The Heir of the Dragon
Red had filled Elly’s vision, followed by agony.
She remembered, when she was a little girl, she had touched her mother’s tea kettle when it was still too hot, and burned her fingers badly. The heat searing across her skin was nothing like that. Her screams died in her throat as the rest of the world faded out, and in its place was a burning pain she couldn’t begin to describe.
Elly was still woozy when she woke up in the infirmary a week later. Nurse Leilandry had told her all about how Sabine Scarlet had hit her in the face with fire magic, and the pain had sent Elly into shock. Luckily for her, Reed had been close by, and had brought her to the nurse’s office immediately; if not for that, Elly’s life could have been in serious danger.
It was a chilling thing to hear.
“I had to use magic to put you into a coma,” the worried nurse had told her. “Otherwise you would have never made it! And your treatment is far from done! You’ll be staying here for another two weeks, at least!”
She’d informed Elly that due to Reed’s quick response, the wound wouldn’t even leave a scar. If Elly was supposed to feel better about that, she didn’t. She felt awful. She’d been doing so well before this. She’d actually felt like she was starting to change herself, even if only a little. Ever since Reed had said how much she admired Elly’s ability to make friends, she’d been seeing the world through new eyes. And look at what had happened to her because of it.
As Elly sat in bed, the memories of that day began to return. She’d woken up with confidence, sure that this time she would talk to her half-brother, Lance, and though it had taken time to work up to it, she had done it. For what felt like the first time in years. And what she’d learned from him, about how he really felt about her… it still hadn’t had the time to set in yet. But it had felt like a possible new beginning.
Then she remembered seeing Sabine being assaulted.
Elly didn’t like Sabine. How could she like someone who treated her so awfully? But when she saw what that boy was doing to her… As awful as Sabine was, Elly didn’t hate the girl, she didn’t want her to get hurt like that. So she’d stepped in and tried to help, and look where that had gotten her.
Nurse Leilandry hadn’t let Elly take any visitors the first week she was awake. She said Elly needed to use the time to heal. But she had told Elly a little bit of what was going on beyond the infirmary while she rested.
Sabine had been sent to an inquiry for what she’d done to Elly. The nurse had tried to emphasize how unlike the incident with Derek, Sabine would certainly be punished for harming Elly; but Elly wasn’t sure if she wanted that. Sabine had made Elly’s life miserable when she was here, certainly. If she was gone… Elly would probably live a much better life.
And she wanted that so badly. She wanted Sabine to just disappear.
So she’d taken the nurse’s advice not to testify at Sabine’s inquiry, and used the time to rest instead.
Lying in her bed, Elly stared up at the dark ceiling. Nurse Leilandry had given her an extended treatment the first night of Sabine’s inquiry, so she could sleep peacefully and not stay up all night worrying about what would happen.
Elly was beginning to doubt the nurse’s abilities, because that was exactly the position she found herself in.
This is… okay, right? She asked herself. It wasn’t like Elly was doing anything wrong. She was just… doing nothing. Sabine had spent weeks bullying her, scaring her, calling her names and treating her like trash. Was she really supposed to go defend her now?
She turned over in bed, and the burns on her face ached beneath her bandages. She felt like crying, but she didn’t have the energy to do it.
If I just… sleep through tomorrow… then it will all be over. Whatever the board decides, that’ll be it, Elly decided. She didn’t want to spend any more time worrying about what she “should” be doing. Because she didn’t know what that was. What was wrong with just letting it happen?
“Aren’t you just running away again?”
Elly’s eyes snapped open and she stared out the window at the night sky. Her heart hurt as the voice in her head repeated itself.
“Aren’t you just running away again?”
“No, I’m not running, I just-!” Elly protested against the guilty feeling in her gut.
“Didn’t you want to get stronger? To stand up for yourself?” The voice asked her.
“I am stronger!” Elly argued. “I…”
“Elly?” Another voice, soft as a whisper, brought her out of her debate with herself. She turned back over and saw Reed’s figure crouched over her bedside, face lit up by the dim light of an orica. Elly opened her mouth to gasp, but Reed raised her finger to her lips to shush her.
“Reed?” Elly whispered. “What are you doing here?”
“The nurse said you couldn’t have visitors,” Reed whispered back, pulling up a chair and sitting down next to Elly. “But I wanted to check in with my best friend to see how she was doing.”
The last time Elly was in this bed, Reed had called her a friend, now she was a “best” friend? Elly shook off her confusion and smiled.
“I’m glad you’re here,” Elly softly replied. “Actually… I’m kind of feeling a little trouble about something… would you mind listening?”
Reed smiled, her eyes bright and encouraging, and she nodded.
For the next hour, Elly explained all the issues she felt about the inquiry, and how she wasn’t sure what she was supposed to do about Sabine. She didn’t like her, but was she doing the right thing?
Reed listened in silent contemplation until Elly finished. Then she gave her a warm smile.
“Elly… you have a habit of thinking the worst about yourself, you know that?” Reed asked. Elly averted her eye sheepishly. Reed gently continued, placing her hand over Elly’s. “But maybe if you put your head to it, you might find you’re stronger than you think.”
Elly didn’t understand. Why did Reed have that much faith in her? Then she thought about her half-brother. Two months ago she never would have talked with him the way she had. Elly sat a little higher up in her bed. Maybe she had grown a little stronger, after all.
“I think you already know what you should do,” Reed said, rising from her seat and giving Elly’s hand one last pat. “I’ll be back tomorrow evening.” She walked through a portal, and left Elly to think about what she was going to do.
Testify, or not testify? She had all night to come up with an answer.
At the inquiry the next day, Elly walked up to the stand with her head held high and her vision aimed forward at the review board. She ignored the voices of the gallery, and the stunned look she’d seen on Sabine’s face as she walked past her. The only thing Elly had in her head was the conviction to testify as she’d decided last night.
“Ms. Elaindra, do you swear that the testimony you give to this review board today will be the truth, as you so know it?” Chancellor Markov asked her, his gaze sternly looking down upon her. But Elly didn’t baulk. His eyes were clear, aimed solely at the truth. Elly could trust him completely, and she answered with a confident nod.
“Then please give us your recount of that day’s incident,” the chancellor instructed her. Elly swallowed, clenching her gown, and nodded.
It’s okay. You’re doing the right thing.
“I was walking through the quad, when I heard someone shouting,” Elly explained, keeping her anxiety from entering her voice. She thought about Reed’s confidence in her, and the courage she’d summoned when she talked with Lance. “I heard ‘Get off me! Let me go you piece of-!’ and I knew immediately that it was Sabine’s voice.”
A few gasps rose up through the crowd, but Elly ignored them.
“And you’re sure that you heard Sabine say those words?” Professor Darkflame asked her. His face was as stern as always, but his eyes were shining with encouragement.
“I’m certain. I’ve heard her shout many times,” Elly said, with just a hint of bitterness. “I turned to see what was going on, and I saw someone was holding her down. She was pushed up against the wall, and someone was tearing at her clothes.”
The gasps grew louder, more disbelieving and shocked.
“She’s lying!” Calum Arslow’s voice cried out. Elly flinched, but she pushed through it.
“Order, this inquiry will come to order!” Chancellor Markov sternly declared, slamming the gavel against the table. “Mr. Arslow, you will refrain from interrupting the witness’s testimony.”
“But she’s lying!” Calum exclaimed. Elly turned and looked back to see him rising out of his seat, his face reddened with outrage. “I didn’t do anything to Sabine!”
“Ms. Elaindra, is it your testimony that you saw Mr. Arslow assaulting Ms. Scarlet?” Chancellor Markov asked, his voice turning harsh. Elly didn’t look back at him, she kept her eye trained on the red-faced blonde across the room.
“I didn’t think I’d gotten that good of look at him in the moment,” Elly admitted, keeping her head held high with surety. “But seeing him here today must have refreshed my memory. Yes, I’m certain now, he was the one who was assaulting Sabine.”
The gallery went wild at that, everyone turning and staring at Calum. Calum himself was seething, those blue eyes of his filling with hatred with every second he stared at Elly. Before, Elly probably would have shirked underneath that hateful gaze. But she clenched her hands at her sides, digging her fingers in so tightly that she began to bleed, and summoned strength she didn’t even know she had to keep looking forward.
This was the answer she had come to. Sabine was a horrible person, but what had happened to her was also horrible. She hadn’t meant to hurt Elly with her magic, she’d been trying to fight off her attacker. To be expelled for that wouldn’t be fair and Elly wasn’t going to play any part in it.
“She’s making it all up!” Calum accused. “Sabine must have threatened her somehow, or one of her friends! They’re making her say these awful lies!”
Elly took a second to glance at Sabine, stunned by how weak and fragile the redhead looked sitting before her. She returned her gaze to Calum with renewed confidence.
To think that I’d have this much strength to stand up for Sabine Scarlet of all people… Elly couldn’t believe it herself. But she held that strength in her chest and pushed it out of her mouth with every accusing word. “You were holding her down!” She fiercely declared. A voice nothing like her own escaped her lips. “You were tearing at her clothes while she screamed! No one had to threaten me to tell the truth!”
The bang of the chancellor’s gavel was echoing through the inquisition room, but neither Elly nor Calum were paying it any mind. Calum tried to force his way through the crowd but one of his friends held him back, only letting him shout in impotent rage. “You lying bitch! You can’t do this to me you lying bitch! Do you have any idea who I am?!”
“I saw what you were doing,” Elly said, her voice cracking but her heart remaining firm. She wasn’t scared of his shouts. She kept her tone calm and even, not letting her anger out. “I ran over as fast as I could, to try to help her. And that’s when she hit me with the fire. Because you were forcing her, hurting her, she had to use her magic just to get you to stop! And just because I was the one who got hurt that doesn’t change what you did!”
“Order!” The chancellor bellowed, banging his gavel even louder. “Mr. Arslow, you will sit down or you will be removed! And Ms. Elaindra, you will address the review board directly, not the gallery!”
Calum’s friends managed to force him back into his seat, the blonde glaring contemptuously at Elly as she stared evenly back at him with her good eye. She let out a soft sigh, sitting up taller in her seat. She’d managed to say what she’d meant to say.
“Apologies, sir,” Elly said, turning back to the chancellor. “I will repeat my testimony for the board.”
“There you go,” Nurse Leilandry said, unwrapping the bandages from Elly’s face and showing her the mirror. The nurse was right. Two weeks of treatments later and Elly didn’t even have the faintest trace of a scar.
Her hair was a mess, though, parts of it still coming in patchy where the flames had burned it off. But that didn’t bother Elly. She was just grateful that she could still see out of her eye.
“Thank you, nurse,” Elly said, smiling graciously up at the elf who had done so much for her these past months.
“You’re getting to be a regular here, Elly,” the nurse chuckled. “Hopefully, this will be the last time I’ve got to patch you up like this for a while.”
“Now, I’m going to keep you another night for observation, but if everything checks out okay, then you should be able to go home in the morning,” the nurse assured her. “What do you think of that?”
Elly wasn’t sure what to think. After the inquiry, she’d been allowed to have visitors again, and she was grateful for that. But all the time she’d been away, if felt… weird, to think she’d be going back to her same old room. Back to her classes and her cohort.
It was going to be an adjustment. But the strength she’d found since then was real. She wasn’t about to go back to that scared little girl trembling in the shadows. She stood up for what was right, and no one could take that away from her, not Derek, not Sabine, not the queen herself.
A knock on the door drew Nurse Leilandry away, and she set the mirror down beside Elly while she went to go see who it was.
“What are you doing here?” The nurse snarled, the way her face twisted intriguing Elly. From where she sat, she couldn’t see who it was.
“May I see her?” The visitor asked. Elly gasped, her eyes widening in startled recognition.
What was she doing here?
“I don’t think that’s-“
“It’s okay,” Elly quickly said, interrupting the nurse. “Let her in.”
Nurse Leilandry glanced back at Elly, surprised, and nodded, stepping out of the doorway.
Sabine Scarlet walked into the infirmary, looking much better than when Elly had seen her, at the inquiry. After her exoneration and Calum’s suspension, she was back to her old self. She still wore that haughty, scornful look on her face, but it didn’t seem to bother Elly the way it used to.
“I see you’ve recovered nicely, half-elf,” Sabine said. Elly was surprised that she hadn’t called her “knife-ears”.
“It’s Elly,” Elly calmly told her.
“…Fine. Elly, you seem to be doing well,” Sabine said, walking over to her. She looked uncomfortable. Crossing her arms in front of her chest, Sabine harshly stated, “I’m not going to thank you for your testimony at the inquiry.”
“…Okay.” Elly didn’t expect her to.
“And I’m not going to apologize for how I treated you, either!” Sabine added, glancing away from her.
“…Okay.” Elly didn’t expect her to do that, either.
“But… I won’t let people say that Sabine Scarlet does not repay her debts!” Sabine declared, flicking her hair over her shoulder and turning back to Elly.
Elly raised her eyebrow, not sure what Sabine was saying.
Sabine sighed, reaching into her purse and taking out some scissors.
“Your hair’s a mess,” Sabine quietly said, almost sounding soft. Almost. “Let’s see what we can do about that.”
Elly blinked. She definitely didn’t expect her to do that.