~ Chapter 97: The change within their hearts ~
[Elleyzabelle's point of view]
As I stood on the Soul Platform, reading the chants from this old and dusty book, letting the harsh cold wind whip my body, and ignoring the gazes of the curious dwarf onlookers, I thought of only one thing: What does it mean to be a Queen?
It was such a simple question, but which in every Kingdom and Empire in this world held a different answer to it.
For the humans, the Queen was the legal wife of the King, bound to him through a political marriage, and holding the duty of giving birth to an heir to the throne as well as princesses that may be later used as political bargaining chips. For the elves, the Queen was their all-knowing mother, she who held their entire country together. For the dragons, she was the Supreme Matriarch, the dragoness who ruled them all and used her King as the sword that cut through country's foes.
All of these were well accepted answers which could be found in a similar way in the other cultures on this world. From the relliars to the South, to the dwarfs here, and maybe even all the way into the rumored Shattered Continent.
But for mother, they all seemed to represent something else, that was why I could see her in such a different light, atop of them all. For me, mother was the absolute and perfect Queen. She was beautiful beyond comparison, charming and kind, making dragons glue their eyes on her and admire her from afar like an impossible to reach star. Through her wisdom and decision-making, her gentleness could be seen as it touched both the poor and weak but also the rich and powerful. With a single step withing the ball room, her elegance would outshine that of all the dragonesses present there. By steeping on the battlefield even she was ill, she showed us all the loyalty and devotion she carried for the Albeyater Kingdom, shining bright above us like a beacon we should all follow. She was all of this and above all, a devoted wife and beloved mother whose affection for her family could be seen through the very fact that even in her most dire times we never abandoned her, we never fought against each other or squabble for the throne. All of us, siblings, we actually trying to support her from the shadows.
When I thought of all of this, I found impossible to see myself as a Queen like her, although she was whom I aspired to be, she was whom I admired among them all. Unfortunately, I was far from reaching her grandeur, her nobility.
If mother would have stood in this spot, taking this test instead of me, these dwarfs would have payed a good amount of coins just to catch a glimpse of her from the other end of the courtyard. On the other hand, I merely made them cast a curious gaze or whisper a compliment about my physical beauty.
A wry smile found its way on my lips as I thought of this.
Mother... will I ever become someone like you? Not as a Queen ruling a kingdom but a dragoness who at times appears to be no different than a goddess walking among mere mortals? I thought and then let out a sad sigh.
[Kataryna's point of view]
The Dwarf Emperor's words laid heavy on my mind. I could barely focus on the prayers after he left, not that they were important anyway. Even so, my mind felt a lot more tired than it should.
Once a dragon or a dragoness reached a Breakthrough, we could go on for an entire week without sleep, if not more, yet I felt so tired, so sluggish, after just two days.
Sure, the religious text they made me read was more boring than the sermon of a merchant who went on and on about the right way to handle prices and taxes. It irked me just when I thought about it.
I'm afraid to let go of my past love... to lose him. Nonsense. I have no reason to give up on him! I thought and then shook my head.
In irritation, my tail snapped in the air, and the sound echoed so loudly in hear that it made my ears hurt. I clenched my teeth and furrowed my brow as I endured it. Unlike it was ina normal cave, however, inside this place, the echo didn't calm down even after a minute had passed, it was getting annoying... really annoying.
ARGH! Make it stop! I groaned in my mind.
“Like you did your own love?” the voice of a woman, my voice, echoed back through the sound.
“What?” I said in surprised.
“What? What? What? What?” the echo went on and on, hurting me.
“What did you hope? What did you think? What do you want?” question after question struck me like a tsunami on an empty beach.
With a groaned, I fell back on the floor, squirming on the ground as I tried to block the sound.
“SHUT UP!!!” I shouted as loud as I could.
“SHUT UP! SHUT UP! SHUT UP!” the echo returned.
Then, after a while.
“Just like you did... about him... and her... and him... and they.” this single whisper poured through the loud echoes, catching my attention not by how loud it was but by how clear and quiet.
W-What's going on here? I thought and closed my eyes.
I tried to accept it all and let the sounds calm down. Maybe it was just my mind playing tricks on me.
A minute or maybe half an hour had passed, I couldn't tell, but when it was finally quiet again, I opened my eyes.
I wasn't in the cave anymore... I was back there, in front of the crowd that called out his name.
“Kill Albatul! KILL THE BETRAYER! KILL ALBATUL! KILL HIM!”
Rather than call out, it felt more like it was chanted.
“N-No... it can't be...” I said and trembled when it donned upon me where I was.
Instead of taking a step back, I took a step forward... I moved one step at a time, getting close to the platform of execution, where HE laid on his knees, wearing the clothes of a prisoner, ripped and unwashed for days. His silky blue hair was disheveled and dirty, his eyes tired but resolved to accept his fate. No trace of his past nobility could be felt on his face, yet his aura still managed to retain it.
I moved until I found myself there, in front of him.
“Albatul... why?” I asked as tears formed in my eyes, and I felt weak as if all energy had left me.
“My last wish, eh?” he said and showed me a weak smile.
“NO! Don't say it!” I shouted and shook my head, blocking my ears from hearing him.
Tears rolled down my cheeks, my breath was trembling, and my tail curled around my legs.
I felt weak and helpless... just like I did back then.
“Yes, I have one...” he said with his soft voice, sweet like honey, alluring like the melody of a nymph.
It hurt... It hurt so bad to hear it again so clear and real.
“No... please... don't.” I begged, but I had no idea who.
Logic told me that I was alone here, this whole thing had to be an illusion, but my heart was in shambles and my emotions erratic. A part of me wanted to flee while the other wished to stay.
Who was this Kataryna who wished to betray me by tossing me back in this nightmare which for five centuries I had tried to forget and bury deep within my heart? Who was it, you betrayer of myself?
“Aimed at a certain dragoness...” Albatul continued, and despite my tears, my struggle not to look, I opened my eyes.
Our gazes locked. His eyes, they were blue and gentle, filled with more compassion than I ever deserved to be shown.
“If you are here, among this crowd...” he said.
“I'm here... in front of you.” I cried.
“...then know that I always loved you.”
When he said those words, I lost strength in my knees and slumped to the ground.
With my heart stuck in my neck, my tear welling in my eyes, and my words struggling to leave my lips, I replied “I know... and I was a fool not to have realized it sooner.”
“That's why, from the bottom of my heart, I wish for you to be happy...” he smiled at the end, a most gentle smile, one no mortal could have, only a divine.
Yet, Albatul did not hold the shard of immortality of a god. In front of the cold axe of his executioner, he was as fragile as a flower in the middle of a terrible storm.
This twisted memory of mine, showed me once more the moment when my beloved was taken from me.
I closed my eyes. The sounds of the axe falling and the cheers of the crowd were so loud they hurt my ears, and yet I still managed somehow to hear those same words that I thought back then, now spoke in an a soft echo, clear and distinct from all the other noise around me, from all their cheers and praises of joy for the fall of a great dragon.
“If falling in love ends up taking away the dragons I love, I would rather never fall in love again.”
Why is it that I had forgotten these words? I thought as I then opened my eyes.
Through my tears, I noticed that the stage of execution vanished, changed with the cold cave where I took my test in the temple of the dwarfs.
My gaze fell on the book I held in my hands. It was opened at a poem the dwarfs claimed it could help them reach spiritual enlightenment. Although my mind was tired, my body was sluggish, and my thoughts felt as though they were running away from me, I still read the poem.
He sleeps in comfort.
He awakes in comfort.
He sees no evil dreams.
He is dear to all creation
Just as all creation is dear to him.
The gods protect him,
And he aids them with his free will.
Thus, no sword, magic, or divine can touch him.
His mind can concentrate quickly.
His countenance is serene.
Yet, when he will be asked to leave the lotus of the mortal world.
He will die without being confused in mind,
And his soul shall stand to face the test of true Enlightenment.
These words were heavy and strange to those who refused them, but light and serene to those who accepted them. Understanding them was the next step, and it wasn't one that could be seen as easy. Yet, thanks to state I was in, I found myself able to do it.
All living beings are free and through their own will they move the whole Universe, yet accepting that such an unrestrained freedom exists is not something someone with fears, doubts, attachments, needs, and desires can easily do. More so, it's not easy for such an individual to choose to act while finding himself in a perpetual comfort zone. I thought and then let out a sigh.
The way I felt right now, so serene and with a certain ease of heart was dare I say... divine.
Yet, I understood that the moment I left this room, I would come to forget most of what transpired here. As such, while I was still in this strange state of mind, I wished to meditate and think about my life, my future, my past, and about what I really wanted.
I kept lying myself... telling myself I wanted his egg. Stating that, demanding that and yet... a smile formed on my lips as my thoughts continued I am such a greedy dragoness, aren't I? Or maybe, this is wrong... it's not greed... Greed hold malice while what I'm feeling is pure.
Some time later, the door opened, and I woke up from my trance. I left the room with a strange state of mind, while my lips were curved into a most beautiful serene smile that simply mesmerized the acolyte who saw me.
[Seryanna's point of view]
At the end of the third day, I felt as though my entire body had become one with the rivers of molten rock. The thundering roars of the lava as it flew downstream reverberated within the marrow of my bones, my stomach was tight, holding in all that energy that was released by the heat around me. My mind was in a blur, letting minutes fly by as though they were mere seconds. My scales felt tingly to the touch, and the book as I given to read from had already burst into flames several hours ago.
“Ha~” I exhaled and my throat felt the burn of the scorching flames.
The clothes I was given turned to ash at some point, or maybe they were ripped apart when I had returned to my full-beast forms? I couldn't remember. All I could feel and see around me were the dancing flames filled with magic of this volcano. Yet, the heat was not enough to warm my body.
Hot... I want it to feel hotter... to feel my inner heat meld with the one outside... I thought and from within I allowed my Magic Energy to burst through, rising the temperature around me.
I was burning alive, yet I wasn't in pain.
I was covered in flames, yet I could still breath.
I was enveloped in the pure essence of fire, yet instead of harming me, it strengthened me.
This strange trance kept me sealed in my spot for several hours, until the walls around me, with a startling loud noise began to crack.
The ground under my feet began to tremble and a wave of lava washed over me. The whole room had turned into an underground lake of molten rock. With my hands, feet, tail, and wings, I struggled to remain on the surface, to avoid being swallowed by the lava.
I need to fly up! I though and then with a powerful jump, I was airborne.
After a few flaps, and the cold air of the outside world washed over me. A chill ran through my body, and I felt the strange need to return to my lava bath. It was such a strange feeling, one I had never experienced before, but pleasant in a way, reinvigorating even.
Looking back down at the bubbling lava, I realized that there was no way for me to return to the entrance. I strongly doubted they would dare to open the door, considering the extreme difference in temperature between the two area. It would have been the same as having an Unawakened dragon stuff his hand into a pot of hot boiling water and then keep it there for a few seconds.
With tired wings, I flew up towards the mouth of the volcano and left behind the warm pool that called me over to take a long deep nap within its embrace. The moment I was out, an even more chilling wind washed over me, and I felt the tingling cold run all the way from the back of my head to the tip of my tail.
In its own way, the wind and cold was telling me to go back, but I refused. My mind felt heavy, sleepy, and so I allowed myself to glide down towards the big circle platform in the middle of the Temple Courtyard. There were a lot of curious gazes aimed my way, or maybe they were frightened? I couldn't tell.
I landed on the platform, the cold here didn't bit as hard as it did up there. Like a big feline, I moved around on the stone platform, ignoring all the voices around me and then with a tired move, I laid down my big head on top of my hands and closed my eyes.
That was it, I fell asleep.
Note from the author: Thank you for reading this chapter, I hope you enjoyed it! Oh, and be sure to check out my other stories too!
This is the first chapter after my break! 😀
Well, this is it! The new Volume of the 100 Luck series! This one will be entitled: Do Dragons go on Adventures?
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