I wiped my forehead. The late-morning sun was blazing hot, even in the shade of the pine-trees. I couldn't see how Pyro could wear his jacket in this heat.
It was odd, travelling without Dilmon. More than once, I had turned after seeing something that reminded me of a private joke in order to tell him, to find he wasn't there.
Instead, I got to know Kal and Octa better. Octa was twenty eight years old, and Kal was twenty seven. They seemed far younger, both in looks and in behaviour. They had met nearly ten years ago, and have been married for nine. Six years ago, they had taken in Pyro.
It was clear that they loved each other very much. Their playful jokes, the way they never seemed to be linked by less than holding hands, the look in their eyes as they gazed at each other... It was nice, heartwarming.
After a while, though, the conversation became more between me and Kal. We talked about pretty much everything, from food, through family, to life. Mostly, we talked about our different lifestyles. She asked many questions about how it was to be a princess in the royal family. I gladly answered them, though a little bitterly. She had sensed that tone and asked me about it. I ended up ranting quite a bit about how I wished there was another heir to the throne. Then, I remembered it didn't really matter seeing how this entire World is going to blow up. I changed the topic by asking Kal about a normal life. It seemed so nice from how Kal described it. Simple. Living the moment. Not worrying too much about what will or will not be.
The more we talked, the more I admired her. She would do well if she was born to the royal family. She'd make a wonderful Queen. Better than I'd make, anyway. She had blushed, giggled, and given me a noogie when I told her this.
We walked in a comfortable silence after that. A slight breeze had picked up, making the tall trees sway gently, rustling their leaves. Pyro and Octa walked a distance in front of us. Pyro had put his tinfoil hoodie up, to not burn the lower leaves of the trees. I smiled. I couldn't quite make out words, but he and Octa were talking animatedly about something.
Kal looked at them too, a soft look in her eyes.
I picked up my pace, calling Kal to follow me. We reached Octa and Pyro, and Kal hugged them both from behind.
It was dusk. I rubbed my eyes tiredly. We had hardly stopped to rest for the entire day, and my feet were aching.
The path suddenly widened, and as I walked forwards, detaching myself from the row of trees, I saw the most amazing glade I had ever come across. It was filled with tall, soft, green grass, and a summer blossoming that smelled absolutely delightful. Pyro stopped in his tracks next to me.
"It's beautiful here," I said, smiling.
He nodded. "It is." The setting sun coloured him as if his flame's saturation had been multiplied. He smiled, too. His face was calm, happy. I tried not to stare too much, but I couldn’t look away. The glade looked plain compared to him.
I sighed. Pyro seemed to notice, by how his eyebrows contorted, but he didn't say a thing.
Kal and Octa walked out of the row of trees a few seconds later, and when the caught sight of the clearing, they both grinned.
|This here is from Avatar. If any of you have|
seen the episode, this is kind of how I imagine
the tent to look like.
"It's perfect!" squeed Kal. She raised her arms, palms up, and pushed the air upwards. There was a soft rumble, and suddenly, a rather large tent made of the earth alone rose from the glade's ground.
"That was awesome!" I said. She softly noogied me in response, and then she took Octa by the hand and led him inside the tent. I glanced at Pyro again, and followed Kal and Octa.
The tent was very spacious. The floor was still that of the clearing. I sat down, to find the floor was soft. I hardly even needed my sleeping bag on a floor like this. I sighed happily, and unfolded my sleeping bag anyway.
Pyro had entered, clearly impressed by Kal's quick craftsmanship.
After a small dinner of sausages roasted on Pyro's head and a dessert of roasted marshmallows, all four of us went to sleep. I was still exhausted from the long walk, and fell asleep immediately.
I found myself in a room. The walls were draped with tapestries, and the floor was marble with fur rugs strewn upon it artistically. I was in the western hall of the palace. My palace.
Somehow, I knew where I ought to go. I took a step forward and suddenly I was in the north-west third corridor, in front of the second door on the right. I stretched my hand out to turn the doorknob, and found myself inside the room.
This was one of the fancier guest-rooms. The four-poster bed with the soft, white hangings was right below a large window, sunlight streaming in through it. I walked closer.
My mother was lying on that bed. She was asleep.
I jumped as she coughed suddenly. It was only then I saw how pale she was, the dark circles surrounding her eyes. There was a silk handkerchief clutched in her hand. Looking closer, I saw crimson blotches on the pale cloth. Blood.
She was ill. Grievously so.
The door opened, and I was so startled I fell back. I was paralyzed. I saw my father accompanied by a person who I didn’t recognize enter the room. The person wore a white cloak.
“Mage Navoun, please,” my father pleaded. “You are possibly the only person who can help my wife.”
I blinked. I don’t think I ever heard father speak to someone else without looking down at them. He always spoke with an authority. Never had I heard him saying ‘please’ in that tone. As if he was begging. He never spoke to someone as if they were equal to him. Not even to me.
“Your Highness,” said Navoun. His voice was quiet and solemn. “I’m afraid there’s nothing I can do in a case like this. As I said, I can only sense what is wrong with Her Majesty. I cannot fix it, no matter how hard I might try. This is the first time I have encountered something of the likes of this disease. I do know this; it is fatal. It cannot be treated simply with herbs and spices, and I do not know of Magikans with the ability to heal. And even if I did, I would not tell you, for you would tell others and that poor Magikan would be exposed and exploited to the core.”
Father’s face was heartbroken. He didn’t move, but a single tear rolled down his cheek. “Does this mean,” he croaked, “that she will… die?”
Mage Navoun nodded, his face grave. “I am sorry. Her Majesty was a good Queen to our country. A great loss. A great loss indeed.” And with that, he left the room.
Father kept standing for a second, the tears rolling silently, and then he fell to his knees, sobbing. He moved closer to mother’s bed and held her petite hand in both of his. He rested his head on the bed, emitting pained moans. His entire body was shaking.
“She’s not dead yet,” father whispered. He raised his head from the mattress. There were wet blotches where he had rested it. His eyes were red and swollen, and his tears were now streaming down. “She’s not dead yet,” he blubbered again, louder. He took a few rattled breaths. “SHE ISN’T DEAD YET!”
I gasped for air as I opened my eyes. I inhaled again, and again, taking short breaths, shaking as I exhaled. I put a hand to my cheek and felt the wetness.
“Red?” said a very startled Pyro from his sleeping bag next to me.
And before I knew it, I had collapsed on him, crying, my arms draped around his shoulders.
“What’s wrong? What happened?” he said, sounding alarmed.
“I- had a- bad dream,” I blubbered in between sobs. He slowly put his arms around me. I gradually stopped crying and calmed down. Only when I was breathing normally, I fully felt awake again.
I wiped the tears from my eyes, keeping my arms around his neck. I breathed deeply once, and slowly detached myself from Pyro.
“Sorry about that,” I said quietly, my voice a little hoarse. I was looking at my knees.
“It’s fine,” he whispered. I met his gaze and smiled. His flame flickered a bit and he smiled too.
“Why are you awake?” I asked.
“Couldn’t sleep,” he murmured. He looked worried. “Red, you were thrashing like crazy earlier. I thought to wake you up, but you looked like you could use sleep…” his voice trailed and he winced and rolled his eyes. “Sorry,” he said. “That came out wrong. What I meant to say was that I didn’t know how to wake you up without making it worse. And then you woke up anyway… What happened?”
I looked back at the ground. “I dreamed that my mum was ill,” I whispered. “My dad was there with a person named Navoun. Navoun said her case was finished. That she’ll die.” My voice broke on the last word, and a few silent tears trickled down my cheeks.
“It wasn’t real, though. It was a dream,” Pyro said. “…Right?” he added uncertainly.
“That’s just it. I don’t know. Sure, I was asleep when I saw it, but does that mean it wasn’t more than a dream? I mean, I’ve never even heard of someone named Navoun, and it’s all so clear in my mind…
“But what if it wasn’t a dream?” I whispered. “What if my mum is dying, and the last thing she remembers of me is that I ran off? What if I was the reason she fell ill in the first place?” I said, distressed. My breath started accelerating again.
Pyro moved his hand from his knee to mine. I calmed down almost instantly. “Don’t say that,” he said softly. “Illnesses happen. Some have a cure, and some don’t. People die, and the sun still shines the next morning. Reality doesn’t stop in its tracks if someone’s at peril. You need to understand that, whatever happens. Miracles happen, but I’ll be deluding you if I tell you they save everyone.” He sighed, and with the hand not on my knee he reached into his shirt and took out a locket made out of a metal that seemed copper-ish in his firelight. He pressed the small button with his thumb, and the locket opened. Inside it there were pictures. Pyro lifted the hand that was on my knee and lit a small flame in it so I could see the pictures. A man and a woman on one half, and a picture of Pyro as a small boy on the other.
“My parents,” he explained simply. “I really don’t remember much of them, though sometimes I think of something that happened to me back when they were alive, and they’re just… there. But that’s all they are for me now. A fading memory and a picture in a locket.”
I reached forwards to touch the locket. “Can I?” I asked quietly. He nodded. I took the locket in my hand and studied the picture of his parents. Although it was black-and-white, I could see that he had his father’s messy hair. Pyro’s was longer than his father’s was, but the similarity was clear in the way it wasn’t certain if the hair was straight or curly, and the random locks of hair pointing in all directions. I smiled. Of course, Pyro’s father didn’t have a flame burning on his head, but that was a different story. I rested the locket back on Pyro’s chest and he put it back under his shirt.
I lay back down on my sleeping bag.
“Pyro?” I said quietly.
“Hm?”“Thank you,” I whispered, and fell back into a dreamless sleep.