Return to the dragons
Saturday, November 01, 2003
“I wait for the sun in darkness,
the warmth after the rain.
I wait for hope to return to my heart again.”
The ocean is calm, knowing in its depths that it could not match the tempest that raged in her heart. Fog crept around craggy cliffs and over the still water, attempting to catch the bay by surprise. Tiny wavelets lapped against the wooden hull, seeking to lull her nervous heart. If it had been any other day, any other moment, their plan might have worked. As it was her heart raced and pounded in her ears. It sounded like drums beating inside of her head.
Occasionally Dracia would glance out of the darkness of her hood. Each time she was momentarily blinded by the bright sunlight. Mounds of clouds danced across the fathomless azure sky. They laughed at her, knowing that she could not join in their joy. It was one of those rare days in fall, the kind that gave hope to the heart and caused worry to lift from the brow. She had chosen well. A small but steady breeze flew in form the north. It smelled of ice and rain. She could not take enough into her lungs.
The boat seemed to be moving inch by inch across the water. Normally the trip went quickly but her apprehension slowed time down. Dracia could feel the presence of her husband behind her, silent and distressed. She could not look at him. The dejected look on his face would make her want to return to the house. She could not deal with guilt right now. He knew she had to do this. There was no choice in the matter. Her own heart quaked beneath the pressure of this afternoon. Today was her second trial. The importance of these few hours weighed down on her body, causing her to hunch closer to the bottom of the boat. One more chance to return home and fulfill a long held dream.
Absently she fingered the scar beneath her left eye. If was smooth and barely noticeable, but her keen sense of touch brought it out in stark relief. It was perfect in shape and form. It boasted a clean line, with no ragged edges. It had been cut into her skin by fire. To outsiders it looked as if she was forever weeping, mourning the loss of something they had never held. If Dracia failed in her quest today she would receive another, a twin to keep the first one company.
Consciously she pulled her hands away from her face. That only made her more desperate to get this day over with. Dracia could not turn back now, but neither did she want to continue. She could spend forever out on the waves, waiting for death to take her. Then she wouldn’t have to face failure once more.
She glances at her hands, shaking slightly in her lap. Her mind fills with scorn. They are strange little things, that she still doesn’t recognize even after all these years.
Damn weak form. How can they manage to live in such nervous bodies?
Her thoughts solidify. She has to go through with this. She is sick of the longing that fills her soul. The sorrow follows her every move, haunting her dreams and all the hours in-between. This form is not her own, why should she have to bear it? Her spirit longs to return to the air and the cold northern oceans.
They are nearing the rock. It rises from the water only ten feet now. Once, when the first of their kind climbed upon it, it had been a pillar; easily seen from a mile away. Now it was a small lump marring the quiet surface of the ocean. During a storm it could be swallowed by the waves. Soon it would be gone forever.
The boat bumps against the dark rock, rocking in the water. Carefully she climbs out, making sure she doesn’t upset the pack that hangs form her back. The rough surface digs into her hand, but it brings reality to her dream state. The cold stone reminds her that this is where it will all come together, if she only waits a little longer.
She still refuses to look at him. His eyes settled on her back and she could feel the weight of his gaze. She did not expect him to speak, but as she stood tall on the rock he told her faintly:
“I love you.”
A wince gathered at her eyes. Did he have to be so morose? She might be going home today. Wasn’t that an occasion to be happy about? His point of view was strange. She could not imagine a day without her longing or a night without visions of the sea. She pushes her guilt away, knowing that any distraction now could kill her.
The wooden boat scrapes sharply as he dips the oars into the water and pulls back with one strong stroke. Her eyes long to look at him, but she is afraid of meeting his own. Slowly she glances behind her, hoping he will not see her. A wave of relief washes over her body and she turns to watch him slowly return to land. He looks tiny inside of the boat, all alone. Deep inside her heart, away from the careful watch of her mind, she wishes that he would return and they could go home and forget today ever happened.
He should be happy. Why can’t he be happy for me?
His image shrinks and she focuses on the task at hand. Slowly Dracia sets up the items that will be required in her work. They have been collected over the decades by the family. They had only joined the group when a new breakthrough had been made. Often that required a member to die before the offspring knew that a new element had to be added to the ritual.
A smooth scaled dragon wrapped itself around a stone base. Each scale had been carefully outlined in gold and the stone was a replica of one from home. Its mouth was opened wide, calling out to those that had been taken away from the Kin. A red candle called to the fire within their beings. She could feel the temper inside of her body, dormant now, resound with the thought of flames that filled her head. A small block of incense added to the fire she was to call.
Dracia had no paper with her. Since she was a child the chants that were a part of this had been a part of her daily life. Some were prayers to the wind and sea, others called to the Kin that would not speak with them in their current form. She knew every word and the nuances that made the simple phrases into a song. She still wished that her human tongue could form the complicated words of the Kin.
With deft grace she kindles a flame on the candle. Creating fire had always come easily to the family and she was no exception. Another few whispered words and a charm surrounded the flame so no wind could blow it out. Dracia uses the flame to light the incense, enjoying the strong odor that lifts up and into the air.
She faces the north, the direction of home. If anything happens it will come from that direction. She begins the singsong chants with reverence, knowing the power they hold.
“Winds that blow and hold me, sea that crashes and calls, come to me and be with me. All that I say is within sight of you and for honor of you. Please hear me…”
The breeze blew harder and her hood collapses on her back. Her hair escapes from the braid she had carefully formed it in. She continues, knowing that all of this is normal and hope bubbles up in her soul. This could be the last time she stood on these feet. This could be the last she ever spoke with a human tongue. She could go home.
With quicksilver speed everything began to collapse in on her. Dracia felt the winds pull away and the ocean begin to boil around the rock. The forces that had pooled around her now turned rival and wayward. A storm was brewing and she was caught in the middle of it. From the air a globe of golden light began to form. It grew in size and beauty until it would have settled perfectly in the palm of her hand. It was filled with the fiery souls of the Kin. She could hear their angry voices shunning her. She had invoked their anger by trying to return home.
A thin tendril wound its way out to her. It was delicate and beautiful, but its appearance caused terror in her heart. A wail tried to fight its way out of her body, but she would not let it. She could not give into weakness now. The time for anguish was yet to come.
Silently it lashed out at her leaving a shadow of light behind it. She felt the fire cut into her skin and screamed. Pain coursed through her blood. She screamed, feeling the edge slice into her face a thousand times every second that passed. With the agony she lost all control. The forces she had held so carefully in balance escaped her grasp. One last scream forced its way out of her throat, cut off by the impact of the stone island.
Michael had sat through the entire ordeal, waiting for some sign of the outcome. It had seemed to take him forever to return to the shore. He had entertained the notion on his way back that she would call out to him, tell him to return and take them home. She would forget about her quest for a little while. They could be normal. But that was a foolish dream and his mind reminded him of that fact ruthlessly.
You know how much she longs to return home. That should at least be evident by that fact that everyone in her family has died trying to do the same thing as she is out there doing right now. Do not be so selfish.
His mind held his attention for only a moment, but in that time he missed the climax on the tiny islet. Dracia’s scream echoed over the water, silencing even the sea birds that hovered around the cliffs. Michael’s head whipped up, riveting his focus on his beloved wife. He could barely see the fire that had lashed out at her, but he could see the shining blood streaming down her face.
He ran down the shore and onto the dock where the boat was loosely moored. Guilt flooded his mind. Her second scream wounded his heart. When it cut off suddenly he flung himself into the boat, not daring to look at the rock to see the fate of Dracia. Somehow it believed that this was his fault. He had not been paying attention to her and look what came of it. The thought that the outcome of her trial was inevitable never crossed his mind.
How could you not pay attention? She could die today and you would miss it because you were daydreaming about something that will never happen.
He dug each of the oars into the water harshly, berating himself for not being stronger. His traitor mind reminded him that if he were stronger he could row faster and reach his wife faster. Nervously he glanced behind him, hoping to see something encouraging. His eyes barely picked out the form of Dracia lying motionless on the ground. Another surge of energy rushed into his body adding strength to his strokes. In half the time it took him to reach the island before the trial the wood slid half a foot onto the black island.
He jumped out, and the boat began to float away. Cursing himself for his stupidity he quickly turned and caught the rope before they were both stranded in the middle of the coming storm. When Dracia woke up she would skin his hide from him and manage to keep him alive while doing so, just so he could feel it all. Slower this time he pulled the boat up and turned his attention to his wife.
Blood flowed sluggishly from a new wound in her face. To his surprise her old scar that she had received at her first trial also bled, though less than the fresh laceration. He knew the only article that had to be collected was the figurine of the dragon. Carefully he plucked it off the rock, making sure he did not have to touch it any more than possible. With great caution he lifted his wife’s body from the rock. It would take all of his balance to deposit them both in the boat safely.
Michael stepped off the island, glad to be leaving such a potent reminder of Dracia’s family. Once she was wrapped inside the prow Michael pushed off, and jumped quickly into the retreating craft. He left the incense and the candle. They would go out eventually. He could not bring himself to touch either, born of magic as they were.
It took the better part of two hours for the two of them to reach home. All of Michael’s energy had gone into carrying Dracia’s still form up the steep path to their manor on the cliff’s edge. She had not moved the entire way. The ocean raged a hundred feet below him, angry that he had taken away the one who called it out. Biting winds from the north cut into his skin, freezing every exposed portion of his skin. A full storm whistled around the crest of their lands, but nothing could keep him from a warm fire and bed.
Despite his weariness Michael had one more task to perform. When they reached their chambers he had one of the helpers fetch some water and a bandage. When she returns he cleans Dracia’s face. Her skin had stopped bleeding some time during their journey home. Parts of the trail where there was no wound had begun to flake off. Slowly he wiped away all of the excess blood, tenderly touching the parts that did hold pain beneath their surface.
It amazed him that her wounds did not require cleaning. The fire had killed anything that would have caused infection in the cut. He was only performing this ritual to save Dracia the duty. The scars would be easier to handle cleaned and bandaged where she would not see them the first chance that arose.
White bandages decorating her cheeks he tucked Dracia into bed. One by one he blew out the lights in the room, leaving it in darkness. Lying close to her under their blankets he could feel elation slipping into his mind. Quickly he tried to suppress it, but there was no point. He was overjoyed that Dracia would be with him. He had not been left alone to live out his days with the only person he would ever love.
He would never have the freedom to tell this to his love. There was no one else in the world he could trust to listen. It was his secret to carry in his heart, knowing that someday he would lose her to her longing. Whether she died doing so or finally received her wish made no difference to him. He would lose her either way.
A small smile crept over his face, although he would never admit to it later. Quietly he enjoyed Dracia’s presence and gave thanks that he could do so.