught by a sturdy body.

    Tilting my head back to look up, I saw that it was one of the royal guard members that were in charge of patrolling the castle with the specific duty of keeping our curious selves away from the area where meetings between kings were held.

    Unable to withhold my frown, I did my best to steady myself upright and found that my father had come over. His hands on my shoulders held me in place as his hazel eyes searched mine. “
    What did you see, my dearest Keahi?” he asked, eyes searching.

    I blinked and stared at him. Did he know something that I did not know? Had he expected this? He sure looked like he had expected. It was nonsense, to think that I had seen what I had thought that I had seen. It was just my eyes playing tricks on me.

    That did not happen, though. My eyes only showed me the truth. Hallucinations did not plague me, like they did those who had witnessed tragedy. My father knew well enough to say that my sight was to be taken seriously at all times. He did, however, let my siblings have the benefit of the doubt if I was brought as a witness.

    Tears welled up in my eyes, and the strange distortion that came with tears accompanied it. How could it be so hard to just say it? The shadow on the smoke had been easy enough to identify from art pieces, but now that it had sprung to life, it seemed so much more difficult to actually say it. I could tell him that I saw forced from another kingdom, if it would come out easier than the forever burned image of what had been seen.

    How would lies save anything? Sanity could be kept for them if I let them believe that it was an attack made by another kingdom. I would not be able to keep any sort of self reliance if I let myself tell them that, though. I would sink into a shell and never look to the outside world again.

    I looked at my father. He looked so aged with his wrinkles and with his facial hair burnt like it was. I wanted to shrink away from the terror that I saw in his eyes, but that seemed impossible. Shrinking away, I witnessed the first real flicker of pain that I had thought I had seen that night.

    It was so obvious and unrestrained that I was physically hurt by it. I loved my father, but even considering that, as his arms dropped to his side, I wondered if telling him what the shape of the shadow had been was really the best thing.

    When he coughed and wheezed into the folds of his once illustrious fabric, by hold on telling him that it had been an enemy kingdom attack faltered. What kingdom would be angry enough to cause this much damage? Unable to think of one, I swallowed my pride and rolled my shoulders. My father needed to know about this threat, for his people, and to warn the people of the other kingdoms.

    Reality began to sink in. My legs and lower lip trembled as I looked at my father. So much had been lost, thanks to this thing that had attacked us. A name; I needed to put a name to it. Out loud, so that I could not be trapped in the dangerous realms of my thoughts.

    A dragon,” I choked out. “I saw a dragon.”

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Blaze
Incendo Clan WhiteLighter
Incendo Clan WhiteLighter


Posts : 94
Points : 607
Join date : 2012-06-21

Member Data:
Mate:
Mutations: Flames surrounding paws and flicker from ears & tufts of fur sticking up from her ears
Age: Eighteen years

PostSubject: Re: Serenity   Mon Jul 09, 2012 3:27 am

CHAPTER TWO

    The look that sat on my father's face as the two syllables passed from my mouth not once, but twice, to form one of the most feared words in our language was enough to make me regret saying it.

    "
    A dragon?" he asked in a hushed voice. "You are absolutely certain that it was a dragon?" The shaking in his hands was increasing notably as he placed them on my shoulders.

    I gulped and nodded. There was a mess of auburn hair in front of my eyes. The tips were blackened from the attack. It was odd, because I certainly did not remember being on fire for any amount of time.

    Before I knew it, I was being pulled into a hug, and the hushed tone that my father had been using suddenly became very serious. "
    Listen close; I want you to stay with a guard at all times. I will tell your mother about the dragon – but you must not tell anybody else. Do you understand me?"

    The heat of his breath on my exposed neck and ear was a bit too reminding of the dragon, so I shied away a bit and nodded. Immediately, I was on the lookout for Elian. He had been silent since we had rushed from the tower, which was odd, considering how he loved to tell war stories. Secretly, I wondered how my father could possibly hope to cover up something the size of a dragon, but his endeavors were not mine to control.

    As soon as Father had gone to my mother's side, I looked to the area that had been hidden by his bulky figure. He made a better wall than he did a window, really, but it seemed to be a poor time for cheap jokes, so I let it slide as I pinpointed my target.

    Elian was slumped against the far wall with his helmet in his lap. Seeing him like that made a lump form in my throat; he was supposed to be a comic relief in a situation like this, but instead, he was just as down as the rest of us.

    I prodded at his shin with the tip of my foot, hoping to get some sort of reaction out of him. There was nothing in response; he did not even blink. Giving up was not something I could afford, though. Sitting by his side, I nudged him with my elbow, and this time I added vocal cues. "
    Elian, are you all right?"

    Even though I had been trying for a reaction, I did not get what I had really expected or wanted to be on the receiving end of. "
    How can anything be all right? We were just attacked – by something that I was raised to believe did not exist! I thought that – I thought that this might have been my last night alive. There are probably thousands of people out there, dead, because none of us could do anything about that thing, and you ask if I am all right?!"

    I had been reaching out to place my hand on his shoulder, but at his anger, it fell limp on my lap. We were receiving stares, but it was not like it mattered. We were all at our breaking points, and it was my own fault for not making notice of that in the first place. "
    You just looked so down," I muttered, more to myself than to him. If there had been anyone to really talk to in here, it would have been Elian, but now he seemed too far away to reach.

    "
    I failed," he sighed. "It's all my fault that this happened. If I hadn't drawn your attention from watching, then none of this would have happened."

    Baffled, I looked at Elian. He was coated in as much ash as the rest of us, and it seemed as though he had tried as hard as the other guards to get us here. "
    There was no way to have known, and if you hadn't been there, I might be dead, rather than sitting here and talking to you." I paused; was that really what he needed to hear? "Lucky me, right?" I asked with a note of sarcasm.

    Elian snorted, giving away his attempt to withhold his laugh, "
    I'm not that bad, am I? I mean, you came over here, not the other way around."

    Now there was the Elian that I had grown so fond of! "
    There was nothing that our guards could have done," I explained a little further. But as I got there, I lowered my voice. "Don't get me wrong, you guys are great, but I don't think that slaying dragons is a part of guard training."

    Solemnly, Elian nodded. Everyone had been at the mercy of that thing. There was no telling when it would leave, or when it would be safe to emerge.

    Some things were capable of being certain of, though. The dragon was a threat to not just us, but to all of the kingdoms, and as long as it was around, there was not a single soul that was safe. It could strike at any time, unprovoked. Another thing was that I was tired. I tried to stay awake until things settled, but the earth shook all around us. It was terrifying, but as I rested against Elian, things seemed to become much more bearable.

    "
    Did I say that you could use me as a pillow?"

    I rolled my eyes and looked up at Elian, "
    Do you really think that I would ask permission?"

    More restrained, Elian chuckled and gave in. "
    Oh, all right, I guess we can let it slide this one time," he made it sound like it was something that he was loathe to do, but we both knew that this was not the first time, and that it would not be the last time, that I fell asleep against his solid armor.

    As it always did, it felt like it was too soon when my sturdy support was wracked with lurches and shaking. With a groan, I sat up and looked at Elian.

    He was pale and shivering. Against the strange white color to his usually tan skin, the blue tint to his lips was striking. But it was not the blue that had me bothered. It was the deep crimson trail that slid down his chin.

    "
    Elian, what's wrong?" I asked, sitting up like a bolt.

    "
    It's nothing," he croaked. He coughed into the elbow of his chain mail under-armor, but it did not catch all of the splatter of blood that was spewed from his mouth.

    I had no idea what to do. Was our healer one of the people saved? "
    I'm going to get you some help," I told him. Already, my weight was shifted onto my toes and knees. I would be ready to take action if the assistance was needed. "We need some help over here!" I called out. The sleeping faces contorted into disgruntled groans, but they were waking.

    "
    Hey!" I shouted. My temper blazed as no one seemed to respond. "I need someone with knowledge in medicine and healing over here! Wake up!"

    "Keahi, calm down."

    It was so pained and breathless; I just could not handle to see him that way. Someone had stood, though, and was coming over. I dropped down onto my knees beside Elian and stared. What was I supposed to do? "
    S – Stay with me," I pleaded.

    "
    Miss, I am going to need you to step aside while I look him over," wheezed the old man that had cared for my family for years. He usually had a pair of adolescent twins helping him, but they were nowhere to be seen.

    "
    I can't; I have to stay by Elian's side," I stared at him, hoping that he would understand.

    "
    You'll just be in the way. I am the healer here, and I need you to move aside. There is no telling what disease he has picked up until I can properly study him." The elderly man made a move like he was going to sweep me to the side, but I was younger than he was. I was faster; I threw my arms around the solid steel armor that had protected not only Elian, but also myself as the dragon had sent its flames into my tower.

    "
    It doesn't matter!" I begged. "I've been by his side pretty much since we got down here – if he has anything, then I am probably already infected with it. Just, please, let me stay by his side."

    I felt a hand on my shoulder and looked back to see that Elian was shaking his head. "
    You have to do as he says, Lady Keahi. I will be fine." The wheezing to his breath was not any better, and I found it hard to believe him, but I had to make room for the healer.

    Shifting my weight back onto the balls of my feet, I stood. "
    I will never forgive you if you leave," I warned before stepping to a place further down the wall.

    By the time that I made it there, I was shaking. I did not feel like I was sick, but terror had seized the corners of my being and was sucking out sensibility like a leech sucked blood. My back rested against the cold stone and I sank down with my head in my hands. What if Elian died?

    From between my pinky finger and ring finger, I peeked at the healer and Elian. Elian was being stripped of his armor, and I know this was a bad time, but I could not remember ever seeing him in anything but the heavy metal getup. He was less bulky than I imagined him to be. Actually, he looked like he was the same size as my older brothers; strong, but not so hefty that it looked like he had been enhanced with anything.

    A smile appeared unbidden across my face, but then Elian coughed again, and fear washed away any reason to find silver lining in the dark, dark clouds that hung over us. When the hair stood on the back of my neck, I turned away from watching the healer and Elian to see that Kelii was watching me.

    His face was twisted with some sort of anger that I could not identify. Why would he be looking at me with anger? After casting a forlorn glance at the healer and Elian, I stood and walked to my younger brother's side. "
    What troubles you?"

    "
    How come you care about him, but not your family?" Kelii demanded harshly. I found myself actually flinching from the venom in his voice. "Do we not matter to you anymore, Keahi?"

    "
    How could you think that, Kelii?" I asked, hoping that the hurt in my voice was appropriate enough to convince him. "I care about you all just as much as I care about Elian and the rest of the guards and all of the people in our kingdom. We are raised to love and worry about all, are we not?" I asked.

    Kelii remained silent as he stared angrily at his feet. "
    You showed none of that concern for Kai. He's been slumped over there in that same position for hours, and no one has checked on him." Kelii's voice cracked, and it was at that point that I realized just how blind I had been.

    "
    But didn't you check him when you shook him earlier?" I questioned, remembering that Kai had grunted when the exchange had occurred. "Why haven't you checked on him since then or asked for help? For all we know, Kai could just be asleep," I encouraged. Hopefully, it would be enough to calm Kelii down, but it seemed to do just the opposite.

    "
    So you'll just shrug Kai off like it is nothing, but as soon as your boyfriend over there starts coughing up blood, it is the end of the world!" Kelii roared. If there had been any that were still asleep, they were definitely awake now. "And what about everyone else? Do you think that you are better than all of us?"

    "
    Kelii, no," I interjected. His scowl told me that he had not been done talking, but that was not anything of importance to me. I shouldered passed him and went to stand over Kai's slumped form. It was not hard to tell that Kelii was right behind me, but for the moment, I ignored him. "And he's not my boyfriend," I grumbled, but he hardly seemed to believe that, based on the groan that followed my grumbling.

    The twins had been notorious for how heavy sleepers they were. There was always one thing that got them up, though, and that was the mention of food. "
    Kai, we have some food prepared if you're hungry," I remarked tiredly. Kai did not respond.

    "
    Kai?" both me and Kelii said it in unison, but I was the one who reached out and put my hand on his exposed shoulder. We all had skin exposed that was not usually showing, but with the dragon rampaging above us, it hardly seemed to matter. His skin was cold. And not just cold, but it felt like the marble pillars that lined our grand hall.

    In recoil, I pulled my hand away and looked at Kelii, "
    I – I think we are too late to save him," I choked. There were real tears in my eyes as I held Kelii in my arms. He sobbed and beat his fists wherever he could find a place for them, but as he had his release, I came to realize that it was the only noise that was coming from anywhere.

    What had happened to the dragon?

    Kelii must have felt the change from comforting to confusion, because as soon as I had taken notice of the absence of the earth shaking and grinding noises, he pulled away from the embrace.

    "
    It's too quiet," I muttered, looking up at the ceiling of our large holding cell as though it might give answers. "Do you know the time, Kelii?" I asked, hoping that it might be a time where the light was good enough outside to scout through the tunnels and investigate.

    "
    No clue," Kelii grunted. His eyes were puffy and red, not to mention bloodshot, but there was more going on, and I knew that Kelii ached for adventure as much as I did. The only problem was that we would never be allowed to go off on our own in this mess.

    I looked around at them all. Mother was resting on Father's lap; they both looked like they could pass out at any minute. Kalea was curled up against the leg of the large wooden table that Kai was slumped on. As I watched her closely, I saw the rises and falls of her shoulders and chest; she was alive. There were seven guards apart from Elian, and they all seemed to be slouching at their posts.

    One look at the door told me that no one would be able to find us here (not that there would be anyone looking around). When I walked over to them, my feet felt as though they were being weighed down with lead. They dragged half-heartedly as I walked to each one and gave them the OK to rest. None of them seemed to have the energy to argue, which was a good thing, because I was sure that I would be incapable of providing an argument in return. With seven guards slouched against the stone walls, things seemed much less crowded and much less tense as well.

    For me and Kelii, it seemed that the time to make an escape was prompt and at our fingertips. It would be just a small matter of time before our mother and father fell asleep once more, and as long as Elian and the healer were busy trying to recover, then we were as good as safe in our hopes of getting out to look around.

    I had yet to ask him if he wanted to go yet. I had not even mentioned it to him! "
    Kelii," I urged him over to a spot where we could sit shoulder to shoulder. He came willingly enough, but it was clear that he was as wiped as the guards – he was not the only one.

    Kelii slid down to sit beside me, but by that point, he might as well have already been asleep. The light snores that he had were nothing compared to the loud, earth shaking ones of the guards, though.

    Now that sleep was available, I found myself wide awake. For what felt like an eternity, I sat there and listened to the snores of the guards. I let my thoughts roam, and wondered where Kiele was. I had not seen her down here in the safety shelter, but did that mean that she was out there, where the dragon had probably turned everything into a fine layer of dust and ash?

    Elian's coughing had seemed to cease, but when I saw the healer rise and walk away, it took all of the composure that I had to not get up and see just how my friend was doing.

    Urging myself to sleep, I rested my head against the cold stone of the wall and closed my eyes. I envisioned a long hallway with torches burning every ten feet. One by one, I would blow them out until the hall got darker and darker.

    Before I knew it, I was asleep, and it was a sleep that was for the first time in ages not plagued by nightmares filled with disaster. It was still and dark, without interruption, and did a lot more in the short amount of time that I had it than it did when I had long periods of restless sleep.

    When I awoke, I became aware of the throbbing headache that had set in between my eyebrows. It was more focused to the right side, and the more I tried to concentrate on any one thing, the worse it seemed to throb.

    Kelii was still zonked out against my shoulder, but he looked so peaceful and disturbing him when the rest was this needed would feel worse than the heat of the flames from the dragon. It seemed so quiet, but however long I had been asleep had been longer than I had thought it was. The guards were alert and standing as though they were at the posts that they had manned before the attack. I pitied them a little; I mean, what else were they going to do?

    Though it was not my place to give them any serious orders, like to stand down or to take a break while we waited for the dragon to pass, I wished that I could. Neither of my parents seemed to be doing anything, but they still slept, too.

    At my side, Kelii stirred. For a few moments, he was silent, but when he saw where we were, his shoulders fell and he sank into a slouch, "
    I had hoped that it was just a bad dream."

    "
    Sorry," I sighed. Now that Kelii was awake, I could go over to see if Elian was okay. At the same time though, I felt like I should stay there for my younger brother. He had lost his twin, as well as had more than likely lost the next closest to him in age as far as our siblings went.

    Kelii shook his head and stood. He was quiet as he walked across the room and paced. I supposed that this was my chance to check on Elian, but when I stood, I noticed the look on the healer's face. It was one that I had seen before more times than I wanted to count.
    It was the look he held when he had lost one of his patients.

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PostSubject: Re: Serenity   Mon Jul 09, 2012 3:49 am

Chapter Three

    That look sent the world into a state that was frozen and unmoving. The healer looked up at me, then quickly away. If that meant what I think that it had meant, then I would not be something to be crossed.

    I maneuvered through the people to talk to the old man. Surely he was trying to pull a fast one on me. There was no way that he could have let Elian die.

    As he saw me approach, the healer tried to busy himself with something. He had a bowl that he filled with water from his flask and splashed it on his face. No matter. I stood by and waited for him to finish before dragging his attention to me.

    When the healer patted his face with the charred remains of his tunic, I made my move. “
    How is he doing?” I pressed.

    The healer seemed jittery, like he was under pressure of some sort. “
    Your guard friend needs a lot of rest. He will be fine,” he wheezed. Something about it sounded uncertain, and that uncertainty made my skin crawl.

    You do not seem to be too certain of that,” I remarked off-handedly. I watched him like a hawk for signs that might indicate that Elian was not going to be as okay as the healer was trying to convince me of.

    Do you remember when everyone thought that your mother was going to die?” asked the healer. Of course I remembered; it had been when Kai and Kelii were born.

    Well of course I do,” I responded. Where was he going with this? It certainly did not seem like it was a good place.

    The healer slid his fingers through his scraggly long beard while he spoke. “
    It is like that time. I cannot be completely certain that my remedies have done the trick. Only time will tell,” he explained.

    I stood in silence, letting that explanation sink in. If things did not go well, then Elian would die. Just thinking about it felt like a sucker punch to my gut. “
    Thank you,” for everything the man had to put up with, he was surprisingly good natured. I do not think that I could have done his job; blood made my skin crawl and tummy squirm.

    The healer grunted in acknowledgement. He was not one for words unless he was explaining his treatments. In his eyes, there was loss and sorrow. His helper twins were nowhere to be seen, just like Kiele. “
    Keep safe princess,” he grunted. “The world is a dangerous place and hides more than you know.”

    His ominous warning seemed trivial then, but it might mean something for the future, so I nodded to him and stepped over to Elian. For the longest time, I stood there and watched the slow rise and fall of his chest as he breathed.

    Do you plan on sitting down any time soon?”

    The suddenness of the question had me jerking in surprise, but there was no doubt that Elian was feeling better. “
    I am not sure,” I responded. “It is a great matter of importance, whether I stand or sit.”

    Oh just sit down,” he ordered with a slight laugh.

    The corner of my mouth folded into a half smile as I watched him stir and to see the broad smile on his own face. “
    Is that an order?” I asked, trying to sound offended.

    Elian caught on easily enough, “
    Definitely not, dear princess. Merely a friendly suggestion. We would not want you to hurt yourself by standing for too long.”

    If you insist,” there was no hiding the relief that I felt. If Elian was feeling good enough to joke around, then there was some hope yet. I sat by his side and leaned against his bare shoulder. Compared to his armor, it was surprisingly warm. The warmth spread around my back as Elian wrapped his arm around my shoulder, and I did not protest. Aside from the guards, everyone else was still asleep, or was so occupied with a task that they did not notice. “I thought you were a goner,” I admitted, unable to look up and see how he was reacting.

    So did I, but I had some encouragement to stick around,” Elian admitted. He sounded distant, but if he was off in la la land, then I would not stop him from wandering.

    I did, however, look up to see the careful expression on his face. It was like a mask, similar to the ones the guards wore when on duty, but more warm and open. “
    Is that so?” I questioned, wondering just what that encouragement could have been.

    He nodded, “
    Most definitely; I could not bear to be the subject of one of your grudges.”

    The tears that had moistened my eyes were a bit of a shocker, but the smile and small chuckle were common enough. “
    I only said that I would never forgive you if you were dead,” I corrected. “If I hated you because you were dead, then you would not be any guilt to haunt you.”

    Oh, if I were dead, I would be haunting you!” Elian’s mask turned into an open grin as he pushed jokingly on my shoulder.

    I tried to keep my laugh quiet, so that we would not disturb anyone, but there was really no time to laugh. As I rocked back to lean against Elian’s shoulder, I was steadied and looked up to see some new sort of look on Elian’s face. His mop of blond hair was matted down to his head and some of it hung in his eyes.

    Slowly, I reached out to move it away. I did not like when my hair hung in my eyes, so it seemed like other people would not like it as well. When it was brushed out of the way, I smiled and started to pull my hand back, but it was caught by Elian’s free hand and put against the bare skin on his chest. “
    Thank you for getting the healer,” he murmured. It sounded different to hear him talk in such a hushed voice, but this was an entirely new playing field. It was filled with things that I could not locate, and I was sure that this would be frowned upon by my parents.

    The thrill kept me there, rather than sending me off like a bullet. Many suitors had tried at my hand, but none were really too interested after they met me. It was always my sisters that had captivated them with their charm and feminine ways. “
    You needed it,” I breathed, releasing the breath that I did not know that I held.

    Elian leaned in closer, to the point to where our noses nearly touched, and then there was the gravelly sound of someone clearing his throat, and we both sat up bolt right and looked away nervously. It had been one of the guards, considering that my father was snoring peacefully in his chair.

    Sorry,” grunted Elian. I peeked over to see that his mouth was drawn into a tight like and that he was staring at his hands.

    Sorry for what?” I asked, hoping that the heat in my face did not mean that I was flushed beat red.

    Elian looked over, and I noticed that he was flushed pretty bad. “
    As your guard, I am not supposed to get invested in anything but your safety. Where you go, I go. I am supposed to stop you from doing stupid things, and there I was, encouraging something that could get you disowned.”

    Elian, please,” I shrugged. “I have known you for years and you have never been known to hurt me. I trust you, even if others do not. Now, you need your rest, so as a princess of what remains of our kingdom, I order you to get that rest you need.”

    In defeat, Elian’s shoulders slumped, but I knew that he was grateful for my shrugging the thing off. The only problem was, on the inside, I was dying. As Elian drifted off to sleep, I settled back against his shoulder and watched the rest of the people that were there with us. One guard was giving me an odd look, so I stuck my tongue out at him and watched his frown intensify.

    I laughed quietly and waited for others to stir. It was hard to tell whether Kelii was awake, or if he was just feigning sleep, but I would not disturb him. After the confrontation earlier, it seemed best to give him his space, but there was an ever present curiosity about what was going on above us.

    Before I knew it, even the guards were asleep again. I was the only one left wide awake, and it seemed to be the best time to act.

    As slowly as I could manage, I pulled my weight off of Elian’s shoulder and stood. On my toes, I slipped to the large door. If I was remembering the mess of the night before correctly, then the door was a noisy thing when pulled open too far, so I cracked it just enough to slip through and shut it slowly behind me.

    I was met with the dark tunnels that we had travelled through the night before and cursed myself for not memorizing the layout when we had taken them the night before. Staying close to the wall, I used my hand to feel my way forward. There was no light to let my eyes adjust to the darkness, so until I got to higher ground, I was completely in the dark about my location.

    Time seemed to swim endlessly before I made it to an area where light was peeking through. There had been torched lighting the way the night before, if I remembered correctly. How had someone lit them the night before, when the dragon attack had been so sudden?

    I froze in my tracks and looked around me. There was no switch to make the flames all active, and the stone door that hid the secret tunnel to the place that we were hiding out, so how had anyone known to light them?

    It seemed impossible to think that anyone could have known that the dragon would attack. It seemed even more impossible to think that anyone could have known and let the celebrations go on as they had. If someone had known, then the lives of hundreds, maybe even thousands of them, had been in that one person’s hands, if there had been someone that had known.

    I sighed, knowing too well that it was too late to be thinking about something like that. And, maybe they were lit for some other purpose. After all, the secret area under the castle had been a new discovery for me. Maybe it had been the place where Father’s secret meetings had taken place. It did smell like ale in there.
    Pushing forward, I found light easier to come by, and also that the ground was slanting upward more and more with each step up until the earth beneath my feet became stone. Eager, I hastened my pace until I had run face first into the stone that had hidden this tunnel from so many.

    With a groan, I stumbled back and held my nose. Between it and my forehead, I felt as though I could fall back and not wake up again, but as I applied pressure to my nose, the pain faded some, and I was able to carry on as if there was nothing that really mattered aside from discovering the fate of the city that had sat at the base of the castle gates.

    The stone door was heavier than I expected it to be. It was like there was something on top of it that was weighing it down. Were we trapped? I pushed and pushed on the door with no signs of it giving in, until there was a click and the stone rolled open with the ease of a kitten batting at a roll of yarn.

    I gritted my teeth in frustration. I had no clue what I had done to get it to open, but it had worked. Unfortunately, a plume of ash spilled in and spread through the air and into my face and throat. The next few moments were spent coughing and trying to get the particles from around my face and to get my eyes to stop watering.

    When I was finally able to step out, I was met with a sight that looked like it belonged to an ancient ruin. What startled me most was the snow white mound with deep red that rested in what was once the castle’s huge garden. The sky was even bleak grey, nearly the exact same color as the ash covered earth. It must have been early morning, based on the little light that shone through the clouds.

    Late nights and early mornings hinted that it would be time for the family to be rising to begin the day’s work and taking care of the daily trials and tribulations that were typical to the royal family. Now, it seemed that there would be some exceptions to the usual schedule. More than likely, Mother was rising with her internal clock and shaking everyone else awake. That made my time limited before I was searched for. Trouble was imminent, so why not get the most out of this venture?

    Against my better judgment, I walked over to the mound. The earth beneath my feet was like a blanket of powder snow, but instead of the beautiful white, it was a bleak grey with black spots. There were people, or rather, charred remains of what had once been people, scattered across the ground and draped on various things. They laid in positions that looked impossible for anyone to be in without broken bones. There were animal bodies, and perhaps the most sickening: bones. The splatters of blood, as well as the littered remains of everything else were enough to convince me to keep my eyes on anything that was not the ground.

    The white and crimson mound seemed like a good idea.

    As I neared the wall that blocked the rest of the image of the mound, the temperature seemed to rise. I paused momentarily to look around. The fires that had been erupting from everywhere the night before were vanquished, but some places had smoke rising from them. The most profound plume of rising smoke came from behind the wall.

    Putting the heat on the idea that there might just be a fire burning on the other side, I continued onward.
    When the broken gates and walls were behind me, I saw what had been the most astounding sight that could possibly be imagined. The snowy mound with deep red splotching was the dragon. The red areas were trails of blood.

    Nauseated by the site, I stumbled away.

    Oddly, I ran into something that was not quite so solid. It fell behind me with a startled shriek, and I fell on top of it – her?

    Get off of me!” ordered a feminine voice. As quickly as I could, I scrambled off and stared at the unfortunate soul that had been dumb enough to stand behind a person that was not aware of her presence.

    As soon as I was off, she stood. “
    Just what do you think you are doing? Going to steal from my kill? Well I have news for you, little rat, this dragon was killed by me and my partner. You are not getting any of the credit for it!”

    I stared at her; she had to be crazy! “
    What do you mean that you and your partner “killed the dragon”? Surely it’s impossible for two people to single handedly kill a full grown dragon!” I exclaimed. My own scramble onto my feet was much less graceful than hers had been, and the scorn in her icy blue eyes was enough to let me know that she was perfectly serious.

    Not “just two people,” stupid,” she spat. “A mage and a rogue; and that was a baby dragon.”

    I went slack jawed at the idea that this was a baby dragon. “
    You killed a baby dragon?” The only thing that I could think was that the mother dragon would not be a happy camper when she spotted her little baby massacred by the two loons that decided to play hero. “Where’s your so called partner?”

    Dead,” answered the woman. She said it so easily; it was like her partner had meant nothing to her, and just a moment ago, she was saying that it was “their” credit. “What, you expected for us both to live when fighting a dragon?” She looked at me like I was the most moronic piece of scum that she had ever come across in her life, and I rose to that bait indignantly.

    Just a moment ago, you spoke of your partner like he was still alive!” I retorted.

    The woman’s posture changed from upright to shifted to her left side as she stared in disbelief. “
    Seriously? Everyone knows that the one to throw the last physical hit to a dragon dies. The spirit of the beast enters the body and stops the heart at the moment that the dragon dies. It was an amateur mistake on my partners part to go in head-first with his daggers instead of using his arrows.” My silence must have been reason enough for her to continue, because continue she did. “That’s why mages and archers are usually hired to kill dragons. Or, they were, back when they were a major threat, but dragon sightings were nonexistent for over a century, and the practice of killing dragons went abandoned.”

    It was hard to believe, but the dragon had signs of being stabbed. I had no clue what kind of magic it was that this silver-haired woman had enforced against it, but there were no signs of it that I could see. “
    So, now what will you do?” I asked. I was not looking for enemies, but this woman knew a lot about dragons. Guilt sat in my stomach; I should have been trained in a mage tower the moment that I had realized that there were those abilities engraved in my blood. I might have been able to help out, rather than flee like everyone else.

    Me?” The woman laughed at this. “I’ll go back to my nomadic lifestyle. You know, dodging rogues and assassins. Black marked mages are not exactly friends with the government.”

    This woman was a Black Marked Mage? The urge to get away from her vanished as a new light was shed upon her. She had learned her magic outside of mage tower walls; and come to think of it, unless a mage was hired for services to the royal or noble families, they lived out their entire lives in the towers that held them.

    The look on the woman’s face had shifted from cocky to terrified; she was looking beyond me, but I did not need to turn around to know that reinforcements had come to locate their lost princess.

    Slowly, I turned around to look at just who had come. It was my father, and two guards that were known for their strict following of the rules. One of them had been the one that I had stuck my tongue out while we were in the hiding area, but it seemed now that his inner rage demon had kicked in.

    My father looked at the silver-haired woman that stood not even three paces to the left and behind me. “
    I will take that as a confession. Bring her in, boys.”
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