When Vixia went and talked to Nesryn, she requested that we take a weekend to go home and decompress since we had been at the guildhall without a break for about a month. Nesryn begrudgingly agreed and I was incredibly thankful to leave the guild for a bit. That became increasingly clear to me as we approached the front door of our home and I could feel my shoulders relax.
How long have I been this tense?
Unable to find an answer, I looked to the garden. All of the plants there had dried up, withered, and died. Vixia, who had Puff perched on her shoulder, was also looking at them with a frown on her face. She let out a sigh.
“No point in restarting it now,” she murmured as I went to unlock the door, “since we’ll be back at the guildhall again in a few days.”
“Right.” I turned the key in the lock and felt the latch come undone. I turned the knob and the door’s hinges creaked as it opened. We stepped inside and I looked around, finding the hallway and living room just as we had left it. I immediately walked over to the bookshelf that stood in the corner by our bay window, which doubled as a reading nook. My eyes scanned the shelves, but nothing caught my attention. I still didn’t feel better about the mission the other day and all I could think to do was to distract myself, but it seemed like I couldn’t even do that.
“Do you want some tea?” Vixia asked from the kitchen. I looked over to see her rummaging in the cupboards while Puff climbed onto the couch and snuggled into the top of the cushions like a cat.
“Sure.” I turned when I gave my answer and felt my shoulder hit the bookshelf. It shook for a moment and I grabbed the edges to steady it. That was when a book fell from the top and hit the floor, barely missing my head. Puff got spooked and spread his tiny wings and puffed out his throat, which made Vixia laugh. I also chuckled and bent over to pick up the book that had fallen, but I stopped as soon as I saw the cover.
My old book.
I picked it up as gingerly as I could and closed it since it had opened when it fell. I stared at the cover for a moment, remembering how I used to skim through it all the time at the orphanage. It was a bit more worn now, but the illustrations of dragons on the cover were still clear as day. I flipped through the pages briefly and felt a rush of relief when I saw that none of them were crumpled from the fall.
“Oh, that’s a blast from the past.” I looked up to see Vixia walking toward me, a cup of tea in her hands. I smiled.
“Yeah, it’s been a while.”
“Are you going to read it?”
“Okay.” She held out the cup of tea and I tucked the book under my arm so I could take it. She turned back toward the kitchen. “I think I’m going to nap for a bit. Wake me if you need anything.”
“Okay. Love you.”
“Love you too.” And with that, she wandered into the bedroom. I looked back at the couch to see that Puff had already calmed back down and was starting to sleep as well. I walked over to the reading nook, placed my cup of tea on the window sill, and sat down. I opened the book and began to read.
For the next hour, I read while Vixia and Puff napped. I tried to sip my tea after every couple of pages so that I wouldn’t let it get too cold. After I got through the introductory section, I found an explanation about where dragons came from. According to the book, dragons had first been discovered thousands of years ago and none of the kingdoms, including Zaledrid, could agree on how to deal with them. Their strength and magic abilities, which I had seen for myself, made them a serious threat. Zaledrid wanted them to be exterminated, while neighboring kingdoms saw them as potential tools. Another kingdom, Draladen, sought to tame them. I briefly remembered when Ms. Emery first mentioned Draladen to me, claiming that was where I came from. After the memory faded from my thoughts, I reached up to touch my ears.
Am I like this because I am one of them?
I was snapped away from my thoughts when I heard the bedroom door creak open and Vixia let out a loud yawn. An idea popped into my head. I quickly wedged a bookmark between the pages and set it aside. I sat up and looked at Vixia, who had just entered the room.
“I feel much better,” she began, stretching her arms out in front of her.
“Vixia, can I talk to you about something?” She stopped stretching and looked at me.
“Huh? Sure, anything. What’s going on.”
“So, you know how Puff is different from other dragons.”
“I think the dragon that I let go was too.”
“Okay, hold on a sec. Let me sit down and we can talk about it.” Vixia wandered over to the couch and sat down, careful to not disturb Puff. “Why do you think that?” she asked. I drew in a deep breath and let it out through my nose.
“Their eyes were the same. Like, not the same color or anything, but they both had . . . I guess life to them? I’m not sure how to explain it.”
Vixia seemed to think about what I said for a moment, then spoke again.
“Yeah, I can understand that. I knew something was different when I saw how you and Puff were staring at each other. So, that other dragon was similar?”
I nodded. Vixia looked back down at Puff and gingerly ran her hand down his back. He stretched out and I could have sworn that the corners of his mouth curled upward into a smile.
“That’s why I am wondering if there are different kinds of dragons, like some are monsters and others are friendly.”
“Maybe. I think we should bring this to Nesryn. Maybe she’ll be able to help us figure this out.”
My shoulders slouched at the thought and I looked back down at my book.
“I don’t think we should.”
“Do you not remember how she treated us the other night? I’d rather not come to her with anything right now.”
“Yeah, I guess you’re right. She might think that we’re trying to make excuses and ignore us anyway.”
“Right . . .” I grabbed the book again and stood up. I took it back over to the bookshelf and put it up. I made a mental note to take it with me when we left for the guildhall again.
Late that night, after Vixia, Puff, and I had dinner, I crawled into bed and my thoughts began to run wild again. Even though I was absolutely convinced that the dragon was like Puff, I still wasn’t sure if I should have let it go like that. Even worse, what if I was wrong and it decided to attack someone? I was thinking about that, clutching my pillow close to my chest, when I heard Puff trill at me. I lifted my head and saw him staring at me from the edge of the bed.
He trilled again and scrambled over to me. Before I could react, he climbed over my pillow and curled up between the side of my neck and the mattress, tangling himself in my hair. I could feel his rough scales brush up against my skin and, for some reason, it made me smile.
“Thank you,” I whispered, using a finger to pat his head.
“You two are so cute.”
I lifted my head again and looked toward the doorway. I found Vixia there, leaning against the doorframe. Before I could say anything, she walked further into the room and climbed into bed. My doubts began to return to me as she snuggled up to me from behind.
“Do you think I made the right call?”
“With letting the dragon go?” Vixia asked. I nodded. There was silence for a moment and I could tell that Vixia was choosing her next words carefully.
“Honestly, I don’t know. But what I do know is that you’ve never led us astray before and that I trust your intuition. I think that you should, too.”
“You think so?” Now it was her turn to nod, although I couldn’t see it.
When I really thought about it, I realized that she was right. Ever since we left the orphanage, I mostly took charge with the decision-making. I was still thinking about it when my wife spoke up again.
“You know, if Queen Evelyn would have sent you to Draladen, I would have gone with you.”
“I know.” She hugged me tighter.
“Everything’s going to be okay,” she promised in a hushed voice.
I hope so.