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       Moonbeam, p.7

           Adrienne Woods
slower 1  faster

  My father had made it clear that my mother would be out of the question. That we couldn’t get to her. That she didn’t want to see anybody. She didn’t even want to see my father. Not to mention two strangers.

  Blake rubbed my arm. “We will make them believe, Elena. I promise.”

  I had a bad feeling about this. What if they didn’t believe us? “How are we going to do this, Blake. Jump back to the right time, the exact time that both of us were already born?”

  He grunted. “I don’t know how this ability works, Elena. We’ll figure it out.”

  When darkness fell and the stars started to shine, I could see a bright light forming in Blake’s mind up in the sky. My head jerked up but I only saw stars, no light.

  Still Blake saw it.

  “You can’t see it?”

  “Unless I’m looking through your eyes, no.”

  “You are right, then. It is only a Rubicon thing.” He got up and gave me a hand. His hand didn’t leave mine as he guided it around his neck. I climbed on his back, and then he ran, jumped off the cliff and morphed midair.

  I still couldn’t see the bright light, but through Blake’s mind, I could see it as clear as he did.

  It came closer and closer. Both our hearts beat at the same pace. We were excited, yet terrified of what we would find behind that light.

  Screaming, I shut my eyes against the brilliance. The light engulfed us. All I could think about was that night we’d done this the first time. The night my mother had shot me with one of her arrows.

  I didn’t want that again.

  Daylight seeped through my eyelids.

  We did it?

  I opened my eyes and saw open lands. Here and there were a few homes.

  Where are we?

  Your guess is as good as mine. Blake flew toward the trees. I have no idea what I’m doing, remember?

  I heard people shouting below. A male voice bellowed, “Ready the dragon catcher!”

  I couldn’t see who it was, but I knew it wasn’t good. We had to be in Quitto’s time, back when they used nasty contraptions to capture dragons.

  Two Rubicons couldn’t exist in the same time. If we found him, we couldn’t kill him. My great-great-grandfather needed to kill him. Otherwise our bloodline would never become royalty.

  Trepidation grew larger than grief. Changing the past came at a steep price.

  We landed in the woods. Blake changed back into his human form and hurriedly pulled his clothes on. We figured if we could pass over Quitto, it might not be so terrible. We knew about this era. The Dragonians of this time were like Vikings. Stubborn as hell. Impossible to negotiate with.

  And they killed all dragons. They didn’t even know dragons had a human form yet.

  Under no circumstances could Blake reveal his dragon form.

  “We need to find out the exact year, Elena.”

  “Don’t do this. I don’t want to be stuck here, Blake.”

  “You won’t, but I need to know if this is the timeline we think it is.”

  “Okay, then change our appearance and I’ll come with you.”

  “No, you stay here.” He was adamant.

  “I’m not splitting up.” My voice was shrill. “Haven’t you learned through all these years, shit happens when the two of us split up?”

  His jaw was set. He reminded me of Herbert.

  “I’m coming with. Otherwise we are staying here until nightfall.”

  “Okay, fine. Let’s go.”

  He muttered an incantation that only changed our wardrobe so we could blend into the era of my great-great-great-grandfather. His jeans and black V-neck transformed to a loose white tunic and brown leather pants. I found myself wearing a thin brown dress, more a potato sack, instead of my sweater and jeans. Ugh, Blake. You couldn’t make it a little less hideous?

  He chuckled.

  It really was a bummer that we could only jump back at night. We were stuck here, for better or worse, for at least a few hours. Then we’d have to try time-jumping again to land in the right era.

  Where are we?

  I think we are somewhere in Tith.

  Tith?

  I looked down at the mountain. It didn’t look anything like Tith.

  They lived differently in this time, Elena. You won’t find cities or modern plumbing, so I suggest you hold it in.

  I laughed nervously. I didn’t want to think about trying to take a wee, not in this era. As we walked, I wondered how they took care of their business in this era.

  A shovel and a couple minutes of digging, Blake chirped.

  Don’t roll your eyes at me. I’m serious. We don’t have a shovel, Elena.

  Shut up, then.

  Blake laughed. I shouldered my backpack, which resembled a potato sack even more than my dress, and followed him. He found a wide dirt path through the woods, well-worn by travelers. No doubt it led to a village, where we could find out exactly which time period we had blasted into.

  The village wasn’t big. It was mostly comprised of rows of houses made from stones and straw-thatched roofs. It smelled like garbage, mildew, and urine. I covered my nose with my sleeve.

  Smoke curled from their chimneys, but we saw no one in the muddy street. We approached a small tavern with a wine barrel burned into the wooden bark attached to the doorway. As we passed, a drunk man was tossed out of the door. His filthy arms pin-wheeled wildly as he stumbled a few feet from me.

  Blake dropped into battle stance that years of training had drilled into his instinct. He reached out his hand for me protectively. I ran toward him. We left the drunkard behind; no doubt he wouldn’t be coherent.

  The streets were caked with churned mud. Dust lay thick in the air. How did people live in this era? I coughed as the stench seeped through my sleeve to my nostrils.

  A door opened and a woman threw a bucket of dirty water right in front of my feet.

  I paused and watched it spread across the street, inches from my toes.

  It wasn’t water at all; it was their sewage!

  “Ugh,” I groaned, disgusted. I almost lost it. Blake, with a huge grin plastered on his face, helped me over it so that it didn’t touch my shoes or the horrible excuse for a dress.

  You are such a snob. He was enjoying this.

  I huffed. I’m not a snob. I just dislike everything about this era. Can you please find out in which era we are so we can get out of here, please?

  And how do you suppose I do that, Princess? Go into the bar and say, “Can you please tell me what day it is?”

  I couldn’t help but laugh. The way he’d said it was so hilarious, using his mother’s high English accent.

  A bigger house stood at the end of the street.

  What was burned above the door gave me the shivers. It carried the symbol that was still used today. A skull of a dragon. It was the symbol of the black market. The place where the body parts of slaughtered dragons were hawked by murderers.

  Blake held my hand tighter. This was a terrible time, indeed.

  Can we please not go in there?

  He wanted to see what was going on in there. He wanted to try to change this. Maybe end the black market. It was something nobody could put a stop to in our future.

  I hated this so much, but I relented. We opened the door and went in.

  Wooden buckets littered the floor. Dragon scales—white, blue, green, red, copper—all types of dragons were killed like soulless animals. Dragon intestines were strewn about. Dried blood caked the edges of the room. Tears welled up in my eyes.

  Don’t cry, Elena. They won’t understand.

  I already hated my great-great-great-grandfather. I remembered the wax doll they had of him inside the museum in Etan. I’m so sorry.

  But Blake was right. They didn’t know better.

  Then someone needs to tell them.

  They need to kill Quitto. Otherwise your great-great-great-grandfather will never become king.

  Something sprang into my mind. A scrap I’
d read somewhere. Great men slew dragons, it had said. But only the brave ones tamed them.

  I could see my face staring at everything through Blake’s eyes. I looked at him. He squinted.

  What is it?

  I think you just found a way for us to change this era, Elena.

  What? Are you insane?

  We need to find your great-great-great grandfather.

  I didn’t like this idea, but Blake went around asking villagers where William Malone could be found. They all directed him to a farm two miles from the village.

  We headed there as quickly as we could. Forty minutes later we stood at the edge of the property. It wasn’t a farm. Sure, it looked like one, but as we approached, all the hair on my body stood on end.

  Blake didn’t look anything like the other men. He was big, but he was fine and neat. I ruffled his black hair anxiously.

  It’s not going to work. Change your appearance.

  He was about to when one of the men, who was sharpening a knife on a whetstone, looked up.

  “May I help you?” the guy asked. I gasped. It was him. My great-great-great-grandfather.

  “Good day.” Blake tried to imitate their stilted accent. “My name is Blake.”

  Shit! I yelled.

  “That’s a bit of an unusual name you have there.”

  “It’s just a name,” he said, trying to charm a creature that couldn’t be charmed.

  “I am William Malone. I’m the keeper of this fine establishment. You looking for some weapons? You have a dragon problem?”

  He was already in the dragon business.

  “No,” Blake said.

  “Then what do you want?”

  “I come with a plan.”

  William frowned suspiciously. “What plan?”

  “To make all your Quitto problems disappear.”

  “Who is Quitto?” He asked.

  “The dragon haunting your world.”

  William ground his teeth. “Didn’t your mother ever tell you not to give anything you don’t like a name?”

  “That she did,” Blake lied easily.

  William pulled his sword. I stepped in front of Blake.

  Don’t do anything stupid. Without him, your family line will never come to exist.

  William laughed scornfully. “And who is this young lass?”

  “My name is Eleanore,” I said. It sounded like a name that would fit with his time.

  His lip curled. “You dare speak to a man?”

  I sighed and rolled my eyes. “You’re seriously kidding me, right?”

  Elena, your language.

  William squinted. “She is a brave lass. That I can give her. But you should control your woman.”

  Lowering his sword, he gestured for us to follow him.

  As we stepped over the threshold of his house, he asked us if we were hungry.

  Blake nodded. Accept. They hate it when people decline.

  Sitting and hugging my disguised backpack between my knees, I turned up my nose at the white slop he put in front of us. Blake ate it as if there was no tomorrow. I smiled when I found William’s eyes on me and put my hand into the slop. No fucking spoons. When were spoons invented?

  As I tried to stomach the gelatinous muck, my eyes snagged on a birthmark on William’s arm. It was dark just like mine.

  Blake looked up when he saw it in my mind.

  William Malone was Quitto’s Dent.

  He had covered it up. Marks like that were considered signs a person would become evil. How had my pops hidden it all these years?

  He pulled a sword. “I don’t know what you think you saw, but it’s not what you think.” He thrust his blade at Blake.

  “Calm down,” Blake said. “We mean you no harm.” He nodded toward me. “She has that same mark.”

  William’s eyes narrowed. He turned his gaze from Blake to me.

  “Show me.”

  Show him, Elena, if you don’t want to be stuck in this era. I do not want to die by this man’s hand.

  My limbs shaking, I got up, gave William a glare and lifted up the hemline of my dress, revealing my mark above my knee. “Now put your sword down, sir.”

  William laughed and sheathed his sword. “I might be many things, lass, but I’m no sir.”

  The day progressed quickly. Blake told William where to find the Rubicon. William listened eagerly. It was the foundation of our entire world. What if all those wars had needed to happen? What if we shouldn’t change anything?

  “Give me your service and we can rid the world of all the rodents in the sky,” William begged Blake.

  “That’s not why I’m here. I have a different proposal, one I need you to be open-minded about.”

  William nodded, wiping his filthy hands on his pants leg.

  “You could slay the dragon,” Blake said, his voice low and intense. “But have you ever considered taming it?”

  William froze on Blake. “Are you possessed? Nobody could tame that thing.”

  “You can. That mark is not what you think it is. It’s the mark of the Dragon Riders.”

  “Dragon Riders?” William roared.

  Blake, he can’t be reasoned with. He’s killed too many of them already.

  “It’s blasphemy!” His eyes twitched. “How do you even know this?”

  Shit. Fuck. We need to get out of here, Blake. The sun is almost down.

  “Speak, slayer!” William demanded. “How?”

  “He’s not a slayer!” I yelled. I’d had it with his short temper and his vileness.

  “Lass, I told you before, shut your trap.”

  “Don’t you dare tell me what I can and can’t do.”

  William got it. I could see it in his eyes. He whipped out his weapon. Incredibly fast for a hulking giant.

  I voiced an incantation just as the sword was in his hand. The blade had already been flung into the air, turning end over end straight for my beloved’s head. At my words it took a different course and hit the wall.

  Blake and I darted out of the house.

  An alarm went off. It wasn’t going to be long before we were surrounded by slayers.

  What are we going to do?

  Sorry, you were right, Blake admitted. He can’t be reasoned with.

  He was Quitto’s rider, wasn’t he?

  Elena, it’s a different time. He’s killed way too many already to even consider that possibility. Your great-great-great-grandfather was an important man, but he wasn’t a brave one.

  We just need to get out of here. Just morph, Blake.

  An arrow whizzed overhead. William was shooting at us! We missed another arrow thanks to our enhanced hearing. A third arrow scratched Blake’s arm.

  He grabbed me and leaped into the sky, morphing into his dragon form.

  “It’s the devil!” I heard William scream below.

  Get me on your back, and fly faster.

  He flipped me onto his back and zoomed up in the sky. I clutched my backpack to my chest, unwilling to drop it. Men screamed in terror below; they’d never seen a dragon as massive as Blake.

  I could hear the alarm in William’s voice, the chase, the hunger. He was vile. How could my bloodline be descendants from that?

  It felt like we were never going to escape this era. It was the golden hour now, the sun’s rays lengthening, but not fast enough. Blake flew higher, past the clouds. He hovered in the air to wait until it was over. We had reached an altitude where no arrows or man-made spikes could reach us. They arced upward in vain attempts, fell in anti-climactic parabolas, and clattered harmlessly among the villagers who shouted futilely at us.

  Sorry, Elena.

  It’s okay. This is safe for now.

  Then we heard a screech. I looked toward the horizon. A hulking beast hurtled toward us, dark purple with eyes that glittered with hatred. It was Quitto.

  Blake.

  Fuck, he said as the Rubicon of this time came in fast.

  Blake descended. The sun was ready to set, but
it was moving slow.

  Blake couldn’t kill Quitto; that was William’s duty.

  My heart galloped in my chest. Danger threatened all around us. In the sky, Quitto. Down below, slayers. All united, in this moment, against us.

  I don’t want to die here!

  We won’t. Blake roared and flew up into the sky again. Just hold on. He connected hard with Quitto’s body. A message: he was bigger and stronger, so back off. But it only angered the ancient dragon all the more. Unlike Blake, Quitto was a dark Rubicon, dark and evil.

  They chased one another. Quitto breathed his fire, and I blocked it.

  He knocked into Blake. I lost my grip and tumbled through the sky like a ragdoll.

  Blake darted back down and caught me, but we were almost in range of the slayers.

  Then the bright flash finally appeared.

  We both saw it. Blake flew fast toward it.

  Quitto saw it, too. He sensed that the light represented some kind of escape. Blake readied to try and knock him unconscious until we were safely out of this era.

  He connected hard with him.

  My mind become disoriented. He collided so hard with Quitto that he almost lost consciousness himself.

  The other Rubicon crashed down onto one of the mountains. An easy kill for William now. Even as I struggled, guilt racked me. What had we done?

  Stay with me, I cried in my mind. Blake shook it off as the light brightened.

  The swooshing sound came near and I turned to see what was following us. It was one of those spears attached to a net.

  A sharp pain pierced through my leg.

  Blake growled and I screamed.

  Breathe through it, Elena. Just breathe.

  Then I realized it wasn’t my pain. I looked down at Blake’s back paw and saw the spear sticking out of his thigh.

  The bright light was right in front of us. I saw it through Blake’s mind.

  Bite down on your teeth. I’m going to remove the spear.

  Blake ground his fangs so hard, I could hear it. I uttered a spell.

  The spear shattered in two as Blake pushed harder to get to the light.

  The swooshing sound came near again and I erected my magical shield around us. The rest of the spear broke away and fell back down to the ground.

  Your quarrel is with Quitto, not us.

  The bright light engulfed us and we were free.

 
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