Another day, another round of training. I sit on the sideline of the room, dragon egg in my lap as I watch Heath and Nik trade blows. Heath is getting a lot better at controlling his element, as well as his ability to block and hit. I consider the idea of trying to use weapons again, but I doubt wooden ones would last very long. Maybe I’ll ask Nik what he thinks later.
“Alright, I’m starving. Let’s call it a day.” Nik waves, panting.
“Yea, sounds good,” Heath agrees, dropping his hands to his sides as he steps away.
“That alright with you, boss?” Nik asks with a wink, turning to walk toward me.
“Man’s gotta eat,” I shrug, moving to my feet with the egg awkwardly in one arm.
“Where’s Andrei today? Is he going to join us?” Heath asks from the middle of the room.
I feel a twinge in my gut, but I ignore it. “He said he wasn’t feeling well this morning,” I respond. “So I let him sleep.”
“Oh, well that’s too bad.” He shrugs. I frown, watching him retrieve his shirt from nearby. Why does he suddenly want Andrei around so bad?
“Yeah… I’m going to check on him later,” I reply, following Nik to the door.
“Good, I hope he feels better,” he says simply.
“I’m… just gonna go look for… someone,” Nik says suspiciously as we leave the room. “I’ll see you guys around later,” he smiles, taking off at a jog. Heath watches him go with a blank expression.
“Okay… That was weird,” I muse. “Um… Are you hungry?”
“Yea, I could eat,” he pulls his shirt on. “You?”
“I guess I should,” I sigh.
“I wonder who he’s seeing,” Heath smirks.
I snicker. “I’m pretty sure I know,” I start walking down the hall toward the caf.
“Really?” he jogs after me. “You wanna tell me?”
I raise an eyebrow. “I didn’t take you for the type to gossip,” I tease.
“Well, I can’t deny I’m curious, but I could care less. There are other things I’d rather know,” he says, turning a little more serious.
“Oh?” I hum, glancing up from the side. “Like what?”
“Are you really alright? Did something happen last night that you need to talk about? You looked… upset,” he looks at me with a concerned expression on his face.
I remember the conversation with Andrei last night. It kind of came out of nowhere, but it was… nice. “Oh, that. It wasn’t like what you probably think. We were just talking about things and the topic of…” I still can’t quite bring myself to say her name. “My last student came up. The one that died.”
“Oh, I see. Sounds pretty traumatic. Did you sort everything out? Or is there something still bugging you?”
I stare straight ahead. “I dunno… Everyone seems to think it wasn’t my fault. I don’t know if I’ll ever believe that.”
He frowns. “Why?”
“‘Cause if I hadn’t been stupid and taken off on my own, she’d be alive now,” I state simply. “Instead, two people died that day.”
“Two? Your student and…who else?” he asks to clarify.
“Logan,” I answer simply.
“Ahh, I see what you’re thinking. You feel guilty for being the ultimate cause for both their ends. That’s the thing about friends. They don’t know when to leave well enough alone. Get themselves in trouble trying to help when you don’t need it,” he scoffs. “Makes things complicated.”
I slow my pace, staring at the ground. “I did need it… He knew I would come. He was waiting, and so was Sam. I wouldn’t be here now if they didn’t follow me.”
“So there’s a silver lining then. Still, it was two against one. Sometimes you can’t help a situation from ending badly. You dwell on the outcome, thinking it could have ended differently, but it’s not like we can turn back time to find out. Maybe if you could, you’d have both your friends back, or your family,” His voice grows soft. “But unless you got Andrei to fudge the rules and go back and fix it, there’s no changing the past. We all have to live with our mistakes. It’s better to forget it and try to move on.” he holds his hand up, glaring at his fingers as he speaks. “If you can.”
“I know that,” I take a deep breath, walking again. “I have plenty of practice.”
“Same,” he follows. “Want me to take the egg?”
I pause and turn, holding it in front of me. I avoid meeting his gaze as he steps up to take it. I’m not really sure what he expects me to say, so I just keep quiet. I really wasn’t looking to have that conversation about her two days in a row.
“You still look troubled. Is it…” his voice drops to barely a whisper, “because of what we did?”
I flinch. “What? N-no, I wasn’t thinking about that,” I stutter. I wasn’t, at that moment, but I had been earlier…
“Oh…” He blushes, looking down. “I was… I thought… maybe he’d found out, or something,” his eyes flick towards me as his lips curl into a small smile. “I enjoyed it.”
I feel a blush creep up my cheeks and a flutter in my chest. “Kinda hard not to.”
“If you ever need to let off some steam… We could… you know…” he suggests, blushes harder.
I narrow my eyes, ignoring the excitement of the flames inside. “It’s telling you to do it again, isn’t it?”
“What? I -” he chokes on his words. “What difference does it make if it is? Isn’t yours?” he asks.
“That’s not the same,” I scoff. “Mine doesn’t know the difference, it likes any physical activity,” I half-lie.
“You can’t tell me you didn’t like it too,” his eyes narrow with slight accusation.
I glance around the fairly empty hall. “I didn’t say that.”
“Well, so did I… So… I’m just saying, if you want to… and the situation is right…” he looks at me, not finishing the sentence.
“Why do I get the feeling you’re hinting that the situation is right now?” I wonder with a smirk.
“You’d be right. Nik’s gone and Andrei’s not well. Looks like we’ll be alone for lunch,” he shrugs.
I hum. “I wouldn’t mind some coffee…” I casually turn down the wrong hall, leading away from the cafeteria.
He follows behind. “Yea, coffee,” he hums.
It’s not long before we find ourselves in the dimly lit cave again. I trail my hand along the damp wall as I walk down to the curve leading to the next chamber. I pause to glance back as Heath hovers behind me.
“Back there? You sure?” he asks, intrigued.
I smile. “Only if you’re interested.”
His lips twitch upward and he nods for me to continue. I round the bend and walk into the room for the first time in nearly a year. Straight ahead is a bed, the sheets covered in dust with a cuff attached to each corner and leather straps hanging down off the sides. The walls and tables are lined with racks of various things sorted by type. Whips, chains, collars, clamps, knives, and needles. There are other instruments standing around the room, untouched. They were used for darker things. I try not to think about those as I walk closer to the bed.
“He had a pretty twisted sense of love, didn’t he?” Heath asks, eyes roaming across the room.
“I’m not entirely sure love is the right word,” I reply as I stop at the end of the bed, turning to face him.
“Right. This doesn’t seem to fit the word. The lava says nothing is better than the heat of passion…” he blushes. “These things seem to radiate a cold and twisted affection. I giggle.
“So, what did you have in mind?” His eyebrow twitches as he sets the egg down on the floor by the hall.
I shrug. “I don’t know. That’s up to you if you find anything interesting. Otherwise…” I let the implication hang in the air.
“Is there anything you particularly enjoy that you can’t do with- ?” He drops the name. “I can’t say I have much experience in the pleasure of such tools,” he walks over to the rack where the belts and ropes hang, brushing them with his fingers.
I watch him study them curiously. “I think it’s kind of obvious.”
His glance turns on me as he lifts a red rope off the rack. He brushes it off and walks over to me. “We’ll need to undress first, I guess. I’ll clear the bed of dust.”
I take off my jeans and my shirt, leaving my clothes in a pile by the egg. Heath shakes the sheet of the bed and the pillows, putting them back before he undresses too. He gestures for me to climb onto the bed, directing me to sit on my knees. He moves around behind me, pulling my arms back and wrapping the rope around my wrists. His hands get warmer as they slide up my sides and around my chest. One hand reaches my chin, pulling my head back so he can reach my lips from behind.
“You’re exquisite,” he breathes as he pulls me back against his chest.
“Thank you,” I smile, the flames in my chest boil in the anticipation.
“Let’s remind you of how it used to be,” that dark voice echoes in my head. I shiver.
My limbs feel like noodles, legs still trembling as I pull my clothes back on. Heath sits on the bed, staring at the colour on his hands fading with a satisfied smile. I pick up his clothes and bring them over, placing them on the bed next to him.
“You seem happy,” I muse with a laugh.
He stands up, stepping up to me and reaching for my hair. “Yea, I am. I probably don’t have a right to feel this way, but I do,” he leans in for a kiss but hesitates as his fingers brush my neck.
“What?” I blink. A strange expression crosses his features.
“I left a mark. I’m sorry. How do we hide this?” he frowns, a disappointed look on his face.
I reach up to my neck curiously. As I prod the area below my right ear, it feels sore. “Oh… I see what you mean. I guess it’s as good a time as any for you to try healing,” I laugh.
“How do I do that?” he pulls his hand away.
“You have to put your hand on it and try to envision it healing over,” I instruct. “I don’t know if the lava will be a problem or not. I’ve always had a problem with my healing because my magic is unbalanced, so I usually do more harm than good,” I stuff my hands in my pockets, biting my lip.
“So I… I just touch it and think about it healing?” he asks skeptically.
“Yes. It’s really that simple,” I roll my eyes. “You just need to focus.”
“If it’s one thing you’ve taught me since coming here, it’s to focus,” he chuckles, placing his fingers on the mark and closing his eyes with concentration. It takes a few moments before I see a red glow in the corner of my eye. My skin feels hot as the mark fades.
When the light disappears, I smile. “Well, how’s it look?”
“It’s… gone! That’s amazing!” he says with wide, surprised eyes. “Should we make sure there are no other marks?” his lips lift on one side in a sly grin.
I scrunch my nose, “I just got dressed again…”
“Well, unless you don’t think there are any, or you can find a valid excuse if he sees any, then we don’t have to check,” Heath suggests. His eyes seem to dart to the side, looking away as if he’s embarrassed or something.
I raise an eyebrow. “What? Did it say something?”
“What?! Umm… maybe,” he says, suddenly gloomy.
“What did it say?” I ask, not sure I want to know.
He looks up, his composure, nervous. “It it’s hard to shut up. It’s like it’s always wanting. It tried to convince me that undressing you was the appropriate way to see if there are any other marks. I think it just wants more,” he blushes a deeper shade of red as he speaks. “This is getting out of hand…” he mumbles.
I frown. “Is it? I guess we can stop if it’s too much. I understand.”
“No! I mean… I don’t want to stop. I don’t know what to think… this voice… it has a strange sway over me. I’m… not always willing to listen though. I do like you,” he seems to struggle between wanting to and not.
I find myself flushed again and I giggle. “I guess we’ll just have to… figure something out. I don’t really know,” I run my hand through my hair. I really don’t know what I’m doing anymore. All I know is that it’s like scratching an itch I didn’t realise I had all this time and it’s hard to stop.
“I’m sorry. I’m being confusing. Please, don’t take it the wrong way. I just don’t understand what the lava wants you so much. Sometimes it’s just a voice and sometimes it feels more than a voice, like a will.” His brows pull down as he thinks.
“Really?” I blink, surprised. “I think it’s pretty clear what it wants, regardless of who it would hurt.”
He chuckles. “I didn’t intend to hurt anyone. I thought if I suppressed these feelings it would go away, but it only seemed to make them grow. Elias, he said I should find out more instead of running away. I really wanted to just run. But he convinced me otherwise. What do you think it means?” his jaw clenches as he struggles to get his thoughts in order.
“What Eli meant?” I clarify. “I’m not really sure… Why did you want to run?”
“I was afraid… of my feelings, and how it would hurt. It’s too late now,” he mumbles.
I nod and laugh. “Yeah, I guess so. Although, running away never really solves anything, at least in my experience.”
“Right,” he seems to mull over my words. “I’m just worried about ruining things between you two. I know this is… not always the most ideal of relationships, but I find myself compelled. It’s not just our elements, I don’t think. But something about the two of us, I feel… drawn to you. I know, it sounds stupid. I don’t understand it myself. Please don’t think differently of me for saying so.” Worry fills his tone as he reaches a hand up to take me by the arm in earnest effort to convince me.
“It’s not stupid,” I smile at him. “I understand what you mean.”
“You do?” he gawks.
“Yes,” I laugh. “It’s just… If I had met you first, maybe it wouldn’t be so complicated. I don’t really know. With Andrei, we never really declared we were mutually exclusive, but I get the feeling he’d still be devastated if he found out. I don’t… I don’t want to leave him. At the same time, I’m drawn to you as well. I don’t know what to do either.”
“I see. We should keep it quiet for now. I’m sure Selene knows, considering she reads minds. Do you think… would she tell Andrei?” his voice wavers.
“No,” I shake my head. “She said she didn’t want to get involved. She doesn’t like drama.”
“I see, well, that’s a plus then,” he seems to be trying to convince himself. His hand runs along my arm, admiringly. “So, you are ok with this? With us?” he asks.
I hesitate, a conflict between my heart and the fire, “Define okay.”
“Like, you’re not upset, and perhaps we can still, you know… have coffee from time to time?”
I gulp, my stomach flutters. I nod slowly. “I’m not sure I could refuse any better than you can.”
“Right. Well, we should… maybe get going then. If you’re ready, that is. I… I really did enjoy it today, again,” he blushes.
“As did I… You might wanna get dressed,” I remind him. His gaze lingers on me for a moment before he nods, picking up his clothes. I move back to where the egg is, picking it up as I wait for him.
When he walks toward me, I hold the egg out, figuring he’ll ask for it.
“How’d you know?” he asks, taking the egg and hugging it close.
“You’re getting predictable,” I smirk.
“Oh no. That won’t do. Once I get predictable, people think they know me,” he smirks. “Just like that coffee shop owner,. That’s usually when I skip town,” he adds, waiting for me to lead the way out.
“Well, this time is different,” I muse as I turn down the hall. “This time, you wouldn’t make it far.”
“I wouldn’t? Why do you think that?” he hums from behind.
I glance back. “I would find you.”
He gulps. “I might like that.”
I snicker. “You might not think so once I was through with you.”
I hear a growl in his throat. “Right. I doubt you would hurt a fly though,” he chuckles.
I stop, turning to look back. I feel the fire reach my eyes, intrigued by the challenge. “You think so?”
“Yes, I do,” he says, a confident look in his face. His eyes gleam with interest.
I rush at him without hesitation, stomp on his foot, spinning on my toes around behind him to kick the back of his knee. I dig my elbow into the center of his back and circle around in front of him in time to snatch the egg out of his grasp before he hits the floor, groaning.
“I’m sorry. What were you saying?” I ask sweetly, tilting my head with a smile. The fire laughs triumphantly.
His head snaps up, eyes glowing with a burning passion as he rubs his back. “That hurt! You think catching me off guard counts as a win?”
“You should always be on guard. Especially when you taunt someone,” I retort shamelessly.
He smirks, that gleam still in his eye. “Well, at least I know you could stop me if I ran. Might make things interesting.”
“Stop you?” I laugh. “I’ll do more than that. I advise you not test me,” I wink as I turn to continue walking.
“Right,” I hear him get up and trot after me. “Umm, I can take that…” he says, looking at the egg.
“Can you?” I raise an eyebrow. “Do you think so?”
“I- Of course I can!” he says, suddenly defensive.
He slips past me in the narrow space and grips my forearm. He pulls hard, pushing me against the wall. I gasp as the rock digs into my back. I feel his lips on mine and I inhale the scent of him. The weight of the egg lifts from my arms and I feel him smirk before he pulls away.
My face feels hot again and I pout as I meet his smug gaze. “Now that was cheating.”
“Hardly. I used my strengths, as did you. Two can play at this game,” his eyes shine with excitement.
I kiss my teeth, narrowing my eyes. I know we should be getting back, but the fire demands I win. I can’t admit defeat so easily. I break out of his hold on my arm easily, snatching the egg as I slip around behind him, giggling.
“Oi! Get back here!” he calls, chasing after me. His long legs carrying him across the empty space between us faster than I anticipate. I dance around him, and he stumbles through the place I had just been. He pauses, looking around, confused. Close quarters is my specialty, after all.
I see the black of his hands grow as he spins about, seeking me. His hair spreads out from his face as he moves, weightless with his speed. “Get back here,” he growls playfully.
I grin, bouncing on my toes, the egg balanced in one arm. “Make me,” I chirp, skipping backward, back toward the other room.
“Fine. I will,” he suddenly shifts into a full magma form without burning his clothes. I’m both shocked and impressed. The heat in the small space intensifies almost instantly and the ground starts to glow as it heats up and melts.
I jump back as the rock of the floor beneath me starts to liquify. My shoes start to smoke, and I release the flames to take on my own form. “You may as well give up now,” my voice echoes through the chamber.
‘I’ll never give up, Fire. You know I’ve waited centuries for this. We used to always have fun like this. Come now, let’s play!’ he sings. That doesn’t sound like Heath anymore. I recognize the crooning tone from the voice in my head.
The flames of my body flicker, the outline of my form wavering in the breeze. I sense movement, but it doesn’t come from him. I glance down at the egg in my arm, curious. Did it move, or was it me?
‘You’ve made me wait long enough, haven’t you? I know you want this too. Let’s play, Fire, let’s have fun.’ Heath’s hollow voice calls across the chamber. I look up to see him dash toward me, across the molten rock.
The egg rocks slightly. I see it in the corner of my eye. Instinct takes over my need to compete. My eyes dart around what’s near and I find a huge stalagmite just a few feet away sticking out of the magma. As Heath reaches out with both arms, my form collapses, swallowing the egg in the semi-corporeal flames as I roll across the liquid floor, winding up to the top of the stalagmite. Once safely at the top, twelve feet in the air, my head, torso, and arms reform, holding the egg up. My lower body remains shapeless, like a serpent holding onto the rock.
I stare in wonder at the egg in my hands as it rocks gently again. My blood boils and I forget everything else. It’s hatching; my kin – the last little dragonling. I use my power to surround it with flames. It needs more warmth.
‘Why do you hide? Can you not take the heat my little flame? Come down so we can play!’ a voice calls from below. I turn my gaze to find the source; the figure of an orange man, tilting his head to the side curiously.
A low growl emits from my throat; a warning. I must protect the egg. It must hatch. He will not interfere. I train my gaze on the figure, made of moving stone. His glowing orange eyes staring back at me.
His demeanor shifts and his colour begins to dim. He shakes his head before he speaks, his voice different, somehow. “Wait, Kaitlyn! What’s happened to your eyes?” he calls out, confused.
His form then shivers back to life and he grins. ‘Ohh, you’ve got a surprisingly new talent now, don’t you?’ he hums. ‘You’re not just a human, you little devil,’ it teases. ‘I won’t harm your precious little egg. It takes the blood of the earth to help it hatch anyways.’
I tilt my head. It thinks it knows what the egg needs? Arrogant little human. I growl again, louder. I keep my eyes on him as I release waves of magic energy, calling out for my kin. I cannot risk this human getting any closer. They will hear me. They will come.
The man and I stare at one another in silence until it is broken by the sound of chirping. Music to my ears. I turn my head toward the mouth of the cavern, calling back to them. A rainbow of colours flutter through the open air, swirling around me as they screech excitedly. One by one, they find a perch on a nearby rock or stalactite. The last one to join us is the big one. His blue scales shimmer in my light as he flies past me, landing on the narrow ledge beside the rock man.
The man watches the young ones flutter through the cave, and as the blue one lands near him, he seems to recognize it. As the larger dragon moves closer, nudging the air toward the man, urging him to move back, he resists.
“No! I’m not leaving! The egg needs help! Why won’t she come down?” he demands, in the less cocky voice.
The dragon moves its head from side to side and nudges again. The other dragonlings chirp and squawk all around me, the egg responding in time. It wiggles and shutters, growing in strength with each passing minute. I smile as I return my gaze to its shimmering shell.
“I’m not moving so stop!” the human growls. The dragon whines with pathetic desperation.
I disregard them now. He will not get past the dragon. I will focus on the egg, only the egg. I watch, unblinking, pouring my energy into it, surrounding it in a cocoon of flames. The noise of the young ones drowns out the protests of the human. Slowly, a crack begins to form around the narrower part of the egg. I call to the others for more. More energy, more encouragement. It’s nearly free.
“Kat! Please come down! I won’t hurt you or the egg!” the human cries. “I promise!”
My head twitches, and I look down again. Who is he is talking about? Is he talking to me? Why should I believe him? The blue dragon lifts its head to look up too, a sense of worry about him. He should not worry. We are safe up here.
A quiet chirp draws my attention back to the egg. It calls out again. I bring the egg closer, pressing my ear against its rough shell, hoping to hear its voice better. My eyes fall closed, and a sound like a purr rumbles through my chest and throat. I let my energy flow freely to the hatchling. I don’t need it. Its life is too important. It needs the strength to break through the tough shell.
The shell ripples like a tide as it pushes against it from the inside. I feel it against my cheek and move it away to give it space. A pair of the other young ones fly to me. One rests on the tip of my stalagmite while the other hovers in the air. They call to their sibling, scratching and tapping at the egg with their claws. They encourage it, they try to help it. They grow anxious as time passes by.
Come little one. Come out to the world. We are waiting for you.
A claw pokes through the shell, pieces of gold fall away. The youths rejoice, howling with excitement. I hold my breath as the claw retracts only to reemerge in another spot, pushing more of the shell away. Its siblings peck and claw at the crack, tearing away bits of shell as they grow impatient.
The top of the shell crumbles and one of the young ones pulls the last of it away. The cave goes silent. A tiny black head unfolds from its body, its orange eyes peering up at me as it lets out a tiny croak. I’m overwhelmed with pride. It’s alive.
The little creature wiggles as it gets to its feet, standing in the bottom of the shell. It stretches its little wings out, still wet and sticky. It looks around and lets out a raspy squawk. It’s hungry. Immediately the young ones leap into the air, flying in unison out of the cave. They’ve gone hunting.
Down. It urges me to go down; back to the ledge. I look to see the human, looking much more human now. The blue dragon whines at me, asking that I come to him. It seems safe now; the egg is hatched. I reverse back down in a spiral, using my serpentine shape to descend quickly. As I step back onto the ledge, legs reform.
The energy of the flames waivers, drawing itself back inward. I watch as my body reforms to that of a human. I don’t understand. The hatchling chirps at me, hopping out of the shell and onto my arm. I let the empty shell fall away. It’s served its purpose.
A figure moves up in front of me. I look up from the hatchling to the human, his dark eyes wide. “I-It hatched? The egg hatched? But… What’s happened to your eyes?” he hesitates, tense as he hovers in front of me.
My eyes? What’s wrong with my eyes. I can see just fine. The blue dragon snorts, drawing my attention. He moves his head in between us, pushing the man back a step. He is annoyed that the human can’t understand him. The hatchling hops down my arm, onto the neck of the other dragon. I frown, but I realise my body feels heavy.
My head hurts. I stumble, catching myself on Blue’s head. My vision blurs, and I squeeze my eyes shut. What’s going on? Was that real? I feel… dizzy.
“Are you okay? Hey there?” I feel a hand on my shoulder, opening my eyes to see a familiar face.
“Huh?” I breathe. “I feel… drained.”
“I don’t know what just happened up there but… Your eyes changed and the egg hatched. What did you do?” he asks, the black slowly crawling down his arms.
I struggle to understand. It feels like I have someone else’s memories in my head. “I wasn’t… me. I felt the egg move and something inside just took over,” I mumble.
“Something else? Not the fire?” he asks.
“The dragon blood, I think,” I lean heavily on Blue. He snorts, confirming what I said. “It needed a dragon mother to hatch. I guess I qualify,” I take a ragged breath as I sort through what just happened.
“Yes. you look pale. You should probably lie down. I can help you to your room,” he offers, concern filling his eyes.
Blue nudges me, telling me to climb onto him. I sigh. “You can’t fit up the stairs…”
He argues that he’ll go around. It will be faster that way.
I glance at Heath. “Are you opposed to an alternative route to get back?”
“And what would that be?” he leans his head to the side curiously. I nod to the dragon. “That?” His voice rises a whole octave, with a tone of disbelief.
“Yes,” I answer curtly. I don’t really have the energy to explain further.
“Alright,” he shrugs. “This ought to be interesting.”
By Krystyna Yates