My eyes snap open, but I can’t see anything. I sit up, pushing the covers away. There’s a pitter-patter on the window; it’s raining hard. Something doesn’t feel right. I don’t remember falling asleep or dreaming. I reach for Andrei, but I only feel empty sheets. As a flash of lightning fills the room with light, I see him slumped over at the desk. I slide off the bed and stumble to the chair.
“Andrei?” I shake his shoulder. He moans, adjusts his head, but doesn’t wake up. At least he’s alive. But… why do I have this horrible feeling?
Another flash of lighting and I see a figure outside the window. I swallow a scream. There’s a scratching on the window, and I realise what it is. I approach the window and pull the panel open. In the darkness, I make out the shape of a head and the sound of wings.
His voice is gruff and it resonates in my chest.
“Blue? What’s wrong?” I feel my hands shaking. Rain pours in, soaking my feet.
Need help! Come quickly!
His glowing gold eyes burn, outlined with another strike of lightning.
I glance over my shoulder. “I should try to wake Andrei.”
No time. Need you now!
His desperation tugs at my heart. I know something is very wrong. I’m scared to find out, but if I try to wake up Andrei, it might be too late…
“Okay. Take me,” I grab onto the window frame and step up onto the sill. This is insane.
Blue cranes his neck, getting as close as he can to the window. I lean out, reaching one hand to find his neck. It’s slick from the rain. There’s no way I can get a perfect grip, and there’s no time. I take a deep breath and jump. His spines dig into my chest. I wiggle to get my legs in a good position and wrap my arms around his thick neck. I can almost meet my fingers at the bottom, and I hold on tight as he takes off.
The Guild shrinks behind us in the blink of an eye. We soar over the plains, he beats his wings as hard as he can muster. The mountain comes into view with another flash. My heart thumps in my throat, my clothes cling to me and my hair drips down my back. Blue flies higher, slowing down as we near the top.
I forget how to breathe like I’ve been punched in the gut. We fly over several nests, with several dragons laying around. None of them seem to be moving. With more lightning, it’s clear why. Rivers of red cover the plateau, lifeless dragons litter the ground. Everywhere I look, with each flash of light, there’s only more horror to be found.
“Blue… What happened?” I yell over the rumble of thunder. He doesn’t answer. Instead, he swoops down and lands roughly. I bounce on his back and slide off the side. The ground is muddy and I fall into a red puddle. It does not smell like rainwater.
“Kaitlyn…” a familiar voice calls out over the rain. I scramble to my feet, my eyes scanning the darkness for the source. I turn to see a huge dark spot, moving slightly. It rises and falls, as though breathing. “Come closer.”
“Agatha?” I croak. The shadow moves and I feel her breathe on me. I can just make out the shape of her head and I move around it until I find her bright golden eye glowing faintly.
“Thank goodness… you made it.”
“W-what happened here?” I manage to ask, resting my hands against her jaw.
“We were… ambushed. Creatures of darkness came. We fought, but… we lost,” she gasps, her breathing shallow. “We did not stand a chance.”
“Who? Why?” I shake my head. My eyes sting. “I can… I can heal you. Let me-”
“No Kaitlyn,” Agatha cuts me off. “You must leave. Quickly, tell the Guild what happened here.”
“I can’t leave you like this!” I yell, clenching my trembling fists.
“My time has come, dear,” Agatha sighs. “You must take the survivors to safety. Please… protect them.”
I gulp, shaking my head. “I can’t…”
“Children, come,” she raises her head slightly. About a dozen young dragons crawl out of the shadows, gathering around Blue. The smallest ones climb onto his back. None of them are anywhere near his size.
“That’s it?” I breathe in disbelief. A dozen… out of hundreds.
“There is one more…” she shifts her wing. Beneath, something is glowing a soft golden light. I move closer and I recognize the shape.
“Yes. My last… Please, take it with you.”
I carefully pick up the little egg. It takes both hands to hold, and it’s sort of heavy, like a bowling ball. The shell is rough and solid.
“What about Mildred? And Rose? Are they…” I can’t bear to say it.
“Mildred fell… Rose was away from the nest, luckily. I only hope she is somewhere safe. Find her, Kaitlyn,” Agatha’s eyes droop.
“No, don’t… Don’t die,” I hug the egg in my arms, leaning against her leg. “Please don’t leave me.”
“I will always be with you, child,” her voice trails off and her head slumps to the side.
My lips quiver. This has to be a nightmare… This can’t be real. I want to wake up now.
Blue whines, nudging me with his nose. He’s anxious to leave this place in case whatever attacked comes back. Why would they bother?
I climb onto Blue’s back. I feel cold… Not only from the icy rain, but I feel cold inside. I can’t tell if I’m still crying or not. As Blue takes off, the wind bites and rain pelts my face. I hold the egg close against my chest.
What am I supposed to do now?
Blue lands in the courtyard, half as graceful as the first time. I slide off, hitting the ground on my back. I roll onto my side in the mud, staring ahead. My body is numb, but fingers tingle, and the scenes of carnage replay in my mind. I should have done something… I should have stopped it somehow.
“Oh my… Kaitlyn?” a woman gasps. I feel her hand on my cheek. “Can you hear me?”
I don’t respond, but I manage to blink.
“Typhon, find the boy, Andrei. Bring him here,” she instructs. A chirp follows. She lifts my head and places it on something softer and drier. Probably her lap. She strokes my hair while we wait. I know it’s still raining, but I don’t feel it. If I had to guess, Blue is probably shielding us.
Footsteps splash across the courtyard. “Kaitlyn! What happened? What’s wrong?”
He grabs a hold of my shoulder, rolling me back slightly so that I’m looking up at him. His eyes bulge as he sees the egg in my arms. His hair sticks to his face, dripping from the rain. His hands feel warm.
“What is that?” he asks, reaching for the egg.
I clutch it ever tighter. “Don’t.” He flinches back, uncertain.
“What happened? Kat, you’re covered in blood! Are you hurt?” his voice cracks as he brushes the wet hair from my face.
“They’re dead… they’re all dead.” I whisper reluctantly. “All of them…” my mind goes back there again. So much blood…
“Who’s dead? What are you talking about? You’re not making any sense,” Andrei frowns.
“Andrei,” the woman speaks up. “I believe… that is a dragon egg.” I recognize her voice now. Why didn’t I recognize it sooner? “Considering that these other young ones are here as well… I think we can assume whom she is referring to.”
“But… why? Who would kill a dragon? How did they get here? You keep saying this place is safe, but they keep getting here! They keep hurting us!” he shouts, panicked and angry.
“The Guild is safe. The town is safe… The cliffs are not warded. We did not expect they would ever be targeted,” Ambrosse explains quietly. “Kaitlyn, can you walk? We must get you inside. This rain is dangerous for you.”
I know she’s right but I don’t want to move. My body feels heavy. Maybe the rain has already gotten to me. I struggle to nod and try to sit up. Andrei slides his arms around me and pulls me to my feet, but I’m a little wobbly. He barely hesitates, scooping up my legs and cradling me in his arms.
“Should I take her to the infirmary or your office?” he asks.
Ambrosse purses her lips as she studies me for a moment. “My office.”
Andrei nods and takes a step. The air shifts drastically. The sound of the rain fades, and the silence that replaces it is deafening. He moves to the couch, sitting down, keeping me in his lap.
He’s quiet for a long time. When he does speak, his voice echoes through the office. “Are you warm enough? Can I do anything to help?” he leans his head to the side, trying to see my face. I shake my head. He sighs. “Why didn’t you wake me? I could have been there to help.”
“I tried,” I mumble, leaning my head on his shoulder. “It didn’t matter. I was already too late.”
“It’s not your fault. They had no other way to warn us. But… why would they want to do this? Who did this? We need answers. You need rest, but-” he rubs my arm, I guess trying to warm me. “I can help. I want to help, anyway I can. Even if it means trying to talk to a dragon. It’s more important than anything else. We should also have Cliff make new wards… somehow.”
“Markus made the wards, I think. He should know,” I suggest. “Ambrosse should tell him… Maybe he knows where Rose is.”
“Kat,” he combs my hair with his hand. “We’ll figure it out. We’ll find Rose. We’ll find whoever did this and make them pay… Are you… Are you really okay?”
That’s sort of a strange question, but I know he’s worried. “I guess… better than if you weren’t here. There was just… so much blood. So many innocent…” I can’t even finish the thought. The words don’t fit right in my mouth.
We sit in silence. He continues to rub my arm, leaning his cheek on my head. I don’t blame him. What can you say?
The door creaks open and Ambrosse rushes in. She crouches in front of us, her hands brushing my hair back, studying my face.
“I’m not hurt,” I groan as she tilts my head to see my neck. “I only fell off Blue… a couple times. I’m fine.”
She sighs heavily. “Are you certain?”
I nod. “We need to get Markus. He should check the wards and we need to find Rose. She wasn’t there at the nest,” I push away from Andrei a bit, though my head is pounding.
Ambrosse rests her hand on my shoulder. “I will take care of it. We will find lodging for the young dragonlings within the Guild. You need to rest.”
“I’ll stay with her,” Andrei’s grip tightens.
Ambrosse smiles. “Thank you. Kaitlyn, about the egg… Would you like me to take care of it?”
I look down at the glowing little thing in my arms. It feels warm against my cold, damp clothes. “She gave it to me… I should keep it, at least until we find Rose.”
“Very well,” Ambrose nods as she stands up. “Return to your room and rest. We will speak again tomorrow.”
Andrei stands up, still holding me in his arms. I feel guilty, but I don’t want to argue. “Can you let us know when the wards have been fixed? I think that would make us feel better.”
“Absolutely,” Ambrosse bows her head. “Good night.”
Andrei takes a step and we’re back in our room. The window is closed, though I’m pretty sure I left it open. I guess he must have closed it. He looks down at me, tilting his head with a smile.
“How about we get you out of these wet clothes and into a nice hot shower, hm?”
I nod, managing a little smile for his sake. He sets my feet down. First things first, I grab a small throw blanket and wrap the egg up, placing it carefully on the armchair in the corner. Andrei holds his hand out and I don’t hesitate to take it. He leads me into the bathroom, closing the door behind him.
He tugs at the hem of my sweater, slowly lifting the dripping hoodie over my head. He pauses briefly, watching my expression as he peels my long sleeve shirt off next. He moves slowly, and it’s strangely… comforting. His hands slide around my waist, reaching for the hooks of my bra, but at the same time, he leans in to place his lips on mine. The kiss is tentative and brief. As though he’s testing the waters. I grab fistfuls of his shirt and hold him there just a moment longer. I relish in the distraction.
“Tell me if you want me to stop,” he whispers, pulling me against him.
“Never stop,” I reply, quickly stealing another kiss. I can’t think of anything else when he’s this close to me. Everything fades away, and I don’t want it to come back.
He gently pushes me back against the wall, lifting me up and I follow his direction, wrapping my legs around his hips. I lace my fingers in his wet hair, and I wonder for a moment if breathing is really that important or if I can keep him here forever. I wish there was a way that I could.
By Krystyna Yates