The Rise of The Dragon Queen
“Three, two, one, go!”
I immediately spun around and rushed for Sparrow as he began to turn to face me. I clenched my teeth as I went to slash at him, but he staggered backward out of the way in the nick of time. He barely managed to maintain his balance and I swiped at him again. This time, he blocked it with his sparring sword. My blade glanced off his and as soon as I took a step back, he launched into an attack. He swiped at my chest and my heart skipped a beat. I turned sideways, narrowly but easily avoiding it.
“Don’t get sloppy,” I warned. “You aren’t even paying attention to what you’re doing.”
Sparrow stepped back defensively and I dashed forward again, gripping my hilt as tightly as I could with my right hand. I let out a roar as I rushed him and swiped at his side. I landed the hit, which caught him off guard, and when he tried to get back at me I planted my foot in his stomach and shoved him backward. He let go of his sword and hit the ground with a loud thud. I stood over him, the tip of my blade pointing at his face as I kept the sole of my boot pressed against his torso.
“Ketsuna is the winner,” Nesryn declared. Some people clapped, but Darius and Vixia were the only ones I heard openly cheering. I returned my blade to the sheath that rested on my back and removed my foot from Sparrow’s stomach. He glared at me as he coughed and propped himself up on his elbows. I bent over and held out a hand, offering to help him up, but his glare intensified and he began to get up by himself. I straightened out again and turned just in time for Vixia to collide with me, pulling me into a tight hug.
“You did great, Ketsuna!”
“Thanks.” But I looked away from her when I heard Sparrow’s party talking.
“I can’t believe you got your ass kicked by a Draladenian,” the archer said with a laugh.
“Yeah, and so quickly too,” the mage added.
“Shut up,” Sparrow snapped. He looked over his shoulder to glare at me and I shrugged. I looked back toward Vixia again, seeing that Darius had also wandered over to us.
“Why don’t you get some rest?” he offered. “Vixia and I can handle making dinner and we’ll get you when it’s done.”
“Okay, I guess I will.” I stepped closer to Vixia and hugged her again. I smiled and whispered in her ear, “Where’s Puff?”
“In our room,” she answered quietly. I nodded and turned back toward the guildhall.
“All right, I’ll see you guys later then.” Even though I was walking away, I could feel Sparrow’s eyes on me until I made it around the corner.
When I made it upstairs, the first thing I did was look around for Puff. I was looking in the upper corner of the closet when I heard a trill from behind me. I turned to see him crawling out from underneath my pillow.
“Ah, there you are,” I said with a smile. “For a second I thought that maybe you had gotten out.” The tiny dragon crawled up onto Vixia’s pillow and curled up into a ball as I stripped out of my armor and grabbed one of the books that I had brought with me. I flopped down on the bed next to him and let out a sigh. Even though I had an easy time beating Sparrow, I was still pretty tired. I was thinking about that when I realized that it had been at least a week since the last time I was in combat. I was beginning to read when Vixia came in. She crept into the room and closed the door behind her as quietly as possible. I looked over to see her watching Puff sleep on her pillow. She smiled and looked at me.
“Hey, you did great out there.”
“Thanks, but it wasn’t much,” I replied.
“Oh, I didn’t think that it was.” We both chuckled at that and she started to make her way over to me.
“Hopefully he won’t be giving us as much trouble anymore.”
“If he doesn’t, he’s stupid.” After that, she leaned over and kissed me. She lingered for a moment when she pulled away, looking me in the eyes. She could tell that I was tense.
“We’ll get through this, okay?” I took a deep breath and let out a sigh.
“I’m going to chat with Zelora real quick. Is that okay?”
“Do whatever you need to. Tell her I said hi.” Vixia’s smile widened, showing her sharp canine teeth in a way that was surprisingly comforting. She walked over to her altar in the corner and sat down on the floor, the lower half of her legs folded underneath her. I watched for a moment as she closed her eyes, relaxed her shoulders, and bowed her head.
She’s a natural. Maybe I should try that out sometime.
I wedged a strip of paper between the pages of my book and closed it before setting it aside. I scooched down to rest my head on my pillow when I began to remember the day that I first met Vixia.
When I saw Vixia for the first time, I lived in an orphanage at the edge of Zaledrid. I was in the common room, sitting by the fireplace with a book, when there was a knock at the door. I looked up to see Ms. Emery, the lady that ran the place, heading over to answer it as the rest of the children watched in awe. We never got visitors, so a knock on the door usually meant that either someone was getting a new home or another kid was moving in.
The door creaked open and the sound of pouring rain filled the room. On the front steps were what appeared to be two royal guards. Between them was a small girl who had her gaze downcast while she gripped the hem of her dirty dress. She had long, silver hair and this was before she had grown into her oversized ears and tail. She was wearing an equally large cloak, but the rest of her clothes were not meant for the harsh weather outside.
“I’m sorry, but we do not have enough room,” Ms. Emery began. “We’ve been at max capacity for a while now and we’re really trying to focus on giving loving homes to the children that are already here.”
One guard opened his mouth to speak, but he was interrupted by Vixia.
“Is there anywhere else that I can go?” She was still looking at the ground, so it seemed like she wasn’t asking anyone in particular. Silence followed as her words hung in the air. No one could give her an answer. I thought I saw her lip quiver before she spoke again.
“I promise I won’t be a problem,” she whimpered, finally lifting her head to look up at Ms. Emery. Tears were welling up in her eyes and a thought crossed my mind.
Why would someone be so desperate to stay here?
That was when Ms. Emery took her hand and gently led her through the doorway. She was never that gentle with me.
“Thank you for bringing her,” she told the guards calmly. They nodded and she closed the door. When she turned around, she noticed that all of our eyes were on her and Vixia. She looked back down at the young girl beside her.
“What is your name?”
“Vixia, go in there for a minute,” Ms. Emery instructed, pointing toward the kitchen. The silver-haired girl did as she was told and Ms. Emery looked back at the rest of us. Her white-streaked hair was up in a messy bun and time had carved wrinkles into her face. They were even more apparent when she scowled at us.
“It’s chore time. Get up and clean somethin’!”
“Yes ma’am,” we all shouted in a panic, stumbling to our feet. I had closed my book and was trying to tuck it away underneath the nearest bookshelf when she spotted me.
“Ketsuna!” I jumped and my heart dropped into my stomach. I turned around to look at her.
“Yes, Ms. Emery?”
“What are you hiding there?”
I felt my hands begin to tremble as she stomped over to me. She snatched the book away from me and I knew that I was in trouble as soon as she looked at the cover.
“Dragons, again?” There was an exasperated tone in her voice. She looked from the cover to me, glaring daggers. “You know these things are monsters, right? They kill people.” She walked across the room and put my book up on a high shelf, one that I couldn’t reach without standing on a chair.
“Get to cleaning,” she demanded. When she walked away, my eyes passed by the doorway to the kitchen. Vixia was standing there, watching me.
I quickly looked away from her and went to go find a broom.