“She had another nightmare last night,” Shyftin said quietly as he and his friends, Agrona and Chroniclus hovered in the Vermifiut Academy common rooms. “I could hear her screaming all through the night.”
“Sounds annoying,” Agrona said dismissively.
Shyftin wasn’t sure if the dragoness had altogether heard him; she was intently studying a new knife and was most likely only responding with programmed answers.
Chroniclus, however, looked a lot more concerned. He elbowed his girlfriend, alerting her to the seriousness of the situation and said, “My father says Seer Ogwaine frequently suffers night terrors. There are records as far back as Seer Owen of seers having incredibly vivid nightmares on an almost nightly basis. According to Chroniclus XXVII, it drove Seeress Hyactinath insane.”
“So it’s pretty serious?” Shyftin asked worriedly.
“It can be. Some seers are stronger than others. Chroniclus XIV theorized that some races bore the strain of prophecy better than others. Humans seem to hold up the best, with dragons and dwarves coming second. Centaurs manage pretty well, too.”
“And what about selarthins?”
Chroniclus shifted uncomfortably. “I don’t know. Selarthins are similar enough to elves that she should be able to cope, but they’re pretty close to fairies, too, and they don’t tend to do so well.”
“Anything we can do to help?” Agrona asked, her own concern genuine now that she was paying attention.
Chroniclus shrugged. “I don’t know of any sure way, but we could always try being nice to her.”
Agrona laughed. “That shouldn’t be too hard for Shyfty here.” She nudged the dragon playfully. “I think he’s sweet on her already.”
Chroniclus grinned at Shyftin’s furious blush and stammered denial. Then he caught sight of a green and brown dress paired with red gold hair. He quickly stood at attention, signaling for Agrona and Shyftin to stop their bickering. When Shyftin caught sight of the pretty selarthin, he shot to his feet, paling and swallowing nervously.
Agrona snickered and stood in one fluid movement, placing two hands on his shoulders and whispering, “Go talk to her.”
“Talk to her?” Shyftin looked at her as if she’d gone mad. “What am I supposed to say?”
“Just invite her over,” Agrona instructed. “She hasn’t attached herself to any particular group yet. If you act quickly, you can have first dibs.”
“It doesn’t work like that!”
“No, you go!”
Chroniclus rolled his eyes and strode toward the selarthin, who was still lingering in the doorway, as if unsure where to sit. Her large almond eyes lit up hopefully as Chroniclus approached her, then she blushed and looked down, tucking a loose strand of red gold hair behind her large ears. The elf smiled friendly at her, and offered a hand in greeting. “Hi. I’m Chroniclus XXXII.”
Her eyes widened in surprise. “The future chronicler of Mid-Realm?”
“That’s me. And you’re Scota, right? Future Seeress of the same.”
She blushed and nodded, mindlessly braiding the cords of her dress.
He smiled easily, trying to help her relaxed. “I figured we’d get the introductions out of the way since we’re going to be stuck with each other for the rest of our lives. Might as well be friends, you know?”
She nodded eagerly. “Yes, friends! It’d be nice to have a friend here.” She looked around at the common room, and Chroniclus could see how small and insignificant she felt.
He touched her shoulder gently and gestured toward where Agrona and Shyftin were sitting watching them. “Would you like a few more?” He guided her toward the pair, silently enjoying watching Shyftin get more and more nervous while Agrona grew more and more impish. “This is my girlfriend, Agrona of Charfias.”
Scota’s expression fell a little at the ‘g’-word, but Agrona’s name peeked her interest. “Agrona? I feel like I should know that name.”
“Agrona was the name of Xasi’s thirty-third wife,” Agrona supplied coolly. “She was a fias from Charfias, and is often said to be the start of the Charren royal line.”
“Which would make you royalty, since it became a form of title for royal dragonesses of great power.”
Agrona smirked. “I’m of the last clutch of Queen Acacia and King Tarquin. So yeah, I’m a little important. But hey, who here isn’t?” She winked at the selarthin pointedly.
Scota smiled and seemed to relax fully.
Chroniclus exchanged a proud look with his girlfriend, letting Shyftin squirm a little longer before finally introducing him. “And this is Shyftin of the Versian Realms, first of the clutches of King Caio and Queen Evalda.”
Scota choked in surprise. “That means–! You’re the heir?! I didn’t think any of the continents allowed their heirs at this school. My chieftain said it was too much of a risk.”
“Oh yes,” Agrona said lazily as she stretched across the table, “because we’re all so volatile. Shyftin has quite the temper, you know. He’s practically a fias.”
Shyftin looked as if he was going to strangle the dragoness. Chroniclus quickly sat between them, both to reign in his girlfriend’s merciless teasing and to keep his best friend from killing her. Scota remained standing, obviously unsure of whether or not she was allowed to sit. Agrona answered the question for her, pulling her onto the cushioned seat beside her. Shyftin shifted uncomfortably, fiddling with his pearl throwing knives as he tried to figure out what to say. Scota looked down at her lap, too unfamiliar with the group to start a conversation. Agrona was having too much fun watching the two squirm in the awkward silence to break it, which left the merciful Chroniclus to speak.
“So, Scota, have you had any kind of weapons training?”
Scota nodded, eager to please and fit in. “Yes! I was at the top of my class in archery, and I’m pretty good with a sword, too. I can also make 42 different traps and snares.”
“What exactly is the difference between a trap and a snare?” Agrona asked. The question confused the selarthin enough to squeak a few “ums” and “uhs” out of her. Agrona looked at Chroniclus innocently when he shot her a reproving look. She saved Scota by dismissing her own question. “Doesn’t really matter. Dragons don’t need no traps to get dinner. Hey! Why don’t you come hunting with us this weekend?”
“Yeah. Shyftin and I like keeping our mad flying skills up to par while we’re here, so the Head Master lets us take weekend passes to go out. We catch enough meet to last the entire week!”
“But, I can’t fly?”
“Neither can Nicus, but he manages to survive.”
Chroniclus shrugged when Scota looked at him in awe. “We had special saddles made that let me stay with them even when they decide to get acrobatic. I’m sure we can get another one for you.”
“Since I carry Chroniclus, Shyftin can carry you! What do you think, Shyfty?”
Shyftin glared at her for putting him on the spot AND using her teasing nickname for him. However, Scota’s large eyes were on him now, and he couldn’t stay silent. “I-I think that-that should be fine,” he stammered.
“You wouldn’t mind?” Scota confirmed hesitantly.
“N-no! Not at all.” He smiled weakly at her.
“Then it’s settled!” Agrona cried dramatically, throwing her arms around Scota’s shoulders. “This weekend, you’re flying with us!”
She’s screaming again.
Agrona snarled and batted the air as if that could make the telepathic voice go away.
I want to help. What should I do?
Agrona reluctantly opened her blue eyes and glared bitterly at the darkness of her cavernous room. Whatever you do, DON’T go into her room yet. I’m on my way.
What should I do in the meantime? I can’t just lay here listening to her scream.
Agrona flinched at Chroniclus’s rebuke. Shyftin, next time have the decency to tell me my boyfriend is tuned in to our little head chat. Nicus, IM NOT A NIGHT WYRM! Give me a break. But since you’re both being annoying, you can at least be useful about it. Shyftin, go get some milk for your blasted girlfriend. Chroniclus, your rather cranky and irritated girlfriend needs chocolate. I’ll run intervention. AND KNOCK BEFORE YOU COME IN!
Bitterly, Agrona forced herself to shrink from the gargantuan red dragon to the blue eyed red head the selarthin had been introduced to. The dragoness sneaked along the corridors, passing the large door that led to Shyftin’s cave, and passing significantly smaller doors of the rooms of the academy’s more human-sized occupants. One door was different than the others, thicker and made out of a wood Agrona knew was typically used for sound proofing. Shyftin, you little stalker, you! What, do you have her room bugged?
No! My hearing is just that good. It’s not my fault fias have the hearing of an imp.
Watch it, Shyfty. You’re treading on lava.
Agrona opened the door and winced when a horrified scream assaulted her ears. She slipped in, quickly shutting the door behind her, and rushing to Scota’s bed. She reached out to her, intending to shake her gently, but as soon as her fingers touched the selarthin’s skin, Scota was up, her already large eyes further enlarged by fear. She was still screaming, waving her hands around her face as if trying to keep some terror far away from her. Agrona reacted quickly, grabbing the selarthin’s hands and stilling them. Scota thrashed around for a minute before waking fully and looking at the dragoness in bleary shock.
“Agrona? Why are you–?”
“Shyftin heard you screaming. He was worried, and he asked me to check on you. Now, calm down. You’re safe now. Breathe.”
Scota took several deep breaths and went limp, sobbing as the anxiety of the nightmares rushed at her. “There was so much pain and death and fire! I couldn’t stop it! I tried, but I couldn’t save any of them!”
Agrona gathered the other woman in her arms, trying to comfort her. “Calm down. You’re safe now. No one will harm you.”
“I’m not worried about myself, dragoness. I’m a seeress. I’ve seen my nightmares come true before, and dream or realty, I couldn’t stop either. You have no idea what it’s like, constantly seeing the lives of others be destroyed and being helpless to save them. No one is safe. Not in my visions.”
“Don’t you ever see anything happy?”
Scota shook her head dejectedly. “Never.”
“What about nice warm milk?” Shyftin offered hopefully, poking his head in the door.
Agrona raised an eyebrow at the two men who entered the room. “Eavesdropping again, Shyftin?”
“Hey, I can’t help if your voice is loud and obnoxious.” He offered the milk to the selarthin, who accepted it with an expression of confused gratitude. “Are you all right?” He asked, sitting at her feet.
She looked at him, bewildered, and took a large gulp from the milk to buy time. As she swallowed, she looked to Chroniclus, who was offering his girlfriend a chocolate rose. Agrona gleefully accepted it and bit off the chocolate bud before resting her head on his narrow shoulders. Scota felt a twinge of jealousy as he wrapped one arm around the dragoness, and she looked at Shyftin, finally able to answer, “I don’t think I will ever be ‘okay,’ but the milk does help. Thank you.”
“What was your dream about?” Shyftin asked. “Was it a prophecy?” He realized what he was asking and quickly added, “I’m sorry. You don’t have to say if you don’t want to.”
Scota hesitated, slender fingers clutching her cup for security. “No, it’s alright. I suppose I’ll have to get used to telling my visions to others.” She looked at Chroniclus and smiled. “Might as well get it out of the way now.” She took a deep breath and faced the dragon prince. “I-I saw a great black dragon rising over the ashes of a city, crunching the bones of the fallen beneath his feet. The sky was on fire, blood flowed like a river from between his claws. People fled from him, screaming in terror, but he just laughed as he slaughtered them. I-I tried to save them, I stood before him to protect them, but his fire only consumed me, too.”
“Sounds like an Ut’zuk to me,” Agrona murmured.
“Yeah, but which one?” Shyftin asked.
“Pick one,” Chroniclus said. “They’re all the same.”
Scota shook her head. “He might not even be born yet. Seer Carttropsyp says that our nightmares may not even be prophecies, they’re just vivid and horrible. As if having real visions isn’t bad enough.”
“Sounds to me like you need a sword,” Agrona said wisely.
“What? I already have a sword–?”
“No, no, no, a dream sword. It’s an invincible weapon you use in your dreams to kill any monster that comes after you. I have one. It’s big and shiny, and bursts into flame whenever I want it.”
“Why am I not surprised you have such a thing?” Shyftin asked, quirking a smile at the dragoness.
She flipped her hair and answered cockily, “Because I’m awesome like that.”
Scota smiled at the two and sighed, fingering the edges of her blanket. “I’m sure that works for a great dragoness like you, but I can’t control my dreams like that.” She yawned and settled back in her blankets. “I’m so tired.”
Agrona squeezed her hand. “Do you want us to stay with you until you fall asleep? Maybe it’ll help.”
The Seeress smiled gratefully. “Maybe it will.” Her large eyes fluttered as if she was fighting sleep, but it very quickly consumed her.
The trio watched her sleep for a few minutes before Agrona finally chased them out of the room. They walked down the hall together, each quiet and thoughtful. Chroniclus silently took Agrona’s hand and pulled her close.
“You never told me you have nightmares,” he said quietly.
“Everyone has nightmares, Nicus.”
“Yes, but why do you need a sword for yours? You’re a dragon. You can incinerate anything that comes at you.”
“Not in dreams.” She looked up at him, her normally cocky attitude hushed and weary. “When dragons have nightmares, we see ourselves as human, weak and vulnerable. Very few dragons I have heard of have been able to use their elemental abilities in their dreams. That’s why I attached my element to my sword.”
“What do you have nightmares about?”
“Trying to discover my greatest fears?” She teased.
He wrapped his arm around her waist and pulled her into a spinning hug. “I’m trying to figure out why you have any fears when I’m here. Do you think I’d ever let anything happen to you?”
She kissed his cheek. “No. That’s why I haven’t carried a dream sword since I met you.”
He kissed her back and grinned at Shyftin, who was watching them jealously. “Well we’re going to have to think of some way to help Scota until she figures out Shyftin exists.”
He scowled at them, but then his expression grew thoughtful. “We could make her a sword.”
“The proper term is ‘forge,’ Shyfty,” Agrona corrected mildly.
Shyftin ignored her and addressed Chroniclus. “There’s a metal in Vermifiut that can bond with its bearer, isn’t there?”
“No, but there is on Zykran. It’s called terratel. I could talk to my father; he could get us enough to make a good sized sword.”
Agrona looked at the two men in awe. “Shyftin, that’s brilliant!” She gave him a delighted hug and clapped her hands excitedly. “Oh, she’ll love you for that!”
Shyftin grabbed her hands, forcing them to be still as he hissed, “For Versia’s sake, Rona! Keep quiet! We don’t need any of the watchmen finding us out of our rooms–much less you two together at night.”
“We’re not going to do anything.”
“You’re a very public couple, you don’t HAVE to do anything to get in trouble.”
“He’s right,” Chroniclus agreed reluctantly. “We need to get to our rooms and get to sleep. We have a full day of classes tomorrow, and we don’t want anyone to suspect what we’re up to. Goodnight.” He kissed her once before he and Shyftin went to their rooms.
The next few nights followed a similar pattern; Agrona would reluctantly leave her bed at Shyftin’s anxious pleas and sneak into Scota’s room to wake her from her nightmares. The two men would sneak in a few minutes later, Shyftin with warm milk and Chroniclus with chocolate. Slowly, Scota’s nightmares eased, but they didn’t abandon her completely. Soon, Agrona didn’t need Shyftin to beg her to help the selarthin, she did it on her own, often seeking the other woman out even during the day. Shyftin finally grew confident enough to speak to her without stuttering, and she didn’t look at Chroniclus with quite so much longing. Yet the nightmares persisted.
Finally one afternoon as the classes ended, Chroniclus slipped away, confusing even Agrona. He didn’t rejoin them until halfway through their break, after Scota had already been called away for her special session with the Head Master. He slid onto the bench beside Agrona and leaned forward. The other two followed his lead, quietly waiting for his whispered explanation.
“I didn’t expect it to take so long,” he said, flashing an apologetic smile at his girlfriend. “My father finally sent the terratel I asked for. I took it to Shyftin’s cavern. I figure we can set up a make shift forge in there and work on the sword while Scota is working through her prophecy sessions with the Head Master.”
“Good idea,” Agrona agreed. She turned to Shyftin for approval. “It’s going to get really hot in your cave. I hope you don’t mind.” She turned to Chroniclus thoughtfully. “You know, we could always forge it on my cavern. I can handle the heat better.”
“No.” Shyftin insisted. “I’ve inconvenienced you enough with this. I deal with the heat. You are doing this for me, anyway. It’s only fair that I suffer.”
“If I were doing this just for you, I would have blown you off a long time ago,” Agrona rebuffed. “Scota is my friend, too, now, and she’s suffering. I want to help as much as I can.”
“Good,” Chroniclus said firmly, squeezing her hand. “We’ll need a powerful fias to make this work.”
They all stopped talking as Scota wearily approached the table. She plopped down ungracefully and slumped onto the table.
“I don’t know which is more exhausting,” the Seeress sighed, “the nightmares or the vision training.” She brushed her hair back in tired frustration before looking up at her friends hopelessly. “Seer Carttropsyp is coming in two weeks to check on my progress. If I don’t exceed his expectations–” She shook her head and sank low. “I can kiss any social life I have good-bye. The only friend I have that Carttropsyp actually approves of is Chroniclus. If the Head Master didn’t think that isolating me would cause another war, I would never get to see you.” She actually looked at Shyftin first before looking to the others and adding, “Any of you.”
“I will take it as a personal insult if I am ever forbidden from seeing you,” Shyftin promised. “I might even declare war on the Head Master himself.”
Scota smiled gratefully then slumped back down. “It’s too late. He’s already rescinded my weekend privileges.”
“What!” Agrona stiffened indignantly. “Why?”
“Are you failing your prophecy courses?” Chroniclus asked.
“No! But–but I’m not excelling either. According to the Head Master, I’m ‘on par.'” She sighed. “He’s desperate to impress the Seer, and I’m not good enough for him.”
“He’s pushing you too hard,” Shyftin said firmly. “You can’t handle this kind of pressure, not when you have to deal with nightmares, too.”
“What choice do I have? I’m already earmarked to be the next Mid-Realm seer. You think the pressure will let up then? Do you think my life will get any easier? My life is cursed.”
The trio was silent, all unsure of how to cheer her up. Shyftin stared at the miserable selarthin, glancing at his friends for help. Agrona only shrugged and shook her head helplessly. Chroniclus’s head was bowed, his arms folded over his narrow chest, his brow knitted in intense concentration.
Shyftin frowned and stood up. Everyone stared at him in surprise, but he just held out his hand to the selarthin. “Come on. You need a break.”
Scota accepted his hand hesitantly. “Where are we going?”
Chroniclus stood and chased after them. “You can’t! You don’t have clearance.”
“Who cares?” Agrona challenged gleefully.
“You still have three more classes today!” The elf protested.
“And we’re going to blow them off,” Shyftin told him. He faced Chroniclus with determination. “Look, you don’t have to come if you don’t want to, but Scota needs this. So I’m taking her.”
“Go,” Agrona told him, pulling Chroniclus back. “We’ll cover you.”
“How are we going to do that?” Chroniclus asked as Agrona pulled him back to their table.
“Easy,” she replied with a kiss. “You let me do the talking.”
Shyftin guided Scota outside, dropping the saddle he had retrieved into the grass as he took a moment to just stand with the seeress outside in the warm breeze. Her red gold hair was being tugged from her loose braid and tickling her jutting cheekbones and heart shaped lips. Her doe brown eyes were alight with mischievous excitement as she looked back at him, her tree-like frame unbending in the wind.
“Head Master is going to be furious,” Scota said, though her smile was relaxed.
“I don’t care,” he told her calmly. “You need this.”
He stepped away and transformed. His already white skin became whiter, taking on a metallic shine as scales grew across his body. His nose and mouth lengthened and became a hawk-like beak. His white hair seemed to stand up on end and twist together to form twin ridges of three horns, each one taller than the last. His wings spread out from his back, the thin fingers between the membrane glistening white. His foreclaws were hand-like, sharp and deadly claws growing from his strong fingers. His back claws resembled those of a lion, firmly planted in the ground in a stance that belied his narrow build. His tail curled was long and thin, whipping around to reveal a crystalline spade tail. Not for the first time was Scota’s breath taken away by his magnificence.
His giant head swung toward her expectantly. She scooped up the saddle and ran to him, expertly strapping the saddle across his back and scaling his leg to her position on his back. She hooked her feet into the straps and gripped the handle as Shyftin’s muscles coiled beneath her. Her stomach lurched as the dragon jumped into the air, and she whooped as he climbed higher and higher. Soon they were above the clouds, soaring with the smaller birds who knew they were too little for a dragon to bother with. Scota spread out her arms, letting the wind currents envelope her. Shyftin glided for a period, letting the selarthin enjoy the peace of the skies and just relax. She laid back on the saddle, propping her hands under head and closed her eyes, loosing herself to the warm sunlight and the heavy sounds of wings beating. Before she knew it, she was asleep, and it was the first time she could remember not having a nightmare.
They didn’t return until after sunset. The Head Master was waiting for them on the steps of the academy, arms folded over his brawny chest as his hoof pawed at the ground angrily. Scota slid from Shyftin’s saddle and hurried over to the centaur, curtseying low in humility as Shyftin walked behind her, his white draconic form glowing in the moonlight.
“How kind of you to give me enough time to write my entire lecture ahead of time with three points and sub points,” the Head Master said, his already gruff voice dangerously low.
“I’m sorry, Head Master,” Scota replied, her voice quivering fearfully.
“You will be. Wait for me in my office. I’ll deal with you there.” He dismissed her with a flick of his tail and turned his attention to the great dragon.
Scota scurried indoors, head bowed in the silence of the night as the two men stared coldly at each other. Shyftin pointedly remained in his dragon form, looking down at the centaur Head Master unapologetically. To the Head Master’s credit, he didn’t back down from his larger charge.
“What an excellent example you are setting, Prince Shyftin. Tell me, do you plan on encouraging your subjects to break rules as well?” The Head Master asked.
Shyftin shifted uncomfortably as he tried to figure out a way to answer the question. “Sometimes rules need to be broken.”
“And who decides when they need to be broken? Anyone any time they feel inconvenienced by the rules?”
“I’m not anyone, Head Master. I’m a prince!”
“So that gives you the right to choose when you want to obey the rules, and when you don’t?”
Shyftin snorted and lowered his head, glaring at the centaur rebelliously. “And who are you to tell me I can’t? I’m the First Hatched of the Versian Realms, the dragon that will one day rule the largest continent of Anrachel. You’re just a half-horse thing. You’re not even noble. I don’t have to listen to you.”
The Head Master put one hoof on Shyftin’s nose, pushing down on it and throwing the dragon prince off balance. “When you came here, you placed yourself under my authority. You and your father made it clear that coming here was your choice, so you can’t blame your presence here on anyone else. You may be a prince in the Versian Realms, but here you are just a student, my student, and nothing more. You knew that when you came here, and I expect you to remember it, or you can go back to your palace. You are not my prince, but you are my student, and I will treat you as such until you are my student no longer. You will be confined to your cavern for the remainder of the night. And since you decided to take your weekend excursion a few days early, I expect you and Scota to remain on campus Saturday and attend all classes you missed this afternoon. Do you understand?”
Shyftin transformed into his human persona and knelt before the centaur humbly. “I understand, Head Master. Will Agrona and Chroniclus still be able to go out this weekend?”
“They are not your subjects, and thus not your business. You should only be concerning yourself with your classes while here at the academy.”
“Yes, Head Master.”
“You are dismissed. Get to your cavern and stay there.”
The prince stood and bowed before going inside. Scota was lurking just past the entrance, pressed against the wall with one large ear tuned to the conversation outside. As soon as Shyftin crossed into the shadows of the academy, the selarthin wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him.
“Thank you,” she whispered into his ear. “I’ll never forget that.” Then she ran to the Head Master’s office to await her own lecture and punishment, leaving the dragon prince standing stunned in the hallway.
Agrona and Chroniclus were waiting for Shyftin when he finally staggered into his cavern. He blinked at them, as if he didn’t recognize them, and stayed quiet.
Agrona regarded him warily. “So—how much centaur turd are you standing in right now?”
“A lot,” he replied numbly. Then he grinned, life returning to his purple eyes. “But it was absolutely worth it.”
Chroniclus raised an eyebrow curiously. “Sounds good.”
“I want details!”
“Later,” Shyftin cut Agrona’s excitement off as his attention was refocused. “We need to forge Scota’s sword before the Seer arrives. She needs to be well-rested in order to impress both Carttropsyp and the Head Master.”
They worked all that night and into the morning, then for the next five nights after. In Shyftin’s opinion, it took too long, silently suffering every night he heard Scota’s heart-wrenching screams and strangled sobs. Finally it was done. All it needed was an inscription that Agrona carefully etched into the flat of the blade:
Steel to mold
Fire to heat
Water to temper
Air to cool
Friendship to strengthen.
I am no longer defenseless.
Agrona eyed her handiwork critically then offered it to Shyftin for approval. “My Selarthin is a little rusty, but I had Chron check and double check my grammar and form, so if there’s anything wrong, it’s his fault.”
“It’s nice to know you’re watching my back,” Chroniclus shot back, a slight smirk crossing his lips.
Shyftin smiled and nodded approvingly as he studied the inscription. “It’s perfect. Thank you. Thanks both of you.” He held the sword up to the light, admiring it. A sudden frown struck him, and he lowered it, looking at his friends in concern. “This is what she needs, right? This will help her sleep? Make her happy?”
Agrona and Chroniclus exchanged a sympathetic look before reassuring the worried Versian.
“She’s a fighter,” Agrona told him. “All she needed was a weapon to fight with. It might take a night or two, but it will work. And she will love it. She will love you for making it for her. If she doesn’t love you already, this will definitely steal her heart. It would steal mine. Look at it, it’s gorgeous!”
He smiled. “It is, isn’t it?”
“It’s mainly the inscription on the blade, but yes, the rest of it is pretty good, too.”
Shyftin chuckled softly and sheathed it. “I’m going to give it to her in the morning. This will be her last night of nightmares.”
The next morning, Scota staggered into the common room, looking haggard and old. Agrona hissed in dismay and smacked Shyftin’s arm, jolting the Versian out of his shocked stupor and into action. The Prince hurried over to her, trying not to stare at the bags under her large doe brown eyes. She smiled wearily at him and gladly leaned on his offered arm.
“I had another nightmare last night,” she said quietly, resting her head on his shoulder. “Did you hear me?”
“There’s not a night when I don’t hear you. Was it of the Tenth Prophecy again? Or was it something worse?”
“There’s nothing worse than the monster of the Tenth Prophecy. It’s always that creature. He delights in devastating my dreams.” She peered up at the dragon man. “Shyftin, he destroyed Anrachel.”
Shyftin stopped suddenly and looked at her urgently. “Is that a new part of prophecy? Or is it just a figment of terror?”
She gnawed her lip thoughtfully then shook her head. “I don’t know. I can’t tell the difference yet, but I think it was a bit of both. While it won’t be anhilated amongst the ten foretold, I believe that our homeworld will be left devastated in the monster’s wake. I saw the mangled corpses of my tribe wreathed in his fires. I saw Chroniclus dead against a tree, two children sobbing over him. I saw Agrona’s twisted and crumpled, as if every bone in her body had been shattered. And I saw you—” she looked up at him and choked, shaking her head and squeezing her eyes shut.
On an impulse, the dragon man pulled the Selarthin into his arms and just held her. She melted into him and cried. He didn’t care, and he didn’t press her about her vision. She cried silently for several minutes, her body shaking with ragged breaths. Agrona made as if to come with her own comfort, but Shyftin shook his head, waving her off. He wanted to be there for the seeress.
Scota hiccupped when the tears finally digressed. She pulled away, wiping at her eyes furiously and sniffling. “I’m so sorry. I’m such a pathetic mess! I don’t usually have meltdowns like this, I swear.”
He tore off a piece of his tunic for lack of a handkerchief and offered it to her. His sacrifice didn’t go unnoticed. She smiled again, wiped her eyes, and blew her nose. He smiled back at her, hoping it didn’t come off as pitiying. “You’re tired and under a lot of stress. I’ve seen full grown men break down for less. And I’m sure these nightmares aren’t helping.”
“They are most definitely not. There just doesn’t seem to be any way around them.”
“What if there were? Would you take it?”
“You mean like Agrona’s ‘nightmare sword’? I don’t know. Seer Carttropsyp claims the nightmares are a necessary part of the seer’s duty, a telling side effect of foreseeing the future. It may be horribly selfish of me, but I think I would rather be without them.”
“Then come with me.” He took her hand and started leading her back to the dorms, catching an all-too-knowing grin from Agrona and a self-satisfied smirk from Chroniclus.
“Oh, Shyftin, no. As much fun as I had last time, I don’t think I’m in any condition to face another lecture from the Head Master.”
“Don’t worry. This will be lecture-free.” He took her to his caves, keeping tight grip on her thin hand as the darkness enveloped them. He quickly lit a torch for her and took her to the ledge where he and his friends had hid the newly forged sword. “I was hoping to give this to you tonight in a more romantic setting, but I think your day could use fresh hope already.”
Scota’s vision was admittedly swimming from both exhaustion and low-light, but she thought she could pick out the long shape amongst the shadows. “What is it?”
He unsheathed the blade and held it in the light for her to see. “Your very own nightmare sword. Agrona, Chroniclus, and I have spent the last several nights working on it. Agrona heated the forge and did the inscription, Chroniclus designed and shaped it, and I added my own special touch to it.” He tried to keep from twitching as she studied it mutely. Finally, he burst. “Do you like it?”
“Like it?” She shook her head, her expression somber. “In all my travels, I have never seen anything that could be compared to this. It is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. Thank you!” She had to jump up a little to kiss him, but she had good aim.
Shyftin caught her and held her, kissing her back with fierce relief.
She nestled into his arms and closed her eyes, one hand on her sword. “I love you.”
The confession surprised him. He looked down at her and put one hand on the back of her head, cradling it, keeping her close to him. “I love you, too.”
The monster of the Tenth Prophecy reared its head once again in her dreams that night. She stood alone on an outcropping rock, surrounded by a field of wildfire, at the edge of which hovered the Shadow. She stared at the devastation and put one hand on her hip. The sword warmed at her side, hardening as her fingers curled around the hilt. The Shadow turned its indistinguishable head toward her suspiciously and growled at the sight of the weapon. It roared at her and flapped its wings, blurring into the thickening smoke.
“Hold your ground,” Agrona’s voice instructed from behind her. “Don’t let it scare you into submission.”
“Up until now your mind has been its realm,” Chroniclus added, coming up beside his girlfriend. “It’s time to claim it for yourself.”
Scota felt a gentle touch at her elbow and looked over to see Shyftin standing beside her. “I don’t think this monster knows who you are,” he said, his eyes sparking in a playful challenge. “Why don’t you introduce yourself?”
Scota drew the sword, feeling the wind turn cool and fresh, turning the smoke to clouds. The dragon’s head emerged from the brewing storm and glared at her, its eyed twin pools of bleeding flames. It snarled and opened its maw, embers beginning to glow deep in its throat.
She felt her friends behind her, she knew her sword would hold. She raised the blade to meet the forming pyre and shouted, “This is not the future I will face! I will give my life to save the worlds and people I love. I am not afraid of you, and you will not win!”
The dragon’s fire met her blade, exploded in a vibrant display of colors and screams. The sword flashed. Lightning struck the formless beast, dissipating it. Rain swept across the field, extinguishing the fire and clearing the way for the growing grass. The fear was gone.
Scota’s fingers curled around Shyftin’s and they looked at each other. “I won’t fear the future as long as you’re here to face it with me.”
He raised her hand to his lips and kissed it lovingly. “I will never leave you.”