Over the next few months, it became apparent to Vixia and me that we actually could stay in Tidalsong City. We began by taking on quests around town and eventually we became somewhat known by most of the people there. The kinder ones would give us food along with our payments for the quests and after helping out an innkeeper we managed to get a room for a few weeks. The only downside was how people looked at Vixia and me since we weren’t exactly human, but that would be an issue no matter where we went.
The first incident that we had was when we decided to go to a restaurant after finishing a quest with a hefty reward. Vixia and I were sitting at our table, beginning to eat our food, when a man wandered over to us.
He was tall with broad shoulders and hunting gear on. I assumed that he was probably part of a guild that specialized in monster population control because of the large bow and quiver on his back. As soon as he approached the table, he slammed his palms down on its surface, making all of our dishes clatter from the force.
“What’s a monster like you doing here?” he asked Vixia with a forceful tone. Vixia stared at him, her eyes wide with fear. She held up her hands defensively, but she was trembling.
“I’m not a monster,” she replied with a shaky voice. As soon as I saw the look on her face, I stood up.
“Leave her alone,” I snapped. “She hasn’t done anything wrong.” He looked toward me and I could tell that he noticed my ears because he immediately began laughing at me.
“What a pointy-eared freak!” My eyes narrowed as I gripped the hilt of my sword. I was about to draw it when one of the waitresses rushed over to us.
“Sir, I’m going to have to ask you to leave.” The hunter turned to look at the girl, his expression shifting from amusement to shock.
“Sir, you are disturbing our guests. If you refuse to leave, I will go get the guards outside.” He grumbled something and left. Vixia and I tried to calm down and go back to eating, but Vixia couldn’t stop shaking. The waitress was kind enough to bring us a free dessert and assured us that people like the hunter were few and far in between, which made Vixia feel a little better.
Overall, Tidalsong City was a place where Vixia and I could not only survive, but could thrive.
A few years passed and Vixia and I found a semi-permanent place to stay at one of the local inns. The people there were kind and let us stay for a few months at a time for a lower price than what it would have cost to rent a place of our own. By this time, Vixia and I had been together for most of our lives and I finally saved up enough to buy a ring to surprise her with. I could not imagine spending my life with anyone else, but much less spending it without Vixia by my side. I had already planned the proposal out by the time I bought the ring and decided to pop the question on a warm spring afternoon.
We were at a local sightseeing spot, a cliff that overlooked the shore and the ocean. The breeze carried the sound of the waves, but also Vixia’s voice as we chatted about her magic.
“Zelora’s been teaching me all of these crazy spells recently,” Vixia explained, leaning against the railing with her arms crossed. She was facing the ocean and the wind blew her hair away from her face in flowing wisps. I was standing beside her. “But, I think they’ll be useful.”
“I have a random question,” I interjected.
“What is it?”
“What does Zelora think about me?” Vixia let out a chuckle.
“I already talked to her about that, actually,” she replied, taking my hand. “She likes you and says that I won’t have to worry about us being apart.” She squeezed my hand three times. I did it back.
“Zelora is a wise goddess then.” I smiled and I let go of Vixia’s hand. She began to turn to face me when I dropped down on one knee.
“Why do you say—” She froze mid-turn when she saw what I was doing. I could barely hide my joy as I reached for my pocket, revealing the ring box that I had concealed inside. Vixia’s hands rose up to cover her mouth and nose and her ears stood up alertly. Also, her tail started wagging.
As soon as I remembered her face, I was snapped back to reality by the sound of a scream. I sat up, finding myself still in the back of the wagon. I looked around, realizing that Puff and Vixia were gone.
The pain in my chest grew in intensity as I got up and began to run, heading for what I assumed was the deepest cavern. That was when I saw a sight that made my blood run cold.
Vixia was lying on the ground, motionless, while Puff towered over her defensively at a massive size that I didn’t even know he could grow to. Across from him, at the other end of the cavern, was another dragon with someone riding on its back. My eyes widened in horror when I heard the rider’s voice.
“I’ve been waiting for you.”
Sparrow was sitting on the back of the large dragon. It was covered in green and yellow scales and its eyes were dark and soulless, like the others. There was a triumphant grin on the rider’s face as he peered down at me. My chest ached as a thought ran through my mind.
How the hell did he get a dragon?
I didn’t have much more time to think before the opposing dragon lurched for us. I jumped backward as Puff lunged for it as well, letting out a vicious roar that shook the cavern walls. My eyes darted around the cave until they found Vixia again, just behind the fight that was taking place between Puff and Sparrow’s dragon. I rushed over to her.
“Not so fast!” Sparrow yelled as I dropped to my knees beside her. His voice almost sounded maniacal. I didn’t know what he was talking about until I saw green flames erupt from the mouth of his dragon, heading straight toward us. At that moment, I grabbed onto Vixia and pulled her limp body close, positioning my back to the approaching fire as I braced for the burn. But it never came.
I had squeezed my eyes shut, but they opened again when I heard Puff scream. I looked back to see that he had blocked the fire from reaching us. He growled and bared his teeth as he stared Sparrow and his dragon down, his tail whipping back and forth in anger. He dug his claws into the ground of the cavern and launched himself at them again. I stared in awe before I heard a voice call out to me.
“Ketsuna?” I looked down to see Vixia reaching for my hand. She was shaking and she could barely open her eyes, but she managed to squeeze my hand three times.
“It’s going to be okay,” I promised, but the truth was that I really didn’t know. Puff’s cries ripped through the cavern as he was slammed into one of the walls. Dust and rubble went flying from the impact, clouding my sight of him. “Let’s get you out of here,” I said to Vixia, lifting her up. Her head rolled over to look toward a corner of the cavern and she reached out her hand.
“My staff . . .”
“We have to get you out of here first.” I was about to begin heading back toward the wagon when I noticed that everything around us was rumbling. My eyes darted around the cavern and I finally spotted Sparrow’s other teammates, who were lying on the ground and covered in blood. I guessed that they were dead, but there was no way to really tell. Puff let out a viscous roar, which shook the cavern around us even more, and my heart started pounding to where I could hardly hear anything else.
We need to get out of here.
“Puff!” I shouted. He had just managed to push Sparrow’s dragon off of him and hurried over to us. I managed to push Vixia up onto his back and was scrambling on myself when Sparrow’s dragon turned toward us. “We need to get out of here.”
Just as I said that, a boulder fell from the ceiling. Then, like falling dominoes, more and more followed suit, one landing on one of Sparrow’s dragon’s wings. It let out a cry as I looked frantically for an opening. Sparrow was cursing loudly when I finally found one. A large enough boulder had fallen to where the sky outside was visible through a medium-sized gap in the ceiling.
“There!” I commanded Puff, pointing up at it. He nodded and flapped his wings, pushing us up off the ground.
“I’m not letting you get away,” Sparrow screamed. As he said that, more flames sputtered out of his dragon’s mouth. Puff tried his best to avoid them as he headed for the opening. When we were most of the way there, I noticed that Puff wouldn’t fit through it at his current size.
“Shrink!” I held onto Vixia as tightly as I could as I clung to Puff’s neck. I felt it become looser in my grasp as he shrunk down and I held on tighter. We were about to be burned by Sparrow’s flames when we flew through the hole, finally reaching safety. Once we were out, Puff tried to gain as much altitude as he could and leveled out. That was when I finally had a chance to look at Vixia.
She was bleeding from her forehead and several other scrapes and cuts on her body. She was covered in dirt and dust from the cave and her clothes were torn. I wondered if she managed to land any attacks before being caught off-guard by Sparrow. I turned my attention to Puff, noticing that he had also taken quite a bit of damage. Most of his scales were singed or burnt, some of them even appearing like they were going to peel off.
“Puff, I don’t care where we go, but don’t take us back to the guild.” He nodded and continued soaring through the air, heading for the horizon as the sun began its descent.