Chapter 23:


Vampire Lanterns

Demyan begrudgingly walked behind her. He was pouting, because of all the attention she was giving Adrik. Petrona knew, how he felt, she wanted him to feel in that manner. This way, it was easier to keep the distance from him she needed. She wasn't allowed to fall in love...
It was quite a steep hike, not really far from her quarters. The whole walk, Demyan kept silent, he was thinking about everything, what had conspired until now.  He had to finally admit, he harbored feelings for Petrona. The jealousy, he showed not so long time ago said it all. Tonight he should close the gap... He stopped on the road and sighed out all the frustration he bottled up.

They reached the top, which had a wonderful view at the whole Lush Lands. The altitude and tilting of the hill made it possible to even see the ocean sparkling in the distance. A gust of a fresh breeze played with Demyan's hair. Petrona laughed about it, how it danced in the wind.
Demyan looked at her with a warm smile.
"How did you find this beautiful place?" She sat down in the grass taking in the last rays of the sun. She pointed at two stones. Demyan walked over. They were gravestones. Demyan was smart, those must been her parents.
She confirmed it. "When I was little, my parents came here with me for vacation. But we never got the chance to leave..." Her expression became grim. "A plague was raging in the Lush Lands. Many people had died, it was almost incurable. I was the only one from my tiny family, who survived and became an orphan.
Since my parents weren't from this country, they buried them far away from the regular cemetery. I have spent here so many hours, no matter if it was day or night... My first Festival of Lights was even here. I think it's the best spot anyway and I shared it also with Luka and Mirko... Now I want to share this special place with you, your Highness."
Demyan walked over and sat next to her. His hand seek hers in the grass. She wanted to pull away, but he grasped it tightly and looked her deep into her eyes. He gave her a comforting hug. "Until now... you did great!" Why was he making it this much complicated? How could she not fall in love? Petrona hugged him back with tears in her eyes.
A chilly wind picked up from the forested area behind them. Demyan's eyes wandered there, he spotted small blue lights floating between the shrubs. Petrona noticed his sudden interest, about what was behind her.
She looked that same way and smiled. "Will you keep this a secret?" Confused, he looked back at her. "Those lights coming from a specific and very rare butterfly, which was driven to extinction." That peeked Demyan's curiosity and he walked over to take a better look together with Petrona.
"As a child, I loved to read a lot and those were the first things I read about." The butterflies began to swarm around both of them. Demyan lifted his hand and was about to touch it. "Don't! Its wings are very cold, your skin would get burned with frostbites. They live in a nearby cave, which is a little higher and hard to access.
Nobody knows about them, since they are too valuable. Those butterflies can save a dead person or cure any illness, but for the price of their own life. To achieve their healing ability, their wings and body need to be crushed over the face of the affected person."

One of the butterflies sat on Demyan's nose. Petrona began to laugh. "Don't worry, only their wings are dangerous. They also have a cousin over in the Waste Lands, but instead of freezing cold wings, they would scorch you with fire instead.
These prefer the cold plains of the mountains and chilly forests during spring and autumn. The others love to fly over Fire Lilies near the volcanos. Not sure, if they still exist over there. I wish I could see at least one in my lifetime, but soon I will be leaving, so it doesn't matter anymore..."

Demyan's mood instantly became sad. He completely forgot about her departure...