I remember seeing her in her full form, her golden eyes glaring down at Kae as he laid beneath her, his body beaten and fragile- no longer able to move or escape. I ran to him, stumbling as my legs threatened to give out from under me. A deep, guttural roar exploded from the large beast’s throat as her taloned grasp thrusted towards me. Putting my arms up, my skin turned to deep violet scales preparing for impact. However, before contact was made Jin lunged at her, somehow managing to hit her large form away- something I didn’t know a human was capable of doing to a fully formed dragon. The air reeked of smoke as the trees around my home burned a bright orange, some of them exploded and splintered around our feet.
I knelt down next to Kae, my father, taking his bloodied hand in mine as he looked up at me. His violet eyes were sad as he began to sit up, straining himself while doing so, face contorting in pain. Blood trickled down his stomach from the large chunk of flesh missing from the upper chest, veins protruding around the crater and swelling like parasites under the skin. I tried to push him down but large hands stopped me, gripping mine tightly as reassuring eyes stared at me in a way that told me to trust what was about to be done. Taking a knife from his holstered belt he started to carve letters into his forearm, red slowly blotting around the new laceration. Then, father grabbed my hand, rough calloused fingers brushing against mine soothingly as the knife cut down my palm, causing me to flinch at the sting; looking up at me he whispered “I love you” before forcing our wounds together. A bright light erupted between us, throwing me backwards just as the woman flung Jin into a tree- a loud crack sounding out before Jin’s limp body slumped over onto the ground like a doll. My stomach began to heat up as a deep rage and new power filled me; the feeling of living things crawling into my skin through the opening in my palm, taking over.
That’s the last thing I remember from that night. I woke up in excruciating pain who knows how many days later- my clothes ripped and covered in my own or someone else’s blood; my body bruised deep blues and purples all over. I searched frantically for Jinizen for hours, but he was nowhere to be found- even the dragon was gone. As I looked around I could feel the same crawling feeling under my skin, now realizing what my father must have done- a transfer spell.
Now here I am, alone in our cave reading my father’s journals for any hint as to what I need to do next, my fingers brushing over the old pages that have become a sour yellow with age.
“When will he come for me, do you think?” I ask out loud, knowing well that no one is physically around to hear, that no one is nearby for miles. It’s not an external person that I’m talking to, no- it’s internal.
“I know what you did.” I say sadly, my voice tented with desolation as I rest my chin on my hand, flipping through the journal idly. “What a stupid thing to do, why didn’t you just heal yourself? Why didn’t we just try to escape? Why did you feel the need to fight her...”
“If you’re not going to respond to me then I know who will.” My voice is falsely strong as I grab the pen beside me, brushing the point across the fair skin of my wrist, writing the ancient symbols effortlessly before running my fingers over them. “Dakki, I evict you.”
I flinch as a burn forms onto my wrist, a red orb leaving it and floating behind me. A crimson light flashes and I turn around to see a tall man stretching his arms over his head, his dark green shirt rising up a little to show part of his toned stomach.
“I need to make some more clothes for you.” I say simply, standing up to face him, not hiding my eyes wandering over his body in a concerned manner. “You were out 2 weeks ago, how have you already grown this much?”
“I’m growing, just like you. And you just need to take better care of me.” He says with a small smile, messing his bright red hair up a little before looking around. “I’m glad to see the cave wasn’t messed with. Everything seems to be intact. Why didn’t you summon me during the fight?”
“There was nothing you could’ve done.” I look around with him, sighing softly at the hollow feeling in my chest from seeing the empty home- two of its’ inhabitants gone from this world.
“Ouch, right where it hurts. I could have taken her on, I’m not some wussy lizard.” He curls his fists into a ball, positioning himself as if to fight someone, “I can take anyone on!”
“Fire can’t go up against lightning.” I smile at him a little, shaking my head at his confidence as I place the journal on the desk, my fingertips hesitating over it for a split moment before moving away; grabbing a green crochet blanket from the chair and tossing it at him. “It’s cold outside, wrap up. I want some company while I get some firewood.”
I walk out of the cave, breathing in the scent of pine trees as I pull my worn black cloak tighter around my body. It’s obvious that there was a large battle here; trees lay on the meadow floor, crushed and burned. A strong metallic smell lingers with the pines, reminding me of how much blood had been spilled.
“You asked, “when will he come” earlier.” Dakki starts, his voice deep as he follows close behind me, his hands clasped behind his back. “Who is he?”
“Well, I’m glad to hear someone was listening to me,” I say, looking back to give him a smile. “My father told me about this friend of his who lives in the nearby castle. His name is Altair and he’s apparently a strong human who works for the king. Father said that if something bad ever happened to him, Altair would come for me. But it’s been roughly 3-4 days since the attack and he hasn’t come.”
“Be patient, humans are slow. They’re not the brightest, either.”
“Jin was very intelligent and he was a human.” My heart aches a little as I say his name; my best friend who had always lived with us out in these woods. I couldn’t find his body after I woke up and I haven’t seen any sign of him since I lost consciousness.
“He was a weird human. He’d always win when we would wrestle. I mean, keep in mind we were kids, but... it was insane. How could a human be that strong? Where did your dad even find him?” Dakki asks, looking up at the trees as he walks beside me. “He just appeared that day, you know? When we escaped and came here...”
“I know. I never understood, either, honestly. I had slept the whole time during the travel, I don’t know when father found him.”
“Why did you never ask?” He asks, giving me a sideways glance, his crimson eyes staring intently at my face.
“I did, he won’t answer me. Why don’t you ask him?”
“Well why don’t you summon him, you idiot.” Dakki hits me on the arm playfully, earning a glare as we approach the large stacks of chopped wood.
“His soul is too strong for me to summon. I don’t have that kind of power, yet.” I stop in front of the pile, examining which logs would be best to use. The thicker ones look to be good and they last a while, but we’d have to carry less if they’re too heavy.
“Are you saying that my soul is easier?” He crosses his arms over his chest, raising an eyebrow at me.
“I’m saying that yours is weaker.” I bend over, finally deciding to just go with thinner logs so that we can carry more for the time being, stacking a couple into my arms, the rough texture pricking and sticking my skin.
He puts his hand to his heart and gives me a pained expression, his eyes staring pitifully at me, “that hurts! I have feelings, too!”
I chuckle at the last line and he laughs with me. “Ok, I would’ve laughed at that as well. The second I said it I felt my skin crawl. But if you’re not strong enough then practice more. Leave me out here with you longer. Let me be your... companion.” He leans close to me and whispers the last part into my ear, causing me to stiffen up and drop the wood I was picking up, a loud thump sounding from the impact.
“Dakki.” I say sternly before grabbing a thick piece of firewood and shoving it into his arms. “Carry this and stay out of my bubble. I’ll let you stay out longer, but if I have to use control on you at any point you’re in trouble.”
He grins and leans over, piling the logs until his arms are full. “Are you saying you’ll punish me?”
“Maybe, but it won’t be in the way you’re wanting.” I stack the thin logs back into my arms, looking at him to see that his expression is serious. The soft, yet masculine features of his face have gone harsh, deep in focus and thought as he listens carefully to the wind brushing through our hair.
“I hear someone coming from the East. From the castle. Do you think its the man?” I nod at him, biting the inside of my cheek before gesturing at him to follow me back to the cave; our arms full.
“We can start a fire for when he arrives, I should make some food for him as well.” Sticks crack and crunch under my boots as we walk silently back to our home, the weight of anticipation resting on our shoulders as I think about the man who is soon to appear.
“You may not have enough time, he seems relatively close.” He says, his ears twitching as another breeze kisses our cheeks.
“I wonder how father met him,” I say out loud, more to myself than to Dakki as my mind wanders, imagination running wild as I picture what this man could look like.
“How does your father meet half the people he’s met. You live in the middle of nowhere, you’ve never even been into the town.” He pouts a little before focusing on a strand of hair that has fallen into his face.
“He used to go to the kingdom often to gather food and cloth, however Jin and I were never allowed to go with him.” We were always left alone to read or train together, usually I would evict Dakki and we’d play games or climb trees without father’s knowledge- a few hours of play never hurt when we were constantly studying.
“He’d buy cloth, and yet here I am with no winter clothes, I am left to suffer,” he sighs dramatically, attempting to flip his long red bangs out of his eyes with no success. “Even my hair has been neglected; its grown so long.”
“You’re dead. I mean can you even feel the cold? I gave you a blanket, but you haven’t seemed even a little interested in it since we came out here… Don’t sit here and complain to me when nothing can be done right now and you don’t actually need it. There are other things to be done first.” The words leave my mouth before I can stop them, my frustrations erupting at Dakki unprovocted. I suck in a breath quietly, something he’s bound to have heard, and continue to look forward, ashamed of my response to him but feeling too cowardly and weak to openly apologize for the time being.
“Ah, such a harsh master. ” His voice is low and barely above a whisper as he says this, his eyes never touching me again and his mouth not opening, staying quiet until we reach the cave. “I know you’re upset over what’s happened... But please don’t take it out on me.” He tosses his logs into the fire pit before stretching slightly, his body making cracking noises as he does so. “I maybe dead, but I’m still alive. I’m still solid. Even if it’s only due to your powers.”
“Light it.” I say, looking at him briefly before placing my stack to the side. His face seems emotionless and I sigh, “please, Dakki. Will you light the fire?”
He nods a little and lets out a soft sigh, reacting to my kinder voice and words, putting his hand out in front of him. “I’ll be patient with this rudeness of yours and I’ll wait patiently for the nice version of you to fully return.” A small flame trickles from his palm and begins to grow, burning a brilliant red like his hair. He drops it into the pit and the wood lights up immediately, burning strong and roughly like it had been dosed by accelerant.
“What are you?” A deep male voice says from the treeline, causing both of us to look up at him. He stands tall, around the same height as Dakki with dark skin and yellow hair pulled back into a ponytail. He has deep brown eyes that stare at us with curiosity and confidence. He shows no fear toward the action he’s just witnessed.