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       Firebolt, p.9

           Adrienne Woods
"He's usually in disguise but always get caught by one of the locals," Sammy said.

  “At times I pity him,” Becky admitted.

  I looked at his picture. A strange sadness shone through his eyes. “Can I ask you guys a question? Where does Master Longwei get the money to pay for our little trips?”

  “Dragonia is loaded. The parents whose children are not born with the mark pay plenty of money to get them in, which cover situations like these,” Becky explained, while she helped me unpack the shopping bags.

  “Master Longwei allows them inside Dragonia without the mark?”

  “It's not written anywhere that you have to ascend to claim a dragon,” Sammy answered.

  “Just because one person has done it, doesn't mean all of them can,” Becky countered.

  “Wait, you actually mean somebody claimed a dragon that didn't have an extra ability?”

  They only nodded since “Mystical Song”, a T.V series, had started and the conversation ended there.

  I lay back on my bed, too tired for another teen drama and drifted away with Sammy's hyena laughter echoing noisily in the background. A huge emptiness filled my heart. I wished that I could have shared this day with Dad. Thinking back on the last 48 hours my new reality started to kick in. I rolled over as a tear escaped and landed softly on the pillow. I would never share anything with him ever again.

  Chapter Ten

  We found the most amazing burgers at the buffet later that night. Becky tried her luck again with the next riddle. That girl could not get enough greasy food. To my surprise I knew the answer to this one as well. I didn’t get it as fast as the last time but I was impressed that I had gotten it at all. It was fire, but I kept the answer to myself because Sammy wasn’t too fond of greasy food.

  That night I felt dead tired again, but for some reason I still struggled to fall asleep. Blake had been on my mind a lot throughout the day. I had seen him during dinner sitting alone at a table, looking deep in thought. There was a hard look to his face as he mixed the food on his plate methodically, as if he could find the answers to all his problems in his French fries. He'd eventually given up on the food and dismantled the lantern sitting on the table to play with the glowing embers. That was how I had come up with the answer to the riddle. When I finally fell asleep, I dreamt of him. I'd taken Tabitha's place next to him at the table. He had reached into my hair, pulled my face to his and gave me one of those long and hard passionate kisses. I feared waking, feared leaving him. Lost in the passion of the moment my dream suddenly turned very odd.

  Blake disappeared, and I stood alone on top of a grassy hill. For the love of blueberries where am I?

  I had no idea how I’d gotten there. I looked around me perplexed because nothing seemed familiar. If this dream was an indication of my current state of mind, I was in trouble. Onward was a massive expanse of forest. Its tall trees and mass of fauna and flora, hiding who-knows-what, made it harder to breathe. As I started to walk across the hill I noticed a dark-haired woman waiting for me on the other side. It felt like it took forever to reach her. At first I thought it was Julia, but the closer I got, the more I realized it was a stranger.

  She had an oval face, with fair skin and sad gray eyes. Long dark curls hung loose over her shoulders with a few tendrils out of place, blown about by the wind. She just stared at me with a blank expression. I wanted to ask her “What am I doing here?” But no sound came from my lips.

  She raised her arm, pointed to the forest, and ordered me to enter. I studied it quizzically before turning back to face her. Why on earth did she want me to go in there? I refused. That was my first mistake, I thought, as she brought the forest to me. I was consumed by fear as I felt myself drowning in fifty feet of high, dense trees. I started to suffocate as if an invisible force was pressing the air out of my lungs. The woman vanished from sight as the trees pulled me deeper into the forest. My last glimpse of her before she disappeared revealed a smile playing at the corners of her lips. Just as I felt the last breath leave my lungs, I woke up. My breath was coming fast as I tried to adjust to my surrounding. Luckily,Becky and Sammy were deep sleepers; I didn’t feel like explaining myself to them at that moment. Why the hell did I just dream that, and who was the woman? I kept asking myself that as I tried to catch my breath.

  * * *

  Monday morning, I found a note pushed under the door.

  It was folded delicately but did not bring welcoming news. I had to go see the Viden at ten, the note explained in willowy silver script.

  “The sooner the better,” Sammy consoled during breakfast.

  We sat outside at a table. I needed the fresh air to calm my nerves.

  “Good morning ladies,”Lucian greeted us. He possessed the jovial tone of a real morning person. Well, I guess he couldn’t be perfect.

  “Hi, Lucian,” we said in unison.

  “When did you get in?’ Becky flashed him her super smile.

  “My dad was stuck yesterday with meetings and proclamations so he asked Emanuel to drop me off last night around ten. So, how was Elm?”

  “Amazing,” Becky said in a singsong voice. “You must check out the new Samurai Three Thousand.”

  His face broke out in a playful smile.

  Becky’s eyes narrowed. “You already got it!”

  “My dad bought it for me last week. It's really a wicked vest. You don't even feel like you're wearing it.”

  “It's so unfair,” she said, sulking.

  “Oh, Becky, I'm sure you got something out of this deal.” Lucian chuckled.

  “Yeah, Sammy and I each got a nice top,” she said, perking up a bit.

  “So, Elena, did you get everything you needed?” he asked. My heart made a couple of flips as I nodded.

  “She's seeing the Viden today,” Becky whispered.

  "Good luck,” Lucian said, “I was there this morning. She's not in a good mood, but it's a good day for foretellings.”

  “What do you mean by that?” My heart started to beat faster.

  He leaned forward. “Blake was in there before me, and both of us came away with something to think about.”

  “You heard what she told my brother?” Sammy asked suddenly interested.

  “No. It was written all over his face when he came out.”

  “She won't, you know, turn into a dragon or something?” I said timidly, and they all burst into laughter. Well, Sammy and Becky did. Lucian just gave this sexy chuckle, making my temperature rise slightly.

  “No, Elena, the Viden doesn't like her dragon form. They lose their humanity the longer they're in their true form. She’s usually in a good mood. I've no idea what went wrong this morning.” He shrugged, at a loss for what to say to calm my obvious nerves.

  When the first bell rang, we said goodbye and parted ways. “Lucian likes you, Elena,” Sammy whispered behind me.

  My heart stopped. “What? No!” I stated, denying the possibility while butterflies danced around in my stomach.

  “Want to bet,” Becky said, surprisingly and I just smiled. “Sammy's right Elena, he's never sat at our table so many times in a row.”

  “Will the two of you knock it off?”I looked at Becky, lifting my eyebrows so she knew I meant it. I couldn’t see any trace of jealousy at the idea of Lucian and me. She really didn't like him like that?

  Shaking off this new information, I walked quickly to my first period: Math. I had no idea where the class was, so Becky walked with me to the end of the hall. She told me what direction to take and ran off to her next class in the opposite direction. It was the first class we didn't have together, not to mention how much I hated Math. I was doomed.

  “The name is Brian.” A younger version of George Clooney was suddenly walking beside me. His left hand awkwardly stretched out for a sideways shake. “Brian likes to go for long walks on the beach, watch movies, talk till the sun comes up, oh, and has Brian mentioned he’s loaded, so he can make Elena's heart’s desire come true?”

  I giggled
even though it was a cheesy line. “Does Brian always talk about himself in third person?”

  He smiled, which would make any other girl's knees wobble, but Becky already warned me about him. “Brian does. So what does Elena say about spending some quality time with him?” He asked placing his hand on the small of my back suggestively.

  “Elena doesn't say anything. She knows why Brian is being so nice to her when he's away from his idiotic friends. So sorry, but Elena isn't interested,” I said, flipping my pony as I turned to walk away.

  He squinted and dropped his smile. “Did Becky get to you?”

  “No, I was raised by a dragon. I can see straight through pretty faces.”

  His beautiful smile appeared instantly. “So, Elena thinks Brian is pretty.”

  “Be careful of that ego, Brian.” I turned the next corner and we parted ways.

  “Brian doesn't give up so easily, Elena. He'll speak to you soon.” His voice echoed through the hallway.

  As I continued walking to class, I found a couple of girls staring at me again. What was it with them? I couldn't look at Blake, talk to Lucian, or speak to Brian? I shook my head and opened the huge door with the number 125 written on the frame in golden letters. Professor Dickson was human, that's the good part. Unfortunately, my joy stopped. This class was nothing like Math. It was ten times harder. After suffering my way through the two-hour lesson I was rewarded with Latin. As I walked into the large room, I was relieved when I saw Becky sitting next to an open seat. It was the main language of Paegeia and was still spoken up North close to the border of Etan. I also learned that it was the language of the dragons and magic, so it was mandatory.

  I started to get nervous as ten o'clock approached. I couldn’t focus as I watched the hands of the clock move slowly. Each tick was painful, as my imagination kept coming with more and more terrifying scenarios about my first session with the Viden. What if she changed today… or worse, what if she said something I really didn't want to hear? Hearing bad news seemed to be the trend lately,so I wasn’t counting on anything overly encouraging.

  My mind had drifted far away from the classroom, and I jumped when Sir Deisenberg called my name. I thought he was a dragon, but that was just my theory. The Sir's were dragons and the professor’s werehumans, although I didn’t feel like testing it at that particular moment. “You may go for your appointment, Elena.”

  Slowly rising from my chair I dragged my books off the table and placed them in the new green backpack I had gotten during our shopping trip in Elm.

  “Good Luck,” Becky whispered and I gave her a nervous smile.

  The Viden's tower was easy to find. It was the tower that reminded me of Rapunzel’s. A stench hit me straight in the face when I opened the door. It smelled like a cat or some small rodent had died in there, was covered in burnt hair, and then left in the sun. So all in all, it was disgusting, and I could feel my eyes water as I began my ascent. I stumbled a couple of times, as I climbed the million steps rising in a spiral in front of me. When I finally reached the top I took a deep breath, gathered my courage and balled my hand into a fist to knock on the door.

  “Come in, Elena,” she said, before I had a chance to knock. For the love of blueberries could she read my mind!

  How did she know I was here?

  I opened the door slowly. A lovely flowery smell filled my head. It felt as if I was inhaling a bouquet of lilies, daisies, and roses. The smell was overpowering after the stench of the staircase. I reached out a hand and grasped the doorpost to steady myself. I saw a gorgeous woman, young, perhaps in her late twenties, with long dark hair and golden skin, standing before me at the only window. Her eyes were bright blue, like George's and she appeared to be glowing in the light emanating from the window. I felt like I could look into her eyes forever.

  A long robe covered her petite figure. It was hard to imagine that she was three hundred years old. “Good morning, Elena.” She threw me a smile that disappeared as fast as it had arrived. Lucian hadn't been joking about that good mood.

  Wiping my sweaty palms on my jeans, I could feel my heart pounding under her gaze. The Viden gave me a look, which made my skin crawl. I rubbed my arms vigorously trying to drive away the goose pimples that had formed.

  I slumped onto a puffy pillow she'd indicated to with a short wave of her hand and stared at a crystal ball that was in the middle of the mahogany table before me.

  Seriously, a crystal ball? It made me want to giggle, but then I remembered her foul mood and bit hard on the inside of my mouth, hoping that it would stop me from laughing out loud.

  Moving from the window, she walked over to a small kitchen tucked into a corner of the room. I listened as water poured from the faucet and the sound of china clinking. When she turned around, she was carrying a small silver tray with two tea cups and a large teapot, which she placed next to the crystal ball. Steam emerged from the spout, forming twisted, misty patterns above the crystal ball.

  “I need some Chamomile, hope you won't mind sharing a cup. It's the only thing that calms my nerves.” She spoke softly, and began to pour the first cup.

  “No thank you,” I said, trying to be polite.

  “Drink something!” In a flash, her entire demeanor changed, anger marring her flawless beauty.

  “Okay, that will be nice,” I said. I didn’t want her anger to emerge again. As the seconds ticked by, it seemed like it took an eternity to fill the small cups with the steaming liquid.

  She got up from the table and returned with a round plate filled with bite-sized chocolate chip cookies. Even with all her scurrying around, the ambience of the room didn't change.

  “Want a cookie?” She held out the plate towards me. I took one, scared that she might feel offended, as she had been when I declined the tea.

  “So, Elena, how do you find things here in Paegeia?” she asked, and settled back into her chair.

  “Nothing like I expected.” I spoke honestly. I did not want to upset her again.

  “Mmm, I believe that your father was a dragon?” She had changed the subject to one thing I didn't want to talk about.

  “Yes” “Did you know your mother?”

  I shook my head.

  “So you were raised only by him?”I couldn’t tell if she was asking a question or insulting me.

  Unsure, I simply nodded.

  “I see,” she said in a pretentious tone. “Why did she leave you? Didn't she love you?”

  “I don't know why she left. I was very small, and my dad never spoke about her."

  “I see. I suppose you must feel guilty for the death of your father then.”

  My heart stopped. She had struck a nerve and she knew it. It was the one thing I'd feared the most.

  She huffed when I didn't answer her. “I have no time for weakness or self-pity. In my honest opinion, I think Master Longwei is wasting his time with you. In fact he's wasting both of our time.” She gave me a fake smile that made me want to bash her in the head with the stupid crystal ball. "You see, your father was a dragon. Dragon offspring cannot become Dragonians. You might not appreciate my opinion, but believe me when I tell you this─ you will never ascend.” Her cruel words stung in more ways than one. She made me feel as if I didn't belong, and I could feel tears form in my eyes. “You've got something on your mind?”

  I was scared, but one thing Herbert Watkins taught me was to stand up for myself when no one would. “I don't agree with some of the things you are saying.”

  “Is it not true? Not knowing your mother leaves a big gap right here.” She tapped the area where her heart should've been. “It is going to keep you away from the things you truly want, because you will always be searching for her.”

  I sighed. I hated to admit it, but there was some truth in what she said. Not knowing my mother was one of my greatest challenges. Every time I wanted to achieve something greater,I couldn’t help but think about my mother. It caused an inner struggle preventing me from truly reaching my goals in
life. I always wondered what she would think or what she would have wanted. “It doesn't matter, my dad raised me well,” I said in defense.

  “Fine, whatever. You can leave; I don't feel anything coming from you anyway. Another thing that shows me you are not important.”

  My eyes started to sting again. I couldn't cry, not in front of this evil woman. I got up from the stupid pillow and stomped to the door.

  “Oh, and another thing, you don't need to come back again. I only spend my time on students that are of value.”

  That really ticked me off, I wanted to say something, but the truth was that I had always felt a bit unimportant. So instead, I yanked the door open to make my exit.

  “A day will come and a day will go,” she said, startling me. Her voice sounded like ten people speaking in unison. “A choice you will have to make, otherwise, the truth will never be known.” Her eyes were a crystal white color, almost silver. She was still in her human form, and her hair blew wildly around her face as if she was in the path of a strong wind. Just as suddenly, she stopped, and shook her head fast, and cleared her throat as if something was stuck, like the cookie. My heart beat wildly.

  When she looked up at me, her eyes were bright blue again. "I thought I told you to leave," she snapped.

  Turning, I ran as fast as I could. What the hell just happened?

  Chapter Eleven

  The Viden's words were imprinted on my mind, and the worst part was that I didn't understand any of it. What choice must I make? What truth would be revealed? I sighed, wondering if she even meant any of it for me. Our conversation, however, made me furious.

  I went straight to my room. The more I thought about our meeting, the more I wanted to strangle her! Who did she think she was saying something like that? I was glad that I didn't have to see her again. She must have her hands full with all her“important” students. Good riddance.

  Around one o'clock, Becky and Sammy found me, still in our room.

  “Oh, here you are.”Sammy’s smile vanished when she saw the look on my face. “Oh crap, what did she say?”

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