“Right.” Kya went to lift her foot, but found her feet—her whole self, actually—had frozen some place in between flight and moving forward. Moving at all seemed an impossible task, no matter how her heart jumped and juddered.
“You could always go back,” Hearthorne said lightly, as though what she was saying was nothing of consequence.
“Yes. Back to the pot sitting empty on your keeper’s window sill. It’s still there, you know.”
With great effort, Kya managed to turn her head enough to look Hearthorne in the face. “But what of our bargain?”
The faerie-flower shrugged her leaves. “What good is a bargain that doesn’t have a back door if things get too messy?”
Kya glanced back at the dragon-mound. “If I go back, will I remember all this?”
“Yes,” Hearthorne said with enough unspoken words following the ‘yes’ to make Kya stop fretting over her impending doom and focus on the flower at her hip entirely.
“What aren’t you saying?”
Hearthorne sighed. “For every back door, there is a price and a pain, and that is remembering not only what you had, but what you might have had as well. A portion of your heart will be lost to you, but will nettle at you until you risk losing all of your heart from the certainty of safety to the uncertainty of the unknown.”
Kya closed her eyes against the sudden pain blooming in her heart: that of a young flower’s wish to live beyond the safe confines of her pot.
It was in this knowing, that going back would be far worse than going forward, that allowed her to unfreeze enough to step forward.
It was in knowing she would never forgive herself for allowing fear to stand between herself and her flowery dream wishes that gave her the strength to take another step.
And it was in knowing that she’d made a bargain, that she’d given her word to a tiny white mouse who lived on the moon and wore white silk robes and dispensed both mischief and cheese that made it possible to take the step after that.
And the step after that.
Before she’d even thought it possible, Kya found herself winding up the mound, first on the narrow bit of earth that looked suspiciously like the end of a tail, then going up, up, up, along what might have passed for the ridges along the back of a dragon, until she came to rest between two outcroppings of rock that might have passed for the knubbed tips of wings. Only a few steps beyond, and she would have been bathed by the halo of silvery golden light radiating from the tree.
“The first immutable law: you can never get something for nothing,” Hearthorne muttered just loud enough for Kya to hear.
A low rumbling shook the mound with what might have been a pleasant buzz if Kya’s heart hadn’t taken in all it could. For a moment so brief it was there, and then forgotten, she missed her warm clay pot and the leaves she might have wrapped about herself. But before the thought could take root, part of the mound shifted and rose and stared at her with moon-bright eyes that made her forget everything else.
It narrowed its eyes at her as it studied her, pursing its wide lips as though it found something in her to be wanting. “Hmmmm. Not mortal, yet not immortal. An interesting riddle.”
Then it flared its nostrils, blowing off a warm steam that smelled like vanilla and warm milk, and glanced at Hearthorne. “Immortal, yet dressed in the rags of mortality. A pretty disguise, though the first immutable law is that everything has a name, and true names breed power.”
Hearthorne muttered something having to do with know-it-all-dragons, but grudgingly bobbed her blossom in assent before she hid her face.
“Please,” Kya found her voice at last, “are you the dragon I’m meant to see? The one the mouse spoke of?”
The mound grumbled some more and groaned as it shifted slightly. “Horatio sent you then?” It raised an eye ridge, and the ground rumbled with a dragonish chuckle. “He’s been trying to fill this quest since he’s been appointed as one of the Moon Queen’s ambassadors.”
“The mouse’s name is Horatio?” Kya asked, skeptical. The name bunched up on her tongue in a very non-mouselike way.
The dragon-mound chuckled again. “Hardly, but it annoys him, so it is well worth the effort of being wrong.”
Kya shook her head. Her first meeting with a dragon—if that was indeed what it was—was hardly going the way she’d thought it would. Still, considering she hadn’t been eaten yet . . .
. . . TO BE CONTINUED . . .© 2014 by Danyelle Leafty. All rights reserved.
Join me next Monday to see what comes of meeting a dragon in its own territory. Also, keep your fingers crossed that Kya continues to remain uneaten. Magic tends to wreck havoc with a dragon’s digestion system. 😉 #everything’sbetterwithdragonsinit