I flash my eyes open. The thundering of the waterfall beside me is deafening. The trees around me were full and lush as though not a breeze cares to drift by and disturb them. I do not recognize this area of the woods, but I know I am not in Ravenswood.
This must still be in Mornsbreth, I think to myself, glancing around with my hand tightly gripped onto my cloak, the only source of modesty left to me. My clothes are still by the lake, I recall, drying on a rock. But, wait, my clothes are not there. They are neatly folded and laid beside me.
"Hello?" I say, glancing around. How odd. Surely William did not have enough time to gather my things and fold them as he ran through the woods the other night. I must be imagining things. My mind is playing tricks on me. My blouse is still pink on the left side from my blood. I shake my head.
The images of Rodd and William tumbling into the darkness replay in my mind as I dress. The look on Rodd's face as he placed his sword to my chest haunts me.
Everything made little sense around me. I look up at the sky, hoping that there would be some sort of sign that would lead me in the right direction. What is the point of continuing this quest if the one I am trying to help is gone, I ask myself.
"Where am I to go now?" I ask aloud. "What am I supposed to do?" I wait for an answer but there is nothing but the sound of the waterfall. The pounding of the water as it savagely runs before me does not help my cause.
I follow a rarely used path that leads back through the woods, travelling through the tightly grown groves that suddenly open up into well-lit glades. I stop. The glade around me looks surprisingly familiar. I recognize the trees that bow down and I notice the dancing flowers, which are swaying in the light breeze. I hope that my grandmother would appear before me just as she had done so in my dream.
I wait. My eyes dart around the glade at any movement and sound. Twirling the ends of my hair around my fingers and finally sit in the middle of the meadow. Still, nothing happens. I am still alone.
I stare down at the ground as a few ladybugs crawl around my feet. They climb my boots, the hem of my skirt… then onto my finger. As the last one flies away, I lift my face towards the sky, taking in the warmth of the sun with my eyes closed.
I feel coldness as a sudden wind falls upon me, whipping up my hair and turning the skies dark. My eyes open to see that the darkness is isolated. The rest of the meadow basks in the sunlight, but where I sit, the darkness grows larger. A strange sound fills my ears. The loud flapping of wings does not sound like a group of small birds, but something larger, heavier and lazier.
I stand and run into the sun, avoiding clawed feet that plummet to the ground, denting the grass. My mouth drops open and I rub my eyes.
A large beast stands before me, its wings spread in a heavenly stretch. It cranes its head towards me with a roar that sends my stomach twisting in fear. Large diamond like eyes sparkle, whiskers sprout from around its mouth like a strange mustache. Blue scales cover the creature's body.
I recognize it as a dragon. At first, I am glued to the ground. I cannot run even if I willed me body to do so. But as it stands majestically before me, I am compelled to approach it. I do not even notice the harness around its snout, nor the small elfin rider on its back.
"Brianna Goodwyn of Freyburrow," the elf says, climbing down from her mount.
The young rider is Elsia Glitterdragon, the young elfin girl from the mountains. "Elsia?" I ask.
Elsia gives me a kind smile. "Beautiful, isn't he?" she asks, petting the beast with a slender hand.
I nod. "What are you doing here?"
"I came to find you."
"I sensed there was something about you that was unique. Something different from the other humans we had encountered," she starts. "So, I spoke with one of the older elves in our tribe. He had told me there was a story long ago that there would be a girl, who would one day appear to us. This girl does not know it, but she will be the one to bring peace to the lands." She widens her blue eyes at me.
"He told me that she would have special gifts. And those traits, her powers, would aid her in her quest. She is also very pure of heart and selfless."
I shake my head. "I'm sorry, Elsia, but it can't be me."
"I have seen you, Brianna Goodwyn, you have a pure soul. You have the gifts. You are the one."
"I don't know the first thing about bringing peace to anything," I say to the little elf. "I could barely keep the peace amongst ourselves!"
"Regardless," the little girl says to me. "We have some things for you to aid you on your quest."
Elsia nods, looking up at the skies. "Eltaes was behind me," she says as another dragon lands beside the first. "He insisted on coming."
The second dragon is not as large as the first, but it seems a little more temperamental as it roars and squawks at the other dragon. This beast is also covered in silvery blue scales, its wings folded neatly on either side of a thorny ridged back, where a male elf sits with a large grin.
He immediately dismounts and joins Elsia before me. "Hello, Brianna Goodwyn," he says.
My mouth drops open and tears well in my eyes. "Eltaes? You can speak…" I become speechless.
"He began speaking after you were dismissed," Elsia says. "It made the elders happier than I've ever seen them." She gives her brother a smile. "Did you bring them?"
Eltaes nods and produces a small shimmering sack. He reaches into the bag, thrusting his arm deep within, his tongue sticks out the side of his mouth as he searches for something. "Almost," he says.
Amazingly, the bag is no bigger than my hands put together. But magically, the elfin boy manages to fit his entire arm up to the shoulder into the bag with room to spare. "What is that?" I ask them.
Elsia gives me a smile. "This is a small bag of holding," she says. "It can fit a surprising amount of items but the problem is being able to find them once they've been placed inside."
Eltaes smiles and pulls out a small blue amulet with a silver chain. He polishes the stone on his dark blue robes and hands it over to his sister, who looks at it with approval.
"What is that?" I ask with wide eyes.
"We've had this amulet in our tribe for generations," says Eltaes as Elsia places it around my neck. "It was said to have been left behind by the gods."
"You don't believe in that, do you?" I ask, touching the stone lightly with my fingers. It glows a deep blue hue in response to my touch.
"Oh, yes," Elsia says. "That stone amulet will give special gifts to the wearer… I think it allows the wearer to travel into the depths of the netherworld."
Eltaes nods. "Yes, and also it protects you while you're there. The creatures won't hurt you while you're wearing it. They will see you as one of them."
"The netherworld…? Is this what the wizard wanted?"
"He wanted the dragons… he wanted to control them and use them," Elsia sighs. "For what purpose, I don't know."
I nod as I stifle a small sob and wipe a stray tear with the back of my hand.
Eltaes returned his arm into the bag of holding, swirling it about as he felt around for something else. "I nearly have it," he said, his eyes rolling upwards.
"We don't have all day," Elsia said.
Eltaes shoots his sister an irritated expression. "I'm working as quickly as possible," he says. "I know they don't know we've gone."
"Who doesn't know?" I ask.
"Arennar," Elsia and Eltaes say together.
"He doesn't know we've gone… but we were sent by the elder. He told us that it was important that you were given these items. And he charged us with finding you."
Eltaes pulls out a bejeweled dagger from the bag and hands it to me. "I believe you forgot this," he says.
"My dagger!" I cry, my eyes well with tears. "I thought I would never see this again."
"We were going to give it to you in the caverns, but Arennar sent you away before we could get the chance," Elsia says. "Besides, he would have been upset…"
I nod and slip the dagger into the sleeve of my boot where it belongs.
"There really is not much we can do to help you," Eltaes says.
I shake my head. It's no use. Will is gone. Gone. Tears spill from my eyes and I sob into my hands.
"Don't you want to help your friend?" Elsia asks.
"I do," I lower my head. "But it's different now. He's gone…"
"No one is ever gone," the little elfin girl says.
"Things have a way of settling," Eltaes says to me.
"What did you say?" I blink with wide eyes as the elfin boy gives a quizzical expression. I heard those words before from her grandmother in her dream.
"Things have a way of settling," Eltaes says again. He turns to look at Elsia, who returns a confused expression.
I nod and sniffle, taking a deep breath. "I don't know how to thank you for your kindness," I say to them.
"We are the grateful ones," Eltaes says to me. "You are part of something much bigger… This is just a small step in your journey."
"I don't understand. How am I to ever do anything so grand?"
"The elder said you will bring peace to the lands once more," Elsia says. "Have you not noticed that you have given us peace? By driving away the orcs, the silver elves can once again fulfill their duties as protectors of the skydragons."
I smile at Elsia, who looks at me admirably as though I am a goddess. "I only did what I had to do," I say. "To protect the ones I loved. And even then, I couldn't save some."
"Death is a normal part of life," Eltaes says. "Without death, there is no balance. Just as there is good and evil. One cannot survive without the other. It may not be the most welcome, but without it, the scales would be tipped… chaos would ensue."
Elsia nods in agreement.
I lower my eyes.
"Something troubles you," Elsia observes.
"Many things," I reply. "I just don't know what to do next…"
"Eltaes, we had better return. Get on Ophidia." Elsia turns to me with sad eyes. "I wish there was more we could do for you."
"Listen to your heart," Eltaes says, climbing onto the back of his dragon, Ophidia. "Your heart will guide you in the right direction."
With a swift movement, Ophidia leaps into the air and lazily flapped her wings, soaring higher and higher into the sky. Within moments, she is a mere speck in the sky, moving quickly towards the mountains.
Elsia climbs onto her dragon, which lifts its head and hisses with annoyance. "You will find your way," she said. "The nearest village is to the southeast, following the path by the large trees." She points to a group of trees in the distance. "You should come across Soulthorp."
"Ulstone is a good day's ride to the east from Soulthorp, but I understand there are caravans and merchants that travel back and forth. Perhaps, someone may offer you assistance."
I nod, knowing that I must continue. I just wish William were still with me. Without him, the quest to cure his curse seems pointless. But if I am the chosen one to bring peace to these lands, perhaps my fate lies in finding the wizard and defeating him.
"Farewell, Brianna Goodwyn," Elsia says as her dragon gives a huge leap into the air and glides away into the distance.