After some gliding on the ice and trying to endure the sharp winds blowing through the narrow cliffs, you finally found Mathias and Lukas exhausted, but very much alive sitting along an open river bank where the water had grown shallow enough for them to come up to the surface as seen by a recently shattered area of ice.
“Lukas! Mathias!” you breathed in relief and pushed your arms faster than before eager to meet up with them again.
When you got to the edge of the frozen river, you were more than happy to get off of your stomach and onto your feet again. All the while as you were trudging through the gathering snow, Lukas and Mathias barely opened their eyes to even so much as give you a greeting.
Mathias was the first to notice you standing right in front of him.
“Oh, hey, __________,” he greeted you with a half-hearted smile. “You’ve found us.”
“Yeah,” you panted and sat down next to the dragons. Then, you noticed that while Lukas had indeed been freed from the caravan, his wrists were and ankles still had the chains on them. Mathias had only succeeded in getting the spellbound chains off of the wood.
“The chains are still there,” you commented.
Lukas lowered his eyebrows into an irritated scowl.
“The damn things won’t come off,” he muttered. “If I can’t get them off, I can’t change back into my true form. My brother won’t be able to carry the three of us all on his own once we find him.”
“Oh, about that…” you mumbled curling your legs closer to your body for warm. “Um, Lukas, Mathias? I’ve got something to tell you.”
“It’d better be important, human,” Lukas growled.
The dragon’s voice was still temperamental. You made a face and looked at Mathias’ arm, the one that had been bitten. While it clearly didn’t look as bad as it had when you had been back at Eldur Mountain, it wasn’t in the best of conditions. Even so, you were surprised that it had mended so quickly considering how far Lukas had sunk his fangs into it. It was even more amazing that Mathias had managed to fight with such an arm.
“Mathias, how’s your arm holding up?” you asked in a soft voice.
When you asked that question, you noticed Lukas opened one of his eyes to give a quick examination of the arm he had nearly chewed clean off. Upon seeing that nothing serious seemed to have happened, he lethargically closed his eyes again and tilted his head in the opposite direction of Mathias.
Meanwhile, the Blade of the Ruby Seas brought his arm out in front of him and grimaced.
“It’s doing alright, I guess,” he replied. “Tino gave me some ointment and a few crutches here and there.” He paused to chuckle. “When I told Berwald that you two were in trouble, he just up and took the cast off because he said it would get in the way if I needed to fight.”
You furrowed your eyebrows. “So he didn’t even bother letting it heal all the way?”
Mathias shrugged. “I knew I would be needing my arm. I figured I was going to have to fight if it meant knowing Lukas, here, got captured.”
That’s when Lukas jumped into the conversation. “How did you even know we were in trouble?” he asked. “On that topic, how in the world did you even get here?”
“Oh, that was easy,” Mathias grinned. “Tino dropped me over.”
“Yes, I know that much, but how did you even know our exact location? Even the Eye of the Topaz Blizzard would not have been able to know where we were past the force field.”
The Blade of the Ruby Seas had a dumbfounded look on his face. He scratched his head.
“Lucky guess?” he said unconvincingly. “Hey, I really don’t know how I knew where you guys were. It was just a gut feeling.”
“Your guts are disgusting,” Lukas sneered.
“No, but I really felt like something was pulling me to this one location,” Mathias said. “It was like—I don’t know—something like a string?”
You picked your head up. “That’s sort of how I felt when Lukas and I were just about to reach Emil.”
“Hmm.” Mathias rubbed the back of his neck and looked at Lukas. “And the part about knowing you guys were in trouble, ____________ told me about it.”
Now it was Lukas’ turn to look dumbfounded.
“How would she be able to tell you?” he asked. “I thought she was only able to communicate with my brother.”
“Well, I heard her as clear as a bell,” Mathias replied. “I was just minding my own business when I heard her voice speaking into my head.” He made a sheepish grin. “It took a while for me to get used to talking in my head, though, so I’m guessing there were parts of the conversation that were broken.”
“Yeah, there were,” you confirmed.
Lukas raised an eyebrow. “That sounds like you,” he said. “Always thinking aloud. I’m surprised you would even be able to shut up for a minute. But if you were really able to communicate with her…on top of being able to hear those voices she told me about…”
Then, the Divine Keeper of the Sapphire Flames moved his head up.
“Human, I think we might know where your powers as a Dragonheart come from,” he said.
You blinked, unsure of what Lukas might have figured out. Since you didn’t bother to ask a question, he continued to speak.
“As a Dragonheart, you are only supposed to be connected with the dragon who had used you as a vessel. However…” He looked at Mathias. “…if you were able to speak with Mathias, here, then perhaps it’s safe to assume you might be able to communicate as well detect the emotions of other dragons.”
“It makes sense…” you responded.
“Let’s test it out right now,” Lukas suggested. “If you were able to able to speak with Mathias, then you should have no trouble speaking with me.”
“That sounds like a good idea,” you agreed. Who knew when you might have to communicate with Lukas if he wasn’t around? Even though he had been spending the longest time with you ever since you started out on your journey, there was no telling when being able to communicate with him from afar would be vital to your mission. If only you had known about your gift before Emil had been captured…
The snow and loose pebbles clattered beneath Lukas’ bare feet as he stood up and walked a good distance away. You could still see him past the white flurries, but with all of the wind blowing around, it wouldn’t have been easy to hear his voice if he had spoken aloud.
Then, Mathias urged you to try out your supposed ability on his friend.
“Go, ahead, ___________,” he said. “Let’s see if our assumption was right.”
“My assumption, not yours,” you heard Lukas bark at him from afar.
“Okay, here it goes,” you said and closed your eyes.
It wasn’t as hard to communicate with Lukas as you had imagined. Perhaps it was because he was so close or because your mind had grown accustomed to projecting different emotions towards him, but whatever the reason was, it only took a few seconds to reach his thoughts.
“If we get _____________ to find out where the connection with my brother is the strongest, then we can decide which path of the river we’ll have to follow,” you heard.
“Damn—! How long have you been listening, human?” Lukas’ thoughts responded in a hostile tone.
You smiled. Long enough to hear you call me by my actual name.
"Weak-minded idiot…Thinking that just because I used her name means I give a damn about her—”
Lukas, I can hear you, you know.
“Dammit! Get out of my head, wretch!” Lukas said aloud and began marching back over to you.
“This loathsome fool! If this continues for the rest of this journey, then I’ll never hear the end of it from her! She might even tell Mathias, and that will be the end of my sanity as I so know it!”
“L-Lukas, I can still hear you,” you giggled, holding in your stomach while hearing his flustered thoughts.
“I thought I told you to get out of my head!” the dragon said now within normal speaking distance with you. Even so, you still continued to hear his inner thoughts.
“Get out, get out, get out, get out! Out, human! You can’t hear what I’m thinking because what I’m thinking is meaningless, pointless, and time-wasting! Don’t think about anything at all. Just don’t think, and she’ll come out and stop hearing your thoughts. Don’t think, don’t think, don’t think…”
“Lukas, I still hear you,” you frowned.
The dragon threw you a venomous look.
“I swear, if I find out that you’ve been imposing on my thoughts, human, then I’ll make sure my brother stays far away from you when we retrieve him.”
If we can retrieve him… you thought.
“What did you say?”
You took a deep breath and gathered your thoughts. Emil might be dead…Take it slow—
“I’ve had it with you!!” Lukas suddenly screeched and squeezed his hands around your throat.
“Ggarrhhcckk—!” you gagged. “Mathias…”
“Lukas, hey, stop it! Calm down!” you heard Mathias shout to his friend.
You head felt like it was going to explode from the build up of pressure. Your eyes had rolled back, and try as you might, you couldn’t breathe through your nose or your mouth.
“Filthy damnation! Lecherous prick! Ungrateful worm! If my brother’s dead, then I don’t have to worry. I can kill her right here without him even knowing because he’s already dead…!”
Even if you survived this, you knew you were going to be sick. Lukas’ heart held a nasty boiling cauldron of fury, sorrow, and hatred mixing into one deadly concoction, and you were feeling the aftereffects of his emotions. His attempts to kill you meant nothing compared to the feelings he was bottling up inside his soul.
“Lukas!” Mathias cried. “Come on, Lukas! Think! If she's still able to communicate with your thoughts, then that means she's still a Dragonheart! Emil isn’t dead!”
“Lies, lies, lies! I don’t want to hear it from you, I don’t want to hear it from anyone!”
“By the gods, Lukas! And you always tell me I never think!”
“Stop it! Get out! Get…out! I—I’m going to be sick—”
You felt a generous breath of air inflate your lungs sputtering you back to life when Lukas took his hands off of your neck and flung himself back. Right after he let go and you caught your breath, you turned from your back to your front side and threw up on the snow. Lukas threw up, too.
“Well isn’t that lovely?” Mathias sarcastically grimaced as the two of you emptied your stomachs.
After relieving yourself, you slowly sat up and leaned on the closest ledge of the cliff to catch your breath. You could hear Lukas coughing and cursing somewhere not too far away. It had become too dark for you to see him clearly. Mathias must have been trying to comfort him after the incident. At least you couldn’t hear his thoughts anymore.
Good, you thought to yourself, grateful that you didn’t have to worry about anyone hearing you think. His thoughts and feelings are too much to bear.
After settling down again, Mathias and Lukas walked over to you and joined you at your spot. Your eyes had grown heavy from exhaustion, and from the look of their physical states when you had first met up with them, they looked like they wanted nothing more than to rest, too.
“___________, we need to rest,” Mathias sighed. “I’m beat, Lukas is beat…I’ll bet you’re beat, too, huh?”
“Yeah,” you mumbled, lazily closing your eyes.
Mathias chuckled. “Let me tell you, it was tough getting Lukas out of there.”
“Oh?” you unconsciously replied.
“Mm-hmm. We were sinking fast, and the current was just pulling us along the stream. I couldn’t see anything with it being dark and under the ice, but I think we hit a rock or something because parts of the caravan began to chop off. Next thing I knew, the water got shallow so I pulled Lukas out, and a few minutes later, you came along.”
“Nice story,” you murmured.
“Thanks,” Mathias said. Then he looked over to Lukas. “Lukas how’re you feeling? Better?”
“I could always be a little better,” Lukas mumbled.
“Me, too,” Mathias agreed. “Hey, so tomorrow, we’ll go looking for Emil, okay?”
“Sure,” Lukas half-heartedly replied. Either he was completely exhausted, or his emotions had been drained dry. You didn’t want to go looking inside his head to verify any speculations. One time was enough—and that one time happened to be longer than any of your single conversations with the other dragons.
“Lukas?” you piped up.
“What is it, ___________?” Lukas muttered. You had to rewind that question in your head a few times to make sure he really said what he had.
“Did you just—?”
“I said your name,” Lukas finished for you.
You wanted to smile, but you were too tired to lift the corners of your lips.
“Hey, Lukas, I wanted to say that I’m sorry…for everything that’s happened.”
“Save it,” the dragon snorted. “You can apologize when we find my brother.”
“What about Dragonfall?”
“Dragonfall can wait,” he dismissively replied. “I don’t care if the rest of you freeze to death.”
You sighed. “I don’t blame you.”
“Oh, hey, if we’re going to sleep, we should let you stay in the middle, ___________,” Mathias jumped in. “We don’t want you freezing to death or anything.”
With that, he got up and moved around you so you could be in between the dragons. Lukas didn’t look like he was too eager to move close to you, but what Mathias had said was right: you were still a Dragonheart so Emil had to still be out there somewhere.
“There. Now we can be all nice and comfortable,” Mathias chuckled.
“We’re really going to go to sleep like this without any shelter whatsoever?” Lukas asked.
“If we combine our body heat, __________ won’t have to worry about the cold,” Mathias explained.
You rolled your eyes. “That’s only if Lukas is willing to share his heat after everything I’ve done.”
But contradicting your predictions, Lukas grunted and scooted close to you just like the time when you had been a human vessel for his brother’s soul.
“I still wonder why my brother chose you sometimes,” he softly whispered. It was then that you noticed his tunic was still wet like the rest of Mathias’ clothes from their dip in the river, but pressing against their bodies, the temperature was far from cold. Dragons could be amazing creatures when the situation called for it.
“I wonder why he chose me, too,” you murmured. Your eyelids growing heavy, you couldn’t keep your head up anymore, and you slowly nodded off to sleep alongside the Blade of the Ruby Seas and the Divine Keeper of the Sapphire Flames.