“Did you really have to insist on bringing that thing with you?” Emil asked with a disgruntled expression toying on his face. From the look of disturbance in his eyes, you assumed he would be on the verge of either forcing you to leaving it behind or throwing up altogether. You couldn’t blame him, though. They were his brother’s eyes.
“I’m not going to let some sick person take these away from me,” you frowned. “Could you imagine what they’d do with things as precious as these?”
“Uh…” Emil turned away. Without permission, you volunteered to list off a couple of reasons.
“They could put them up for display in a window or boil them for a witch stew! Or worst of all! They can even preserve them and wear them around their ears like earrings!”
“What sort of twisted reasons…? ___________, why in Eliatha would anyone want to do that with eyeballs?”
“You tell me,” you shrugged.
“But you were the one who said all of those things…” Emil pointed out.
You hugged the jar of greenish preservatives and eyeballs close to your chest. Your dragon had warned you that in the case the two of you might need to run, you wouldn’t be able to keep up with him, but you had promised to leave the jar behind if absolutely necessary. Fortunately for you, that didn’t seem to be a problem just yet.
After looking through the butcher room one last time, you and Emil both concluded that there was nothing more or use to be taken or found inside. On that decision, you then decided to focus on looking for Lukas’ heart next, your main and most current objective. All the while, Emil had to bear with you lugging around a glass jar that made wet splashing noises every time the momentum of your walk cycle carried over at just the right amount to the preservatives. In addition to the liquid sloshing back and forth, Lukas’ eyeballs bobbled to and fro like the eggs in vinegar jars back at the castle.
“Do you think Lukas would be mad if I carried his eyes around like this?”
“If they aren’t important to our main objective, then I would think so,” Emil reluctantly answered making sure he focused as much attention away from the eyes as much as possible.
“Gods, if I didn’t know any better, I’d say they were staring at me,” he groaned.
You wrinkled your nose. “But they’re always staring,” you brought up. “They don’t have eyelids in which to make them blink.”
“____________, if I didn’t know you any better, I’d say you broke your head when they dropped you into the garbage heap.”
“Maybe,” you admitted, and yet you still continued to cling onto the jar.
“My brother was right about humans being strange,” Emil groaned.
You rubbed the glass jar with your sleeve to wipe away some of the condensation.
“Call me strange, but I can’t help but feel drawn to these eyes. It’s like they’re speaking to me.”
Emil frowned. “But they aren’t, are they?”
“Then why are you getting that feeling?”
You shrugged. “I just am.”
“It wouldn’t surprise me that after all of this time and after all of the things you had seen, you wouldn’t be disgusted by a pair of eyes in a jar. Perhaps this is a twisted sign of affection for my brother?”
To Emil’s disturbing surprise, you began to blush. “I don’t know…I just want to be with them.”
“Oh, gods…I was joking, too…”
“Hey,” you suddenly piped up, “maybe if I look at Lukas’ eyes long enough, I can get an idea of where his heart might be located.”
“How in Eliatha do you come up with assumptions such as this one?” your dragon asked sounding greatly troubled by your carefree attitude.
“I think the eyes gave me inspiration,” you simply answered.
“I’m telling the truth!”
“I know, but it’s still…”
You snorted. “When we find his heart, Lukas will be grateful that I didn’t let his beautiful eyes be worn as ear accessories around a twisted human with a fetish for dragon parts.”
Emil turned his head away and mumbled under his breath. “If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you were the one with the strange fetish for dragon parts.”
You perked your ears up. “What was that?”
“Nothing, nothing,” he quickly said.
“I’m going to try it, anyway,”
“No one’s stopping you.”
To make sure you weren’t exposed while you tried to concentrate your Dragonheart powers onto Lukas’ eyes, Emil led you to a corner cloaked in the darkness in an insignificant corridor. The darkness offered the perfect protection against unwary human eyes and enough silence to allow you to concentrate. Plus, you wouldn’t have to be necessarily afraid as long as the real Emil was by your side. Oddly enough, holding the jar in your arms brought you a sense of comfort and concentration unlike any you had experienced before, but you dared not say this to Emil. It looked like he was terrified with your unusual behavior enough as it stood.
Lukas, Lukas, Lukas… you thought to yourself peering into the floating pupils of the eyes. There were bits of nerve bundles still clinging onto the backs of the eyeballs. From a far distance, one might have mistaken Lukas’ eyes for very round fish with tiny tails and no sense of direction. It was hard to pinpoint an exact point of focus on the deep blue irises when they were floating around in the preservative liquids all of the time. Even if you gave the jar a good shake, it only made the liquid fill with a thin layer of foam bubbles. You had already done that once, and it had resulted in Emil’s face draining of color.
Come on, Lukas…! Speak to me!
You sighed. Nothing. It didn’t work. It wasn’t like you had expected anything to work—
At the sound of your sudden exclamation, Emil leaped into the air and fell backwards. You noticed that he had gotten his foot stuck on a trailing end of his blanket and had tripped on it.
“____________, what’s wrong?” he asked in an urgent tone.
Your clutched your chest. Something was pulling at your heart.
“Emil…” you gasped. “I think I’ve got a connection.”
You nodded and grabbed onto Emil’s hand and pulled him up.
“Let’s go, Emil,” you quickly said grabbing onto the jar with your other hand. “I’ll lead the way from here.”
“I-If you say so—”
“Quick!” you cried and dragged him down the corridor. You couldn’t even remember the last time you had felt this way. It seemed like such a long time ago when you were riding on Lukas’ back when he had been a dragon searching for Emil. Now, it was the opposite: you had found Emil, and together, you were on your way to rescuing Lukas and what could possibly be the remaining key to keeping Eliatha alive.
You felt like you were flying. With the powers of the Sapphire Flames in tow, your legs were barely touching the ground. The string continued you pull you left and right, up and down through flights of stairs, and through twists and turns into the darkness to your destination. At this speed, it didn’t even look like anyone would be able to catch you. You felt invincible, untouchable. Emil was barely able to keep up, but you were doing just fine, and you already had your hands full with a dragon in a human form and a jar of another dragon’s eyes. It was a rather comical sight, but you felt exhilarated. The halls were growing darker and darker. The multitude of abundant torches had been left behind, and the ashy, sweet smell of burning dragons’ flesh was fading away. Nevertheless, you felt like you were getting closer to your goal. The path ahead of you seemed bright. You knew where to go, and that, alone, was reason enough to keep moving. Lukas couldn’t be too far now.
“It’s close,” you breathed. “I can feel it.”
“I can definitely feel it in my legs,” Emil panted from behind you.
“Just hang on for a little longer! We’re almost there!”
Sure enough, with a final turn of a corner, you found yourself nearly losing your footing as your leg dropped on a steep slope of stairs sending you tumbling down the cold steps. Somehow, by a stroke of luck or misfortune, Emil had fallen faster than you providing a crude cushion for your clumsiness. At least the blanket was soft.
“Next time,” Emil groaned, “watch where you’re going…”
“Sorry, Emil…” you shamefully apologized.
After that hasty ordeal, however, the two of you were perfectly fine if not covered with a few smudges of dust here and there. The invisible thread was pulling you harder than ever. Like an ominous guardian, a great black door with steam emitting from its very build stood erect and in front of you, towering over your meek frames by at least threefold.
“This is it…” you breathed. “Lukas has to be behind this door.”
Emil swallowed. “I have a feeling you’re right.”
You took a final look into his lavender eyes. There was little to no light down here. Your journey had taken you past the Bone Forest, up into Eldur Mountain, through dragon hunter lands, and finally to a dark fortress where a ghostly evil lay lurking in the shadows unseen. If what Emil said was correct, this would be the final step your journey. Lukas had to be on the other side, and what might have been guarding it was a force that should not be reckoned with.
“Ready?” you whispered as though if you spoke any louder, the entity would find you.
Your breathing eased up when Emil took your hand and curled his fingers around your palm.
“I’m ready whenever you are, ____________,” he smiled.
“Then let’s go,” you said and grabbed onto the iron ring that served as the handle to the large door.
“Let’s,” Emil nodded and assisted you in opening the door.
With the strength of your combined dragon powers, the heavy door that looked like it would have normally taken five grown men to unhinge slid open with a low groan and a coughing cloud of dust as black as night. A deathly gust of wind began to drift towards the room like a monster opening its mouth to swallow you whole. Your heart felt like it was going to burst right out of your ribcage from the sheer amount of strength tugging you into the darkness. This was it. Without exchanging any words, you and Emil carefully made your way inside the door.
A pedestal. Two rows of torches evenly numbered. A still breeze. A tall wall. A strange symbol on the ground.
A beating heart.
Your hand went to your chest.
This feeling…Why does it feel so familiar…?
You jumped. You had nearly forgotten about Emil just now.
“Emil!” you gasped. Your startled voice echoed throughout the supposedly empty room. You couldn’t help but feel that someone else was with you, though.
Your dragon looked embarrassed. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you like that.” He looked around. “Did you feel something?”
“Yeah…” you answered. “Something’s happening to my heart. It feels strange, but at the same time, it feels familiar.”
“Familiar as in…?”
You hopelessly shook your head. “I don’t know, Emil.”
“Hmm, as long as it isn’t bad, I don’t think you have to worry about it.”
“I hope so,” you frowned and clung onto your jar. Again, Emil made a face.
“You should have left that thing outside.”
“It—they led us this far.”
You silenced him with a gasp. The string was still pulling you.
“It’s straight ahead.”
Emil held you back.
“_____________, wait, what if it’s a trap—?”
“Let go, Emil!” you hissed and threw down his hand. At that very moment, everything else in the outside world didn’t matter: Emil, your life, the soft squelching noises, everything.
There, in front of you, as you had somehow expected, was Lukas’ heart. Unlike his eyes, it wasn’t kept in a jar or any fancy container. It was as if someone had ripped it straight out of his chest and plopped it onto the fancy stone slab like an offering to an unseen god. You looked around. The string had ended. There wasn’t any god in sight.
“Lukas…” you breathed. “I’m here.”
When you reached out and touched his heart, you were almost afraid that something dreadful would happen, but it didn’t. The heart made a squishing noise as any normal heart would. The only difference was that it had a small pool of purple blood dripping from the stone slab, not red.
But, you thought too soon.
In an eruption of heat, your legs began to grow weak. Your chest felt heavy to the point where you couldn’t even hold your weight up anymore. With a painful groan, you fell to the ground below Lukas’ heart dropping the jar containing his eyes in the process. A strange blue light filled the room transforming the flames into a dark blue color. A chorus of moans echoed.
“What…?” you gasped. “What’s happening?”
You wanted to die. The pain was unbearable. Images flashed before your eyes. Cruel ones. Happy ones. Tearful ones. The heat tore through your entire body. You began to writhe on the floor as the pain swept up and down from head to toe. Everything hurt. It was all blue. Sapphire blue.
“E-E-Emil…!” you choked. Your eyes began to water. You had never felt like this before. All the pain you had felt up until this point couldn’t even amount to what you were feeling right now. You were crying. Hot. It was all hot.
Yet, despite everything else, you managed to turn on your side just enough to see Emil in above you. Only…he wasn’t Emil anymore.
You couldn’t run. You couldn’t even stand. You had failed Emil—your Emil.
Even through your tears, you could see Emil grinning from ear to ear. It was as if his smile could spilt all the way across his head. And it did.
Like a broken doll’s head ripped at the seam, Emil’s head split in half and opened up his jaws. A shadowy black mass began to ooze out in the place of blood, if you could even dare to describe it as such. Before long, the shadow had consumed all of your dragon’s body until it was no longer recognizable. You had a feeling it was going to eat you very very soon.
But before it did that, it had one final meal to finish.
To your horror and your helplessness, the monster reached an outstretched arm over your eyes and towards the stone slab. You couldn’t even scream if you wanted to. With your eyes wide open, the world glazed over in an otherworldly blue, and time stopped as the demon opened its large mouth and gobbled up Lukas’ heart.