Chapter 15: A prince for Monica
Lily, Darth, Limon and Dings were eating at the inn’s restaurant together with most of the people who traveled from far in order to watch the Matches. Most of them were talking about the powerful man and the golden dragon who cleared their battle really quick and they were wondering what will happen tomorrow. “It seems that we made a good impression” Limon murmured to Lily who, in her true form, was trying to cut her steak without result. “Yes, but I’m worried about something”
“About what?” Darth asked while cutting her steak into small pieces.
“I couldn’t sense our opponent’s Heart Light after he disappeared into the sand, almost as if…” and she stopped her phrase only at the thought.
“There’s no reason for the Lord to kill the participants, it’s forbidden from the arena laws, so don’t think about it” Dings said and looked at Limon and Darth; both of them were thinking the same thing, they were in danger if Krow had laid eyes on Monica.
“Lily tonight we will return to the wagon, the beds in here are really bad”
“You don’t have to pretend Darth. Your voice is lying” and she looked at Limon’s and Dings’s Heart Lights “the same goes for you, I don’t want to stay in the dark while you are making some plan without counting me in.”
“We believe that Krow will try to take us out of the Matches, so we were thinking about changing our location” Limon explained to her and Darth looked at him angrily. Lily turned her head to the exit, she felt someone looking intensely at Limon “Someone is watching us from the exit!” she said and the three of them looked straight outside but there was no one there.
That night a scream came from the inn because someone was murdered with no mercy in the room Lily was staying. Luckily they had already left and now they were hiding outside the town inside the protective barrier Lily had created around their wagon. Lily was sitting into her room on Monica’s bed holding her pajamas tightly. She heard a knock at the door and Darth came into holding a plate with pieces of fruits and a cup of tea. He took the chair and sat beside her “Eat, it will help you relax”
“Thanks, but I’m not hungry” but he put the cup on her hands saying that at least should drink the tea “And don’t forget that the barrier takes a great amount of power, you must help your body regain its powers quickly” and Lily gave him the empty cup and lied on the bed. Darth covered her with the blanket and sat again “I will keep you company until you sleep”
“Thank you…” and she fell asleep breathing softly like a small bird. Darth touched her hair and closed the light, leaving the magical wall show the night sky, and headed upstairs.
“Did she sleep?”
“Yes she was really tired”
“She will need her strength for tomorrow’s Match. And also, perhaps we will have to threaten Krow’s life if we want to save Monica”
“Don’t get too carried away Limon! We will think of something. Dings you will make the night shift. I don’t know if Lily’s barrier will last for long” and the three of them started to prepare for the Finals.
Monica was worried; not only they had won but what will happen if they had to face Ermin’s boyfriend? Trement won the second Match by pure luck, and Ermin was really happy, but Limon and Lily were stronger than him. Besides she had to save all the girls. And then she decided it. They would escape tomorrow with the help of “Bloody Tears” when the winner would be announced, and with that hope she tried to rest sleeping near Ermin.
The next day the five finalists were standing before Lord Krow’s gallery ready for their final battle. The rules were simple: the participants had to fight each other inside the arena and at the same time avoid all the obstacles there were placed on the arena at the morning. There were moving axes and falling boulders, poisonous ponds and swinging knives, chained dragons that were belching fire and logs which were falling from all directions. Limon looked their arena with a sinister look and turned to where Monica was sitting. He saw her trying to tell him something, by moving her lips but he couldn’t understand her. Krow seemed to be more raged than ever and he gave the signal to begin the “game” he himself had created. Limon flew and tried to stop the two dragons which had gone berserk from anger while Lily tried to avoid Trement’s hit and stepped on the poisonous pond purifying it with Clomin’s help. “Lily behind you!” Darth’s voice echoed on her head and she fell on the ground, avoiding the axe which flew just some centimeters above her head. But not everyone was so lucky; three of the participants found a cruel death but Trement survived. Lily could smell the blood coming from everywhere and tried to hold her breath, she heard footsteps and someone standing above her ready to kill her “I’m sorry but I must save her!” Trement said and lifted his sword. A scream came from the sky and Limon flew with incredible speed and swept Trement away from Lily falling to the ground holding him down showing his bare teeth. The trumpets were heard and everything disappeared leaving behind only the two remaining participants behind. “Our winners! Jack Williams and the dragon Sezou!” and the crowd screamed their names with excitement. Limon went near to Lily who was still trembling a little and leaned his head to her arm touching her, trying to calm her. Trement was standing behind them looking at Ermin with love and sadness. Darth was looking with Dings at them from the backstage with suspense waiting for the outcome. Suddenly guards surrounded Limon and Lily and Krow stood above on his gallery looking at them “Participants of the Matches. I congratulate you for your victory. No one has ever won the Finals and gave so much excitement to the people of Hantuner… but I will not return the young girl to you” and the guards showed their swords ready to execute them. Darth and Dings appeared arrested and joined Lily and Limon inside their circle. Now they had been completely surrounded. Monica appeared with her hands chained near Krow and he hugged her while she struggled to avoid his touch. The crowd was angry with his Lord’s decision and they were deprecating him. Krow ignored them and continued: “Not only you participated with valid identities but you are also not the ones everyone thinks you are!” and Lily’s chain broke transforming her back to her true self. “That bastard, he knew all along!” Darth said with rage
“Now you will be punished as the law commands for traitors!”
“No! Let them go!” Monica screamed and Krow slapped her
“Silence my dear; you will learn to obey your master and not talk! Just like everyone must obey the Lord of the Dragon Clan!”
“Lily, I want you to create a fog. Can you do that?” Limon asked her
“Concentrate on helping Darth and Dings. I will take Monica” and he moved toward Krow’s gallery: “You said Lord of the Dragons. How insulting you can be dirtying the name of my people! I will show you how the REAL Lord must look like!” and with a scream he flew high to Krow’s direction while his wings became larger and covered his body creating a strong violet light which blinded all.
Lily waved her ribbon holding tightly Darth and disappeared inside. Monica opened her eyes looking in front of her the man with the tawny hair and the violet eyes staring at Krow with hatred “Bloody Tears answer to your master’s command!” and the bow appeared on his hands breaking Monica’s chains as it transferred to his owner’s hands. Limon armed his bow aiming at Krow’s head “Release all the girls you have kidnapped now! Monica, come to me.” And she rushed to his side without realizing that her feet moved from their own when she heard him calling her name.
“So the rumors were true. The last of royalty traveling together with the traitor and the Priestess. Nevol’s information were accurate”
“You knew we were coming? And that’s why you planned to kill us?”
“Only when I saw that young beauty with the golden hair.” He said looking at Monica with desire.
“Didn’t you hear the news? This one belongs to me!” and he jumped inside the fog holding Monica on his arms. The crowd was trying to escape seeing the thick fog appearing suddenly. And then the melody filled the air as the white Phoenix with the silver feathers flew to the sky calling every single person on the town: “People of Hantuner, a Lord who doesn’t even care for his people’s needs and is devoted to his personal enjoyment will never be worthy of guiding you” and it disappeared flying to the east. Krow looked at the flying bird and went back to his palace following the secret passage under his throne. When he arrived back to his bedroom he started to pack his treasures and belongings when he felt a quick movement and something hot running on his body. He fell down screaming from pain and looked at the eyes his killer. “Death to the traitors” the man’s voice said with a smile on his face and his sword moved with speed.
“Are everyone all right?”
“Yes, continue to the east, as much as you can still hang on”
“I’m fine, how is Monica?” and Darth turned behind while holding the panicked Dings on his arms. Limon was still holding Monica on his human form and he was looking at her straight at her eyes. After a long way and since they had gone far enough the Phoenix landed inside a deep forest and after everyone had got off, the feathers disappeared on the sky, leaving behind Lily who moved her hands and created a protective field around them. She headed toward Monica and Limon and she stopped after she felt them. The silver and the violet light were merging together shining more and more brightly as they were drawn to each other. Darth saw her expression changing into a sweet smile and turned to Limon’s and Monica’s side. “I am sorry I couldn’t help you Monica”
“How? How can you be… while you are…”
“Didn’t I tell you? I am helping my friend with everything I have” and leaned his head closer to hers, closer and closer until… “Who belongs to YOU? How dare you saying something so cool in such a hard time? Are you completely stupid?” and Limon turned back into his dragon form arguing with her
“She completely ruined the moment.”
“Yup, she did”
“What are you talking about? What moment?” Dings asked them and they laughed with him and with the arguing Limon and Monica.
Chapter 16: The Forest of the Nymphs
Outside the forest’s edge
“I am sure they will appear Nagia. I have placed all possible guard stations and scouts around the forest”
“Very well Semer, you can go now” and Nagia waved her hand and he left her tent. Outside Elemor was sitting near the entrance looking at the mark of the slave Nevol had placed on his right arm: a snake with red eyes staring at him intensely. When Semer got out he looked at him with disgust and moved to the central operation tent ready to use any possible means in order to get in his hands the Priestess, because he is General Semer High Commander of the Land Imperial Forces.
“You know that it’s going to hurt”
“I don’t care; I want to get over with it quickly”
“Alright here we go!” and Darth pulled the leeches from Limon’s scales and he shouted from pain.
“Stupid! Didn’t you know that we are inside a dangerous forest?”
“Darth calm down your voice upsets the silence of the trees” Lily said while looking around her trying to sense the presences of the living creatures inside the forest. A week after the incident with the Matches they tried to contact Elder Fin but the Mirror didn’t respond to their call. After that Lily spotted the next location inside the Forest of the Nymphs and they headed to the most ancient forest in all Denmor. Untouched by human’s or Darvil’s hands this forest with the giant trees which covered the sun’s light, the beautiful rivers and the soft sounds of the birds was also a deadly trap for anyone who dared to violate its terrain; poisonous leeches, flesh eating flowers and packs of wild wolves were only some of the inhabitants of this forest. “Also it has always been the home for the Nymphs followers of Goddess Bener” Monica summarized everything she had translated with the help of Fin’s books and notes.
“That’s good but did you see all those soldiers?” Dings said and he lifted his tail from anger
“Those were General Semer’s soldiers” Darth said when he finished bandaging Limon
“You mean that sadist man who prefers slaughtering than talking?”
“Yes him Limon” and he noticed Monica’s expression changing. They had to pass though the swamps when they realized the army’s presence (that’s why the leeches) and now they were already inside the forest searching for anything could give them a clue about Goddess Bener. Lily was standing quiet, with her hands on her ears, searching for sounds and movements. Suddenly she turned her head to the right saying there was something there. Dings and Monica approached the bushes and made their way. A small girl not older than 7 was sitting inside the bushes looking at them with frighten eyes. Monica lowered her bow and approached the child smiling “It’s alright we will hurt you” but the little girl run off and grabbed Lily’s legs hiding behind her “It seems she is afraid of you Monica” Limon said
“But I didn’t do anything to her!”
Lily touched the girl’s head and smiled at her “We do not belong to the forest’s enemies, I can assure you for that and she showed her tattoo on the girl. The child clapped its hands from happiness and took Lily’s hand and they started walking. “Wait! Where are you going?” Darth shouted
“She knows someone who can help us! We must follow her!” and they packed again quickly and walked behind Lily who was guided by the little girl. They walked though giant tree roots which were outside the ground, they passed many small ponds with uncountable colorful flowers until they reached the edge of the deep forest. In front of them there was a giant waterfall falling into a small lake without overflowing the water from her. Around the lake there were many flowers and a bunch of kids playing around the lake. When they noticed the presence of the strangers they ran behind the waterfall scared. The girl pointed the waterfall and pulled Lily’s hand. “She wants us to follow her” Monica said
“But those kids…”
“Yes they were not Denmorians, nor Darvil” Darth said skeptic.
A woman’s figure appeared for the falling water and stood softly on the lake’s surface. She was shining under the sun’s light wearing a silk mantle while her brown hair was decorated with leaves and flowers. She had green eyes, which looked at them shining like emeralds. She smiled when she saw Lily and opened her hands welcoming them “Let it be blessed the day, our Priestess has finally arrived!” Lily walked carefully looking at her Heart Light (“Green like Dings’s” she thought) “You are a Nymph!”
“Yes my Lady, I am Lefenia humble follower of Lady’s Bener teachings. I had been expecting you.” And she turned to the little girl looking at it with a motherly affection: “And you run off again? How many times will I tell you that?”
“But thanks to her help we managed to come here” Dings told her standing near the girl. Lefenia looked at him and smiled “Come, tonight you are my guests” and she clapped her hands; roots appeared from the ground, merging together creating a long table and many chairs. Animals from the forest brought to them fruits, honey, colored flowers and many edible goods. The children from before had already come out from the waterfall and now they were playing together with Limon and grabbing Dings from the ears and the tail. “It’s really peaceful” Monica commented looking around enchanted.
“Not for long, the trees informed me about the movement of the Army outside the forest and I am worried about the children.”
“Are these children yours Lefenia?” Darth asked
“No, they are all orphans.” And her face darkened showing the pain and the sadness, and with courage she continued “There used to be a village at the other side of the forest. There lived Darvils and Denmorians together in harmony for a long time. But the King was not pleased with them, so he ordered the annihilation of the village and its people. That night I saved most of the children and brought them here using my powers to create a safe place for them” and together with Monica and Darth they looked at the children who now were putting wreaths of flowers on Lily’s head while Limon was flying around carrying on his back two boys. “Let me tell you a story!” Monica said and sat together with the others. Dings was left alone with Lefenia watching at the girl from earlier who was sitting on Lily’s lap. “That child can’t speak.”
“Since she saw the death of her parents she shut her own speaking away. But Lady Lily can understand her” and she smiled to him “You know I think that you are not just a small puppy am I right?”
Dings looked at her emerald eyes “You will have to find out by yourself” and he continued eating.
That night everyone slept together at the cave which was behind the waterfall on soft leaves under Lily’s protection. She herself, together with Lefenia, was sitting near the lake. Lily wanted to know more about Bener and she was asking her for more information “My people died trying to protect her Temple, they used their last magic creating this lake.”
“What is inside?”
“A labyrinth of tunnels and murals which describe the directions of reaching Bener’s Temple, I don’t know anything else” and Lily got up taking off her clothes
“My Lady what are you doing?” she said surprised
“I will swim into the tunnels and I will find the Temple”
“And you are as simple minded as ever” she heard Darth behind her
“You will stay here, the Army might attack and we don’t have enough time” and she covered her underwear with her dress.
“As for that I talked to the others, they will protect this place, besides… I don’t want to leave you alone” and he continued taking off his clothes staying only with his trousers. Lily waved her ribbon creating a bubble around Darth’s head which would provide him with air and turned to Lefenia “I don’t want you to take part in this fight. Please take the children away and flee somewhere safer”
“Is that an order?”
“It’s a request from a friend” and she held her hands
“I will assure the safety of the children but what I will do is my decision” and she turned to Darth “Take good care of her!”
“I will” and he took Lily’s hand guiding her into the water. When her feet touched the water’s surface a blue light enveloped Lily’s body transforming her legs into the white tail and her blond hair into blue; she dived into the lake, followed by Darth. “Lefenia, please be careful”
“I will my Lady, good luck” and both of them disappeared under the water.
“Are they gone?” Dings said after a while when he saw Lefenia sitting near the lake waiting patiently for their return “Yes. But I must admit that your friend really cares about her.”
“He is stupid, that’s my opinion”
“Why do you say that?” but the puppy didn’t ask and sat near her
“Have you ever fall in love?” he asked her
“No, but I have read many stories of love. It must be an amazing feeling” and she looked at the sky
“Dings, Lefenia come quickly!” Monica shouted outside from the waterfall. One of the children was screaming while sleeping. Lefenia touched his forehead and held the little boy on her arms; it said something into a strange language and she ran outside from the cave. She saw black smoke coming from the east and the south edge of the forest, while Limon got out together with Dings. “Monica, come here quickly! They are attacking the forest!”
“Lefenia the children are afraid! Go to them!” Monica said coming out from the cave, holding her bow and wearing the protection cape Darth had given to her. She got on Limon’s back and they both got ready to take off. “Dings take care of Lefenia and the kids, we will try to stop them from the outside of the forest” and with incredible speed he disappeared on the sky. Dings transformed into a big wolf and turned to the Nymph. “Don’t worry, I will protect you all” and he instructed her to gather them all deep inside the cave. “That boy from before has the power of a diviner, I will ask him for the future”
“Don’t you know? The future always changes according to our choices” and he looked at the lake whishing for Lily and Darth to return quickly.
They were swimming into the deep dark waters, following the tunnel in front of them. Lily’s tail was shining even in the darkness with her scales glimmering like diamonds into the dark waters.
“Can you keep up? Or am I going fast?”
“I can still keep up, but how do you know where we are going?” they spoke to each other through telepathy.
“I am following the water’s course, it seems that there will be an opening ahead” and indeed they reach a huge round opening but it was really dark. Lily moved her hands making the golden string shine and in front of them the underwater room was lighten up. Murals, created from Heart Painters were decorating the walls of this round chamber making Darth and Lily look at them really amazed. For Darth it was already a fact that these murals were clues for their next move but for Lily, who could see the outlines of each drawing shining in front of her although she was blind, thanks to her ability to sense the people’s Heart Lights, was something completely new. “They are beautiful!” she said and touched with her hands the wall.
“Let’s try and find anything that could be useful for our next move, take the right side and I will take the left” and they started observing carefully each mural. Lily saw forests, lakes and Nymphs dancing into festivals, celebrating the spring, around flowers and trees and at the center of this festival a woman was sitting on a throne holding on her left hand a flute and with her right was showing at the Temple which was consisted of trees and flowers. Lily touched the drawing with the woman and she felt the morning breeze and the sound of the leaves as the winds pass though them. She turned her head to the right and the same feeling came to her. She swam back to Darth by seeing his shadow covering the light of the murals. “I have found the path, it’s from that side, we should…” but Darth didn’t answer to her, because he was looking at the mural in front of him: a woman with her head covered from a hood was standing on an altar surrounded from people who were praying to her. “Darth are ok?” and she looked at the mural he was looking and tried to touch the drawing with the woman, but Darth pulled he hand back preventing her from touching it “Darth…”
“It’s nothing, it is just a memento, nothing else, let us continue now” and they swam to the direction Lily had found. She looked for the last time the mural he was watching before their Light disappears again. They found a small uphill opening, which led them to the surface. They had found it, the Statue of Goddess Bener was standing before them.