His patch job had only prolonged the inevitable. Ihsan needed to get Arya to a Magus, but how? Two moons had passed with them trapped in the darkness. He went in search of a way out and realized the water was flowing. To where, he had no clue, but where water flowed was usually an outlet.
Arya had developed a fever; no doubt from infection, and her vital signs had slowed to a crawl. If he didn’t get her help soon, she would die.
Lifting her lifeless body up into his arms, he carried her for hours until exhaustion threatened to do them both in. The stream of water seemed to go on forever. He was too exhausted to go on so he found a flat surface to lay her on and lay beside her, too tired to keep his eyes open.
Ihsan awoke to the sound of tiny feet scraping against the rocks. He had no idea how long he’d been sleep and panicked. Checking Arya’s vitals revealed that she had taken a turn for the worse. Her breathing was weathered, her eyes lifeless, and her body limp. She was unresponsive.
He cursed Anan and begged him not to take the only girl he’d ever loved away from him. Ihsan didn’t like the thought of her being with the Majii but he didn’t like the thought of losing her even more.
“Please Anan, don’t take her…take me,” Ihsan begged.
He regretted spending so much time being angry with Arya. It was time they could have spent between the sheets or laughing at each other’s crude jokes.
Cradling her in his arms he recalled the first day he met her. Eyes like fire, unkempt hair and an attitude bigger than her tiny frame. He fell in love with her that day. They were set to spar against one another and she’d promptly kicked his arse, and then kicked dirt in his face, sticking her tongue out. She was a little shit then and she still is now.
Pressing his lips to her forehead, he whispered against her skin, “Don’t leave me Arya. You fight this. You’re a fighter.” His demands turned to sobs, “For Anan’s sake girl, fight. If I bring you back dead the Majii will kill me and then find a way to resurrect you so he can kill you himself.”
He looked down into Arya’s lifeless eyes wondering if she could hear him, if she was indeed trying to fight. Perhaps this fight was too much for her. Perhaps her soul was already gone and her body was the last to get the message.
He checked her pulse, which was faint. She was still alive at least, but for how much longer he wasn’t sure. Checking her wound, he noticed redness and puss leaking between the stitches he’d given her. She was burning up. The water was cold, but he didn’t want to risk further infecting her wound if it wasn’t clean. It would do more harm than good. He needed light in order to see, light he didn’t have.
He suddenly realized he hadn’t checked Arya’s sack. She didn’t have anything that would help her fever or her wound, but she had flint and she had two sticks in her bag.
Ihsan ripped the tunic from his body and wrapped it around his sword. Using the flint tools she had in her sack, he sparked a flame catching his shirt on fire. It lit up the area around him and the walls around them sparkled like a red diamond. He’d never seen a mineral like it before in the market or any kingdom. He walked to the nearest wall of red and ran his fingers against the mineral. It was smooth and cold to the touch.
He looked back to Arya lying on that flat stone and realized in order to help her he’d have to leave her. He covered her body with stones in case some animal discovered her lifeless body. She’d kick his arse if he let some animal nibble on her remains.Oh Gods…remains. That’s all that would be left of her if he didn’t find something to help her.
Ihsan loped rather than walked, looking for some way out or something that would help Arya. She couldn’t die…not on his watch. He knew they shouldn’t trust Alara and Arya knew it too. In the end, her excitement to see her homeland had caused her to let her guard down, but only for a second. Alara took the moment and struck while Arya was distracted. A distraction that may very well cost her her life. How ironic would it be for her to come home only to die? Only Arya would have something so poetic happen to her. The girl was a walking, breathing conundrum.
Ihsan followed the wall of red along the stream of water until he reached a dead end. There was no way out. The water crashed into a wall and ducked underneath. He could swim beneath the wall to find out where it went, but there was no way to know how far or how deep it went. Besides, Arya wouldn’t survive that current, he barely could.
Disappointed, Ihsan took the long trek back to where he’d left Arya’s body, cursing the Gods along the way. The poor girl had never had a break in life. Never. Arya deserved a second chance. She deserved to live.
Ihsan blamed himself. He should have been watching out for her. He should have seen that shadow creeping up to slit her throat. He should have fought harder to save her. He should have saved her, but instead she saved him. That fall would have killed him, and after everything he’s said and done to her since learning she was alive, she should have let him die but she didn’t. Damn girl.
As he approached the area where he’d left Arya’s body, the ground began to shake. A guttural growl rattled the red walls and stream of water.
He wasn’t alone…
Judging by the sound of whatever was waiting for him, it was big.He crept closer, hiding behind stones to conceal himself until he saw it. “Anan’s cock,” Ihsan quietly gasped. Its head was massive and its eyes were like two orbs of fire. Its wingspan was wider than anything he’d ever seen. He knew what it was the moment he laid eyes on it, but it was far from home.
Red dragons usually resided within the Redlands, in the hills of Tara, or the hills of the Gods. Every member of the Alumni at some point was paired to a red dragon once they’d graduated to become full-fledged Alumni. This particular red dragon was far from home, a rogue. The rogues were the worst of the worst. If they’d gone rogue it meant they were wild, unwilling to be tamed.
The dragon nuzzled at the rocks where Arya’s body lay, sniffling and snorting out smoke. It probably caught Arya’s scent and came to collect an easy meal. There was no way Ihsan was going to let him eat her. Arya would come back from the dead as a dragon just to haunt him.
Looking around, the dark damp space, Ihsan tried to come up with a plan. None of the plans he came up with ended with him not being eaten by the rogue dragon. Still, he had to do something. If the roles were reversed, Arya would take on the dragon without fear and shit her pants later.
Taking a deep breath, he stepped out from behind the stone waving his sword, “Hey, come get me, I’m right here!” His voice echoed throughout the darkness.
For the most part, the dragon seemed disinterested. It had found its next meal and wasn’t interested in him. He took a few more steps and the dragon looked up, but it went right back to nuzzling the rocks covering Arya’s body.
“I said hey, I’m right here! Come get me!” Ihsan shouted louder, coming closer.
Ihsan kept walking until he got within ten feet of the dragon. It began to growl. It nuzzled the rocks with its nose and they tumbled onto the floor, revealing Arya’s body. Ihsan took another step and the dragon reared back, breathing a wave of fire in his direction.
He hid behind a large rock, which took a brunt of the fire damage. It sizzled and crackled under the heat of the dragon’s breath.
Once the fire dissipated, he peaked around the rock in time to see the dragon nuzzle Arya’s lifeless body onto the ground. She rolled in Ihsan’s direction and as her body came to a stop he knew that the girl he loved…the girl who’d saved him and spared his life on more than once occasion, was dead. The life had left her eyes.
Ihsan rushed to her body and dropped down beside her, sobbing. “No. Arya please…come back to me. Don’t do this. Please…please,” he cradled her in his arms.
The dragon roared at him, eyes full of rage, but he didn’t care. It would have to take him too if it wanted her. Closing his eyes, Ihsan waited for the fire or the dragon’s teeth…whichever would come first. He was surprised when he felt the dragon gently grip the scruff of the back of his neck and toss him aside. It breathed fire at him to keep him at bay and used its tail to slowly push Arya into the water.
Confused, Ihsan held his hands up in surrender and just watched. The water, it seemed, had engulfed Arya whole. As she sank beneath the waters surface, the water began to glow a blinding white. Shielding his eyes, he waited. After what seemed like the longest moment he’d ever experienced Arya burst through the surface of the water gasping for air. Her chest heaved once…twice…three times, and her eyes were like burning embers. A small sphere of light underneath her skin started from the heart and flowed into her bloodstream. It lit up her entire body as it spread itself through every muscle, tendon and limb. It came to a stop at her brain and then it dulled to nothing. Ihsan could have kissed the dragon if it wouldn’t mean his death. Arya took one look at the massive creature and ducked beneath the water.
The dragon dove headfirst after her and pulled her out of the water kicking, screaming and cursing the Gods. It set her down on the ground and she backpedaled. She threw her hands up to cover her face, waiting for an attack that never came and slowly lowered her arms.
“I think it likes you,” Ihsan called her from behind a rock.
“Anan’s cock!” Arya gasped, “What is it?”
“A red dragon.”
He stepped out of his hiding place and the dragon whipped its head in Ihsan’s direction. It breathed fire at him, but not Arya. It was drawnto her…protecting her, waiting. Arya must’ve realized it at the same time he did, because she climbed to her feet and extended a hand to the massive beast, calling to it and directing its attention towards her. The damn thing sounded like it purred, lowering its head so she could rub its beak. It snorted out smoke, blowing her hair back out of her face.
“Good boy,” Arya smiled. “It is a boy isn’t it?”
“I wouldn’t know. Damn thing won’t let me near it. Do you mind? We kind of have to get out of here?”
After careful thought, Arya began talking to it in a soothing tone, commanding it. “We need to get out of here, so I need you to let my friend near you. Perhaps you can fly us back to the Spring Court. I bet they’d get a kick out of you,” Arya chuckled. “And I have someone I need to kill.”
The dragon responded with what sounded like a cross between a snort and a growl. Ihsan stepped out from behind the stone and the dragon looked at him but it didn’t attempt to burn him to a crisp. Every dragon picks its owner and it appears as if this particular dragon had chosen Arya.
Ihsan climbed onto the dragon’s neck, sitting behind Arya and she tapped the dragon twice, pointing to the sky. She hadn’t become full alumni yet, so she hadn’t been taught how to command her beast. Clicking his tongue twice and kicking at its side, Ihsan commanded the dragon to fly. Instead, it turned its head around to glare at him.
“Now-now you,” Arya cooed, petting it as if it were a pet and not a deadly fire-breathing dragon. “You can scorch him later. We must go.” The dragon looked to the sky and in one leap, they went soaring up out of the darkness with the wind whipping through their hair and the momentum forcing to push them backwards.ns184.108.40.206da2