The Divine Keeper of the Sapphire Flames turned around and looked at the two of you on his back.
“I can imagine carrying one of you, but two is a different story,” he snorted.
“What’s wrong with ___________ being carried on your back?” Mathias asked.
You frowned. “I think he was talking about you, Mathias, not me. I’m the one carrying Emil’s soul, remember?”
“Oh yeah,” Mathias said like the thought had completely escaped his mind. From the little time you had spent with him, you knew that forgetting would have been a complete possibility.
“What do you accomplish by returning to Eldur Mountain?” Lukas jumped in. “You know there could be dragons up there that won’t accept the fact that you aren’t able to return to your true form. They won’t be as lenient as I am.”
“I know, but maybe there’s something up there that can help me with my problem. You know, like a little awakening moment or something?”
Lukas sighed the way only dragons could sigh—through a hot steaming breath of heated air.
“I do hope you know what you’re getting yourself into, Mathias. I don’t want to be responsible for anything that might happen to you.”
“It’s fine, Lukas,” Mathias grinned his usual way. “I’m sure someone up there will listen to me.”
“Whatever you say,” Lukas grumbled. Then he looked at you. “Are you ready?”
You stared at the dragon’s patched wing. “I should ask you that same question. Do you think you’ll be able to fly?”
“I was able to fly fine on my own, but I don’t want to risk exposing myself any longer by doing more test flights.” He paused. “How are you feeling? Are there any changes in your condition or your temperature?”
“Not yet,” you said shaking your head.
“Good. That means we still have time.”
You swallowed. So we’re really going to Eldur Mountain…
“Are you excited?” Emil asked.
Mm-hmm, you replied. I’m also a little nervous. I mean, it sounds like there might be other dragons over there, right?
“There’s a high chance there are,” Emil answered. “We can only find out once we get there ourselves.”
“Alright, human,” Lukas said, “listen to me this time, and hang on. I don’t want you moving around on my back especially since my wing hasn’t fully recovered. Mathias, you make sure she doesn’t do anything rash—that counts for you, too.”
“There’s nothing to worry about, Lukas,” Mathias waved dismissively. “I’ve got everything under control.”
The dragon rolled his eyes and backed up. After sewing his wing, you all had to find a large clearing so the Divine Keeper of the Sapphire Flames could take off.
“Are you both secured?” Lukas asked, his body noticeably close to the ground to decrease as much air resistance as possible.
“Yes,” you answered.
“We’re as secured as we’ll ever be,” Mathias responded.
“This is it then. Brother, you’ll go back to your true form soon enough.”
“How wonderful,” Emil said within your heart. The more you thought about it, the more you began to feel like you were going to miss having Emil inside your heart. Even though you couldn’t see him, he was always there to offer some insight to your thoughts—since they weren’t escapable to his ears. It was also nice knowing Lukas, as rude and irritable as he was, was there to watch over you every step of your journey.
Then, your thoughts were interrupted as you heard a loud flapping noise and powerful gusts of wind kicking up at your boots. Lukas was doing a few test flaps before deciding it was safe enough to start taking off. Suddenly, without warning, your body began to launch backwards as the dragon began to run forward getting faster and faster with the increasing distance he covered.
“I’ve got you, ___________,” Mathias said holding his arms onto your sides. “Taking off has always been the hardest part, but it’ll be smooth sailing once we get back into the air.”
“I hope you’re right,” you murmured recalling how shaky of a flight you had experienced back when you and Lukas first escaped from the castle. You couldn’t exactly call it smooth since the two of you were being shot at with arrows—not to mention you had caused Lukas to tear his wing.
By now, you could barely keep your eyes open. The snowflakes kept stinging your eyes and blotting out your vision. There was nothing but the sound of wind whistling past your ears like a cold blizzard day and the sharp flapping noises of Lukas’ wings as he ran faster and faster until—
“Alright! You did it, Lukas!” Mathias whooped when the rickety up and down motion of the dragon running suddenly transitioned into an even wave-like motion.
“We’re flying…” you breathed as you saw the clouds vastly approaching. It wasn’t until you looked down to see the trees getting smaller that you realized how high up you had already gotten. Your ears began to feel a strange sensation like they were being squeezed inwards, and your hearing began to muffle out the wintery noises. Just then, you felt a tap on your shoulder from behind.
“I almost forgot, ___________!” Mathias shouted from behind you. “If your ears feel kind of funny, try yawning!”
Yawning? you wondered.
“It’ll relieve your ears of the pressure differences,” Emil explained. “Because we’re so high up, the air inside your body isn’t adjusted to the lower pressure in the air.”
You didn’t understand a word of that explanation, but you tried to yawn regardless. Just like Mathias had said, your ears began to make a popping noise, and the squeezing feeling vanished; you could also hear clearly again.
“I can see Eldur Mountain ahead,” Lukas said.
“Already?” Sure enough, when you squinted your eyes to block out the snow, you could see the tall mountain getting clearer into view. After being airborne, it was hard to imagine how it could have taken you nearly two days on foot to get to the town. Lukas hadn’t been lying when he had said flying to Eldur Mountain would have saved you a lot of trouble.
“This is where we start ascending,” Mathias shouted above the flying noises and wind. “I suggest you hang on tight, ___________.”
You promptly obeyed and clung onto Lukas’ neck pressing yourself as close as you dared to his scaled body. Then, a few moments after Mathias’ advice, you could feel Lukas’ body begin to angle up towards the heavens and turn away from the mountain.
“In order to scale the mountain, we’re going to have to spiral upwards to ease up on the climb” Emil explained as Lukas began to make a large circle towards the peak. “The winds get colder before they get better so just bear with this a little longer, ____________.”
I’ll try, you thought and shut your eyes. Just as Emil had said, the temperature began to drop significantly with the more altitude you gained. Even on the ground, you had never experienced such harsh weather as this in all of Dragonfall. The dragons were definitely lucky to be cold-proof.
“Hang on tight, you two,” Lukas said from the front. “We’re almost above the clouds.”
Curious, you peeped open one of your eyes to see what soaring through the clouds looked like.
Absolutely nothing but white.
“It continues on like this for a while so I suggest you do your best to conserve as much heat as possible,” Emil advised you.
Got it, you replied and curled yourself up as much as you could.
“Don’t worry, ___________,” you heard Mathias say from behind you. “We’re almost there.”
The more you climbed, the more you heard a low rumbling noise similar to the sounds you heard at the foot of the mountain. Then the rumbling became mixed with bubbling noises and gurgles. Then splashes.
What’s that sound? you wondered.
“The peak’s just up ahead,” Emil responded.
Suddenly, Lukas burst through the clouds, and the once cold mist and harsh winds exploded into a huge wave of heat and red lights. You had to squint to keep the hot air at bay from drying out your eyes. After a few more spirals, the dragon began to stiffen his wings and start gliding down towards what looked like a large crater where the top of the mountain should have been.
“__________, welcome to Eldur Mountain,” Mathias greeted you as though he had never left this place to begin with.
“It hasn’t changed since the last time I came here,” Lukas murmured as he made his slow descent towards an open clearing.
Until you landed, you took the opportunity to observe the wonderful sights Eldur Mountain had to offer. For the most part, there were only veins of molten rocks bubbling to the surface, but there was also steaming-hot water like the kind you saw at the hot springs and even clusters of strange-looking trees that bore oddly colored fruits. Surrounding the top were tall walls with holes dug throughout the crater; they must have been caves that housed dragons. You began to wonder if there would be any dragons around here besides the three you had accompanied.
“Here we are,” you heard Lukas say. Then, he opened his wings into a large curved shape to break from his speed and arched backwards to slow down. In a matter of seconds, the smooth gliding motion was interrupted with the familiar up and down jolts of landing and walking to carry out any remaining momentum. Finally, Lukas came to a halt, and bent down for you and Mathias to get off. You had landed.
“Whoo, it’s been awhile,” Mathias sighed and jumped off to stretch. “I can’t believe after so long, I can finally see this place again.”
“Yes, it’s good to be back,” Lukas breathed in relief. “And now we can finally set to work on getting your body back, Brother.”
“Well, ___________, it’s been fun sticking with you. You know, because of that hindrance earlier, your body was the longest I’ve ever been in. I believe I’ve learned many things from the time we’ve spent together, and I hope you’ve learned something from this experience, too.”
I sure have, you smiled.
“Right, the pool is this way,” Lukas said urging you to follow him.
“So how does this renewal process work?” you asked Mathias while walking with the dragon.
Mathias scratched his head. “It’s hard to explain even for someone like me. I haven’t actually done the process as many times as the other dragons have so I can’t say for sure.”
After walking through the crater, you came to a large lava pit right in the middle. You noticed that your body was experiencing something unfamiliar with being in such a hot environment. There was water trickling down your skin and seeping into your heavy clothes.
“You’re sweating, ___________,” Emil said in response to your thoughts. “It’s perfectly normal for a human to do such a thing. It helps you try to cool down, but it’s not working since you have so many layers on.”
Well, I don’t want to take off anything, you thought. Once we go back down, it’s going to get cold again.
“You have a point,” Emil agreed.
“Alright, walk up to the center of the pit. From there, my brother will take care of the rest,” Lukas instructed.
After the dragon finished speaking, you walked up to the edge of the lava pit and swallowed. One false move and you would fall right into the liquid fire.
“I’ll take it from here, ___________,” Emil said. “Whatever happens after this, know that I’ve really appreciated the time I’ve spent with you.”
Same here, Emil, you smiled.
“Uh…” you heard Mathias whispering to Lukas. “Shouldn’t we tell her that once Emil leaves her body, she won’t be able to understand you guys anymore?”
You whipped around. “What did you say?”
But before Mathias could give you an answer, your heart began to sting and convulse with a strange kind of pain. Unable to bear it any longer, you fell to your knees and clutched your chest as something warm and light came pouring out of your heart and trailing into the fire. It was Emil’s soul.
Then, as the dragon’s soul sank into the fire, you felt your chest becoming lighter, and your breathing wasn’t as hard anymore. In a sudden flash of pale lavender light, the entire crater lit up, and the lava began to ripple outwards from the strange wave-like motion. For a moment, the glowing stopped along with the lava slowing down to an even bubbling consistency. Suddenly—
Something large and white burst through the lava and flew high up into the sky. When you looked up, you saw a dragon with pearly white scales and pale lavender wings gliding down to meet you on the ground.
You had to admit, back at the castle, Emil hadn’t looked like he was in the best condition in the world, but after seeing him in his renewed body, you couldn’t believe you had been housing such a beautiful dragon inside of your heart for so long. This pearly white dragon with iridescent glimmers on its scales was a lovely contrast to his brother’s dark sapphire scales and curved, slender body. Just looking at the dragon in front of you nearly took your breath away.
“Emil…” you breathed. “You’re so pretty.”
To your surprise, the dragon looked away like he didn’t want to confront you. It was strange since he had always been the dragon that was closer to you when you were a dragonkeeper.
“You’re just like Mathias, _____________,” he said loud and clear in his familiar voice. He sounded similar to Lukas, but he had a strange edge to the way he spoke.
You furrowed your eyebrows, confused. “How am I like Mathias?”
Suddenly, Emil, Lukas, and Mathias stopped. Mathias was the first to speak up.
“Hey, ___________, how are you able to understand what Emil’s saying?”