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Chapter 3

Neàmlight Pàhr’st (Moonlight Forest)

When I opened my eyes, I saw Azreàl peering over me. I had to blink the blurriness away before I could see clearly. I sat up, he was in the middle of talking to me and I realized I wasn’t listening to him. ‘Wait, what did you say? Sorry I haven’t been listening.’

‘I said, are you alright?’ I could see the concern written upon his face, as his brows knitted together. ‘You looked pretty out of it for a time, then you woke up startled as if you have seen a ghost. I tried to wake you up earlier but you would not stir, so I left you to rest for a time longer.’ He smiled at me, tenderness reaching up into his eyes. ‘I have brought some water in the basin over there, I thought you would want to freshen up a little, seeing as you look like you have been to Yelfr and back.’

‘Thank you, I think I will freshen up.’ I raised my hand just as he was about to speak, ‘and yes, I am fine. I had another one of those dreams.’ By that time I had stood up and walked over to the water filled basin and splashed some warm water on my face. I already felt as if my worries and concerns were all washing away. ‘That was what I wanted to talk to you about, one of the topics anyway. The other is what my father is now searching for and I don’t know exactly what that is.’ I glanced to my left as I towel dried my face, his head was cocked to one side with a look of attentiveness upon his face. ‘He started this at the exact time I told him about my dreams.’

‘Okay, now I need you to tell me about your dreams and then tell me about your father.’

I walked back over to my bed and sat back down next to him as I recounted the dreams and events about the elven man and my father. In great detail, I describe the scene in my dreams to the exact words he recently spoke to what my father is currently working on finding. ‘It’s strange isn’t it?’ I said, ‘he changes the words spoken to me this time, and I was able to talk to him. The previous attempts to communicate to him fell on deaf ears. It was if I was almost able to control the dream, but still he managed to disappear before I could get anymore answers from him.’ My inner frustrations gripped my entire body as my shoulders tensed up, I suddenly flinched as something brushed against my hand. I looked down at my hands gripping the towel tightly, the whites of my knuckled showing as Azreàl placed his hand on the back of mine.

‘Hey,’ he said softly, ‘are you alright?’

‘Sorry, I just…I got so frustrated.’ The tension fell away from my shoulders as I saw the smile on his face.

‘Okay,’ he said gently. ‘Who do you think he is?’

‘That is just it, I don’t know who he is, but my father seems to know what is going on, and he won’t tell me. He knows who this man is and he just keeps me in the dark.’ I sighed and folded the towel and laid it on the bed, ‘there’s this book that I managed to take from him, this was sitting on his desk when I went to see him. I will get it for you,’ I walked over to the chest under my mother’s portrait where I had hidden it. ‘I had kept it in here so that it was safe.’ I lifted it out of the chest, ‘here take it, see what you think.’ I passed the book to Azreàl as I sat back down, I pointed out the relevant pages that contained the information he needed to know, and he silently read it from page to page.

He slowly lifted his head from the book and stared at me, a wide eyed look of shock upon his face.. ‘I think this explains at least some of the questions, I mean,’ he shook his head and sighed heavily, ‘I have just been given a brief history lesson on something I never even heard of.’ He glanced at me before adding, ‘in fact, does anyone? I mean, how many people have known about this? How much more of our history is missing?’

I recognised the look on his face, it mirrored what I had felt inside when I had read it. I understood what he meant when he spoke of the missing fragments of our history. But I could not shake the thought that it left mote qustions than answers.

‘What it does not explain is your dreams that you have been having,’ Azreàl said, he suddenly jolted me from my thoughts as he continued, ‘but it does shed some of the light onto this dragon he mentions, this Kronos who I suppose is still alive after all these years? I thought dragons were stories made up for children? I never thought that they could be real.’ Azreàl stood and silently paced my room, back and forth, every step he took was as silent as Shadow, my sister’s young, black wolf, ‘why on all the God’s does he want you to find this dragon and re-awaken him? I mean what has this got to do with you?’ he suddenly stopped in his pacing and faced me, ‘and what is your father’s interest in this book? I mean…what or who is he searching for? These questions need answering but how do we do that if your father doesn’t explain it to you?’ he said sharply in annoyance, ‘by all the Gods, this I giving me a headache,’ he said, rubbing his brow. I’ve known Azreàl long enough for the past several hundred years, to know the signs he visibly showed. He suddenly started to pace again with his arms folded across his chest.

‘You’re telling me,’ I said, trying to deflect the situation, ‘I can’t seem to confront my father about it and I’m pretty sure he won’t say anything to anyone else either, he’s stubborn like that.’ My face suddenly went hard as I realised something that I should have seen earlier, feeling my body tingle at the thought, I looked at Azreàl who suddenly slowed in his pacing and then I added, ‘i’ve just realised that the swamps this book mentions is the place where Gale went to, to find this Velderen’s staff that he had been searching for. I could I be such an idiot, I was right there five years ago!’ I rebuked myself sternly. ‘What if Gale and the others had stumbled upon this secret lab of Taurus’s and something or someone was still there?’ Azreàl suddenly stopped and looked sharply in my direction. I could see the look in his eyes that he had come to the same conclusion. ‘If you think about it maybe his lab was…or is, still going even after the events of the war. Which means that he could, once again, be creating a vast army to wipe out any resistance before any war could even begin. He nearly accomplished his goal last time so maybe he thinks he can do it again, only this time he wishes to truly succeed.’ My heart skipped a beat at the thought.

‘Whoa, slow down there. You don’t know any of this is true. You are getting ahead of yourself.’ He shot back, ‘if what you say is true, then what do you think happened to Gale and the others? It was Gale who was the only one who didn’t return,’ he shook his head not wanting to believe this possibility, ‘if he stumbled on this lair, then who knows what could have happened...?’

‘I just don’t know what to believe anymore. I’m at a crossroads and I don’t know which way to turn to move forwards.’ I held my head in my hands, ‘I know I have moved on from Gale,’ I muttered from behind my hands, ‘but I need to know the truth.’ Un-shed tears stung my eyes as I fought to control my emotions before they got the better of me. I have been down this road so many times, I cannot face the thought of sinking back into despair again after all this time,

Azreàl swiftly crossed the room and knelt down in front of me, he gently clasped his hands on mine, ‘I know that you shouldn’t give up hope,’ he spoke softly, ‘and I’m trying not to sound insensitive but you said it yourself, you couldn’t feel or hear him anymore and if that is the case, well…you know what happened.’

‘I want to find out what happened,’ I said, my voice sounding hoarse as I blinked back the tears, ‘I’m going to truly find out what is happening in the swamps and what happened to Gale and the others. But I will wait until after my celebration so that my father won’t suspect a thing.’

‘Whoa, just wait a second. You are really going to do this aren’t you?’ I nodded to him silently, I could tell by the look in his eyes that he knew I was determined, he replied, ‘well, if you’re going, then so am I. I’m not letting you go alone and that is final.’

I stared into his eyes and I could see that he truly wished to help me. ‘What about your duties here? Surly the Illplûins will need you?’

‘Alcon can take over while I’m gone. He’s used to covering for me when needed.’

‘Okay, but let’s not tell anyone else for fear that they would try to stop me or worse, they might try to follow me.’

‘Just, between you and me then. But if something went wrong, we’re on our own.’ He said, arching his brows as he glanced at me, ‘you do know that don’t you.’

‘Yes, I do know that.’ I nodded my head and glanced at the floor, before returning my gaze to Azreàl, ‘but I would rather risk that to find the truth…about everything.’ My voice faltered a little as I caught my breath. ‘About me,’ I swallowed, ‘about the man who visits my dreams…everything. But right now I need to get ready for tomorrow, for my birthday.’

‘Yes, your Highness,’ he said, his mouth twisting into one of his quirky smiles. ‘What happens when you find the answers you seek? What then?’

The intense look in his eyes and the smile upon his face made me feel warm and tingly inside. ‘I don’t know we will see when we get to that situation won’t we.’ I stood up and placed the book back into the chest and secured it. ‘I think I need to get some rest, I feel exhausted after all that.’

‘You know what, I’m exhausted too; we should both get some rest, it’s been a long day.’ He said, standing up, ‘we will talk about this another time.’ He stood up, walked over to the basin and began washing his face.

I began to undress and prepared to slip into my nightdress. Lying down on the bed, I closed my eyes and I could feel Azreàl’s arms wrap around me. I smiled and felt safe as my eyes suddenly felt heavy with exhaustion, and the darkness of sleep slipped over me.

Once again I found myself standing upon the battlefield. Shields thumping and swords clashing. I was standing in the same place previously. I pushed myself forwards, it seems I can walk this time around.

The skies filled with red and fire, as ash descended from above. The smell of burnt flesh pierced my nostrils as I moved amongst the broken bodies that now lay upon the earth. I moved closer to the battle taking place directly ahead of me. The man I saw before stood his ground along with the men that remained in position beside him. He shouted words of courage to his friends and comrades as he lead them across the battlefield. His dragon, a huge dark-golden scaled beast stood not far from his side. His head was five foot long at least, two large horns sprouted from the top of his head, sweeping back behind him they matched the length of his head. He belched out blue flames as the enemy drew closer.

I took note of the black horde that now clashed with the resistance. Large hulking creatures, hideous and malicious. What these creatures were, were no manor born under nature’s rule. Wielding great blades coated in blood, their wailing was harmful to the ears. It wasn’t out of love or mercy that these creatures were created. Someone bred this horde for one purpose only. War.

Ancient races such as trolls and giants stood under the banner of the enemy. With great swings of their weapons, men of the resistance were flung back into their ranks. They had been swatted as if they were flies.

The skies blackened still. Streaks of lightning threatened to tear up the earth.

I now stood amongst the army of men, elves and dwarven kind. Arrows flew past me, but I could not feel them. I drew closer to the dragon rider. He took down enemy after enemy that stood before him. His armour shone far brighter than any star in the night sky.

‘Press forward! We have to press forward now!’ he shouted over the roars and echoing cries of battle. Immediately as he said those words, he fell back towards his dragon and mounted upon him.

This part I had witnessed before. The dragon beat his wings and the enemy flew back with great force as the dragon climbed higher and higher.

Screams of dragons and their riders could be heard as they fell from the blackened skies. Elves fought with skill and speed, dwarves and men stoutly kept the line. None had broken through. The red dragon now flew with speed across the plain. Out of sight.

A flash of light could be seen from where the dragon had flown to. Silence had befallen the battlefield. Swords stopped clashing, cries and screams could be heard no longer, and magic stopped arching across the skies.

A shockwave crashed through the armies and the battlefields, sending men flying through the air, screaming as they went. Whoever had remained alive stood no longer.

I stood standing at the wreckage that now revealed itself to me. Smoke billowed from the scorched earth, burnt flesh could be smelt form all directions. I stood shocked at the sight of what I had witnessed. But before I could search further, a blinding flash of light once again descended upon me.