January 2nd, 2012 | Published in Dragon Wars
Chapter Twenty One
Someone who looked like they were a few-days-dead walking corpse shouldn’t really be describable as pretty, Hannah thought. Yet that was a fair description of the twelve year old haltia who came crashing into the clearing, ran straight up to Collette and hugged her firmly.
Her skin was pallid with an unhealthy greenish undertone, and it was impossible to tell the colour of her over-large eyes due to their constantly dilated pupils and the semi-opaque milky cloudiness covering them. Yet her hair was a lovely glossly black and her bone structure gave her face the angular beauty common to all Haltia. It was quite disconcerting – to Hannah, anyway. Collette seemed completely unphased. She hugged her heart friend then pulled back a little, still squeezing her hands.
“It’s you! It’s really you! How much have I dreamt of you!” she said. “I’m Collette, and you are?”
“I’m Agrona! I’m so glad. Ystelyan-mirian thought we might never meet because the Core would never summon a renegade’s heart friend. But come on, my brother is waiting to take us to safety.” She walked over to Tara and offered her a small stone pendant. “This is for you, ma’am,” she said. “It will help you survive here.”
“I…” Tara reached out and took the pendant. “Thank you.”
“Thank my mirian when you meet him.” She turned and headed back the way she’d come, hand in hand with Collette. At the edge of the clearing she paused and looked back. “Come on then.”
Hannah hesitated for a moment before helping Tara to her feet, then grabbed Martin’s hand and started gathering what little stuff they had with them telekinetically before following after them.
Just beyond the trees, a dragon was waiting in human form. Even though she’d been expecting him, Hannah still ground to a halt. What she hadn’t expected was for him to be around her age and really quite cute.
Unlike his stepsister, he looked very much alive. He was quite tall, with short reddish-gold hair and those vivid green eyes which marked him as a dragon even though his hunger was well masked.
“Greetings, Earth Warrior.” He sketched a bow. “And you also, ma’am.” He nodded to Tara. “My mirian bids you welcome to his domain and offers you his hospitality. Please allow me to be your transport today.” His eyes flashed with amusement as he shifted into the form of a two legged dragon with a long, sinuous body and elegant wings, then crouched to let them mount.
Agrona and Collette scrambled aboard, then Tara passed Martin up to Collette before mounting behind her more sedately. Tara looked down at Hannah, who was still hesitating under the trees. “Are you coming?”
“I… yes, I am!” Hannah walked over, passed the bag containing the history blocks they’d found up to her, then mounted carefully.
“What’s you name?” Hannah asked as the dragon tensed himself and sprang into the air.
“Elarian,” he replied. “And you, Earth warrior?”
“Hannah,” she said. “I’m sorry if I’m a little odd. I’m used to fighting dragons, not getting help from them.” Beneath she felt an odd rumble through his hide and realised he was laughing.
“That’s understandable in the circumstances,” he said after a moment. “Kyle was just as jumpy when Darya brought him to us after… well, you know.”
“I do know,” she sighed heavily, then stared down at the ground which was diminishing beneath them. “Wow!” She twisted around and looked behind her. In the distance, yet closer than she’d expected for how far they’d walked yesterday, she could see the mabain sea and beneath them scrubby grass and patchy woodland of the distant reaches.
“We’ll soon be into more stable territory once we get inside my mirian’s reach,” Elarian said. “Look ahead, you can see the forests of the foothills.”
Hannah turned and looked in the direction they were flying and could indeed see the foothills of the mountains approaching rapidly. “Oh, we’ll be there soon.”
“A couple of hours, actually,” he said. “I’d teleport us, but jumping in the unsupported reaches can tear the world open. Especially at the moment when the fabric is weakening as badly as it is.”
“The fabric is weakening?” Hannah asked sharply. “What do you mean?”
“Only what I say,” he replied. “There are more mabain upwellings than ever before, sometimes even in the heart lands where it shouldn’t happen at all. Ystelyan-mirian is worried about it.”
“Ah!” Hannah frowned at that news. Though now he said it… “Ema told me there was a mabain upwelling under Caerdu. It’s why the first dragon was there, I think.”
“I heard about that,” he said. “Under a city is very serious. The large number of speakers should help maintain the fabric.”
“I think we need to look into this,” Tara interrupted. “This world lies close to Earth. What’s bad for it is bad for Earth.”
Hannah twisted around and looked at her. “I think Matthias and Sarah already are,” she said. “I hope they are.” She turned her attention back to the approaching mountains and thought about her mother. She would have loved this view and felt vindicated by the existence of non-evil dragons. Hannah scrunched her eyes up against another storm of tears. Why couldn’t her mother have had the sense to keep her mouth shut and come to warn her like Collette and Carl had?
“Because she loved you, silly, and that woman surely knew it,” Elarian said. “I doubt dissembling would have worked.”
“No,” Tara said. “She would have realised that she had to watch your mother carefully until she’d dealt with you. Your mother’s only hope would have been to take Marian out without notice and… well…”
“Aunt Marian was expecting her,” Collette said quietly. “It happened so quickly no one had time to react. I’m sorry.”
Hannah bit her lip and said nothing. She just fixed her eyes on the mountains and tried not to think about it, but how could she not? And why was she leaking so much? She had better control than this.
“It’s because you’re tired, stressed and grieving,” Tara said. “No one has much control under those circumstances.”
“What colour are you, Hannah?” Elarian asked suddenly. “Ystelyan-mirian wishes to know.”
“Eh?” she asked. “What do you mean?”
“When you use your powers, what colour does it manifest as?” he asked.
“Oh.” Hannah frowned and shook her head. “A sort of orangey colour, actually.”
“Ah. Orange, that’s okay then.” He sounded relieved. “Your emotional state isn’t you skirting descent then, just normal grief. I think he was concerned you might be green.”
Hannah considered this. “The colour has something to do with my personalit-” She broke off. “Wait a minute, are you trying to distract me?”
“Pretty much, yes,” he said. “You might fall off if you have a break down in mid air and that would be… well, ouch.”
Hannah took a quick glance at the ground below far below and nodded. “Yes, I can see that.”
“And yes, colour is related to who you are,” he added. “Orange is a good colour. It means you’re brave.”
Hannah snorted at that. “I’m not brave,” she protested. “I just do what I have to even when I’m scared.”
“I think that’s what courage is, Hannah,” Tara said.
“Indeed,” Elarian agreed. “Without fear what you have is foolhardiness, not courage.” He banked to the left slightly and began flying straight towards the three peaked mountain. Hannah gave a little yelp as a wave of vertigo overcame her and she had to grab onto one of his spines to stop herself falling.
“Warn me before you do that!”
“Sorry,” he said as he levelled up. “As soon as we get within the border I’m going to jump us to the palace. You really need to rest and eat.”