Abandoned. Betrayed. Lost. Empty. Dead. Thoughts flitted through the boy’s mind, meaningless words and hollow pain. A single fragment, a name, passed and he clung to it. “Nora” the word escaped in into the poisoned air and with it came the tears. He slid to his knees beside the still figure that lay before him. Above him the Dragon laughed and leaned forward, he had come for his due. But the boy seemed oblivious to the searing heat of his presence or the choking noxious fumes in his breath. He simply knelt and wept as he placed a trembling hand on his sister’s shoulder. All he had wanted to do was protect her. He had sworn he would never let her die like their parents. So how had it come to this? Why was this happening? A thrush sang in the distance and so many childhood memories flitted through his mind. He bowed his head that had been held so high for so long and whispered hoarsely “Lumil Eliasul, if you can hear me, would you….please…save her…them…us…me…please!” Flames surrounded him.
Two Days Earlier:
“Noir! I’m serious! It’s time to get up!”
“Goodness gracious! That boy!” the girl fumed as she flipped the eggs in her pan and glared at the stairwell across the hall.
“I could always go get him for you Nora” the red-eyed boy lounging in the shadowy corner offered with a disturbing grin.
“Absolutely not” Nora snapped. She glared at him, looked back at the stairwell, and sighed wearily.” I guess there’s nothing for it.” Setting aside her spoon she picked up her skirt and hurried up the stairs. At the top, down the hall, and to the right, she entered the elaborately furnished room of her younger brother. She stormed up to the bed’s edge and then stopped. He was still sound asleep, curled up into a tight ball, his face so peaceful. Despite being fourteen he still slept like a child. She smiled softly to herself as she brushed his dark locks from his pale, wane face. “Noir” she whispered sweetly “Noir.”
His eyes fluttered and he looked up at her dazedly. “No…ra…” he murmured and then yawned.
“Time to get up sleepy head. Breakfast is almost ready” she said in a cheery tone.
“Right…I’ll be right down” He answered as he stifled another yawn.
“Alright.” She left the room, her anger forgotten, and closed the door behind her. Out in the hall, her smile fell and she stared out the window absently. It had been a full year now. A year since their parent’s murders and Noir’s decision. A year since he had made a deal with the Dragon and another had come to stay with them.
“Is he up, Nora?”
She jumped as the raspy voice pulled her from her musings. Two beady eyes watched her from across the hall. She hadn’t noticed him following her from the kitchen. “Yes, Davvin, he’s awake so leave him alone.”
The boy chuckled as she hurried past him. Once, Davvin, of a different name then, had been a friend of theirs and a frequent visitor of their Haven. But that was back when the Haven was a busy place that their parent’s ran for the Lumil Eliasul. He had disappeared long ago and now he was here as a dragon, as if to simply remind them that everything they had once loved was now lost. And his presence had taken a definite toll on their already burdened lives. The Haven had next to no guests now that a dragon was there and his poisonous breath filled the air of their home, causing it to crumble and the occupants there to become sickly and weak. Noir wanted to take Davvin somewhere else but…that would have required him to leave as well and she wouldn’t allow that. It would have been more than she could bear. So they remained and everything crumbled.
By the time breakfast was ready and on the table, Noir had arrived downstairs still looking tired and pale. He eyed the meal for a moment before shaking his head and moving to the next room. “I’m not hungry; I’ll just take some tea.”
Concern flitted across Nora’s face before she smiled again “Alright. I’ll fix it.”
Noir paused and glanced back “Ah, you don’t have to…”
“But I want to. You focus on work and I’ll take care of the rest” she said as she waved him away.
He nodded and entered their Father’s study with Davvin in tow.
Nora watched them go from the corner of her eye. Once their Father had done the Lumil Eliasul’s work in that room and many knights of Farthest Shore had met him there, but now she didn’t know what went on behind that closed door. The water spilling over the edge of the tea kettle brought her back to what she was doing and she quickly turned the pump off and set the container over the fire before searching for a rag to mop up the floor with.
“…and that concludes the Dracy case” Noir muttered as he leafed through the piles of papers on the overly large desk before him. “How close are they?” he asked his companion quietly.
From the shadows came the sound of a deep intake of air. “Two miles out, they’re just cresting the hill.” The dragon replied.
“Is that so? They’re moving slowly today. Must not be very important” Noir muttered to himself.
“Or it could be so important they’re hesitant to tell you of it” Davvin replied quietly.
Noir leaned back and smirked at the ceiling as he tried to picture that. “I doubt it. The King trusts me unconditionally. I’ve already been involved in too many cases for him to hesitate. Royalty is always in such danger they’re desperate to find people they feel they can trust. That’s what makes them so easy to use.”
Davvin chuckled and nodded “Yes, but that goes for nobles as well and you are no exception.”
“I don’t trust you” Noir snapped as he glared at the taller and more powerful figure before him.
“No, I wasn’t talking about me, little Deal-Maker.”
“Enough talk. Let’s get back to business.”
“We just finished. There’s nothing to do until the messengers arrive.” Davvin replied with a crooked grin.
Noir turned back the desk with a growl, fuming in silence when he heard Davvin chuckle.
A few minutes later there was a knock on the door and Nora entered, bringing with her three steaming cups of tea and guiding the two messengers. Setting the tray on the desk she left without a word. Noir motioned for the men to take a seat and waited for the door to close behind his sister before continuing. “I suppose you have new orders?” he inquired.
The men exchanged glances and then looked behind the boy and into the shadows as if seeking assurance. “She’s gone” Davvin’s husky voice answered the unspoken question.
“I’ve told before. My sister won’t bother us. She’s sickly dim and keeps to herself out there. Let’s make this quick, I have things to do” Noir growled.
“The King has requested your services in a delicate matter” one of them started.
“Of course. He wouldn’t need me if it wasn’t delicate” Noir replied with a wry smile.
“There’s a certain someone he needs taken care of for reasons we are not at liberty to expose to even your careful ears.” the second said
“Oh, it’s ‘that’ sort of job is it? Understood. Who’s my target?”
“The present Duke of Arek. He will be visiting his country estate this week and King doesn’t believe he will make it back. Are we clear?”
“Very. I’ll see to it.”
“You have the thanks of the country and its leader.”
“Of course, now, about the showing of that thanks…”
“The payment offered is a sum that will please you” the man sounded annoyed but Noir just smiled.
“I’d like to decide that myself.”
The men exchanged glances and then a small piece of paper was slid across the table. The boy picked it up and examined it careful before nodding “Yes, I suppose this will do for such a simple job. Our business is finished now. I believe you can show yourselves out?”
Standing, the men bowed stiffly and exited the room.
Outside they met Nora on the way to the door. She looked surprised and then scowled “Did he kick you out? That little brat! Allow me to show you to the door.”
She led the way and the men thanked her kindly before heading back the way they had come. Closing the door, Nora walked back to the study. “Noir”
“Yes?” he looked up from the paper in his hand.
“It’s rude to just shoo guests away”
“Ah, right, sorry. I’ll try to be more polite next time” he replied with an apologetic grin.
“Goodness, what am I going to do with you? Whatever, do you need more tea?”
“No, I’m alright. Thank you.”
From the shadows, Davvin laughed and both siblings glared at him as he stood and headed for the door. “Listening to you two is sickening. Does anyone really buy it? Your methods of protecting each other are so wrong! You can’t insult each other enough in front of people but when left alone you’re as sweet as can be. I wonder if anyone truly believes you don’t care after the lengths you go to.”
“It’s just a length to make sure we don’t become pawns used against the other” Nora growled as he passed her by.
“Oh? And the name calling doesn’t bother you at all?”
“Of course not! I know he doesn’t mean it and neither do I!”
“Are sure he’s not simply using the chance to say what he really thinks without getting in trouble?”
“That’s enough!” Noir shouted as she stood quickly and slammed his hands on the desk. “Davvin, get out! I will not tolerate you treating her like that!”
Davvin smiled at him and bowed mockingly “As you wish, my Lord. Shall I take care of the job?”
“Yes, just go.”
Turning, the dragon disappeared down the hall. With a weary sigh, Noir sank back into his chair and Nora hurried over to his side.
“Are you alright? You shouldn’t get so worked up like that.”
Noir smiled at her “I’m fine just a little tired.”
“Maybe you should go lie down. I shouldn’t have woken you yet.”
He shook his head “I still have things to do…”
“Go lay down.”
He was interrupted when the sound of the door banging open filled the room. The siblings tensed but were relieved when they heard a loud and familiar voice call out “Hello? Is anyone here? Where, oh where, can the fair lady Nora be? And her short but no less valiant knight, sir Noir?”
“Octavius!” Nora called happily as she ran to the door.
“Why does he always call me short?” Noir pouted as he followed her out. Out in the hall, a tall handsome man met them with an armful of flowers. When he caught sight of them he immediately swept Nora up and spun her around before kneeling at her feet and offering up the flowers. “For the fairest of them all” he exclaimed devotedly.
“How lovely! Aren’t they lovely Noir?” Nora squealed as she accepted them.
“They’re very nice” Noir replied, not caring so much about the flowers as the smiling face.
“Come into the study, I’ll make us something to eat and we can talk there.” Nora called over her shoulder as she moved back down the hall. With the other two trailing behind.
“How have you been Sir Octavius?” Noir inquired
“Bored, very bored. The Lumil Eliasul hasn’t given me a mission in weeks and so, to brighten my days of boredom, I have come to visit my two favorite people!”
Noir kept a laugh in check at the man’s extravagant nature. “I see. Well, I know there are many things you could be doing, but I thank you for your visit. They make Nora very happy. The days have been a little…slow here.”
“Is that so? And how are you doing?”
“You don’t look it. Have you eaten today?”
Octavius sighed wearily “And Nora’s too soft to make you. Alright, but you’re definitely eating now. I won’t leave until I’m satisfied.”
“Ah…good thing I have a bit of an appetite now!’ the boy laughed nervously.
“By the way, where’s that dragon fellow off to?” Octavius asked as he glanced around.
“Davvin?” Noir shrugged and opened the study door “Who knows. Make yourself at home. Nora will be back in a minute.”
“I think I will. And I dare say I don’t mind not having a dragon’s company around. They have a bad tendency to make people lose their appetites.”
Noir laughed but didn’t answer.
Nora returned soon enough and talk commenced and for a short while, laughter rang in the Haven once again. But soon the sun began to dip into the west and Octavius rose to leave. Davvin appeared in the doorway but, on seeing the man in the study, muttered darkly and kept on down the hall.
“It has been a sincere pleasure to see your faces again” Octavius exclaimed as he kissed Nora’s hand and shook Noir’s “And I hope to return to enjoy your company again quite soon because frankly I’ve got nothing stopping me!”
“Come any time” Nora replied sweetly.
“You’re always welcome” Noir added.
Octavius waved as he turned and headed up the path.
“Is he gone?” Davvin asked with growl as they returned to the study.
“I’m going to go start preparing for dinner” Nora said as she excused herself.
Noir waited for her to leave before answering “Yes, did you do it?”
“Yes, it’s done.”
“Good. We’ll contact ‘him’ tomorrow”
“I don’t like him.”
“No, that man.”
“Octavius? Well he’s not overly fond of you either.”
“He’s a one of that thing’s knights.”
“And you’re one of that monster’s beasts.”
Here Davvin’s mouth curled into a smile “And you will be too before too much longer.”
“Not until our agreement is fulfilled and I’ve made sure Nora will be safe.”
Davvin didn’t say anything but his smile grew to reveal his jagged fangs. Noir couldn’t suppress a shuddered and he quickly turned and left the room without another word, leaving the dragon to laugh in his wake.
Dinner was a quiet affair as all three of them were tired from the day. Afterwards the siblings bid each other goodnight and each retired to their room. In the shadows of the kitchen, Davvin looked up at the clouded sky. The fire in his chest burned as he thought of what was to come. Once he had cared deeply for these people and the memory of those feelings lingered. He dreaded the future. Shaking away such thoughts he leaned back and closed his eyes “Not long now” he whispered into the darkness.
The next day dawned bright and warm in the new spring weather, but the old Haven remained dark and humid as always. Nora lay awake in her bed, staring at the ceiling and listening to the silence. Once she would have heard the sound of jovial laughter and her mother’s voice calling to her. She would have heard her father joking with the visitors and many of the other strange people and creatures that came there. There would be the sound of singing and the occasional loud exclamation of one poet or another. But now it was quiet and the poisonous fumes that filled the air weighed down on her spirit and made rising each day a painful task.
Downstairs she stirred the fire’s embers and began preparations for breakfast. She stirred together a bowlful of creamy batter and then remembered Noir’s tea, and hurried to set the kettle. Returning to the bowl she found Davvin sampling the batter. Snatching up her spoon she wacked him on the hand before he noticed her presence.
“Yowch! Where did you…” he shouted and spat in surprise while glaring at her.
She waved the spoon in his face “Don’t touch. It’s not ready yet.”
They both paused as a crackling sound caught their attention and turned to see the bowl of batter was roasting.
“Fire! Put it out! Put it out!” Nora screeched.
“Who are you screaming at? Me? What do you want me to do? Blow on it again?” Davvin yelled in frustration.
“Water!” she shouted down his ear.
“Right, aright!” Grabbing the nearly steaming kettle he promptly dumped it on the counter. As the steam dissipated Nora stared at the mess in despair. “Ruined. Absolutely ruined. Everything been burned to a crisp.”
“Huh, just like everything else in this place” Davvin grumbled.
Nora clenched her fists and shot him a venomous glance before untying her apron and using it to mop up the water and batter. “Not everything” she growled.
“Not yet, but soon.”
“What will you do, sweet, silly, Nora, when your dear little brother accepts the Dragon’s kiss?”
She turned to look at the creature’s teasing face. Was that just curiosity or perhaps a hint of worry there? She shook her head “You know very well what I would do.”
“So you say, but do you really have the courage to back up the words you can’t even say out loud?”
“I will follow my brother no matter where he goes or what path he follows. And if that means accepting the kiss, then that is what I will do.”
“Is that so?” He looked out the window as though he had lost interest.
“Yes, it is.” A moment of silence elapsed before she grabbed his shirt collar “Now, help me clean this up.”
“What? No! You do it!”
“You made the mess and now you’re going to help me clean it!”
“I believe you called my form of cleaning ‘incinerating’ last time I helped. “
“But this time you’re going to do it with a rag and water.”
“I won’t! I’m a dragon, fool! I’m not here to do your house work but the finish up your brother’s ridiculous deal! Now unhand me before I take your arm off!”
“I’ll make you help me!”
“How? Yell until my ears bleed? Dowse me in cold water?” His rude grin died quickly as she wrapped her arms around him and hugged him tightly. “Hey! What…what are you…?”
“I can almost forget sometimes” she murmured “That you’re not who you once were. And then it feels like we actually have something back. I still remember your name.”
“Well forget it! I’m not that weakling anymore!” he snarled as he pushed her away and stormed from the room.
Left to herself, Nora sank to the floor amidst the wreckage. Tears streamed silently down her face.
“Hey, you! Deal-Maker! Noir! Get up already! You’re sister’s driving me crazy! Dragon’s teeth but that girl can really…!”
Davvin was unable to finish his rant as he immediately received a pillow in the face on entering the boy’s room. “Don’t talk about her like that” Noir grumbled. As he rubbed his eyes and slid from his bed. “If you’re having a problem with her again just go wait in the study. I’ll be down in a bit.”
“Fine!” Turning he stomped out of the room and back downstairs.
Noir rubbed his eyes wearily and then yawned before beginning his day.
Downstairs, Nora greeted him with a smile. “Good morning! Breakfast is almost ready!”
He smiled weakly “Thanks but I’m not really hungry.”
“And I have tea prepared.”
“You’re amazing” he stated as he accepted the steaming cup.
She smiled, pleased with the complement and he nodded to her as he headed for the study.
“Go ahead and eat without me. I have some business to do for now, but I should be finished shortly.” He called over his shoulder.
“Take things easy, I’ll keep the kettle warm and have lunch prepared for you” Nora instructed.
Inside the study, Davvin and the messengers were waiting for him. “I took the liberty of bringing them in” Davvin grumbled as he played with a letter opener.
Noir nodded and took his seat behind his desk. “The job is finished, now then, for the thanks…”
The men dropped a bag on the desk that jangled lightly.
Noir frowned “That’s barely half the amount we agreed upon.”
“The King thanks you for your work. That along with this token should be more than enough for the likes of you” one of the men announced imperiously.
“Hardly” Noir growled he waved his hand and before anyone knew what was happening, Davvin stood behind them. A flick of his wrist and the door was locked.
“Do you know why the king is always sending new messengers to me?” Noir asked darkly “Because they think I’m a child and children ought to do as their told without any reward. So many have tried to split my earning I’ve lost count. But they don’t realize that the King trusts me. That doesn’t mean they get fired. It means he doesn’t ask questions when they don’t come back. Understood? Now either hand over the money or bid your final farewells.”
The men looked at the boy’s serious face to the flames welling up in his dragon’s mouth and quickly deposited the rest of the money onto the desk.
Noir smiled sweetly at them “A pleasure doing business with you. Give the King my regards.”
The men were gone before he had finished.
“Too easy. I was hoping I could actually do something” Davvin growled as he slumped back into his chair.
“I prefer it when you don’t. Last time we had to replace a wall and half the floor paneling” Noir replied as he counted out the golden coins.
Davvin eyed him closely before asking “So, why exactly is a child of the once great haven Keepers so interested in money all of a sudden?”
“It’s not sudden.”
“You didn’t used to be interested.”
Noir glanced at him questioningly before returning his gaze to his counting “It’s not for me.”
“I want to make sure she’ll be able to support herself after…”
“So really intend to keep your end of the bargain? Once you have exacted revenge on whoever killed your parents and have therefore secured your sister’s safety you plan to accept the Dragon’s Kiss and sell yourself to him?”
“Of course. A deal’s a deal.”
“What if Nora doesn’t want that?”
“It can’t be helped.”
“What if she follows after you?”
Noir hesitated but then quickly shook his head. “She won’t. Nora’s not like me. She doesn’t doubt the Lumil Eliasul or our parent’s teachings.”
“And you do?”
He nodded slowly “Yes, I do.”
It was late that evening when a loud knock sounded on the door. Nora answered and then quickly called her brother in from the next room.
Octavius stood there with a box of sweets under his arm this time. He tipped his extravagant hat to them and flashed a charming smile Nora’s way.
“I just thought I’d drop by and deliver these. Can’t stay long. I’m on my way South.”
“Thank you very much. Are you sure you can’t come in?” Nora pleaded.
“No, I’m in a bit of a rush” he stated
“You have a mission?” Noir asked.
“Something like that. There been sightings down there” he glanced at the small boy meaningfully “they say the Dragon’s headed this way.”
Both siblings paled. Nora forced herself to not look at her brother, to not think those terrible thoughts that lurked in the shadows of her mind. Was he coming…for them?
“Well, I have to be on my way” Octavius caught sight of Davvin behind them and frowned. He turned and looked the siblings in the eye “Take care of yourselves.”
They nodded and stood there, watching him go.
“Not long now” Davvin muttered ominously.
That night, Nora found herself unable to sleep. The air was too still, too hot, too tense. She tossed and turned until she couldn’t take it any longer. Standing she crept down the hall and to her brother’s room. As expected, she found him wide awake, trembling in his bed. He sat up in surprise when she entered and their eyes met.
“I can’t sleep” she murmured with a small smile.
Noir’s dried lips cracked in a smile of relief. “Me neither.”
Crossing the room, she slid in next to him and hugged him to her tightly. “It’s going to be alright” she murmured in his ear as he buried his face in her should and struggled to keep his body from shaking. “I’m going to take care of you.”
He looked up into her soft gray eyes and nodded “And I’ll take care of you.”
She brushed his hair from his face and pressed a kiss to his brow “I know you will.”
He closed his eyes and managed to relax in her arms.
The earth shook and the air split with a deafening roar. The Haven trembled and threw it occupants to the ground.
“Nora!” In the hot, empty darkness, with the Dragon’s fumes filling his lung and taking over his mind, the terrified boy desperately sought comfort with outstretched hands. He felt hands, cold and slick with fear, take his and he was once again pulled close into safety.
“I’m right here” she murmured in a frail voice.
“I…I…He’s come for…” Noir shook as he clung to her.
Nora’s arms tightened around him “No, he can’t have you. I won’t give you up!”
The Haven shivered again and then flames engulfed it. The siblings screamed as the heat seared the air. Stumbling to their feet they rushed outside and there they found him. The Dragon. He stood over them with wings outstretched, blocking the sky and covering them in the deepest of darkness’s. Slowly his head turned and he looked at them. His lips drew back into an eager smile. “Found you, Little Deal-Maker. Are you ready to grant your end?”
A young dragon hid in the depths of the Wood, emotions long forgotten had returned in memory and the result was pure torment.
“Faolan” the voice that had haunted him for so long called once again.
“That is not my name! I am not that person anymore!” he screamed into the starlit sky.
“You’re right. And you can never be him again, but…” The dragon stiffened as a stick cracked behind him. “I can make you into so much more.”
Slowly he turned and a snarl of hate and rage escaped his throat as he stared at the great Hound that stood before him.
“They hurt don’t they? The fiery chains that bind you and the dreams not quite dead. You can still be saved Faolan. I can save you. If you would just let me…”
“No! This was my choice this…is all…I have left…” the words came out brokenly and if he had been able to he might have cried as well, but his tears had long since dried up.
“You want to save them don’t you? You don’t want them to suffer as you have. But you can’t save them when you yourself are still bound Faolan.”
“Just go away” Davvin whispered hoarsely “That is no longer my name. I am one of the nameless and lost. There is nothing to be done for me. But…save them. Please…save them…Noir and Nora…they….”
“They still have not called upon me. They don’t want me, yet I will try my best. Even so, I still wish to save you as well, you are not so far gone as you think.” The Lumil Eliasul stepped forward and rested a gentle paw, large and soft, on the dragon’s head. “Let me help you, Faolan.”
A painful sob escaped the creature’s throat. “Can…you?”
The Lumil Eliasul smiled. “Yes, I can. Will you let me?”
“Because I love you.”
“Nothing is impossible.”
“Then” Davvin bowed his head “please save me.”
The Lumil Eliasul nodded “I will.”
Slowly Noir stumbled forward unable to resist and wanting only to end it all. He stopped when Nora grasped his hand. “You can’t have him!” she shouted to the monster before them.
“That is not for you to say. The only decision you have to left to make is whether or not you will join him” the Dragon hissed as he leaned closer.
“You can have me. Leave her alone” Noir mumbled feebly.
“That was our deal, but can she really abandon her little brother to his fate? Can you really save yourself after your promise to your parents?” the Dragon asked.
Nora’s face paled “How…how do you know of that?”
Laughter, horrible and grating, erupted from the dragon’s throat. “Because, they were so grateful to know that you would take care of your brother and the Haven when they died. If only they could see you now! Both of you, fallen so low. They would be so disappointed!”
“You…you killed them!” Noir asked in horror.
“Yes little one. I killed them. Come now. Will you take your revenge or submit to the inevitable?”
The boy swayed and then took a step forward. “I…”
“Noir! Don’t you dare!”
“I’m sorry Nora” he murmured as he moved forward “But…there’s nothing else I can do.”
“Noir” Slowly the girl stood and drew a sword from her skirt. She had somehow managed to grab it as they fled the house and now she pointed it at the beast “Noir, run. You cannot give yourself up.”
“Nora…wait! Don’t Stop! Nora!” Too late did he realize what she was doing.
With a scream she charged the Dragon. He swung his head down and roared; fire and poison surrounded the girl and drowned out her voice.
Noir couldn’t move he could only watch in horror until the Dragon pulled his head back with another laugh and looked at him.
“Do you understand what you must do, Faolan?” Lumil Eliasul asked the boy before him.
“Yes, My Lord” he murmured.
“Then be quick. Already they are falling.”
The boy stood and bowed before hurrying through the Wood on the Path before his feet.
Abandoned. Betrayed. Lost. Empty. Dead. Thoughts flitted through Noir’s mind, meaningless words and hollow pain. A single fragment, a name, passed and he clung to it. “Nora” the word escaped into the poisoned air and with it came the tears. He slid to his knees beside the still figure that lay before him. Above him the Dragon laughed and leaned forward, he had come for his due. But the boy seemed oblivious to the searing heat of his presence or the choking noxious fumes in his breath. He simply knelt and wept as he placed a trembling hand on his sister’s shoulder. All he had wanted to do was protect her. He had sworn he would never let her die like their parents. So how had it come to this? Why was this happening? A thrush sang in the distance and so many childhood memories flitted through his mind. He bowed his head that had been held so high for so long and whispered hoarsely “Lumil Eliasul, if you can hear me, would you….please…save her…them…us…me…please!” Flames surrounded him.
As if in a dream he saw the fire swirl by him like water rushing around glass, but there was no heat and the air was clean suddenly. He felt rather than heard someone behind him. Slowly he turned and saw a man standing there. Immediately the boy knew he was a prince, how he knew he could never really say, but he was undoubtedly the Prince of princes and what all men strove to be. “Lumil Eliasul” he whispered.
The man smiled softly at him and placed a hand on his shoulder “You called me, Noir, and I have come. Will you let me save you now?”
Tears filled the boy’s eyes “Please! Please save me! And Nora! Nora is…”
Strong arms, firm and gentle with the ability to block out the rest of the world hugged him tightly and he felt the fear and hollow pain slowly ebb away as strength returned to him. “I’ll take care of you both. Trust me.”
Noir nodded and stepped back as the embrace released him. Now there stood a great Hound before him but he knew without a doubt that this was also the Lumil Eliasul. The fire ceased and the Hound faced the Dragon. “So you came then” the Dragon hissed.
“Of course” Lumil Eliasul answered calmly.
“Hoy! Noir!” The boy turned and saw Octavius and a boy he didn’t know running towards him. “Are you alright?” Octavius asked when he reached him. His extravagant smile was gone and he looked sincerely worried as she looked the boy over.
“Yes, He’s here now. Everything’s okay” Noir replied with a tired smile as his knees gave out and he pitched forward. The other boy caught him and steadied him. “We need to get him out of here. Where’s…” he stopped and his eyes widened in horror as he stared at the figure Octavius was kneeling beside. “Is that…it can’t be…”
“Take Noir away now, Faolan. He needs to be bandaged up and well rested.” Octavius murmured as he gently lifted the still figure in his arms “I’ll see to her for now.”
Slowly, Faolan nodded and helped Noir limp away. He knew better than to protest when he saw the tears in the man’s eyes. There was nothing they could do.
“They are mine now! It was agreed upon! Those children, this Haven, it is all mine!” the Dragon shouted in the Hound’s face, spraying fire and ash and spreading even more poison into the air. Behind them, the Haven crumbled and the surrounding trees took fire and became more ash, but the Hound stood still and calm. He took a step towards the Dragon and the beast fell back.
“They are not yours” the Lumil Eliasul said “they are children of the Farthest Shore and under my protection. You are not welcome here any longer, now leave.”
“They are mine! They are mine!” The monster shrieked as he fell back on himself to escape the Hound that quietly and calmly moved forward.
The Lumil Eliasul opened his mouth and barked, if such a powerful and yet sweet sound could be compared to a normal dog’s bark. The Dragon screeched and then turned and fled. The Lumil Eliasul turned and looked behind him. The fires died away and the poison dissipated. Above him clouds gathered rapidly and a cool rain fell upon the burnt land. Slowly the hound padded into the shadows where his knight waited for him. Octavius looked to his master with pleading eyes. The Lumil Eliasul leaned down and pressed a gentle kiss to the girl’s cheek in the man’s arm. “Bring her and follow me” he instructed the knight. Octavius nodded and followed after him. The Hound led the way farther in where Faolan had hidden Noir. Both boys stood as they approached. One glance at the Hound’s face and Noir went to him.
“Tend to Nora” Lumil Eliasul instructed the other two as he led the boy away from them.
No one ever knew what he said to him, but when they returned, the sickly look was gone from the boy’s face and a peaceful glow emanated from him. By the time they returned, Nora was away. Her burnt body had healed and she looked as new and healthy as a child. She lay, weakly but happily, in Octavius’s arms and smiled when she saw the Lumil Eliasul. The same glow emanated from her and they knew that somehow, the Hound had already spoken to her.
“Octavius, Faolan, Noir, Nora” the Hound spoke and they listened eagerly “You have a task before you. For now, rest and recover, but the Haven must be rebuilt; I still have many plans for you all here.”
“Yes Sir” they chorused.
“Octavius, for now, I leave them in your care. Guide them and help them” he instructed.
“My pleasure” Octavius answered with his trademark grin.
The Lumil Eliasul turned to the remaining three “Know that I am always near and watching over you. I will never leave you and will always be with you when you need me.”
They smiled, nodded and watched as he padded away into the Wood.
The sound of thumping and then falling resounded in the stairwell and Noir picked himself up at the bottom to grin at his sister. “Morning!”
“Lights above! Walk more slowly! You’re going to hurt yourself!” Nora scolded as she waved her mixing spoon at him.
“But I was just…”
“Listen to your sister” Octavius warned him as he carried a box of tools to one of the back rooms that was still under construction.
“Or at least avoid arguing with her “Faolan added “You’ll never win.”
“Isn’t that the truth” Octavius sighed.
“Excuse me?” Nora asked with a scowl
“Is breakfast almost ready?” Noir asked quickly.
“Yes, it’s finished, everyone come eat” Nora sighed.
Just then the sound of a knock on the front door interrupted them.
Nora hurried to open it and let out an exclamation of surprise on seeing the visitor. “Eanrin!”
“Eanrin?” Noir echoed as he followed close behind.
The golden haired poet smiled charmingly and swept them a bow. “It’s been far too long” he exclaimed gallantly.
“Not long enough I would say” Octavius grumbled as he joined them.
The poet smirked at him but refrained from commenting.
“Hello Eanrin” Faolan greeted the man.
“My, my, it has been awhile. Things look rather…different. Remodeling the place?” Eanrin asked as he took in the newly repaired landscape and unfinished haven.
The group laughed. “Um, something like that” Nora said.
Eanrin shrugged “Well, looks nice anyways.”
“Thank you, won’t you come in?” she invited
“No, actually, I came to ask you for a favor. I know it’s a little short notice after so long but…well…you see there’s a new Haven Keeper a short way down, actually in the Wood you see, and I was wondering if you would mind giving her a few tips to help her out as your family’s been in the business for who-knows-how-long.”
Nora and Noir exchanged glances before laughing nervously “I don’t think we’re really the best people to be asking.”
“I really think you are. After all, Lumil Eliasul sent me here first off” he pressed.
“Really?” Noir asked
“Since when do you take orders from the Lumil Eliasul?” Nora queried.
“Um…since…not too long ago when I sort of…”
“You’ve been knighted!” Octavius shouted as he caught on.
“Well, something like that ol’ chap. Can’t say I’ve gotten very used to it though.” Eanrin said with a laugh.
“I see, well, in that case I think we’ll go visit her instead and see what we can do” Nora said slowly.
“Would you? That would be splendid as the dear girl is obviously in over her head…”
The four in the doorway exchanged glances.
“Dear girl?” Faolan repeated
“It couldn’t be” Octavius muttered
“I have to see this!” Noir exclaimed
“We’re definitely going to visit her now!” Nora stated.
“Um…err…I didn’t mean it like that…I mean…um…well…you…see….That’s just splendid, visit her soon and help her out if you can. I’ve got to run I’ve got things…to…do…ta-ta!” And with that he became a cat and sped away down the path.
Noir and Faolan laughed as they watched him go.
“Hm…I wonder why the Lumil Eliasul sent him here” Nora murmured.
“Obviously we’ve got something to give to that girl” Noir stated.
“I suppose so.”
“Hey, can we have breakfast now?” Faolan asked.
“Yes we can. Let’s go eat!” Octavius shouted as he shepherded the group inside and to the table.
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