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I've always had a fondness for hummingbirds but right at this minute, I was tempted to swat them out of the air. My arms were constantly dodging the annoying things, couldn't they control their fly plan or were they just out to keep me dancing all the way there. Where ever there was. I took a quick peek behind me and saw Ayla walking my way until she stopped and just stood there staring. She probably thinks I've gone crazy. Don't my abductors see her? If they do, why aren't they at least concerned and that kind of bothers me.
We stop at a large tree and I was able to put my arms down, when most of them disappeared, I was tempted to do the same but I was curious as to why they wanted me and not Ayla. She had now joined us but as usual, kept her own counsel. I could feel the air around me change slightly and very large jewel colored dragonfly hovered at eye level. Sitting astride, was another of the sprites, it was hard to tell if it was male or female but I guess it doesn't really matter. <It matters to me you ignorant lout.> the very male voice rang in my head. "Terribly sorry, sir." I said peering a little closer. I felt a sharp point on my forehead. <Step back!> with my eyes crossed because the pointer was so close, I could see the angry little face of a guard giving me the stink eye.
<State your business.> the dragonfly's jewel tones glint like shards of glass, it really was beautiful. "Ouch, quit doing that," I whined and rubbed my forehead. <Then quit staring and state your business.> My business, right. "We need some of those plants," I point to the plants behind me. "The Elves need them to make an antidote for a poison that killed one of our friends and some of their people. " It started to sound like a swarm of angry bees, wings were beating the air so fast, I couldn't see them at all. Soon it quieted down and the dragonfly was back, <Take these, plant in full sun and once a week cover the soil with crushed egg shells and a pinch of this.> At my feet was a small bag of something and the shoots of the plants they needed.
"Thank you, we really appreciate this and I'll be sure to tell them how to care for the young shoots" I gathered the precious things and placed them in my saddle bag.
<They already know, we were expecting you." and with that final word they flew to the top of the tree and out of sight
I rub my Amulet and speak in a very humble voice...
Your Majesty The Dragons and I will there tomorrow and in time for the grand day.
A few know I am returning and will have the Camp spic and span and ready for inspection but I will go to you My Queen first.
Your Loyal Warrior
Sorry, but acting commander Rosie is AWOL due to family emergency. Consider orders given for an inspection, with suitable complaints about the Old Man.
After flying around double and triple times to lead a very mix and confusing trail we land finally at The Main Camp.
I walk The Dragons around to cool down then take them to there liar I was going to go get food and fresh water and treats for them but to my surprise every thing was there ready for them right down to fresh hay and grass for there beds.
I leave them to feed and say Frost look after your brother and sister and I will be back to get you when I finish meeting Our Golden Queen.
He nods for his mouth is full so I hug all three and head to meet Her Majesty.
I silently fumed all the way back to the Elves. Ayla as usual, was silent but I'm sure she's laughing on the inside. I'll never forgive those beings for making a fool of me and I have a good mind to give the Elves a stern dressing down too. I look at my arms and I could still see the small red marks left by their arrows and the one on my forehead I'm sure was oozing blood. I would have asked my companion but I wasn't talking to her at the moment. The nerve of some people, they knew who we were the whole time and they treated me that way.
We rode into the Elven camp, every eye on us. Their faces held a look of hope not of laughter. The importance of finding all these ingredients for the cure finally sank in and I felt my anger fade a way. What does a few little arrow holes matter in the bigger picture, nothing. Ilreth looked into my eyes as he took the bulging saddlebag. "Did you have any trouble finding everything?" I wiped my forehead with my hand and smiled. "Nope, piece of cake." I bowed my head at the elders, backed off a few paces and wheeled Midnight around and galloped off into the sun set. ( okay, I didn't actually ride off into the sun set but I would have it had been a little later ) Ayla's war horse pounding right behind me, a triumph Amazon yell broke the silence and all was right with the world again.
I reach and enter the Golden Queens Liar and fall to one knee head bowed and present my sacred Dragon Sword and Sai ,,
Your humble servant has returned My Queen what are my orders?
I hear her move about then say ,, rise brave warrior ,, I do so and see her face is wet I know she has been crying.
I am alarmed what is it My Queen that has you upset ???
Do you have news of your mate The Wise One and may I ask why your tears are filling that flask?
She tells me yes that she now knows where her mate is and is under a very heavy spell almost zombie like state and and very heavily guarded.
I need my tears that are mixed in with a few drops of my blood to break the spell and free him.
But I need you and the other Dragons and I need my rider or it will not work.
Imp's birthday is fast approaching and she still needs to train before we return to Pern where she will fulfill her destiny as my rider and you yours as my solider/rider of arms and yes you and Frosts will become Dragon and rider and you and he will be the leader of the fighting Dragons and myself and my Mate's protector.
I fall again to my knee hold the sacred sword to my heart and say I am most honored My Queen and will full fill my duties until death takes me,,, she looks at me with smiling eyes and says there will be no death my brave one for as this becomes reality you and Imp become immortal .
To say I was shocked is putting it mildly but if this is Imp's and my destiny so be it.
We talked more about what was going on in TSR and what Murk and his ugly daughter and Adrian he wacko son but I knew she all ready knew all that .
Now she said it is time for you to prepare yourself and Imp first there will a week of training for her and I will spend many hours teaching her about Pern and her duties as my Rider , you will teach her how to fight with arrows, swords, Sai's and knives and you could ask Alya to help you teach her as well as The Queens rider she must be well versed.
Now go meet all those who have missed you so I am sure your pets will be wild with happines as I am on your return,,, first you must inspect the troops and the camp , and when you eat and return to your cottage you will find two wooden boxes one is yours the other for Imp.
No go and feed we shall talk later...
I bow and walk backwards out of the liar and walk towards the pet's stables,,,, before I can take two steps I feel the ground shake and hear a very loud and excited trumpet BLOOSOMMMMMMMMMMMM OMG she is huge as she snaps me up in her trunk and trys to stop but we end up arse over tea kettle,,, I feel another wet snoot and wow Cherry what a big girl you have become I then feel a sand paper tongue on my cheek almost riping my face off ,,, FANG omg you are almost as big as Cherry and where is my Stump??? I feel a tug on my leg ah there's my boy OMG what have you all been eating to get so big???
I rough house with them I am so happy to be back with them ,, then I hear OMG it's The Cap,, Opel flys into my arms and almost squeezes me to death then TSK TSK you are to skinny Opel will fix dat up in a hurry I look at her Ebony face oh how I have missed her and her Jamaican way of speaking and her COOKING I can just see Mrs, Fletcher Miss Katt and Opel in the same kitchen WOWWWWWWWWWWWWWW.
I am getting slaps on the back and my hand being pumped so hard it about to fall off.
I smile a huge smile and shake My Boys hands Hoss, Brute, Brutus , Butch . and ole Spike...
Wow Wow it is so good to be back home with you all then I hear
** TROOPS ATTENNNNNNNNNNNNNTION****
RIGHT SHOULDER ARMS PRESENTTTTTTTTTTTTTTT ARMS.
pENNY PRESENTS HER SELF IN FRONT OF ME A SNAPS A SALUTE THAT I RETURN
Troops ready for inspection Captain Sir and before I can ask she explains Rosie's absence .
Carry One but hold on one sec,,, I pull a bar from my boot and say Penny front and center...
She snaps to and Salutes SIR YES SIR.
It is with great honor that I promote you to the rank of 1st Lieutenant you are an officer now and well earned,,, I pin the bar on her lapel and say I will put the other on later I lost one but have spares in my cottage.
We inspect the Troops then the Camp all is perfect ,, return to the Troops I tell Penny well done now dismiss the troops
Penny proudly steps forward ,,
PRESENT ARMSSSSSSSSSSSSSS DISSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSMISSED
As the troops leave I see leaning against her cottage what looks like a very very pissed off Imp,,, well well lookie who is back,, I laugh watch that mouth girl,, ahuh and you are going to do what ???? as she runs into my arms welcome home Daddy === I mean Captain sir.
I hug her tight not wanting to let go but my belly lets out a FEED MEEEEEEEEEEEEE we both laugh and head over to The Dinning hall to be feed by Opel her food from the Gods I drool as we walk........
After eating way to much as usual I shove my chair away from the table and say I,p want to go for a stroll we have things to talk over and I am so dead tired I am going to call it an early night ,
We get up excuse our selves and I give Opel a hug an d a peck on her forehead thank you it was wonderful and as usual you out did your self see at breakfast.
She smiles at me and says good to have you back home now go rest.
Imp and I walk slowly up to out special place under the tree on top of the little hill we set and look up at a beautiful full moon and the night shy ablaze with sparkling stars .
My heart is full as well as my stomach and I look at Imp through the eyes of a Father because that is how I think of her remembering the wild child we found now growing into a woman and soon to fulfill her destiny she has come so far and yet as so much more to do ,, but how do I tell her that when she becomes The Golden Queens Rider she becomes imortal?
Her voice snaps me back and she says pkay so what's up??
I go on to tell her she has a lot of work ahead of her training wise and she is in for a good work out and you my dear have a lot to learn but I know you can do and I am sure Alya will help .
What you think of me as a sniveling brat that can not defend myself???
I laugh no but it is that temper that is going to get you in trouble ,
All will become clear on your birthday my lil one not only will you change from street wise fighter but you will become one who will be respected and honored and I know you will bloom into one very beautiful woman.
Now enough for tonight lets just drink in beauty of a night ,, she wraps her arms around mine and leans her head on my shoulder and what seems seconds she is fast asleep.
I gently lift her in my arms and carry here to her cottage and lay her on her bed and cover her with her favorite blanket the same one she had with her when she was rescued ,, it is more like a moth eaten rag but she will not let anyone clean nor fix it.
I gently kiss her forehead and close the light and door whispering sleep well my lill one.
I head of to my own cottage man I am so tired I could sleep for a year ,,, so hot shower and off to bed..........
I feign being asleep in the MG's arms waiting till he leaves before I pester the Golden Queen... Once I'm sure I'm alone, I sneak out through the window for a face-to-face meeting... Smoke starts to trail me, but I want to be alone with her and ask him to stay behind... I know something is up because of her one-on-one meeting with our fearless leader...
The Queen knows I'm coming and invites me into her presence... Now that I'm here, I'm nervous and tongue-tied... The Queen stares intently at me while I struggle to find words that are not blatantly disrespectful... Still it's MY life and they seem to be in determining MY future... I don't want to lose my temper, but getting some answers instead of constantly leaving me in the dark might calm the storm building inside of me...
Finally, the Queen speaks: "I can feel your anxiety growing by the minute... Ask your questions and I will answer as truthfully as I can."
"Since you've broken the ice, I have feeling you and the MG were discussing the future... I'd like to know what part you would have me play."
"You're not a puppet, Gamen. You have a destiny, but you also have a choice."
"That's good to know, care to elaborate further." as I try and fail to keep my go-to sarcasm in check..
"As my rider, you're official place is in Pern.. If you choose to embrace your rightful place, you will become immortal."
I feel the shock of this announcement course through my body as if struck by lightening... "IMMORTAL?!... Please tell me you're joking!... Have you MET me?!... I spend MOST of my days brooding in darkness, consumed by FEARS of growing close to these people only for them to die and leave me abandoned once again and you want to condemn me to this living Hell of torment and loneliness for ETERNITY?... Are you TRYING to turn me into Arabella?... I ran away from her to escape the endless torture only to turn to you... and YOU would inflict a whole new form of endless torture but THIS time, it's for what?.. a thousand years, two thousand?.. how LONG must I endure this life?"... I am shaking so badly with fears I can not control that I begin to hyperventilate... I struggle to catch my breath, but the panic is overwhelming...
The Queen chants in her ancient tongue and covers me with purple smoke as the room fades to black...
Smoke feels the loss of the connection with his new young mistress, quickly transporting himself to her side... He looks to the Golden Queen for an explanation and sees a troubled dragon deep in thought, staring at the unconscious body...
Smoke breaks her concentration "What happened?!"
The Queen sighs heavily and sadly states, "Nothing good. If I had not been so caught up in my own grief and loss, I would have noticed just how badly broken and damaged her mind is. She is on the verge of a psychotic split and if her mind shatters completely, she may well be lost to the darkness forever. The Captain sees her as some innocent 5-year old child in pigtails and a pink, frilly dress. She may have had innocence in her first year or two of life, but she has only known torment and pain in her formative years. Consider that her foster parents tried to survive on cursed lands, having no time to show her what love is, only having time to show her how to survive on next to nothing before dying of a plague Arabella placed on their village. She alone survived because of my mark on her. Despite being only 10 years old, she showed courage and a remarkable resilience to survive. Her next test came when she was caught stealing an apple and placed in wrist and ankle shackles forced into slave labor, beaten routinely, bearing the physical and emotional scars to this day. There was no love there, only abuse, torture and torment so that she began to view authority figures with mistrust. She was not seen as a person, but as a tool to be used at the whim of her oppressors. She escaped only to fall into the clutches of a band of thieves, who also did not see her as a person, but a tool to be used for helping them to steal. Once again, authority figures who showed no love, only abuse and constant ridicule. This band of thieves were captured by this camp and have been reformed but she was left alone again, only to be caught by Arabella who had been searching for her since her birth. Arabella wanting myself and Gamen as weapons, capitalized on her broken, damaged mind seeking to break her completely by routine physical and mental torture knowing that the only way Gamen could protect herself was to become a cold, heartless monster herself. Her plan would have worked if she had not escaped during the chaos of my rescue and brought into this camp. Six months of being surrounded by good, loving people does not "fix" her years of torture and abuse. There is still light in her, but there is FAR more darkness than light. Magic is only a bandaid. She can see what love looks like here in this camp, but she does not understand it herself. She does not know how to love. She has been taught that people are only a means to an end, that power is the only worthwhile thing in this world. By making her immortal, she will have power, and if her mind shatters, the darkness will take over. The lust for more and more power will be her only thought, and she will kill all who stand in her way. Since your's and my mind are intimately linked with hers, we will not be able to fight this darkness and become darkness ourselves. We will become the weapon Arabella intended. If I had been paying attention, I would have understood her need for counseling and being taught techniques to help her heal her mind. I have seen the beast of rage she tentatively controls struggling to break free. I have seen what happens when it is loosed on a former abuser. She gutted him like a fish, slicing and dicing his body into pieces, and what was left, Karis destroyed with her hooves till there was only a bloody, gorey heap that was unrecognizable as being human remains. The Captain wishes to teach her to fight, but when the beast takes over, she is relentless, and with immortality on her side, she is in danger of becoming pure evil."
Smoke listens in horror to Imp's past and her possible future... He had not searched Imp's mind out of respect for her privacy.... He knew there were always dark clouds hanging over her head, he had no idea of their origin and she refused to talk about them.. He knew she had little respect and a great deal of mistrust for authority, was quick to be sarcastic, that she kept her distance from most humans often choosing silence and solitude but he had no idea how damaged and broken her mind truly was nor how close she was from being sucked into the darkness forever.
"Are you saying there is no hope for her?" he asks the dragon in dismay.
"Quite the opposite, my dear friend, there is always hope. If I thought there was no hope for her, I would not have allowed her the choice of immortality. She will need professional help and strong council for years, maybe centuries to come. She will never be whole as one born in a healthy, loving environment but that does not mean she can't know some form of happiness. If she chooses immortality, we will have to be on constant guard for the battles that will rage in her mind. I will consult with the Elvn healers, one in particular helped her when we first came to this camp. Maybe she will be up for the task. Keeping her physically safe will be a cake walk compared to keeping her mentally stable so that the world stays safe from her. Even now, in her unconscious state, her mind is a battlefield between the darkness and the light. Immortality would connect our minds to her's on the deepest levels, her struggles of good and evil would become our own. We would be in a fight for our very souls. If she chooses immortality, are you ready for this war?"
Smoke does not hesitate with his answer: "To the bitter end." And with that, Smoke lays by Imp's side, resting his head on her chest, willing his mind to link to her's, joining her in the circle of light surrounded by the suffocating darkness threatening to consume them. He is joined almost instantly by the Queen and together they help Imp beat back the feelings of despair and loneliness with their images of joy, beauty and love that the world has to offer giving her hope that all is not lost. That even in immortality, there is grace, there is mercy, she could hold onto her humanity, she would simply have to fight for it.