- Maria Catalina Higuera
“Care for a game of chess?”Lionel asked casually, citing on the other side of the table, the chess pieces already arranged on the board.
“What the hell just happened?”, I demanded, ignoring the game completely.
He shurgh, “Who knows?...I'm no doctor, you simply passed out in the middle of the test, which is a first for us let me tell you that”.
I could tell he wasn’t even telling me half of it, something else had gone wrong but he just wasn’t speaking, unfortunately there was nothing I could do to forze the information out of him, especially not here.
Instead I recinated myself to playing along with whatever he and the council were doing, maybe I could get some information out of it.
He had given me the white pieces and I moved one of my pawns. “What were those spheres aniway?”, I asked, “They seemed to have a life of their own”.
“Hm?...you mean the soul orbs?”, he said, moving one of his own paws, “Those have soul energy trapped within them…”, he explained, “But it so diminutive that if barely perceivable, however, when put in contact with a dragon it will leach onto their energy thus telling us your affinity since they will strongly react with an user of the same energy as the one they contain and barely with others”.
“Well that was an entire light show…”, I muttered, moving another pawn.
“Its normal”, Lionel assure me, moving his bishop, “You see back in the age of dragons, normally, they would seldom have children with individual outside of their clan...however one the dragon were wiped out, the humans that carried the genes didn’t exactly cared about that and by the point the first sign of marking began to appear the dna was so mixed in that every dragon alive today has some of the other clans mixed in within them”.
All the other dragons alive today...I mulled over his words, part of me still refused to believe everything they were telling me, it was just so...wild to think that I was a dragon, the mere thought made me want to laugh, that was the kind of thing first grade kids would say. To think that I was a member of an ancient powerful race that had been believed to be a myth, a fragment of human imagination...it was almost too much to wrap my head around.
Lionel chuckled as I moved my Knight, trying to go after Lionel Bishop, “Still seems surreal isn’t it? but don't worry you will get used to it...especially after you meet the rest of the dragon children”.
I really hated when he did that, reading my mind, “About that…”, I began as he moved his bishop out of the way, “There's something that I forgot to ask...why Im I a healer but have grey eyes?”.
For me it didn’t seem to be that big of a deal, but I had very much freaked the other out, and I wanted to try and figure out what was going on before I was forced to interact with them again. “Simple answer is that you are an anomaly”, he said crudely as he moved one of my own bishops, “A product of so much cross breeding between the dna fragment carrier from different clans you came out looking like a grey dragon but manifested healing abilities...think of it as phenotype and genotype situation, in dragons they usually are league but in extremely rare cases like you they manifested differently...but don't worry you will be all fixed one you shift for the first time...your eye will turn golden like they were supposed to be all along”.
Well...that actually explained a lot...by the part about my eyes changing color bothered me for some reason I couldn’t quite put my finger on.
“Your turns”, he said, after a while of me just staring at the pieces, lost in thought, “Yeah…”, I said, moving another pawn.
“I already explained the situation to them”, he said, to my relief as he moved another piece, “But there is something else in your mind, bothering you, why don't you just say it?”.
“Uh...get out of my head”, I said more out of forze of costum, “Thing is...for a while I thought I was developing electrical powers...like I left the entire street without electricity...and fried made several light bulbs explode…”.
This time Lionel was quieter for longer, observing the board, finally he moved his queen to an apparently non threatening position, which just made me wonder what he was planning.
“The frying the entire street was just a fluke of the electricity in the miniature soul orbs I use to test you that time, you see electricity is one of them most energy consuming abilities...you have a lot of soul energy by nature and a strong affinity towards it...let's just say it went a little overboard…”.
“But what about-”, I began, about to ask, bringing up the light bulbs and street lamps in school but he stopped me with a hand gesture.
“Ashet, those time were either electrical fluke from the building that you did not cause...or your father who wasn’t far off...he may not but a full dragon but he is also remarkably strong…”, he voiced sounded serious, deathly so, “The only way you could have done that if it's your marking actually shone...and they didn’t so it wasn’t you”.
I shook my head, still not convinced. I played another piece as it was my turn, just realizing that slowly Lionel was weaving a trap around my king.
“Asher…”, he said, and now I could feel his eyes boring into me from behind his mask, “No dragon has ever manifested two sould abilities...ever...so just accept it was a coincidence and stop thinking about it”.
I observe the board, moving rook in an attempt to get rid of his bishop in line to kill my king.
“You will be meeting the rest of the dragon children soon”, Lionel said, his voice even more threatening now, “I suggest you try to get along with them...but keep to yourself what happened today at the council room, everything that was said and done understood?”.
I shrught, gritting my teeth as his knight took my bishop, “Yeah...sure whatever”.
My answer didn’t particularly seem to please him as he laced his finger together, looking at me instead of the board, “Asher listen carefully, I know you think that we are all just pushing you around like annoying adults, telling you what to do but...but keep this in mind..there a bigger picture, forces in play you still don't see, you have to understand your place as a piece in the game…because if even a single piece doesn’t do its job...”, now he moved his queen, stealing one of my pieces and immediately I saw there was no way out, “Checkmate...the king is dead ''.
The first thing I saw when I woke up was Dc. Grace's face who was peering down at me. Above her there no was no longer tall black rock sealing but a plain whte one, which meant I was no longer in the Council room.
“Ugh…”, I muttered, grabbing my head.
“How are you feeling?”, she asked gently.
I squinted at her, “To be honest?...like I just got run over by a train”.
A smile tugged at the corner of her lips as she helped me sit up, allowing me to see the rest of the room.
It looked like an infirmary with a few weird pieces of equipment thrown in, besides my bed Lionel was sitting casually, flipping through a magazine.
He looked up at me, ignoring my accusatory gaze, “Ah...good you are awake”, he said, like he himself hadn’t just pushed me out of our shared dream, “I hope you are up for lunch?, it's in less than an hour”.
I rubbed my head astemidenly as Dc. Grace disconnected me to a few machines that had been monitored by vitals, or so I thought, some of them showed things I didn’t understand.
“Not sure I can't take you up on the offer”, I said sarcastically, “I really don't have an appetite right now…”.
In truth all I wanted to do was go to sleep again and for the next few days...whatever that test had been had left me completely drained...or that was how best I could think of it, in truth I felt like there was something wrong with my body...like something was missing but I couldn't really tell what it was but its absence still cause a huge hole in my chest... not to mention my head felt mudle, like somebody had been messing around inside.
“Well too bad, going wasn’t an option…”, he said in an overly cheerful voice making me roll my eyes, “And I would recommend fixing that attitude of you will be having lunch with the other dragon children”.
I groaned, hiding my face behind my hands, “Seriously?...can we leave this...for like tomorrow?”.
“You already know the answer to that”, he said, getting up. “I'll be waiting outside…”.
“Don't worry too much about it”, Dc. Grace said as soon as the door closed behind him, “The other kids are all nice enough...you will warm up to them soon enough”.
I thought back to the little incident this morning, “Im...not so sure about that”, I muttered as she measure several substances and began putting them together in an beaker. I just hope Lionel's explanation would be enough for them to stop thinking I was some sort of freak...it would really be a top level irony for me to end up being an outcast among my own species. “Think positive Asher”, she said, pouring the transparent mixture into a mold and adding a few drops of something sweet smelling into it, “After all aren’t you excited to meet others like you?”.
Well...I already had, and it hasn't gone well...maybe it would go better with the others? or were those three all of them?.
“How many dragon children are there?”, I asked her, as she gave the mold a few taps and then opened it, revealing several things that looked like completely transparent hard candy..
“With you included... six...”.
Oh well...not all was lost, I still had a chance with the other two....but I really didn’t not turst my ability to not do sometign stupid and ruine it.
“Here...a change of clothes”', she said, handing me a cloth sack and pointing to the far right side of the room “There's a bathroom over there”.
Her words made me remember I was still wearing the ridiculous pants Lionel had insisted use, looking down I noticed for the first time that there were splatters of blood on them.
She seemed to follow my gaze because she jumped to assure me, “You got a bad nose bleed...don't worry”. She grabbed all of the small candies she had made and put them in a small plastic bag, “You will feel better once you eat a few of this”.
Noticing my uncertainty she smiled reassuringly, “Don't worry...they taste like vanilla”.
“Alright…”, I said with a sigh , “I'll be back in a minute...Lionel must be getting impatient”.
I looked down at the yellow hoodie with disgust as I walked behind Lionel, “Are you guys...color coding me?”, I asked, voicing my growing suspiciousness.
“Took you long enough”, as we went past the open door and to the huge room I had seen when Lionel had first brought me here, the massive fire pit just as imposing as the first time I had seen it.
“Seriously?...that is so cliche...so just because I'm a golden dragon I have to wear yellow clothes?”. At least they had given me normal colored jeans, I would have probably died if I was forced to walk around like a giant banana.
“Yep”, he said pleasantly as we moved through the crowd that I noticed was parting for us, lingering eyes and whispers following our wake, making me feel like I was under a microscope, being examined like some sort of new patogen.
Their stares made me want to dig a whole and crawl inside and away from their eyes but that was hardly possible at the moment.
I sighed in relief as soon as we went through a door and into one of the many hallways that, unlike all the other ones I had been in so far, was crawling with people and handlers moving around...at least it wasn’t as bad as the great room back there.
Soon I realized that the hallways had such a big flow of people, the smell of food permeated the place, this area was the dining area. Great, now everybody could get a chance to gawk at me while they ate.
To my relief, instead of going through the huge open doors that lead to a ginormous eating area Lionel walked farther away and behind a door that looked normal, of that what I had grown accustomed to seeing here.
Inside there was a small waiting area, like the type in fancy restaurants, it was nicely furnished with antique style furniture and dark oak paneled walls, a sharp contrast to the rock walls outside, behind the double solid wood double doors I could hear voices speaking varying degrees of enthusiasm.
I stopped a few feet away from the closed door, preparing myself for what was ahead, taking a few calming deep breaths feeling uncomfortably like I had on my first day of school. Lienel, however, didn’t give me much time to gather my courage, instead the trew the doors open.
“In you go”, he said, giving me a little push inside and like a parent dropping off their crying kid in first grade quickly added. “Make lots of friends!”.
The door slammed closed behind me and my worst nightmares came true as the room went quiet, all of them turning to look at me.
I stood petrified as five pairs of eyes turned to look at me and I silently swore I would kill Lionel for this as I looked at the ground mortified.
“Well...this is awkward”, a voice I recognized as Dravens said, easing the tension in the room a little bit.
“Just sit down”, Calder mutered, “I want to eat”.
His words at least made me look up for the first time and at the kids in front of me. They were sitting at a long table, Petra and Draven sitting beside each other along with a red eyed girl I didn’t recognize.
Calder sat on the other side, beside a white haired girl. Silently I slipped into the single empty chair, the one beside her.
“Well”, Petra said, clapping her hand together, “We should all introduce ourselves ...or reintroduce ourselves for some of us”. She looked at me, “I guess you already visited the council?”.
I nodded, and she smiled excitedly, “Great that we should also say what type of dragon we are!”.
“I think that is very obvious just from looking at us Petra”,Calder said, rolling his eyes.
“Besides, what is this pre-K?”, the red eyed girl added, glaring at me like I was muck that had gotten stuck on her shoe, great she hated me already and I hadn’t even spoken a word.
“Enya, Calder be nice”, Draven said, making both of them scoof, “Petras idea is good so I'll go first, Im Draven...guess you already knew that...but anyway I'm a black dragon”.
I had to agree with Calder that just from him it was pretty obvious, not only his eyes that were so dark they seemed to suked in the light around him but his curly hair was also very dark, so much so it was hard to distinguish individual strands...but then again I had been told I looked like a grey dragon so I needed to give everybody the benefit of the soup.
“Uh my turn”, Petra said happily, “My name is Petra and I'm a green dragon!”.
Again no surprise there, the only thing disconcerting for me was how easily she and Draven both said it. I still found it hard to believe and I had to resist the urge to laugh as they said they were dragons with so much certainty, it just didn't seem real.
The red eyed girl didn’t even bother to look at me as she spoke, “Im Enya, and in case you are blind, Im a red dragon”.
That sertainly explained the eyes, they were truly memerazing I had thought they were contacts at first, it hadn’t ocur to me that red draong woudl have...well natural red eyes, wich now that I thought about was just stupid.
Unlike the other she didn’t have markings on her arms, the only visible ones were on her neck, making me believe hers were probably only on her legs.
I must have been staring because her eyes turned towards me with such intensity I jumped, the warm yellow light from the fireplace reflecting off her reddish brown hair, “Staring at something midget?”
“No...no...sorry”, I said, feeling every shade of embarrassment there was.
“You already know my name”, Calder said, “And unlike you I'm not a fluke...so you may have already observed the obvious, I'm a blue dragon”.
“Caler”, Draven said, “That was uncalled for”. Probably referring to Calder's comment on me being a fluke.
He shrugs unapologetic, passing a hand through his light brown hair and out of his eyes “It's the truth”.
“That doesn’t mean you have to so openly mention it”, Draven countered.
“It's alright”, I interacted before things could escalate, “I don't mind”.
In truth Calder's comment had stung a little as he made it very clear I was the balck sheep of the group but I didn’t want them to start fighting over me.
“Um...it's my turn right?”, the girl beside me said in a soft sweet voice making me almost jump as I had completely forgotten about her.
“Yeah go ahead…”, Draven said, seamingly glad from a distraction from the growing tension.
She gave me a smile that didn’t seem quite right, huge pale purple eyes staring at me from behind white bangs, her incredibly pale white skin also making her look like a corpse, “My name is Hela”, she said, “And Im a white dragon”.
Even before she was done speaking I had already guessed what type of dragon she was, not that they stopped a chill from going down my spine the moment the words left her mouth.
“Emily says she likes you”, she added, looking at an empty spot beside me, “Max is still not so sure...but don't worry he always puts on this act when we meet somebody new…”, she paused like somebody was actually speaking to her, “oh come on now Max you know it's true!”.
“Um…” I began, now definitely creeped out of my mind, “Who is she talking with?”.
“Are you that ignorant?”Enya asked, “White dragons can see and speak with the dead”.
Great! time for me to get up and leave this place for good, maybe move to Singapore and start a new life but before I could make a very strategic exit the door swung open and a flow of people walked in all of them dressed like waitier in some expensive restaurant and carrying platters of food they began to set down all along the table.
For a second I found myself so overwhelmed by the amount and variety of food I forgot all about running. On my way here Ihad eaten one of the candies Dc graces had given me, which to my surprise had actually tasted like vanilla, and recovered some of my appetite. I didn’t feel as tired but I could hardly say I was back to normal.
“Do you...usually have this much food?”, I asked as they all began loading their plates without a second thought.
“Well da”, Petra said, matter of factly, puttin a good portion of mash potatoes on her plate, “We eat a lot”.
“I can see that…”, I said, putting food on my plate with a lot more shinessthan them.
“So... Asher “, Petra began after a while, “Why don't you tell us more about yourself”, she made a motion around the table, “All of us have known and lived with each other for years but you...the last dragon child, you have always been a mystery”.
Enya, sitting in front of me, scoffed, shaking her head like she would much rather I stay silent, and I had to agree with her there, but Petra, Raven and even Hela looked at me expectandly, even incorunagely…
“Well...I began, swallowing the piece of chicken I had been chewing on, “There...isn’t really a lot to tell...I like to read and...I don't know... listen to music I guess”.
Despite my very lacking character introduction the three of them seem fascinated, “What kind of music?”, Draven asked.
“Um…”, I said, scratching my head, “A little of everything I guess?...I liked alternative rock and electrica”.
“I don't even remember what rock sounds like…”, Petra said, “Just that is really loud...”.
Draven nooded, “Yeah and with Bass guitars”.
“What about you guys?”, I asked them, hoping to move the conversation away from me.
“Nothing like that”, Draven said, shaking his head, “We only have old vinyl CDs with classical music…”.
I frowned, “But you can just search for music on Youtube? or...like any other music app”.
They both stared at me blankcly like I had same someting quite stupid, “We dont have access to the internet”, Calder finally suplied, “We dont have phone...or computers or anithing of the sort at all”.
This time it was my turn to stare at all of them blankly, “What?”, I finally blurted out, “You don't have internet?”.
“None at all”, Petra said, though she didn’t sound as cheerful, “I do remember it from when I was smaller but I hadn’t had access to it in years”.
“Why?”, I asked, beginning to realize that if they didn’t have access to it me neither and as somebody who had ground up with it I found that quite distressing.
“Because the Council decided so”, Calder snapped, making Petra gasp.
“Calder! don't talk about the council in that tone....they only have our best interest in mind”.
He only shook his head, “Yeah...whatever, sorry I guess”.
I could see a few uncertain looks directed towards Calder who ignored them and kept on eating like nothing had happened. I wasn’t sure what to make of the interaction, I felt something nagging me, like I was seeing only parts of a bigger picture here and again I was reminded of the stranger's warning.
“So um...after this what are we doing?”, I asked, hoping it would involve going back to the dorms and me going to sleep.
“Training”, Draven and Petra said at the same time.
“Uh...like fighting training?”, I asked, dreading the answer, I really wasn’t feeling like getting thrown and slamed around today.
“In a sense...we mostly practice using our abilities”, Hela said softly from beside me, hallway through crunching her way through an entire chicken, bones and all, the sound was quite perturbing.
“Oh...I see”, I said, swallowing nervously, both at Hela and at having to actually have to fight with my abilities...especially since I, for once, still felt drained, and two I had no natural defense abilities, I really didn’t want to see how I would fare against any of them.
Feya seemed to read my thoughts and smirked at me like she could hardly wait for the chance to tear me apart...and suddenly I found myself very interested in the food, you know since this was probably going to be my last meal considering what was ahead.
“This is going to hurt isn’t it?”, I asked Petra, who was standing besides me, stretching like preparing for a raise.
“Hu?...yeah, probably, especially if you let Enya’s flames reach you…”, she grimaced, “Wouldn’t not recommend the experience”.
Oh that was great, I would totally do that except Enya seemed very much determined to kill me, glaring at me even from the very far away side of the arena.
I tried to come up with a game plan that wouldn't end up with me looking like the meat on a suburban dad barbeque... you know, burn to a crisp... but I had never seen Enya, or anybody for that matter in action, I wasn’t sure of what they were capable of and that left me completely in the dark.
Of Course I could have maybe seen something if I had been present in the first part of practice that apparently had been individual one on one matches, but the coach, as the others referred to him, a tall tan skin muscular man with golden eyes and markings that spread from his neck and into this shoulder, had taken one look at me and send me to sleep in the infirmary, telling me to join practice in the second half.
Honestly, as much as I wanted to avoid dying by recopilign as much information as possible on the others, I really couldn't argue with his reasoning. I would be in a lot better shape to participate later on if I took a nap.
Dc. Grace candies had also helped, I had to thank her later for them, whatever they truly were, however I fear they had worked a little too well since the coach had deemed me in shape to fight and so I now found myself facing death that came in the shade of two red eyes.
The training area was ginormous, bigger than a football field with a solid white floor that was probably made of some very tough material for us to fight in it.
We were divided evenly in groups of three. I ended up with Draven and Petra, that was good since out of everybody I got the best along with them but on the other hand that left me against the two people who seem determined to bite my head off first thing they got a chance.
Calder stood beside Enya on the opposite side of the arena, her almost half a foot taller than him. If that wasn’t enough Hela was on their team as well, not that she had been rude to me or anything she just gave me the creeps.
All of us were wearing the training uniform, a simple t-shirt and shorts that look like every high school gym uniform in America except, ofcourse, we all used one in the color of our clan, because why couldn't we just dress normally?”.
“Everybody ready?”Coache’s voiced called over the loudspeaker.
I felt myself getting panicked, nobody had told me what we were supposed to be doing, for all I knew we were about to play the world's most brutal match of dodgeball.
“Wait Coach!”, Petra said, putting her hand up, “Asher doesn’t know the rules”.
Even from the other side of the gym I could hear Enya scoffed like it was truly a great offence on my part. What did I even do to deserve her hate? Exist?
“Ah of course ofcourse of course”, he said, “Getting ahead of myself here, the game is very simple Asher, right now you are standing on the opposite team's side, you are team north, they are team south, what you have to do to win the game is get the three spheres that will appear at the center of the room to your side but be carefull, the other team can also steal them even if they are on your side and vise versa, the game ends when one team wins, all powers and abilities are aloud but trying to activate kill another player will be punished understood?”.
That was a hell of a lot of information to process but I still noded, “Yes coach”.
“Good”, he said, “I'll give all of you three extra minutes to discuss strategy with your teams, normally I don't do this but since we have a new member let's cut him some slack”.
“All right”, Draven whispered, probably trying to stop the other team from overhearing, which was quite the challenge with our senses, “There's three of us so we should play spear, shield, runner”.
I looked at him blankly like, that cleared up nothing, if anything I was more confused.
“Okay... “, he began, “Basically all of us have different abilities right? Just like weapons, we are all deatly, but only if we are used correctly, a throwing knife can’t do the job of a sledge hammer and vice versa, so in order to win we have to each fulfill our role”.
He pointed at Petra, “She will be our shield, her attacks aren’t fast but they are hella unbreakable”, he pointed at himself now, “I'll be the spear, my attack aren't as solid, but they are fast and precise and as for you....the best suited position for you is the runner, its a roll normally almost exclusively filled by healers since they don't have any direct attack powers, but they are fast and have the greatest resistance out of all the dragons”.
“Makes sense”, I admitted, Petra would provide protection, Draven would attack them from afar and I was safe to assume my job was grabbing the orbs and making a run for it.
“What about them?”, I hissed, gesturing to the other side of the arena, “What strategy do you think they will use?”.
He scratched his head, “Hard to say, for once Calder will probably be their shield, but the thing is that both Enya and Hela are dual fighters, they can be spears, but also swords, they only get deadlier the closer you get...Enya will burn you alive and all it takes is one touch from Hela and she will take your skeleton out for a walk”.
Yeah...I wasn’t sure which of those two sounded like the lesser of evils, “Oh don't forget about Calder”, Petra jumped in, “If he touches you for long enough he can take control of your blood and he’ll just…”, she made a exploding motion, “Give the floor a new coat of paint so to speak”.
Hearing both of them made me seriously question what life choices had exactly led me to this point where I was considering which was worse between getting cooked alive, my bones being forcefully extracted from my body or being forced into a very drastic blood donation.
“But don't worry”, Petra said, patting me on the shoulder, “We aren’t weak”, she smiled almost manically, rubbing her hands in anticipation “We will give them a hell of a run for their money”.
Her words didn’t bring me much confort, sure, she and Draven were strong, they could defend themselves, me on the other hand?...I didn’t need anybody to tell me that I was the weak link of this group, I wasn’t a spear or a shield, not even a knife, I was just the dude who ran because he could do nothing else.
“Time is up kidoes”, Coaches voice announced, “Start!”.
In the center of the room the floor opened up, much like it had back in the council room , and three glass spheres the size of softballs appeared, hovering mid air.
Everybody moved so fast I hardly had the time to process exactly what was happening, Petra’s marking began glowing emerald green and the ground around her began to crack with green energy, tendrils spreading all through the floor.
“Lets go”, Draven shouted, already running towards the center of the room with Petra in tow.
Concentrated, I told myself, gritting my teeth and activating my ability as I ran behind them the earth cracking with glowing green fissures that spread out with every step Petra took. I soon found out what exactly she was doing.
Something whistled through the air, I felt it coming more than I saw it, “Watch out!”, I shouted, intinticly duking to avoied the white bone shards, something that proved unnecessary as the floor simply seemed to mold to Petra’s will, a wall forming in front of us and stopping the atack.
“Nice reflexes”, she complimented as Dravens marking began glowing pitch black, around him the very air seemed to darken until he was completely enveloped in shadows, his feature no longer discernible.
“We have to keep going”, he said from sowere inside the wall of darkness. “The ones who get there first will dominate the field”.
If I had thought things were bad enough as they were, I wasn’t prepared for what happened the moment we got within twenty five meters of the balls, it seemed like all of hell broke loose around me, quite literally.
The word exploded with heat, blood red flames raorign all around us as melting the floor, the air taking on a red tint.
Besides me I could hear Draven cursing, through the fog of heat we could see Calder running right for the spheres, his body steaming as he appeared seemingly unbothered by heat around him.
Draven pushed me, “Run!”, he said, “Well covered you”.
For a second I was uncertain of what to do, for once I didn’t want to get close to Calder, or Enya and Hela who were covering him, Hela conjuring bone spikes and hurling it at us while Fenya was increasing the heat by the second.
“Trust us”, Petra said gently, “We got you”.
I looked wildly between Petra, who was bussy intercepting Helas attacks, and Draven who was still clad in shadow that seem to be expanding by the second, out of everybody both of them had been the kindest to me and now they were trusting me with a roll only I could fulfill.
“All right”, I shouted, moving away from Petra's shield and running into open ground, the soles of my bare feet practically melting against the scorching ground taking damage and healing with every step as I ran like crazy towards the spheres, hoping to get there before Calder.
All around me shaddows were spreading, and from them something that looked like black feathers moved through the air so fast it was hard to track as they made a b-like for Calder and his team.
A wall of ice formed in front of them, the black feather bouncing against it and falling harmesly to the ground. At least it had bought me some more time.
I was faster than Calder, my healing enhancing my physical abilities and between him having to block Dravens attack and that, I got to the sheres before him, by this point almost my entire skin was glowing as it burned and healed continuously.
I felt something coming from above me the same moment Petra screamed, “Asher watch out!”, as a giant bone monster jumped from attop Calder’s ice and right on top of me, tackling me to the scorching ground.
The thing was heavy and its claws dug into me like razor blades, the sphere falling out of my hand as I desperately tried to get rid of the monsters as another, smaller creature, grabbed the spheres and took off running towards the other team's side.
Desperately I tried to punch the thing, tear it para but it was of little use, the bones mending themselves as fast as my own healing was fixing the damage caused by it.
Just when I was ready to give up the thing suddenly shattered, tick emeralds vines piercing it and tearing it apart, the bones trying to mend themselves but unable to break through the hard green material.
“Run Asher come on!”Petra shouted, pointing towards the smaller bone thing that had the spheres rattling in its rib cage as it ran towards the other team's side, if it got there we would lose.
Drave shadows had spread even more and now I wasn’t sure of where he was, but that was probably the idea as he was currently engaging Hela whos markings shone white as she as she created bone spikes and lances out of her body as well as animallike bone monster that Draven was slicing up with blades of shadows, shooting those weird feeders I had seen before at Hela every time he got the chance.
Petra was holding back Calder molding the ground to make it difficult for him to advance, trapping and burying him, each time he managed to get free using either ice or water but it looked like it was taking him longer each time.
My friends were counting on me. All I had to do was grab the damn spheres and do the one thing I was good for, run.
With a final burst of power I caught up to the bone monster, this one around the size of a german shepherd but looking a lot meaner as it turn around to face me leaving in full display it mouth full of needle like teeth, I really didn’t want to get my hand stuck in that.
Before I could attack it, it jumped, jaws wide open ready to take a slice out of my throat with surprising speed, damn Hela really was trying to kill me here. Without thinking I ducked, my reflexes kicking in as I shoved my hand through the thick rib cage, the spheres bouncing to the ground.
Before it could grape them again I began tearing it apart as fast as I could throwing its pieces far apart, even if it tried to reform it would likely take it while, hopefully Hela was too distracted dealing with Draven to re-assemble her little monster.
For once the universe seem to smile upon me as I suddenly heard a cry of pain and Hela fell to her knees clutching her arm were a black feather was encrusted deep in her flesh, dark blood seeping from the wound as black veins spread from it with alarming speed, her markings began to dull till they stopped shining all together and she fell back, unconscious.
The Black dragons, controllers of poison, the words came back to me from what the woman had explained to me in the council room, it seemed Draven had finally managed to hit her and I made a mental note to stay on Draven's good side because that looked like it sucked.
Calder was now definitely losing steam; it took him longer and longer to pull himself out of Petras traps, unfortunately she didn’t look all that good either, if neither of them manage to win this soon it would end up in a stalemate.
With newfound urgency I gathered the sphere in my arms and took off running towards our teams side, the same ground full of green crack that swallowed Calder with every step, allowed me to run freely towards my destiny, if I could just make it there...if-
For a second the world went red and then I felt a searing pain in my leg making me fall off the ground face first, it took me a second to figure out what had happened, Enya, I had forgotten about Enya, dammet, she must have been hiding, waiting to strike.
There was a hole the size of a fisth in my leg, the flesh charred and blackened, giving off and awful smell of burn meat, despite the goriness of the wound I couldn't feel any pain, the nerves had been burn clean away, this was going got take longer to heal than the other injuries I had gotten so far.
“Thought you were going somewhere?”Enya asked mokinly, walking towards me casually, like we weren’t in the middle of a violent fight. I half hoped Petra would do something about her, but it was clear that if she took her eyes away from Calder for even a second she would be the one in need of rescue.
Where was Draven? I looked around, suddenly noticing I couldn't see his shadows animore, “Looking for Draven?”, Enya asked, standing a few feet away from me, her marking glowing, red energy surrounding her as heat emanated from her like a furnace.
My silence must have been enough of an answer because her face twisted itself into a wicked grin, “I put him to sleep”, she said, “Just like I'm about to do to you”.
Before I could reach she had brought her heel down and right into my unprotected face, my hand still clutching the spheres. I felt my skull crack along with every bone in my face. I would find it rather surprising if my head still resembled something close to a human.
I screamed in pain, blinded for several seconds as my eyes healed from the bits of bone that had gotten stuck into them, blood pouring down from what remained of my nose as I attempted not to swallow my own broken teeth.
“Hu?”, she said, sounding rather confused as she peered down at me, “I thought that would take you down for sure...well...I should have known better since you are a healer…”, she said, practically spitting out the last part as she kicked me again, but this time on the abdomen, knocking the air out me preventing me from screaming as I felt my insides being turn to smoothy.
“I would love to stay and finish the job properly”, she said, grabbing the spheres right out of hands, I was too pained to even try and stop her, “But honestly I would be a waste of my time…”.
In between the haze of pain I saw her begin running towards her team's side complealty unchalenge, Petra was busy with Calder, Draven was knocked out and me...well I was healing, but not nearly fast enough she would get there long before I could even moved again dammit just... damn it all.
I would have punched the floor in frustrations but I could hardly move, I really was useless we were going to lose and I was going to be my fault, Draven took care of his opponent, Petra hadn't so far quite manage to knock out Calder but he also couldn’t come at me, it only I had compat abilities I could have stood a chance again Enya but as thing were I coudl had harldy done anithing to prevnt this outcome...usless, I was truly usless...I coudn’t even win a stupid game and yet expected to recuse my father were I would have to fight real oponets...face death.
As I closed my eyes, hating myself more than anything in this word I began to hear strange noises that soon transformed into whispers, the same ones I had heard in the counseling room but this one not nearly as overwhelming or demanding.
“You can do it”, they whispered in many different voices, the sound so clear and yet so undesirable I was sure I was hallucinating the entire thing, I had quite the history doing just that, “Heale your leg”, they suggested. “Her energy is yours”, others added, this part was the loudest.
In any other circumstances I would have just stayed put and mentally prepared what exactly I would tell the psychologist after this, could dragons take schizophrenia medication? I sure hope they could because I need it. On the other hand, so far all of my illusions have helped me somehow, maybe obeying my friendly neighborhood disembodied voices could actually be a good idea.
I had never tried to focus my healing on just one part of my body, but the voices were very loudly suggesting it so I may as well give it a try. I concentrated with everything I had, slowly focusing the energy from my organs and face and into the hole in my leg.
The healing speed up to more than triple wha it had been and kept on acceleration as I found that by concentrating I could adjust the flow of it, at the moment I was shoving everything I had at my ruined limp.
Before long, and after several agonising seconds, I ,shakily, I got to my feet, the wound on my leg was completely close, of course I still looked like a bloody pulp but I could move, run, and that was all that mattered.
I infused my entire body with energy as I ran after Enya who was dangerously close to reaching her team's side, the only thing that had prevented her from winning was Petra who had made a very valiant effort of slowing her down.
Faster than even I could believe, I caught up with her, tackling her to the ground before she could react, shoving her head deep into the floor, cracking it along with her skull.
I could feel her stiffened under my hands, but she didn’t cry out in pain, instead the glow around her body intensified, she was trying to cook me alive as I repeatedly smashed her head again the ground in a desperate attempt to knock her out, her skin felt like touching molten metal, the only thing preventing my hand from disintegrating was my healing.
“Her energy...take her energy”, The voices cried out as I began to see double because of the heat, “Energy!”.
I gritted my teeth as the heat became more and more unbearable and I began to weaken my hold on her becoming looser, soon she would be able to shove me off.
“Energy!”, the voices screamed in my ears, “Connect to her, take it is all yours!”.
“This better work because I have no idea what i'm doing”, I informed the voices in a choke whisper as I closed my eyes, trying to ignore the heat, concentrating on my hands that were touching her skin. At first I felt nothing, or nothing more than the agonizing pain of touching her, but I pushed through that dug deeper...and there it was, energy, like the one I had gotten so used to feeling inside of me.
Hers was strange, yet familiar and I grabbed it, as easily as if it had been my own. Instead of giving her my energy, as I would have done if I was healing her, I absorb hers, stealing it for myself.
She gasped, the heat beginning to dim and I took more and more, greedly absorbing everything in her, relinquishing the feeling as the stolen power coursed through me closing my remaining wounds.
The heat stopped all together and then her marking stopped shining as her struggle grew more and more feeble but I still kept going.
Her face weakly turned to look at me, blood pouring down the many wound I had given her when I smashed her face in to the floor, her eyes looked dazed, she was close to passing out, but she still manage to look at me with such hate, such venom, it was enough to snap me out of my dazed and I let got of her suddenly horrified at the thought I hadn’t been thinking of stopping till she was empty...I knew what that would have probably entail.
I felt like apologising, but that would have probably only worsened the situation so instead I took the spheres of her hands as gently posible, surenly not feeling as exited to have them or to win this stupid game at all, what I had been fozed into doign didn’t seem worth it.
A small cry made me look up and I turned to look towards Petra in time to witness the moment Calder threw an ice attack at her, this time she couldn't block it and she was hit, ending up frozen in a small glacias mid scream, could she survive that? it apeard so since the coach hand’t counted that as atemted murder.
“It's all you and me now Asher”, Calder said, slurring his words slightly, he looked like he could barely stand much less try and do anything to try and stop me.
“Look man”, I said, “Just give up...you don't look so good”. In any other circumstance I would have jumped at the chance to attack him in a weakened state, to get back at him for his rude attitude but I was still shaken from what I had done to Enya, I didn’t want to hurt anybody again like that.
“You're calling me weak?”he asked, glaring at me, the marking on his right arm and left leg still shining, showcasing his refusal to back down.
“No...no”, I began, trying a different approach “I'm sure you can knock me down...just not right now”.
“Don't patronize me”, he said, “If you think I'll allow you to win you are dead wrong”. His marking began to glow to the point of being blinding, his eyes shining with blue light that matched his heart that now pulsated with radiant turquoise light, this could’n be good.
Behind him a huge wave rose seemingly out of nowhere like the ocean had suddenly decided to move here and bring along the most massive tsunami I had ever seen with it.
It would have been quite the beautiful sight, a wave so big it reached the ceiling high above us, the water itself was so transparent it looks unreal with a deep turquoise color than that hints of purple and green within it, unfortunately for me I couldn't very well enjoy the sight since the wave was coming right for me.
Running was useless, how could you escape from a force of nature? Instead I clutched the shepherd as tightly as I could and took a deep breath second before millions of liters of water hit me, crushing every bone in my body as It flateneed me against the floor.
I cried out but the only thing I did was lose precious oxigen. Despite my mauled body I still tried to hold on to the spheres, if only I could somehow move, swim to our side...we could still win.
Using every bit of strength left in me I struggle making slow but painful processes in that world of blue, it was so beautiful yet so hellish.
Come on come on come on, I told myself, strugglin again the weight within me, Calder must have been making it so I couldn't see more than few feet ahead of me but I was still sure I was heading in the right direction I should be reaching the wall soon enough and then it would all be over.
“The game has concluded”, Coaches voices announced, a sound I could hear even from my position underwater, “The victory goes to team south”.
Calder had tricked me, that realisation hit me head on as the water finally let me go and I resurfaced realizing with disdain that I was right on the other team's side and with me the spheres, they had won.
I had thought I was making some progress while I was underwater but Calder had only allowed me to believe that, all the while he had been steering me along and right into the enemy's territory, he had used me little more than a bag to carry the spheres.
It had been ridiculous of me to even think I could beat him in his own territory, I now realized, much like Petra had done with the floor he had converted the entire arena into his playground, one I would have never hoped to beat. I would never say it aloud but I was jealous of Calder, of all of them...to be able to do something like this...so massive and destructive.
Weakly I climb one of the few areas that offer some solid ground, one Petra had created while in her fight with Calder.
Looking around I could vaguely see the glacier in wich Petra was traped, I wasn’t sure how anybody was getting her out of there but more worrisome I couldn't see Draven, Hela or Enya, all of them had been down when the placed flood they were helpless underwater at the moment.
Beside me a shaped rose from the deep and suddenly Calder was there, standing on the water, his heart still glowed but way weaker flickering like a dying lightbulb.
“Here”, he said in a strained voice as the unconscious form of everybody surfaced around him, the water gently placing them on the dry ground around me, “Help them”.
I looked at all of them, at their injuries, not sure I could heal even a scratch at the moment, “What about you?”, I feel compelled to ask, he was looking rader pale.
Even half dead he still managed to scoff at me as his marking and eyes went back to normal, “I don't need your help”, he rasped out as his nose began bleeding, “Water...is good”.
With that his eyes rolled to the back of his head and he sank to the bottom of the arena, the clarity of the water allowing me to see his unconscious form below.
“Well this was quite the mess”, a voice remarked from behind me and I turned to find Coaches approaching form as he rowed towards me in a wooden canoe without a care in the world like the arena getting flooded was quite the common uncurance.
“Do things usually end up like this?”, I asked him as he jumped to the already crowded island.
He grabbed his chin making an exaggerated gesture of thinking, “Hm....to some degree...but let me tell you, today was the most damage I have ever seen...your presence has quite the effect on them Asher ''.
Somehow I felt like there was a hidden meaning behind his words, he wasn’t just saying that to compliment me or something to that extent, but before I could ask him what exactly he meant by that he began speaking again.
“So what exactly are you doing there sitting down doing nothing?”, he asked, kneeling by Enya, “Us healers have a heavy burden to carry, sometimes we are needed to fight but also heal, our job isn’t done till every dragon is out of death's doors”.
It didn’t scaped me that the had said, “us healer”, meaning he was also a golden dragon, or a halftly at least, confirming the theory I had formulated the moment I saw his golden eyes, the ones I was supposed to have...and that one day I would.
“I…Am not sure I can”, I admitted, looking down at my markings that were still glowing, I was too scared to turn them off knowing just how dead tired I would be.
“Asher listen to me”, he said his eyes piercing into me, “My job is too train you, make you the best fighter you can possibly be but I you will need to push your limits and do as I say, it will not be pleasant and more often than not you will hate my guts...but it will be worth it, are we clear?”.
I swallow, suddenly ashamed of my own weakness, of my own fear of pain, “Yes coach who should I start with?”. He gave me an approving nod clearly pleased with my new found resolve, “First lesson of being a healer, judging who is in worse state, sometimes somebody will looked like they got mauled by a whole gang of grizzly bears but still their wounds will merely be superficial while somebody else will looked to have only a scratch and be severely poison, your job as a healer it to tell them apart”.
“Um...how?”, I dared to ask.
He pointed to his eyes, “Use this...think of it like this Asher, we are call healers, but in truth that is not what we are, just like all the other dragons we are manipulators of soul energy we just deal with the must raw version of the stuff, energy that is not affiliated to any element, like O negative blood in humans, an universal donor, and just like other dragon you can perceive your element in ways no other can, just focused on seeing what lies beneath the surface”.
I wasn’t sure of how exactly I would accomplish that, I felt like it would be easier to just touch them and feel their energy under my skin but I was still terrified of what had happened with Enya, how close I had come to killing her, how I almost hadn’t been able to control myself…
Desperately I tried to shove those thoughts aside concentrating on the job at hand, I could chastise myself about that later.
After a while of just staring blankly, probably looking at them like I was trying to mentally kill them, and nothing happening I decided to try a different approach, concentrating all the flow of energy into my eyes.
Like looking through colored glass, the word took on a yellow tint and slowly I began to see what Coach had meant. Inside each of them there was energy, it started in their heart, which color matched their affinity, and then flowed through veins that followed the path of their markings like a second circulatory system.
“Look at their heart”, Coach instructed, “See how in its very center there is a nucleus?”.
I frowned but focused more until I could finally see it, like those pictures of the earth's layers, there was a nucleus, one that was a different color than the light around it. It shone yellow.
“I see it”, I said with newfound fascination, to think we all started off with the same energy, but their bodies just converted theirs while mine didn't.
“Good”, coach said, “Now look at their bodies and their wounds, tell me who is most in need of attention?”.
This was trickier, for once I had no idea what I was looking for, when I looked at Drave I found his energy was congregated around his skull, Enya had probably knocked him out the same way she had tried with me. He also had several burns all through his body but his energy wasn’t as concentrated in these ones so I assumed they weren’t as severe.
On Hela,on the other hand, I could see a black energy that wasn’t her own engaged in a fight with the white light that flowed through her markings. Her body was fighting the poison, slowly but surely it was pushing it back and out.
Petra was just exhausted, apart from a few scratches here and there, she was mostly in one piece, her energy on the other hand...it was dimn, slow to flow, her heart didn’t shine as bright
Lastly there came Enya, I barely could bring myself to look at her, to see just how painfully dull her heart was, what little energy flowed through her
“Her”, I said, pointing at Enya, “She should be the priority”.
The man shook his head, making a small clicking sound with his tongue at me, “No, try again”.
I raised an eyebrow at him, “Hu?...but she...you know her energy is really low…”.
He looked at me for a few seconds before sighting, “Ah... I see what's going on in here you are feeling guilty about that aren’t you?”.
“No...not really”, I said, trying to deny it, “I just…her energy is low”.
“Tell me, is this the first time you abosover energy?”.
I swallowed nervously, “Yes…I..just...I didn’t know I could do that”.
He shook his head muttering something to himself, “I see...well as I told you we aren’t really healers, we deal with energy, soul energy to be precise, which mean we can not only donate energy to help heal somebody, but we can also do the opposite, absorb and convert it to its raw form for our own usage...I bet everybody has told you Golden dragons are defendles but that is far from the truth”.
Suddenly it all made sense, how I had felt an unfamiliar energy inside of her, how I had grasped and absorb it into myself, my only question was why nobody had thought to tell me this before hand, maybe then I could have had an idea of what I was doing...prevent myself from going crazy when I felt the rush of power.
“Your ability to manipulate energy is remarkable”, the man added, “Normally it takes years of training to even feel the energy inside another dragon, much less grasp and transform it like you did”.
I didn’t know whether that was good or bad, considering how things had almost turned out I would incline towards the latter.
“Don't worry, I'll arrange for you to have extra lessons, I'll help you to get your abilities under control so don't fret about that”, he signaled again to unconscious forms around us, “Now again, I pose the question who needs help the most?”.
Considering he had disagreed with me when I suggested Enya it meant neither she nor Petra were in direct danguer from low levels of soul energy, maybe they just need to sleep it off, that left Draven and Hela the choice wasn’t hard to make.
“Hela”, I said, now sounding shure of myself, despite her body fighting the poison it was still an arduous batle, she only had marking on one arm meaning she probably had less soul energy available.
Coach nodded approvingly so I went on, “Then Draven, but only his head injury, and then...help Enya a little...and Petra’s case isn’t as serious, maybe only enough energy to wake her up”.
“You are catching on fast kid”, he said, “Second rule of being a healer is never give out more energy than needed, dragons heal fast, they can fix themselves, you are just here to push them along a little...we aren’t fuel tanks people can just use whenever they get a scratch”.
He got up, jumping back onto the canoe with practice ease, “Normally I let everybody to find their way out of their own messes in this kind of situations...but this is your first day and you're last person conscious...so I'll make and exception, I'll wait for your but not for long so get to work”.
The prospect of having to force myself out of the flooded arena was enough to launch me into action, “Yes coach”.