There was nothing but voices. The Eliathan they spoke was of an unfamiliar accent different than the kind spoken by Leon, but it was Eliathan nonetheless. Still, it was all you could make out in the dark atmosphere. With Mathias’ eyes completely useless to you, you had long since abandoned your Dragonsight and went completely blind. Tino had suggested seeking out the Divine Keeper of the Sapphire Flames and the Wings of the Opal Skies, but you hadn’t been able to find them. There was nothing for you to do but wait it out until you were able to get some answers.
“On the bright side, at least they said they weren’t going to hurt you,” Tino said trying to find something optimistic to offer in place of the absent Mathias.
We don’t know if that’s guaranteed.
A heavy feeling sank into your heart. Tino must have been upset. “Whatever becomes of this, ______________, know that I’ve appreciated the time I’m spent with you.”
You furrowed your eyebrows in response. His words were almost like a departing speech he would have made right before your death. Perhaps this was so.
Thank you, Tino.
Soon after that thought processed, you heard footsteps approaching. In the far-off distance, you could hear what sounded like the wind wailing through an open cavern wall—needless to say, the unsettling sound put you on edge.
“It’s about time we give you a proper welcome,” the deeper voice from earlier said in his raspy Eliathan. “Come on, little vessel.”
As you felt yourself being picked up, questions were still swimming in your head. If you were about to be killed, you figured it wouldn’t hurt to interrogate these men for a while.
“How do you know I have Dragonsight?” was the first thing you asked.
The man laughed. “Because I’d have my share of using it, too.”
Oh, you thought. So that means he’s exchanged parts of his soul with a dragon, too.
“Which dragon did you make a pact with?” you asked.
Out of nowhere, the man burst out in a booming laughter. It wasn’t along the lines of a maniacal laughter—not at all. He was genuinely amused.
“Oh, that’s rich,” he chuckled. “No, I’m the one who gave a human the Dragonsight.”
You blinked. “What?”
“It was me. I gave someone Dragonsight.”
“B-But…” Your mouth was dry. That couldn’t have been true. That just couldn’t have been. “Th-That’s impossible. I thought you were a…”
“A dragon hunter?” the man scoffed. “No, I’m not. I don’t even think you can call me human.”
Tino was just as confused as you were.
“But then, if you’re a dragon, then why did you take me away?” Suddenly, your voice began to rise. You were angry. It wasn’t fair. Because of this person, this dragon, you were one step behind trying to regain your sight and your parents and restoring Tino’s body into his true form.
“Because I’m not a dragon, little human,” the man chuckled. He sounded like he was having fun from the change of tone. You decided you didn’t like this person whoever or whatever he was.
“Then what are you?” you asked. “What do you plan on doing with me?”
“So many questions…” the being grumbled. “Wouldn’t you rather we talk face-to-face—eye-to-eye?”
Your eyes narrowed into a hostile expression. “Even if I ever to converse with you, I think you know I’m already blind. It’s pointless.”
“Oh, but it’s not. You see, we come from a long line of magic wielders. In fact, we might just have the most powerful magic in all of Eliatha.”
“And you expect me to believe that you can restore my sight?” you snorted. “Impossible. The part of my soul that has been bound to the responsible dragon isn’t here. There’s no way you can bring it back. You were stupid enough to leave him to die among the dragon hunters—unless, that’s what you intended to do. From the sound of things, you don’t particularly like dragons.”
The person holding you captive paused.
“Pretty observant for a human,” he said. “But, yes, we don’t like dragons. They’re arrogant. Destructive. Reckless. They deserved to die out. Too bad Dragonfall didn’t kill them off.”
“How could you say such a thing…?” you gasped.
“Don’t get me speaking in monologues, human,” the person snapped. “We’ll get you fixed up, and from there, we’ll tell you what we’re going to do with you.”
“Fixed up?” you repeated. “N-No! This isn’t right! You can’t do this to me!”
Tino, I don’t care what you say. We need to get out of here, you frantically thought.
“I couldn’t agree with you more, ______________,” the dragon responded and quieted down his voice as you began to channel energy through your hands.
Despite being blind, you felt like now was an appropriate time to be reckless. It didn’t mater what happened to these people or whatever it was they were. You needed to get out of this place. Whoever these “brothers” were, they were anything but friendly. The sooner you got out of this place, the better.
Just then, the person dragging you down the dark space noticed something was off. He stopped in his tracks and cursed in a short bark. Then, he began to shout off into the distance.
“Watch it!” he shouted and released you, causing you to drop on the floor like a stone. “She’s going to use magic!”
True to that, you were. As you shut your eyes and concentrated your energy into a physical form, you no longer felt the presence of the person who had been holding you captive. Knowing that he had seen the extent of your powers, he must have fled for his life. At least that got him away from you.
Then, at the peak of your energy build-up, you released an explosion of force, heat, and sound into the enclosed space causing the air to vibrate outward in an ear-wrenching scream. Crystals clinked all over the walls, and the familiar crunching noise of crystals forming around you began to grind against any hard surfaces they came in contact with. As satisfying as the sound was, you wished you could have at least been able to see what you had done. After your release of power, there was no telling what the outcome would be. You would have to watch yourself if you were to successfully escape after causing this distraction.
That’s when you remembered what had happened before. Each time you had done something like this, you had been rendered completely useless and invulnerable. Suddenly, you began to lose control of your energy focus. What if the same thing happened again? If that were the case, it might not have taken long before your captors returned to you again.
A different sound could be heard now. Against the crunching noise of the crystals solidifying, you heard what sounded like glass shattering in all directions. This was reminiscent to the sound of Tino’s own magic when he used ice. However, you initially thought you were only able to produce crystal on your own. So what was—?
Shrapnel began cutting at your skin as a wall of crystal shattered at your side. Shards flew in all directions slicing wounds open on your cheeks and at your legs and arms. Someone had broken through your crystal barrier. Even when the dragons hadn’t been able to break it with their own strength, someone had the ability to do so.
“That wasn’t very nice of you, human!” a voice shouted.
To where? Your breath was at its limit, and you found yourself helplessly crawling against the floor. Something in your legs had stiffened up again, and to make things worse, you felt as though your arms were beginning to turn into a similar position.
Oh gods, Tino, I can’t! you gasped. I can’t move!
“Try!” Tino frantically shouted. “You have to!”
But it was too late. Someone was upon you. He pinned you down on your back and forced you onto the ground like a hunted animal. You were finished. You had foolishly used up all of your energy believing the crystalline walls you could conjure were impenetrable.
“Good going trying to get away from us like that,” your apprehender snickered.
“Did you get her?” the younger-sounding voice called.
“Sure did,” the one closest to you replied. “She’s exhausted from using up her strength.”
“Figures,” someone scoffed. “She’s new to it. Right, well, let’s get her all fixed up so the fun can really begin.”
There it was again. “Fixed up.” There were only so many things they could have meant, and making you feel better was one of the last possibilities you could think of. Without a word, hands grabbed onto your limbs and began dragging you away, the mixed smells of charred coal and sulfur burning your nostrils. Try as you did, you were not able to break free despite struggling and kicking with every last fiber of strength you had.
One of them clicked his tongue. “It’s annoying how she does that. If she struggles during the process, we might lose her eyes.”
“Are you saying we should subdue her?”
“Why else would I open my mouth to release an empty complaint?”
“You have a point. Well, sorry about this, but it’s the only thing we can do to ensure your safety.”
You gasped as one of them dropped your legs and brought his hands to your face. No matter how hard you craned your head and twisted it out of the way, there was little you could do without the use of your arms and legs. “Wh-What are you—?”
“Hold still. This will only take about three seconds.”
“No!” you cried. Then, a hand pressed itself against your neck and squeezed. Air was being cut off from your throat as he increased pressure. Your eyes rolled back. All bodily functions were coming to a halt as a wave of darkness began to numb your mind; not even Tino was able to reach you at this state now. You lost. They had taken over.
Reconnaissance. Anger. Guilt. Eye of the Topaz Blizzard. Mathias.
Dammit. I don’t like the way Berwald’s looking at me right now.
Once everyone had made it safely through the pass and crystal tunnel ______________ had made, the Red Caravan had done a head count to see who was missing or fatally wounded. The inconvenient attack had led to three dead, seventeen wounded—and one missing person.
Leon slammed his fist against the side of the caravan. “How in Eliatha could you take your eyes off her?! I thought she was, like, important to you! She was important to us!”
“It was just for a second!” Mathias said in his weak defense. “How was I supposed to know there were dragon hunters right behind her?”
“Seeing as how you were, like, right in front of her, did you think it would have hurt to check?”
“This isn’t getting anywhere,” Yong Soo grumbled. He looked over at his cousin. “Hey, Leon, what d’ya say we use these guys instead?”
“What?” Mathias blinked.
“We were planning on just having _____________ make us some of those magic-infused crystals, but since she’s gone, we might as well just sell you two on the market.”
Immediately after mentioned that, Berwald sprung up from his position and attempted to move before twenty swords pointed at his neck.
Leon wagged a finger. “I wouldn’t do that if I were you. Face it, you guys: you’re dragons, we’re ex dragon hunters—merchants now, but that doesn’t mean we’ve never stopped thinking about money. It’s still rare to find dragons out in these places, and with the two of you, I’d say we can sell you at a pretty hefty price.”
“Buh—W-Wait a second!” Mathias burst out. “I’m sure we can come to some kind of an agreement! We know that the dragon hunters were two ones who took ____________ away, don’t we?”
Yong Soo narrowed his eyes. “What of it?”
“You guys are ex dragon hunters. You should know how those people think.” At this point, Mathias was throwing out all sorts of words. With his head not exactly in the clear, he wasn’t sure if what he was saying was valuable enough to save his life—Berwald’s, too.
“And?” Leon piped up. At least they were listening.
“So all we have to do is raid them and take back what they stole from us,” Mathias explained. “B-Besides, after we’re killed, there’s nothing left of us except body parts. The crystals _______________ can produce are infinite and last a lifetime. Which alternative do you think is the better choice: two dragons or a girl who can produce crystals?”
“It’s a thought, but we’ve already suffered some casualties,” Leon sneered. “Do I have to remind you that we’re businessmen? Time is money. Retrieving ______________ is going to waste both.”
“If it wasn’t for us, you’d have a lot more casualties,” Mathias reminded them. “If it wasn’t for _______________, your entire caravan might have been taken over. They didn’t know you guys had dragons along. If anything, they were acting as bandits. Don’t you have some kind of obligation inside of you?”
“Sorry,” Leon frowned. “Lost that feeling a while ago.”
Mathias cursed. Berwald was still being held by the caravan workers, his expression as dark as a Dragonfall night.
“But…” Leon paused in thought. “I suppose you do have a point. It’s economically more feasible to have ______________ earn us profits than just selling you guys. Even so, there’s no way we’re going to risk anything. We’re taking you guys, instead.”
“We can, and we will,” Leon coldly said. Then, he redirected his attention to the workers. “Now get them tied up and lock them away. Don’t bother trying to resist. We have means of keeping you restrained, and there are worse ways to do it than backing down quietly.”
The Golden Sentinel remained silent over Mathias’ protests. He didn’t quite understand this, himself. He wasn’t so much worried about losing his own life as he was concerned about the Eye of the Topaz Blizzard. It didn’t make any sense; even someone as ignorant and idiotic as Mathias had to have enough common sense to keep ____________, in check. He had only taken his eyes off of her for a few seconds before realizing she had vanished. That part he didn’t understand. If Mathias had been with _____________ up until she used her magic, he should have been able to notice if there was someone lurking around the vicinity. Not to be judgmental, but all of the humans in the Red Caravan looked the same. That being said, it should have been easy to spot someone who looked unusual making their way to _______________.
The Golden Sentinel didn’t want to jump to this possibility until he was sure, but if might have been that ______________ had been taken a hold of someone who wasn’t with the dragon hunters but by an external party or by the Red Caravan, itself. It was easier to think that the Red Caravan was finding an exploitive excuse to butcher him and Mathias up for parts, but why go through the trouble of doing it while they were under attack? Something didn’t add up. He was also amazed that the people who made off with ____________ could have overpowered her so easily. With the Eye of the Topaz Blizzard in her heart, he should have been able to take control and fend off the abductors with no problem at all.
And how had they vanished so quickly? Even after the last of the raiding dragon hunters had been fended off, Leon and Yong Soo had sent some scouts to make sure none of them were returning for a retaliating attack. That hadn’t happened, but the scouts hadn’t found anything unusual. No ______________, no stolen goods, no nothing. It didn’t add up.
“Grrgh!” Mathias groaned as he kicked pointlessly into the open air. That was right. The dragon recalled Mathias didn’t particularly enjoy staying still for too long.
“I can’t believe they would do something like this!” he wailed. “It has to be a joke! Why would they do this to a dragon like me? And ____________! Where in Eliatha did she go?”
“Stop your yapping,” Berwald muttered.
“And I didn’t even get to tell her about why I know about Dragonsight! Of all the things I didn’t get a chance to tell her! Who knows where she is right now? Maybe stuck in some cooking pot or on a butcher’s table! Her heart might be getting ripped out as I speak!”
“I said stop your yapping,” Berwald growled.
“Golden Guy, we have to get out of here,” Mathias spoke up. I don’t care what happens. If we die trying, so be it. We’re going to die, anyway. Ah ha ha…” He weakly laughed. “I’ve had a good run, but I guess this is it. How anit-climatic. Killed off and sold as dragon parts. I’m not that tasty. My muscles are too thick. My blood’s too hot for human tongues. Whoever eats me will get a stomachache.”
“Mathias,” Berwald said in a slow, steady voice. “Can you stop talking for a moment?”
“Eh?” Mathias looked at his dragon companion’s eyes with a dumbfounded expression. The Golden Sentinel never understood why he had to go and choose a human who looked so ridiculous.
“I’m trying to think,” he said through clenched teeth. He said no more than that hoping it would be enough to get Mathias to shut his trap. Mathias remained speaking, but he continued to do so in low mumbles. By his standards, reducing his talking to mumbling was as quiet as most people could get him to.
“I think I have it.” The Golden Sentinel then looked at Mathias with a dubious feeling in his gut. He didn’t want to have to rely on Mathias of all dragons to go through with this, so he would have to rely on his outward communication to get him through with this.
“I’m going to try contacting ~~~~~~~~,” he said.
“Ah?” Mathias blinked. “But I thought she’s never tried it with you, Berwald.”
“You’re going to help me,” he said. “Since you can’t do it, I’ll have to try.”
“Oh.” The little gears in Mathias’ head were beginning to work. “Oh, I see! If Lukas and Emil are with her—”
Mathias shut up.
“We need to get out of here,” he said without beating around the bush. “Teach me so we can get over this as quickly as possible.”
“Eh, well…” Mathias made a face. “It’s not exactly me who does the contacting. ~~~~~~~~’s the one who does it. It’s like, I’ll be thinking about something when I suddenly hear her voice. I’ve never tried to contact her, myself. Must be something only she can do.”
Berwald’s cold eyes narrowed into an “are you kidding me?” kind of look. If that wouldn’t work, then there was no hope of reasoning with the Red Caravan or escaping. In the worst-case scenario—and the most realistic one—______________ might have already been dissected for her heart. The Eye of the Topaz Blizzard would be reduced to nothing but a preserved dragon’s soul. He and Mathias would be butchered up into dragon parts—well, only him. Mathias couldn’t return to his normal condition so his blood would be drained. Things weren’t looking up in the slightest.
But then…all of a sudden, Mathias shot up into the air as far as his bindings could take him. His eyes were unusually alert and bright. It was as if he was excited about something.
“Oh!” he burst out. “Ber—O-Ohhh!”
“What is it?” the Golden Sentinel asked not really having the time to deal with Mathias’ attempts of cheering him up.
“It’s ~~~~~~~~~!” he cried. “I can hear her!”
“Impossible. Since you gave ______________ part of your soul, you shouldn’t be able to communicate with the Dragonheart. So all that time as a human has finally gotten to you.”
Mathias feverishly shook his head. “No!” he burst out. “It’s real! I can—” Suddenly he grew quiet. His eyes were racing as though he was trying to read some kind of invisible parchment floating in front of his face. Then, like a spell being broken, he reverted back to his vocal self, a wide smile spread on his face.
“They’re coming!” he beamed. “Berwald, Lukas and Emil found ~~~~~~~~~! They’re coming!”