Monday, January 31, 2011

Part 57 by Taylor

"That was too close," Kyrian shook her head as they landed at the camp. "Yes, we must be more careful," Mintara glared at Laurel. The elf just ignored her. "Zarin is two days away. We will leave first thing tomorrow," Mintara pronounced, dismounting Cerelda. "Why not tonight?" Laurel's clear voice challenged. "Because I said so," Mintara said, turning to face the girl. "Why are you in charge? I'm the Dragon Rider, I should be making the decisions!"
"That would be wonderful, except so far on this trip, you've proved to be impetuous, foolhardy, emotional, and stupid!" Mintara snapped back. Kyrian, standing by Cerelda, felt the young dragon's anger grow. Kyrian shrank back; she hated arguments. "Says you!" Laurel yelled, her cheeks pink. "You would risk the whole army for that stupid unicorn of yours!"
"Quiet!" Mintara shouted. Laurel took a step back. Cerelda came up behind her and growled at Mintara. The wizard paid no attention, and got up in Laurel's face. "You would be dead without Emerion and me," she said in a forceful whisper. "If not for us, you would have been killed long ago by your rashness! And," Mintara gritted, stepping even closer. "Without that 'dumb unicorn', we cannot hope to win this battle." With that, she stepped back. "You have no room to talk. The rescue mission for Emerion was necessary. The rescue mission for that boy," Mintara spat out the word, referring to Landlion. "was completely stupid and foolish! It was because of your emotions. You are fit to lead no army."

The two powerful persons stood facing at each other, each of their eyes bright with anger. Without another word, Mintara turned on her heel and stalked away. Laurel was so mad, she could only sputter. "Can you believe that?" she finally yelled, turning to Kyrian. "Well," Kyrian said cautiously before answering. She didn't want to appear to take sides with either one. Laurel and Cerelda were definitely the more formidable foe at this point, but when Mintara recovered her necklace......
"I do think that Mintara is out of line," Kyrian said carefully. Laurel began looking a trifle smug. "But," Kyrian interjected. "She does have a point. If you want to lead, you need to take it seriously and prove that you can and will lead this army!" Laurel's face fell. "Now Laurel, don't be upset," Kyrian began. Laurel's answer was to turn and storm to her tent. Kyrian sighed. "At least I have you, Cerelda," she said. But when she turned to give the dragon a little smile, she discovered that the creature had left with Laurel.

"Of all the stupid things!" Laurel stormed once in her tent. "I am perfectly capable of leading this army! But how will I show them?"
She sank down on her bed, chin in her hand. An idea began to form. "If I captured Stepheneis," she whispered. The more she thought about it, the more she liked it. "I'll show them all!" she said, with determination. She peeked outside her tent flap. The night was still young. She would be back by morning. She quickly dressed, pulling on a leather vest, arm-guards, a pleated leather skirt, and shin-guards. Pulling on her leather gloves, she quickly slipped out. Cerelda always wore her saddle now, something that Laurel was thankful for now.
"Cerelda, wake up," Laurel thought to her young dragon, not wanting to risk waking anyone.
"I am awake," Cerelda thought back. "What's going on? Where are we going?"
"I'll tell you in a little bit," Laurel answered vaguely. Cerelda asked no more questions, and allowed Laurel to mount.

"Laurel?" a voice drifted through the trees. "Oh no," Laurel whispered. She flattened herself on Cerelda's back as the dragon hunkered down. She squinted through the leaves, trying to see who was coming. It was Kyrian! "Laurel, is that you? What are you doing on Cerelda?" Kyrian was coming dangerously close. Laurel gave up all shadow of cover, and with a thought to Cerelda, they shot up through the trees.

Kyrian was taken aback by the force of wind that blasted her. Peering up, she saw through the leaves, Cerelda's dark shape winging north. She had no idea what Laurel planned to do, but she knew that she had to tell Mintara as soon as possible.

Laurel knew that she no longer had the aid of secrecy, and that she would have to hurry before Kyrian and the others came after her. She guided Cerelda over the miles, until she reached the city of Lylle. A nagging doubt was beginning to tug at her, but she resolutely pushed it away. "After all, I'm the Dragon Rider!" she reasoned. "I can do anything that they can do!"

Just then, Lylle came into view. Cerelda abruptly dropped in altitude and landed on a small knoll. "Cerelda, what are you doing?" Laurel questioned. "I need to ask you something," Cerelda answered. "What's your plan?"
"Well, I just thought that you'd fly me over and drop me on top of Stephenies' palace. You know, like that attack to free Landlion."
"But we've already done that. They'll suspect-"
"Cerelda, I am the Dragon Rider! I will decide what's to be done!"
"But-"
"Stop!" Laurel commanded, hoisting herself back up on Cerelda's back. Cerelda had no choice but to obey her.

In his palace, Stepheneis woke with a start. He felt warm. Too warm. He threw back the covers. It didn't help. He stood up, but only felt warmer. The heat grew unbearable. Sweat poured from his body. Stepheneis ran and threw open the window. He couldn't see anything in his room, but he could feel a definite presence. He leaned out the window, and, not seeing anything, turned back. And came face-to-face with Melkor. "My liege," Stepheneis immediately knelt. "The Dragon Rider approaches," Melkor said without preamble, stepping past Stepheneis and looking out the window. Melkor's head barely cleared the ceiling. Stepheneis mind raced. "What would you have me do?" he asked.

"This is going to work!" Laurel exclaimed as she and Cerelda neared the city. Cerelda didn't comment. Laurel leaned back; soon, Cerelda would see that Laurel knew what she was doing. The wind picked up, whipping Laurel's hair around her head. Cerelda's wings dipped and shuddered a little in the wind, then she regained her balance. Laurel was confused; it seemed as though the wind was coming from up above her.

Suddenly, a huge hand clamped onto her, covering her whole back and shoulders. Laurel screamed, and Cerelda dipped, thrown off by the sudden weight of the creature bearing down on her rider. Laurel pried at the hand, trying to get it off of her. A sharp object poked into her back. Laurel suddenly realized that it was a claw, not a hand! She craned her neck around to see a massive dark shape above her, expansive wings bearing down. Radlin, Cerelda grunted as she tried to fight it. The evil dragon was steadily forcing them down, closer to earth. Laurel felt crushed in its talons; it seemed to be pressing the air from her lungs. Laurel's world started to turn black. Just then, she felt her and Cerelda falling. Cerelda had become so exhausted with fighting the larger dragon that her wings had just given out. Now, they plummeted towards the ground at a terrifying speed. Laurel felt herself lifting out of the saddle as Radlin spread his wings. She saw Cerelda continue to fall, thrashing about when she felt Laurel's weight lifted.

Cerelda hit the ground with a terrible impact, sliding, rolling, skidding along, her wings trying to slow her down as she plowed into the earth. She finally came to a halt in a heap. Radlin followed more slowly, still clutching Laurel, who felt Cerelda's pain. Cerelda, are you okay? There was no answer. Radlin hovered about seven feet above the ground, then dropped Laurel. With a small cry, she fell and landed hard, her legs giving way. Immediately, two men came up from behind and clamped shackles on her wrists and ankles. One pulled out a knife and held it to her throat, grabbing a fistful of her hair to hold her head still.

Meanwhile, Cerelda untangled herself and stood up, shaking her head. She immediately spotted Laurel in the clutches of the man. Growling low in her throat, she stalked towards them. The man grazed Laurel's throat with the weapon and she let out a small gasp. Cerelda immediately halted. "Well well, we now find ourselves in a predicament," a sinister male voice came from a cave. Stepheneis stepped out, glowering at the elf. "I have no time to waste, so let's get on with it."
"With what?" Laurel asked.
"Well, we seem to have no success with killing you, so I'm going to try a different angle, one that will work tremendously in our benefit." The evil man clapped his hands, and a wizened old man exited the cave. He threw back his hood and Laurel gasped at the tattoo on his forehead. "A marse?" she shrieked, trying to back away. Stepheneis grinned. He nodded at the man. "Proceed." The old man smiled and walked toward Laurel, who screamed and struggled. Cerelda stood, watching in anger and helplessness. The man pulled out a little sack, and took a pinch of powder from it. He unceremoniously threw it up into her face. Laurel continued to try to fight, then slowly, went limp. The men picked her up, still shackled, and hustled her into the cave. "Chain it up," Stepheneis nodded at Cerelda.

The young dragon knew better than to struggle; Laurel's fate was at hand. So, she let the men snap huge chains around her slender forelegs, and also around her hind legs. One tossed a chain up and looped it around her nose, pulling her head down, and fastened a iron muzzle on her face. Last of all, they snapped a chain to the bottom of the muzzle and secured it to the chains stretching between her legs, bending her head in an awkward position to where her nose was almost touching her claws. They grabbed the ends of the chains and pulled her over onto her side. Cerelda let out a slow rush of air in what sounded like a mournful sigh as they fastened her wings and looped chain after chain about her.
                                                                                     ~

"But how are we going to find her?" Kyrian asked as she half walked, half ran to keep up with Mintara's pace. "I don't know!" Mintara snapped. "Maybe next time, we should just shoot her out of the sky," Tomas suggested. "Or lock her up in her tent," Landlion grunted, struggling to keep up with his cumbersome crutches. "Or possibly keep her on a leash," Goricnal laughed, a gravelly sound. Tomas elbowed Goricnal and they both laughed. "Boys," Kyrian muttered. Could they not take anything seriously?

Mintara reached the horses and whistled for Emerion. She whirled around to face them. "Since we have no idea where she's gone to or what her motives may be, we will just have to look everywhere," she pronounced. The company's shoulders sagged noticeably. "It's risky, but without Laurel, or more accurately, without her dragon, we cannot hope to win this war, so it's a risk we have to take. I will take Emerion, although in this darkness, he'll stand out like a sore thumb. You all will ride out and try to locate her. Tomas, you ride west. Landlion and Goricnal, east. Kyrian, south; and I will ride north. Any questions?" When no one raised their hands, she crisply turned and mounted Emerion. The beautiful unicorn spread his slender wings and flew off. "Well, let's go," Tomas said, mountin Adan and turning west. Landlion resented having to have someone along in case he couldn't manage with his leg or something, but he knew that it was necessary. He and Goricnal quickly rode off. Kyrian jumped onto Rhovanion, patted the mare's neck, then galloped south. "Laurel, where are you?" she whispered.

Laurel was still in the cave, lying on a stone table. She was still unconscious, but the man had her strapped down anyway. "You had better be careful," Stepheneis growled. The man gave him a toothless grin. "Do not worry, I am the best of my trade. All will go well." He bent over Laurel's motionless head. Grabbing her jaw, he forced her mouth open. Reaching into his pocket, he brought out a small vial. "What's that?" Stepheneis asked nervously. "This is the memory blocker itself," the man said proudly. He carefully tipped it over her mouth, skillfully pouring out a drop. He closed her mouth and massaged her throat until he was sure that she had swallowed it. Stepheneis paced back and forth nervously. "Now, what is that stuff supposed to do again?" he asked. The man sighed. "This will block the Rider's memories."
"All of them?" Stepheneis asked in alarm.
"No, no. She will remember non-personal things, like how to walk, and talk, and stuff like that. But she won't recognize anyone or remember how she got here or who she is. She will be in the perfect condition for us to implant new thoughts, new ideas. And then, we will have ourselves a Dragon Rider to help us defeat the rebels!"
Just then, Laurel began to stir. The man quickly leaned over her. Laurel's eyes blinked open. "Who are you?" she asked. "I am Buril," the man said gently. Laurel sat up slowly. "I don't remember you," she said slowly. Buril smiled patiently. "You were hit on the head by the rebels while you were out on your dragon."
"My dragon?" A light dawned in her eyes. "Cerelda?" she questioned. "Yes! Your memory is returning. She was injured; our men are taking care of her now."
"Why was I out riding her?" Laurel asked.
"You were out scouting for enemy spies," Buril said.
"Oh. Who's the enemy?"
Buril and Stepheneis settled down to 'explain' it all to her.

                                                                                    ~

Kyrian was growing discouraged; there was no sign of Laurel. She doubted she could find anyone in these wood anyway. She glanced up at the lightening sky. She needed to be back by dawn. With a sigh, she turned Rhovanion around and rode back to the army.

Tomas topped a ridge and scanned the valley. Nothing. He let out a frustrated sigh. Pale streaks of color streamed across the sky from the horizon. Reluctantly, he took one last look, then turned Adan around and galloped back to camp.

Emerion softly whoofed as Mintara tried yet another angle. His delicate wings were beginning to tire. He and Mintara had scoured the fields for hours, and had come up with nothing. The sky near the horizon was turning a light blue. Mintara heard his protest and sighed. "You're right, we should be heading back." Emerion turned his silver horn back from whence they had come.

Cerelda rejoiced inwardly when she saw Laurel striding out of the cave. But her heart sank when she saw that Laurel was flanked by Buril and Stepheneis. She tried to connect with Laurel's mind, but found it blocked. "Oh, she's lovely," Laurel stated, looking Cerelda over. "A bit small though," she said critically.
"Well dragon, I've been told that you've been acting traitorous," Laurel said sternly. "Talk to it's mind, Dragon Rider," Buril encouraged. Cerelda felt Laurel's shields lift. Laurel! Are you all right?
Yes, I am fine. Now, are you indeed sympathetic to the rebel's plight?
Cerelda was shocked. Laurel, what have they done to you?
Just answer the question!
Yes, I am a part of the rebel army, Cerelda answered truthfully. Laurel abruptly withdrew, drawing her mind closed from Cerelda. "She has been poisoned against us!" she announced to the others. They shook their heads in mock sorrow. "Go ahead then," Laurel nodded to Buril. She stepped back and gazed at Cerelda sadly. Cerelda thrashed about against her chains as Buril approached. He took out another pouch, this one a deep green. Grabbing a small handful, he threw it into the dragon's face. Slowly, Cerelda stopped struggling. "What exactly does this powder do?" Laurel asked, folding her arms. "It causes the dragon to become like every other dumb beast," Buril explained. "Now, she will listen to your every order, like a horse."
"Good," Laurel nodded. "Now, I think I shall try to find a few rebel spies." She ordered for Cerelda to be unchained, except for the one around her neck. The men brought a large black saddle, and a strange bridle. "A dragon, with a bridle?" Laurel asked skeptically as the men fastened the equipment to her dragon. "Do not worry, with this bridle, you will be able to easily control her. The bit is wide, and sharp, so if she tries to disobey, then a sharp jerk, like this," the man demonstrated with a heavy yank of the reins. Cerelda tossed her head up in pain. "Well, very good then." With that, Laurel mounted, and with a kick, sent Cerelda winging off into the sky.

"I don't see her," Goricnal grumbled as he and Landlion emerged from a swamp. Landlion didn't answer. Truthfully, he was growing quite tired of the dwarf's pessimistic attitude. A ray of light struck his face, and he turned and saw a tiny rim of light rising above the line of earth. "We should be heading back," Goricnal stated Landlion's unspoken thoughts. "Yes, you're right," Landlion said, shoulders drooping. He scoured the land one more time, absently rubbing his injured leg. A shadow suddenly fell over them. They heard a rush of wings. They whirled around. "Laurel!" Landlion exclaimed. She didn't answer as she dismounted. "Where did you get that new tack?" Goricnal asked. "Hey Cerelda," Landlion said. He did a double take. The dragon's eyes were not shining with intelligence as usual. In fact, they looked dark and innocent. Just like his horse. "Laurel, what's wrong with Cerelda?" Landlion asked. She didn't answer. She suddenly unsheathed her sword and swung at him. Landlion jumped out of the way, but his injured leg caused him to fall. "Laurel, what's wrong with you?" Goricnal yelled. She didn't answer, but turned away from the prostrate elf and instead, went after Goricnal.

Kyrian abruptly reined Rhovanion down a different path of the forest. She didn't know why, but she suddenly felt distress pulling her there.

Emerion suddenly swerved to the right. Mintara didn't ask what he was doing. "I sense it too," she murmured.

Tomas urged Adan into a gallop. He didn't know where he was going or why, but he knew that he had to get there, and fast!

Landlion rolled away from where Laurel and Goricnal were fighting. He knew that Goricnal couldn't hold off Laurel for long. Even when Landlion had had the use of his leg, Laurel had been a formidable foe. He couldn't possibly take her on now.

Just then, Tomas burst into the clearing. Kyrian galloped up from the other side. Mintara and Emerion lowered down through the tree tops. Landlion breathed a sigh of relief. "Hey!" Mintara yelled at Laurel. The elf whirled around, and without preamble, charged for the wizard. At least, everyone thought she was going for Mintara. At the last instant, Laurel swerved, and instead, jumped up onto Cerelda's back. With a sharp kick and a tug on the reins, she shot off into the sky. "What was that all about?" Kyrian asked in bewilderment. No one had any answers.

1 comment:

Tessa Brooke said...

Oh my goodness! That is riviting! Amazing Taylor, as usual. Well, I'm kind of at school right now so I'm gonna go. Love it!