“What is your name?” Sarah asks the woman, her eyebrows knitting together when she feels something pressed up against her chest as she hangs onto the woman around her waist.
“Sapphire,” the woman says, keeping her eyes forward as she steers Laeros to fly more North now. “If you need to ret, let me know. It will take a day and a half of another day to get to my master’s castle in the City of Dragons.”
Sarah lets out a small gasp when she hears where they are headed, having heard stories about how dangerous the City of Dragons is and how only a few live there, those of evil heart. She swallows her unease away as she thinks of ways to let Eric know where they are headed. She looks down at the ground, watching as trees fly past, swirling into one because of the lazy speed the dragon is flying. If it takes a day and a half by riding a dragon, then that means it will take at least three days by horse, and that is if Eric figures out where they are headed too. She will have to find ways to stop the wedding to Trent to give Eric more time to find her if she can’t find a way of telling him where they are going.
She quietly takes off her veil and lets it fly free behind her, hoping that it will fall to the ground and help Eric in finding her. If not, then she is doomed to marry an evil warlock, and she refuses to do that. She decides to try anything and everything to slow down their traveling, ideas popping in her head. She lets Sapphire’s waist go and wraps her arms around her own, balancing on the dragon’s back with her legs, and groans loudly to catch Sapphire’s attention.
Sapphire glances over her shoulder, her expression worried for Sarah, “What? Why are you groaning like that?”
“I have eaten nothing this morning before the ceremony because of my nerves,” Sarah lies. “Flying on an empty stomach is making me queasy.”
Sapphire rolls her eyes, “Why didn’t you tell me that before?” She mutters under her breath as she gently nudges for Laeros to land in a clearing in the forest below where the mighty dragon can fit. “We will stop for a bit to eat and rest. Then we will continue on our way.”
As soon as Laeros is on the ground, Sarah scrambles down off the dragon’s back, pretending that she is about to get sick. She rushes over to a nearby tree and bends over, forcing herself to cough a bit. Sapphire slides off his back and walks around so she can look into Laeros’s eyes.
“Get some rest sine we have a while yet before we want to make camp.” She glances over at Sarah still by the tree. “Well, hopefully, we can unless she slows us down more.”
The dragon chuckles before he curls into a tight ball like a cat, closing his pitch-black eyes for a quick nap. Sapphire faces Sarah, who is still coughing and gasping for air by the tree, and shakes her head, wondering if she should help the girl or do something else. Deciding to do something else, she turns on her heels and heads into the forest not too far from their spot and searches for wood and moss to start a fire for them since the Spring air is still clinging with winter cold.
Sarah glances back to see Laeros already asleep, breathing out little tendrils of smoke from his nose. She averts her eyes to see Sapphire is heading into the surrounding forest but stops so she can still monitor the dragon and Sarah, busying herself by grabbing up sticks off the ground and scraping moss off some tree trunks. Sarah faces forward, still bending over to keep up appearances she is struggling to not throw up and reaches under her dress, ripping off a piece where she knew Sapphire wouldn’t notice it and sticks it on the backside of the tree. She knew that leaving a trail with her wedding dress may not work, but she felt that she should do something to help Eric find her.
After she is sure that it is secure against the tree bark, she turns away and slowly makes her way back towards Laeros, knowing that she could never outrun the dragon in her wedding dress. Sapphire returns with her arms full, dropping them on the ground, and begins to clear a spot to make a campfire, placing the sticks and moss in a neat pile in the circle she has cleared. She says a few words in a language that Sarah has never heard before and a flame springs to life in the middle of the twigs.
Soon the fire is roaring and Sapphire returns to Laeros to retrieve a bag that Sarah hadn’t noticed before. Sapphire drops the bag on the ground, slipping off the cloak to reveal a long black dress, black boots, and two stunning black as night butterfly wings that she now stretches up to the sky with a smile on her face. Sarah notices an odd-looking chocker sitting delicately around Sapphire’s neck with a deep ruby red gem pressed against the woman’s throat.
Sarah sits on the ground, accepting the jerky that Sapphire has taken from the bag and is now presenting it to her. Sapphire sits on the ground across from her, nibbling on her jerky piece while staring into the flames, her wings gently opening and closing behind her.
While Sarah eats, she studies her captor over the warm flames, her eyes drawn to the chocker again for some reason. She doesn’t know why, but she feels that the chocker is somehow causing Sapphire’s strange behavior. She looks over at the dragon, seeing the same gem pressed into a collar around his neck, her eyebrows furrowing a bit. She wonders if Trent is perhaps controlling the two with his magic with those gems.
Her mind wanders away from the gems when she remembers Sapphire telling her and Eric that Trent had seen her in the town of Eagle Falls. She takes another bite of the jerky, wondering when he could have seen her as she travels to the town often since it is only a few hours ride from her home in the Forest of Crystals. She then wonders if she had possibly seen or conversed with the Warlock on any of those times had she visited the town. Lost in her thoughts, she doesn’t see Sapphire stand and begin to pack up the bag or magically put out the fire.
“Sarah, it’s time to go. Like I told Laeros, we still have a way to fly before we can set up camp for the night.”
Sarah blinks several times and stands, looking around, almost having forgotten where she was and what has happened. She sees Sapphire heading over to Laeros, gently waking the sleeping beast from his slumber, and the urge to run grows stronger. Sapphire looks back at Sarah, almost daring the elf to run, but to her surprise Sarah walks towards her instead, lifting her dress as she walks.
Sapphire climbs back onto Laeros’s back, then helps Sarah climb up. She waits until Sarah is sitting safely on the dragon’s back before she gently nudges the sides of the dragon to let him know that they are ready for flight. Laeros leaps back into the sky and heads North East, towards the City of Dragons.
“Eric, you can’t just leave right now. You don’t have the provisions you need for the journey and you don’t even know where they are headed,” one of his friends tells him as Eric quickly packs a bag.
Eric throws off his garments he was wearing for his wedding and quickly dresses in some traveling clothes and boots before he returns to packing, ignoring his friend’s plea. Eric stops when the Elder Elf, his parents, and Sarah’s parents enter his room.
“They flew East so I will go that way until I find something that will tell me what direction they took or if they stayed on course to the East,” Eric says as he watches his mother finish packing his bag for him. “Sarah will find a way to tell me where they are going.”
Sarah’s mother holds up a necklace chain then sets it in his hand, “So you can wear her ring close to your heart. It will help you find her.”
His dad hands him a bow, a pack full of arrows plus a few knives and a beautifully made elf sword. “Take these weapons with you to protect yourself with, son.”
“Thanks, Dad,” Eric says as he slips the chain in his pocket and packs the knives in his bag before closing it and stashing his sword in a hilt at his hip. He lastly places the bow and arrows on his back, feeling more ready for the journey to find his Sarah, knowing that he has protection and their love to guide him.
Sarah’s dad hands him another bag to put on the horse, full of food and water, “Bring her back to us.”
“I promise I will,” Eric says, grabbing his bag off his bed and takes the bag of food from Sarah’s dad.
The group heads outside to where his horse is already saddled and ready for the journey. Eric ties on his bag, the food bad, and his bow and arrows to the saddle before he climbs up. He sits tall, taking the reins in his hands and letting out a heavy sigh.
The Elder taps Eric’s leg to catch his attention, “There are only three places to the East from here where an evil Warlock would live. Diablo Mountains, City of Dragons, and Hillsphere. All are dangerous places, so be careful when you go to search for Sarah. You will most likely need to travel at night to make up traveling time since they are on a dragon.”
Eric nods, already having planned to ride at night even though it could be dangerous with thieves on the loose. His dad ties Eric’s bedroll to the back of the saddle tightly so he doesn’t lose it on the ride and stands back beside his wife, clenching his jaw. Eric says his goodbyes to everyone before he urges his horse forward, the horse deciding to take it slow at first since there are so many people around. While the horse walks, Eric takes the chain out of his pocket along with Sarah’s ring and slips it on the chain. He secures it around his neck and once the horse is no longer close to his family; he clicks his tongue and the horse speeds down the road out of the town. Other elves stand beside the road waving, and yelling encouraging words after Eric, all worried about Sarah and about the situation they are all forced into with the evil Warlock.
Soon he and his hose are racing across the meadow where the wedding had been interrupted a few hours earlier, the horse running towards the East at Eric’s nudging. Eric stares ahead, the noon sun mocking him as he does his best to not worry himself to death about Sarah and what may be happening to her at that very moment. Eric clenches his jaw as his horse enters the next patch of forest, his eyes roaming the ground for any signs from Sarah as to where the mysterious woman is taking her.
The three places sit roughly on his mind, the Elder’s words hanging heavily. Diablo Mountains, City of Dragons, and Hillsphere, all places no one in their right mind would travel to, yet here he is, rushing towards them head-on. Pushing the thoughts out of his mind, he continues to search for anything that will tell him where Sarah may be going but the ground holds no secrets or information for him.
For the rest of the day, he and his horse continue to travel to the East, not veering off the trail they are on. As the sun slowly sinks, he stops his horse for the third time to take a break and let them both rest, drink water, and eat a little while Eric calms his anger and frustration. As he sits on a fallen trunk, he pulls free a map that he thankfully decided to pack last minute and stares down at it to see if there is a town close by. Maybe he can find out more about Trent by asking the locals and travelers in the Inn or local pub. He pulls out a few crackers and eats one as he traces the trail to the closest town.
“The Town of Misty Hills, definitely a travelers’ hot spot,” he mutters to himself. He traces the trail one last time with his finger, making sure that he is picking the fastest way. “Okay boy looks like we have our first stop. It is still to the East, so we won’t be going off the trail too much, thankfully.” He puts the map away and finishes eating his crackers before he hops back onto his horse’s back. “Let’s get there before the sun falls behind the horizon.”
His horse neighs in agreement, eyeing the sky himself before he takes off in a fast trot, Eric keeping his eyes peeled for any danger that may come his way and anything Sarah may have left for him to find. The sun dips just behind the horizon as he and his horse enter the busy town of Misty Hills, horses with riders and those on foot, walking the streets to find a place to stay and the local pub or to do last-minute shopping before the shops and market close. Eric sees the Inn at the end of the street so he heads there first, deciding to see if any travelers heading there may have heard of the Warlock Trent and where he lives. Once in front of the modest inn, he slides off his horse and ties him to a pole so that his horse does not wander off.
He eyes the surrounding people, wondering if this is a good idea or would it be better to find the pub. Shaking his head, he asks around, but no one seems to hear him or ignores him altogether. He growls under his breath at the lack of help around the Inn, so he pats his horse and leads him back down the street in search of the local pub. Finding it, he takes his bags and weapons with him before leaving his horse tied up outside. He enters and instantly the aromatic smells of mead and food invade his nose, making his stomach growl in hunger since all he had been eating is small snacks along the way. Finding an empty table, he sets his items down on the chair beside him and takes a seat, watching as dwarves, elves, humans, and hobbits chatter and drink together around the room. An orange-headed woman walks over to his table and asks what he wanted to eat and drink.
“I will have the turkey leg, potatoes, and mead, please,” Eric tells her before he returns his gaze to the room. “I have a question I am hoping someone here might have an answer to,” he quickly tells her before she has a chance to leave.
“Yea, what is it?”
“Do you or anyone in here know of Trent the Warlock and where he lives?” Eric asks, looking back at the woman to see her face grows pale.
“Let me go get your food and mead, sir,” she says hastily, nearly running into a patron as she scurries away from his table.
Eric notes her strange behavior, knowing that she knew something but doubts he will get anything out of her. He watches as she leans over the bar and whispers into the large man’s ear, who glares over at him. Eric swallows a bit but forces a smile on his face when the woman returns with his food and drink. He thanks her again and takes a sip of the mead, flinching as the bitter taste hits his tongue.
“I thought this would be better the way everyone is carrying on,” Eric mumbles to himself, pushing the drink aside. “I hope the food is better.” He takes a bite of the leg and smiles, a bit of grease running down the sides of his mouth as he enjoys the juiciness of the skin and meat. His eyes fly upwards when a shadow crosses over him, swallowing the food before he speaks to the stranger. “Hello there? May I help you?”
Standing in front of him is a Dwarf with cunning brown eyes, black hair that sticks out from under his helmet, and a scraggly brown and blonde beard. On his back sits a giant ax and his mouth is a tight line as he regards Eric with a curious look. “Why do you wish to find Trent the Warlock?”
Eric suppresses a smile that threatens his face as he motions for the Dwarf to sit at his table so they may talk. “I am searching for him because he had a woman and dragon crash my wedding this morning and stole my bride.”
The Dwarf makes a low grunt in the back of his throat, “Stole my people’s jewels and now stealing an Elf’s bride.” He shakes his head as he places his ax on the table beside Eric’s food and sits down roughly in the chair across from the Elf. “I know little about our common enemy or where he lives, but I say we join together to find him and stop him.”
“Stole your jewels?”
“Ai! He is planning on using them to amplify his magic so he can become the strongest Warlock to ever live and rule the world. My guess is that he chose your bride to be his Queen and rule by his side,” the Dwarf tells him. “I am known as Adam the Cunning.” He holds out his battle-worn hand to Eric.
“I am Eric of the Elves of Crystal Falls,” Eric shakes his new comrades’ hand.
“Crystal Falls? You are a long way from home then,” Adam says, raising his eyes brows.
“Afraid so,” Eric sighs as he looks around. “Do you think anyone knows more about Trent here?”
“Oh, I know they do as I too have been asking but they have all been just glaring my way and now yours too it seems,” Adam nods towards a table across the room where a group of men stares at them, whispering amongst themselves. “I think it be best we get going, Eric. I feel we may not be welcomed here much longer.” Adam grabs his ax, placing it back on his back, and heads for the front door.
Eric scrambles to his feet, grabbing his gear and leaving behind money to pay for his half-eaten meal before he follows Adam out of the pub. Eric catches up to him, but before they can exit the establishment, a man breezes in, carrying something white in his hands. Eric grabs Adam’s shoulder who glances at him then to the man Eric is staring at.
The man turns his icy blue gaze around the room and holds up his hand, “Did any lovely ladies lose something in here by any chance?”
“What is wrong, Eric?” Adam asks as he watches the color drain from his Elf friend’s face.
“That is Sarah’s veil,” Eric mutters.