In the darkness L’ianə watches Chygon. After placing the wood and tinder it only takes a motion of his fingers to start the fire. The first time L’ianə had observed him doing this she’d been terrified by his almost careless use of magic. Magic had been forbidden in her village and punishable by death. L’ianə knew this only too well. She’d been barefoot, hungry, and cold the night she’d watched her mother burn to death. A memory of her beautiful mother stands before her in the flames of his camp fire. Yes, she’d been the most beautiful woman in the village with eyes so green they almost glowed and white gold hair that had shown as a halo around her heart shaped face. She’d been gifted in the art of healing and had taught L’ianə all she knew. Her gifts hadn’t been enough to save her when her rejection of the village elder’s advances had driven him into a jealous rage. She’d been accused of using forbidden magic and burned in the village center. L’ianə had been ten years old at the time and fatherless. The villagers took little notice of her as they plundered her mother’s possessions and burned the small cottage to the ground. She’d had nowhere to go so she wandered the forest and streets of the village until the baker allowed her to live in the room behind his kitchen. Kindness had not been his motivation. L’ianə awoke each morning at 4 am to tend the fire in the oven and make preparations for the day to come. When the villagers realized her talent with herbs and healing they took up the rest of her day with various demands. She would collapse each night into the straw of her bed only to find no comfort or rest. Loneliness had been her only companion. The villagers grudgingly commanded her assistance, and her only reward had been a full stomach and a place to sleep at night. She carried rejection like a mantle about her shoulders. The people needed her but they did not want her.
Everything had changed when Chygon had appeared seemingly from nowhere one bright spring morning. He’d smiled down at her with his grey eyes saying only, “Of course you’d be hiding in the dankest and most obscure little farm village. I’ve spent up my youth searching the farthest reaches of the two continents as well as the burning islands of Valdor for you.” L’ianə had no idea what he spoke of but couldn’t avoid the implication that she’d somehow unknowingly made life difficult for him. He’d offered her no other explanation, only stated that he’d be setting out the next morning just before sunrise and if she wanted to learn her destiny she should prepare to depart with him or be left behind. The decision had been easy for her. What did she have to lose? There was nothing but a life of servitude to look forward to here. Unable to sleep she had risen hours before sunrise to prepare herself and what few possessions she had. She had carefully packed her herbs and clothing. After she’d dressed in simple leggings, boots, and tunic a thought occurred to her. She rushed to her hiding spot behind a brick of the stone oven and retrieved the only item she owned that had belonged to her mother. It was a small ruby ring encircled by delicate rose gold vines and buds. She slipped it onto her index finger, gathered her bag, and walked out the door of the baker’s cottage. She’d never looked back upon that hateful village.
Chygon’s voice draws her back to the present. He’s singing an old hymn as he prepares their evening meal. He hasn’t spoken much in the past few weeks, but that hasn’t concerned L’ianə. She isn’t accustomed to the art of conversation. She much prefers to listen to his singing as it mingles with the noise of the forest about them. All these sounds entwine with the constant melody that lingers in the air. It had begun the moment her feet had touched the path in the wood. Chygon had explained, calling it the song of the Dragon Path. He’d also explained that they were journeying to a sacred place. It would be there that she would be tested and dedicated to her destiny. L’ianə had given no reaction to this news. It wasn’t that she was passive, actually her emotions were a warring turmoil within her. She was just accustomed to hiding all emotion out of self preservation, even in the midst of enduring her own abuse at the hands of those who sought to take from her what they wanted for themselves. She was beginning to trust Chygon though. He seemed to sense the defense she’d constructed about herself and respected the boundaries.
He smiles now as he watches her relax across from him and listen to the sounds of the night. She has begun the journey away from that village at last, not just in physical distance but emotionally as well. He knows not about her past, but it doesn’t matter. Only her future matters now, for she must be the salvation of this world. He doesn’t know it, but in days to come he will reflect back on this night and regret that he’d seen her as such. He cared only that she’d been found, but like the villagers, he can see only the purpose she will serve and not the actual young woman before him. In a peaceful silence they enjoy their meal and prepare to rest for the night.
Chygon announces that they have finally arrived at their destination as he pushes through some bushes and immediately disappeares from sight. L’ianə releases a startled cry for she has no idea how to follow him. He seems to realize this as he reappears and takes her by the hand. “These paths are known only to those belonging to the order. I will lead you forward, but I warn you, do not release my hand or you will be forever lost in oblivion.” With a bravery known only to those who have nothing to lose she grips his hand and allows him to lead her onward. She’s become accustomed to his small kindnesses. Over the weeks she noticed small things like how he’d prepare certain foods that he knows she enjoys, even taking the time to gather the specific ingredients. He’d take her hand anytime the path became difficult. Warmth had begun to blossom in her heart as she lay upon her mat at night. Could it be possible that she finally had a friend? Was it possible that she could finally trust and even rely on another person? These thoughts swirl through her mind as she allows him to lead her forward. To finally know the love of a friend she would gladly follow him wherever he chose to lead. Happiness is such a foreign concept to her that she doesn’t recognize it even as a smile spreads to her eyes.
Finally, they step from the dark path onto the ledge of a great cliff. Following him to the edge she begins to take in the wonder before her. “This is the sacred birthplace of worlds L’ianə.” He murmurs. As far as the eye can see there is fire and light. Some areas seem to churn more violently than others and as she watches a great golden orb arises from the fire and blasts into the heavens. “What was that?” she whispers in startled amazement. “That is the seed of a new world. There are worlds within worlds that we have never and will never see L’ianə. You will learn more about that, but for now it’s time for your test and dedication.” L’ianə hadn’t even considered what this test would consist of until this very moment. Even if she had the foresight to fear it, it was too late, the time had arrived. Chygon takes her hand again and leads her to the very edge of the cliff, the edge of worlds. Her back is to the fire and her face is turned up into his. He splays his fingers across her temples and his steel eyes bore into hers. She feels the fullness of his power bore into the core of her consciousness . Cold tendrils coil through her memories and expose all of her deepest secrets until the very fabric of her being lays bare to his inspection.
Suddenly, he jerks his hands away from her as if burned. “What?” is all she can muster as she gazes into eyes that have gone cold. “There is a madness in your bloodline. You harbor a passion that could be the destruction of yourself and world’s upon worlds.” His fingers lock around her arms and she gasps at the pain of his hold. “I am sorry L’ianə. I was so sure that you were finally the one. This is the way of the order. You know too much now and can never return.” The realization of his words hits and as if in slow motion she begins to fall away from the cliff toward the fire below. He said that he was sorry but she knows he’s only sorry for himself and has condemned her to burn. She will be consumed by the flames like her mother before her.
She knows the full bitter agony of betrayal as her flesh begins to sear away. An overwhelming rage begins to build within her. She pulls the full force of all her untapped power around herself and constructs a sort of cocoon. Her magic takes on a life of its own as her consciousness fades. All pain ceases and it is at that very moment that a blast of power roars to the heavens. Suddenly, she knows a freedom unlike anything she has ever experienced. She’s hovering in the air and the world around her is a wonder. She can see the breeze as it flows past. She can see the health of the trees below her and the seed of decay in the earth. The melody of the Dragon Path flows within her hearing and vision! Yes! She can see the music in vivid colors as it surrounds her. It pulls her and calls to her like a lover bidding her to follow. So, with little thought to what she is doing she moves through the air toward the source of the music.
Chygon falls to his knees as he watches what was L’ianə rise from the fire. Her new dragon form is the most beautiful creature he has ever beheld. Her pure white scales glisten and reflect like a prism in the sunlight and a ruby soul gem beams from her forehead. He can only sit in muted awe as she hovers and then begins to glide on outstretched wings in the direction of the Dragon Isles. “You betrayed her Chygon.” He is seized by fear as a commanding voice arises from within the depths of the fire. It is the Mother. “Mother, I have only followed the sacred laws and traditions of those before me.”
“Silence! I care nothing for your man made laws. When did I ever give you these laws?”
Chygon falls to his face, “Please forgive me my ignorance. I believed in the cause. I only meant to aid in the salvation of this world.”
The voice of the mother rushes over him like the winds of a hurricane. “You did not seek my voice in this matter and now you may have released the very cause of the destruction you so fear. You were correct in believing that she is the one foretold of in the lore. It has been predicted that the mother of dragons would rise again in her full power to aid her people. She carries with her the incarnation of my own power. She will either be the salvation or the destruction of this world that you hold so dear. You will seek her out, Chygon, and you will discover your own destiny is forever entwined with hers.”
Chygon can almost physically feel the presence of the Mother receding as slowly he rises to his feet.