An early afternoon walk with Zemi was now an everyday habit for AsaHi.
Sometimes he showed her through the deep caverns of the expanses of Wyndor. Other times, he introduce her to the tall mountain ranges and sparkling waterfalls. On the days when they planned to picnic, they hiked down into the valley below.
Something about it invigorated her and reminded her of simpler times when she traveled across the wilderness of Nefol.. Sometimes AsaHi would tell Zemi about these things. Sometimes she would talk about herself and the short-lived time of her past.
But most of the time he would talk, because she always had a million questions waiting in the corners of her mind. To her surprise, the Dreigiau spoke quite freely to her, even of things that were far beyond her comprehension.
She loved it most when Zemi would talk about their world and the Earthians from his perspective — everything took on a magical hue when he did. There was always something within his voice, something within the words that he chose, and AsaHi knew without a doubt that the Arweinydd held overwhelming compassion for her people.
Today she sat waiting for Zemi outside on the Ledge — a rock shelf that hung out over the face of the mountain. It was a small area in comparison to some of the rooms that burrowed deep into the heart of the mountain, only about three Dragon spans wide.
I wonder why Zemi wants to meet me here.
Compared to the rest of Wyndor, the Ledge had very little to offer in the way of beauty. It was a flat, white table of stone. To one side, a single Dragon-sized arch opened back into the face of the mountain. She could just make out the dim winding hall that eventually connected to the Great Chamber. To the other side, there was nothing but the spread of blue sky and the whistle of the wind.
He’s always up to something strange.
She gazed at the arched doorway with a little sigh. Zemi was late.
I suppose I’ll just have to wait and see.
Settling down on a small rock outcropping, she stared up at the passing cloud fringe. Just as she was allowing her mind to drift off into daydream, a tremendous sound shattered the peace of the quiet afternoon.
A large white Dragon head suddenly thrust from the arched doorway. Great fangs gleamed as the lips peeled back, the maw opening wide in what appeared to be a Dragon’s laugh. The voice was Zemi’s, though larger and grittier.
Jerking back, AsaHi gave a little cry of alarm. It took a moment before the situation registered on her. “Z-Zemi!?”
“That’s right!” The big Dragony smile came again. “Are you surprised?”
“Surprised… is not the word for it…” AsaHi let out a long, deep breath.
“Did I scare you? I didn’t mean to,” the great head lowered, chin plopping on the ground like an enormous puppy-dog. The large teal-flecked eyes watched her, strangely expressive.
“Just startled,” she told him, getting slowly to her feet.
Until that moment, AsaHi only saw Zemi’s Dragon form from afar. Except for the one time in the Host Gate, though that had only been a hazy illusion.
Still, there’s something about him that is completely Zemi-ish, even as a Dragon.
Though his mane was wild and unkempt, falling across his forehead in mischievous clumps, his form was sleek and strongly made. Despite the overwhelming feeling of power that he bore, his manner remained playful and openly friendly.
Even as a Dragon, it’s hard not to like him.
“Disappointing,” AsaHi teased, crossing her arms and pushing her own feelings out of the picture.
“Whaaaaat?” Zemi’s ears perked, tail lashing playfully. “I know you’re not talking about me! I’m the finest Dragon around!”
“I was told that you were supposed to be absolutely gigantic,” the girl grimaced at him, spreading her hands to accent the words.
“I can be?” Zemi told her.
“You aren’t now,” she pointed out.
“That’s because I don’t need to be,” he gave a snort. “My form isn’t limited in dimension, thus I can choose how I want to appear. Sometimes it’s good to be a small Dragon. Sometimes it’s good to be a big Dragon. Today, I’m somewhere in between.”
“And why’s that?”
“Because we’re going flying!” Big fangy Dragon grin, yet again.
“Flying?” AsaHi stared at him, caught up in the sudden adventure of it all.
“Brunswik told me you didn’t have any flying experience. Which is a real shame. You’d make a fantastic Dragon rider,” he encouraged brightly.
“Why do you say that?”
“Just because I know you will,” Zemi answered. Then added as an afterthought, “You and Dragons get along. You know that, right?”
“Yeah…” the girl peered up at him quietly.
No one ever said it before. But somehow, she did know it. There was something unusual, a connection between her and the Dragons. She felt it for the first time when she met the Dragons on the Cleft, but she didn’t know what it meant then.
“So, it would do you some good to know how to ride, don’t you think?”
“I guess so,” AsaHi answered after a moment of thought.
“Or do you not want to learn?” Zemi asked, sensing her hesitance.
“Yes, yes, of course I do!” she covered her uncertainty quickly. She really was very interested. Not everyone was offered the chance to learn how to ride a Dragon in their lifetime, after all.
“Well, then, what are you waiting for? Hop on,” he grinned at her.
AsaHi walked forward slowly, running her tongue over her lips. The closer she came, the bigger Zemi seemed to loom, even though he was sprawled haphazardly, harmlessly on the stone.
The girl squinted, trying to figure out how to make her way to the great ridge of the Dreigiau’s back – it was a startlingly long way up. AsaHi reached out and gingerly braced her palms against the crook of one of Zemi’s forelegs. Feeling the warmth of living Dragon under her fingers, she couldn’t bring herself to climb, thinking about boot scrapes along his skin.
“AsaHi,” Zemi tilted his head back at her, face strangely endearing and amused. “Let’s start on page one, shall we?”
“Okay?” she answered, not knowing what page one was about.
“I’m a big, thick-skinned beast,” he grinned brightly. “If you step on me, it’s not gonna hurt. Besides that, I’m Arweinydd. You can’t hurt Arweinydd. So just relax and climb up. Okay?”
“Okay,” AsaHi drew a deep breath, then began to scrabble up the side of Zemi’s shoulder on her hands and knees. She quickly found that catching the hinge where the wing met the shoulder blade was an excellent place to hoist herself up. So she did.
For a moment, she was suspended, stomach balanced on the crest of the Dreigiau’s back. Her head was tilted down the other side. Her feet still dangled, pushing from behind. Struggling to grab hold of the thick white mane, the girl managed to gather herself up into a mounted position. Finally, AsaHi lay sprawled there, a little spot of tension on the Dreigiau’s wide shoulders. Her hands were shaking slightly.
“There you go,” Zemi said. “Now just relax… calm your mind and let it all go.”
His voice rumbled, the vibration rippling under her and up through her entire body. She could feel the welling of great, deep breaths and the vast thrumming of his heart. Then every little motion, every shift in balance, became one with her own. Within that moment, AsaHi felt more connected to the Dreigiau than she had ever been to anything else.
“Ah, now you see? You’re beginning to find it,” he murmured.
His voice didn’t need to be loud for her to hear it. Perhaps Zemi didn’t even need to speak. The connection between them was so gripping, she wondered if she might even begin to sense his thoughts.
“It’s been waiting for the right time, AsaHi. It’s been there inside you all along,” the sound was now within her ears. She couldn’t tell if it was a real voice at all. “It just needs a certain situation to wake it.”
“Wake what?” she ventured. Her words were groggy and distant to her ears.
This feeling, he means. But what is it… how do I know about…?
AsaHi simply knew – as if she had been riding Dragon-back her whole life. Her hands gripped the mane firmly, her knees knew the balance, her body moved easily with the Dreigiau as he rose and stretched his wings wide. As if her mind was opening, releasing secret things. Things that always existed but never spoken to her before.
“You share a special bond with Dragon-kin. It is known as Drei’distau,” Zemi answered as his great wings began to sweep back. Very smoothly, he lifted up from the ground, rising gently towards the brilliant sky.
AsaHi watched the world shrink away beneath them. There was no fear. There was no worry. There was only herself, the Dreigiau, and the glory of Dragon flight shared between them.
The scent of clear air mingled with the warm fragrance of the Dreigiau. His sweeping white mane blurred through her vision, shifting across the deep azure skies. It only took a moment before they rose above the pillared peaks of the clouds. Then they became hidden away in their own private realm, far above the vibrant curve of the earth.
Neither of them spoke. Neither of them had to. Motion of Dragon and motion of girl were one and the same. They were locked into a single thought. Feeling with the same heart.
As the emotion rushed through her, the vast realization rang through. It came, both terrible and wonderful at the same time, leaving a mark of numbness imprinted upon AsaHi’s mind. She knew and he knew.
I have feelings for Zemi.