Book 1 Chapter 32

AsaHi watched with a distant frown as the blue rift-glow returned. She sat perched on a rock next to a waterfall, a place she returned to more and more often. This was the most secure and comfortable spot for her to retreat to as of late, especially since she had been left on her own.

Something was happening, something important and most likely dangerous. She’d hardly seen a familiar face in the past few days, and it bothered her.

Zento and Kaze — it was still too strange to think of him as Lord Zemi — were nowhere to be seen. TsuYa was taken away to be tended almost immediately and no further word was spoken of his condition. Aunt SaRa spent most of her time taking care of the young wounded girl that arrived with her and SoYa. And SoYa…

I can’t talk to him… not right now. And I don’t even know why.

A prickling hum rose through the air. Instantly, it called her attention to the patterned circle on the ground. Blue lights were a troublesome thing, especially this sort of blue light.

AsaHi slipped cautiously off of the rock and made her way closer to the heart of the strange radiance. Her bare feet padded on the grass, which quickly faded into cold stone. Everything around her was silent, as if the air itself was holding its breath.

I wonder if someone is trying to transport up here. Maybe they’re having trouble? Should I go and let Zento know?

She frowned.

If I could even find him.

One foot stepped slowly into the ring of light. The shimmers between her toes were warm and tickling. AsaHi smiled absently, staring down at the patterns. Only a few weeks ago, something like this would have been absolutely terrifying to her, if believed it existed at all.

Kneeling down, she attempted to get a better look at the scrawling runes on the stone. As her fingers met with the warmth of the light she felt a strange sensation. Her stomach suddenly lurched as her whole body jerked in a downward motion — a momentary feeling of being everywhere but nowhere at all. AsaHi fell back, splayed out on the rock.

What happened?

Green eyes darted around, taking in her surroundings. The cloud-swept grass was gone. The trees and waterfall were gone. In their place stood the craggy stone line and the huge dragon statues that reared far over her head. AsaHi recognized it at once.

I’m… I’m on the ground?

She pushed herself to her feet, brushing off the back of her robe with one hand.

I wonder what activated i–

A rumbling growl echoed from the stone outcroppings all around her. First one… then another… and another… until the whole hollow filled with the wild, alien sound. AsaHi’s gaze swept around from statue to statue. She couldn’t see anything, but she could feel… something

“Who’s there?” she staggered back towards the center of the circle.

The growling only grew louder in response to her voice. It swelled, surrounding her from all sides. Breath coming in quiet gasps, her feet scratched along the dry surface of the stone. The blue light was gone and she wished it would return. She knew the blue light was the only thing that would take her back up to the city. And at that moment, she would give just about anything to be back in the safety of her shady waterfall pool.

At first she thought that her eyes were playing tricks on her as she attempted to make sense of what was unfolding. It was all so ghastly, so unreal, she didn’t want to believe it was true.

The shadows began to stretch, reaching out from the base of the dragon statues. No light fed their darkness as they oozed across the ground toward where she stood. Like five sickly fingers reaching for her, they traced long tainted rivulets in the dirt. Spreading apart, each began growing larger, rising up into flowing forms that towered tall above her head.

AsaHi’s scream rang out weakly to her ears. It was as if silence itself was commanded by the shadow creatures, eating away at all living sound.

As she stared, the shadows began to take form. Liquid darkness melded into a swirling ripple of sickly grey flesh. They had faces much like her own, except for the symbols that were burned into their skin, black and oozing like freshly open wounds. Long, ragged ears pointed through streams of flat black hair. Sharp animalistic fangs shown gleaming, long dagger-like claws hooked and ready to strike.

The most disturbing thing about them was their eyes — large and pure black, with no trace of color at all. So deep and silent, they were devoid of any life.

What are they!?

AsaHi choked, one hand rising to cover her mouth. A terrible chilling prickle ran over her entire body. Each one of the creatures was dressed in tattered, yet recognizable robes. Robes that were only worn by the Dragon Apprentices of Nefol.

Can they be… are these creatures really people from back home?

“Don’t come near me!” her voice lifted an octave in pure fear. She scrambled away, only to find her back meeting with a slick stone wall four times her height.

What do I do? What do I do? There’s no way to get back to Ceiswyr! No one even knows I’m gone!

In a very deliberate manner, the creatures began to circle her in a half circle. Their dead, black eyes reflected her terrified face as claws lifted, reaching out for her.

The creatures’ hissing suddenly changed tone. What had been a low-pitched, predatory growl now rose up in a screech of stark alarm. One of the creatures buckled over, struggling and shrieking, ripping long black gashes through its own chest. The girl could only stare as the beast buckled backwards, its chest bulging outwards, flesh and robes ripping away as a shaft of golden light burst straight through it. The creature howled and writhed, then finally exploded into a pool of smoking, black ooze.

Scrabbling on top of a rock, AsaHi pulled herself out of the way. She wasn’t really sure if the thing was dead, but she did know that she didn’t want any of the ooze to touch her.

A tremendous war cry rose up in the hollow. The remaining four creatures rounded in rage, forgetting their advance on AsaHi. All eyes were upon the new figure that stood unchallenged in the center of the runic circle.

“Kaze?” the girl gave a hopeful whisper.

His eyes flickered to her for only a second. They were keen, bright… and gold.

No, that’s not Kaze!

She watched in horror as the creatures leapt at him, motion fluid with unearthly speed. AsaHi had never seen anything that could move so fast, nothing except Kaze himself. She wanted to shout out to the stranger, to warn him about what he was facing.

That’s when she saw that he, too, bore fangs… dark hair… and long pointed ears.

Another one?

The girl pressed her back against the stone, frozen in disbelief.

Only, this one has a weapon!

The golden shaft of light that she had seen moments ago was not magic at all. It was the fighting staff that the creature held between his hands.

The staff became a blur of gold as he danced straight into their advance. A perfect display of balance and speed, measured direction and force, he struck like the wind, cutting through their attack and scattering them with ease. His dodges were flawless. His weapon never missed a stroke. His feet hardly touched the ground. Only moments into the battle, he had already taken command.

One by one the creatures fell, splattering away to the same fate as the first. Finally, he was the only one left standing.

Oh no… oh no… he’s worse than the five of them all together!

As much as she tried to avoid it, AsaHi knew she was visibly shaking. Her eyes never left the creature as he slowly straightened and turned his attention on her, “I’m glad that you knew not to let the blood touch you.”

AsaHi’s mouth went dry.

Her face must have reflected her amazement because the creature gave a low grunt and began to walk towards her, “What in the name of the Seven Universes are you doing down here on your own? It’s obviously not safe.”

“Uh…” she coughed. “But… but…”

“‘But’ is not an answer,” he frowned.

“You’re one of them aren’t you!?” she pointed with a shaking finger.

One eyebrow arched, “Excuse me?”

“I mean… you have the… the…” the girl indicated his ears.

“We are not the same,” his scowl grew deeper.

AsaHi straightened. Now that she had a moment to think, her mind began to pick out the obvious differences. “N-no… I… didn’t mean that. Please forgive m–”

He interrupted before she could finish her apology, “Don’t worry about it.”

She fell silent, staring down at the last remains of the black pools as they trickled away over the stone.

“You weren’t hurt?” his voice was softer now.

AsaHi blinked up, realizing she hadn’t even shown any gratitude to the strange creature. “I… I’m fine. Thank you.”

“Good,” his response was quick. One hand stretched out to her. “Come with me.”


“Back to Ceiswyr.”

She perked up, “You can go there?”

“Of course,” he blew a stray lock of blue hair out of his face with a patient look.


“Well, you simply walk over to the circle an–” he motioned toward the stone circle in explanation.

“No, that’s not what I mean.”

He paused and leaned forward, “Then say what you mean.”

AsaHi ran her tongue over her lips, “You’re not one of the winged people.”

“That’s correct,” he replied expectantly.

“Then why do they let you into Ceiswyr?”

“Ah. So you don’t know,” he gave her a long, meaningful look.

“Um, no. I’m sorry. I don’t,” she was feeling more and more dim-witted by the moment.

He must have sensed it because his tone shifted once more. This time, it sounded a bit more accommodating, “Forgive me for not introducing myself. I am KudakoRe. I am one of Lord Zemi’s Dragon Servants.”

“Dra…gon Servant?”

“Yes. Dragon Servant,” he nodded slowly. For the first time, she recognized that his ears were fin-shaped, like a Dragon’s.

“Are… are you… a… a….” she stammered.

“Dragon,” Kudako offered.

AsaHi nodded mutely. She was just as afraid of meeting a Dragon as she was another one of the shadow creatures.

“Somewhat,” he told her in a mysterious tone.

“Somewhat? How can someone be somewhat a Dragon?”

“Long story,” Kudako frowned slowly. “And not one that would be wise to tell here. It’s not safe on the ground anymore.”

“What were those things?” she swallowed, mind shrinking from the thoughts of the Nefol robes.

“Marked of some sort,” he answered with a lip curled in disgust.


“It’s what I call them.” His golden eyes were grave as he continued, “They had an owning Mark, not too different from the one I have serving under Lord Zemi’s hand.”

“Then, you’re saying, they’re under some sort of control?” she tilted her head.

“More than that. Those things were completely devoid of their own will.”

“What could do something like that?”

“I’m not sure. But that’s what I’m here to find out,” Kudako nodded, motioning for her to come to the center of the Wayrift.

She looked at the Dragon, face strained with apprehension. He seemed honest enough, and he had saved her life. But still, servant of Zemi or not, he said he was a Dragon. And they were creatures that were supposed to be treated with utmost respect and honor.

“Are you coming?” he peered at her quizzically.

“I… I…” AsaHi finally nodded and scurried over to stand next to him.

“We must report this to Lord Zemi.” Kudako lifted one hand slowly, the circle glowing in a warm light beneath their feet. When AsaHi looked around next, they were once again standing in Ceiswyr.

Report to Lord Zemi. That means I have to… face Kaze.

It was the one thing she was avoiding for days. AsaHi suddenly didn’t feel very brave.