- 8th day of Hanotë -
Part 2 - The Boy Who can Hear Dragons
Solara opened his eyes and took a deep breath. The daylight had grown dim but he couldn’t tell if the day was dawning or ending.
He sat up and looked at the blankets surrounding him, smiling. The Knight had covered him, lending him his own blanket, and had probably watched over him … He had never had anyone do this much for him, since he was usually left by himself.
He looked towards the place where he sat, near the fire, his expression serious, even though he looked chilled, as to be expected, since he’d let him have his blanket. By the quantity of ashes pilled in front of him Solara determined that some time had passed since he’d lost consciousness, which meant that it should be almost morning. Over the fire something was boiling in a pot, filling the air with an herbal sweet scent he knew all too well. As soon as the Knight noticed he was awake, he poured some of its contents into a cup and got up to deliver it to him.
Solara accepted the silent offer and thanked him with a smile. Taking the cup to his nose, he took a deep breath that immediately restored part of his strength.
“I’m sorry for going through your things,” the Knight said, his expression serious as always, and Solara smiled, happy with his fuming cup.
“It’s okay. And I see you know your herbs. The mixture is perfect.”
“Don’t know that much. But it always kind of bothered me knowing that there were so many things I didn’t know waiting to be learned just within arm’s reach. Melbar consented on giving me some private lessons after I insisted a few times.”
Solara laugh sipping his fuming brew.
“If I know Melbar at all you must have been quite persistent. He deeply dislikes opening exceptions and going against the rules. It’s almost morning, right?” Solara asked, looking up at the sky that seemed a bit brighter than before, and the Knight nodded. “I’m sorry if I scared you. I should have been a bit more careful …”
Kai looked at him unable to understand, the question on the tip of his tongue, but decided against it. After all he had no business inquiring about matters concerning the Emissary of Nar.
“As long as you’re feeling better. If not we can look for a safer place to rest for a while ...”
“No. I’m fine. We can go. Besides, as time goes by the roads can only become more dangerous,” Solara replied, finishing his tea, and got up, starting to fold his blankets. He suddenly felt the urge to reach Nar as soon as possible.
Kai followed his lead, packing all their things and tying them to the horses’ saddles. When he turned to get the pot Solara was right behind him, smiling like always, hugging his blanket … and he hadn’t even noticed him, Kai reprehended himself for his lack of vigilance.
“Thank you,” the boy said returning it to him, and suddenly the question was on the tip of his tongue again, and this time he just blurted it out.
“Forgive me but … yesterday you said something about … a lady …” he couldn’t finish, seeing as the boy averted his gaze and simply walk away, mounting his horse.
Kai berated himself again for not being able to do what he knew to be right, and for allowing his personal feelings to intrude in his work. He put out the fire, throwing hands full of dirt over the dying flames and, after checking that nothing had been forgotten, mounted his horse too, urging it back to the road ahead.
He discreetly looked over his shoulder, to make sure Solara was following him, and found him right behind him, eyes cast down, fixed on the dirt of the road.
They traveled in silence for quite some time, Kai peering back towards the boy every so often. It upset him more than he could tell, he admitted, definitely more than it should; seeing him like that, all silence and no bright smiles on his young face. And all because he couldn’t keep his mouth shut!, he scolded himself. It was almost as if a light had been turned off, and the more he looked at the boy the more he looked like a scared, fragile child who he had, somehow, unintentionally hurt.
“Solara … I’m sorry if my question was inconvenient. It was never my intention to cause you any discomfort,” he finally told him, unable to bear it any longer, and Solara raised his head looking surprised.
“Oh … Oh, no. Nothing like that …” he muttered embarrassed, even though he had gone back to smiling. “It wasn’t exactly what you asked … It’s just that …”
“You don’t have to explain,” Kai cut in, not wanting to pry, but the boy sighed averting his gaze.
“That’s not it either. Besides, it’s not like this doesn’t concern you, … Although I can never tell exactly how … I’m really useless,” he added, shoulders slumping, looking depressed again, and Kai tried as hard as he could to make some sense of the boy’s disconnected words. Above all he had just found out that he truly hated seeing him like that, and so he forced his mind to come up with words that might cheer him up.
“You know … Sometimes it’s hard for us, such small existences in this wide world, to understand exactly what’s our real purpose and importance. We’re all a bit like ants, apparently small and insignificant, but surprisingly able to carry the heaviest of burdens. And although we may feel alone at times, the world is full of ants just like us, to help us and guide us on our travels,” Solara remained silent, as if pondering on his words, and his prolonged silence ended up frustrating him even more. “Hum … I guess it’s not that good of an answer …”
“No. Thank you,” he heard the boy say and when he looked at him again he couldn’t help half smile in response to Solara’s open grin. “I used to say something like that to my sister. But being far from everything, with all that’s happening … I guess that it’s easy to forget the real important things.” Kai nodded and Solara took a deep breath, raising his head as if readying himself for a fight. “Don’t know if you know, but all Magi make a certain sound when they use their gifts,” he suddenly told him, now sounding more like an adult than a child. “That sound’s intensity varies according to the Mage’s abilities. And so, the more gifted a Mage is the more silent he becomes,” he went on and Kai just listened, wondering where he was going with that strange talk. “The most gifted Magi of all Arnae are the Dragons.” At that the Knight’s eyes widened in disbelief.
“Dragons?!” he tried to confirm. Sure he had heard the rumors whispered along the palace’s corridors. Something about a Dragon that would soon attack Mithir. But that such a young boy would talk about something like that, in that matter of fact tone, was almost surreal.
“Yes. No one knows exactly why. If it’s because they live longer than any other race, which grants them the necessary time to study the Art, or if they’re simply born like that. The fact is that they’re almost completely silent, producing only a slight hum that Humans can’t hear, and that only some of the most gifted Elves seem to be able to notice.”
Solara smiled at the aghast way the Knight was staring at him, almost as if expecting he’d come out next and tell him it had all been a joke.
“Yes. Well, the thing is … I can hear them,” he went on and Kai’s expression went suddenly deadly serious. “And when a say hear them I really mean hear it, loud and clear. Not some kind of murmur or anything like that. When one of them is close by it’s as if bells start ringing inside my head,” he went on and Kai tried as hard as he could to keep up with the boy.
“The Dragons … You’re saying you can hear them?”
“Yes. That’s what I was trying to do, yesterday. I heard a Dragon, east from here. I hadn’t heard one in a long time, and with all the talk about a Dragon joining forces with the Northern Armies I tried to find out a little bit more about it. But as I focused on trying to hear it more clerly I started seeing it too. It was a big, red Dragon. What I didn’t expect was that, as I was able to see it, it’d also be able to see me in return,” he whispered taking a hand to his right shoulder as if it still hurt. “It was really … scary …”
“Why … are you telling me all this?” Kai asked, unable to shake the feeling that something important like that should be kept secret, especially from someone like him, a mere Knight on a bodyguard mission, and Solara straightened his back and smiled at him.
“Because that’s when I saw Kahor. She was on the road. Probably half a day from Mithir? She and a girl with honey-brown hair that I recall seeing in the Palace,” he replied and Kai frowned.
“Selina?! Those damn girls …!” he muttered, clearly unhappy with the news.
“However, I can’t say where they were headed. I’m sorry. It all happened really fast. I can only tell you that they were near the Silver Forest,” Solara provided and Kai sighed, resigned since there wasn’t much he could do about it.
And then he wanted to know more, know about Elian and the others, about the city and the invading enemies, but he bit his tongue and held his silence. He’d already received an amazing gift. Besides, even though Solara was smiling like always, he somehow knew that talking about the things he’d learned through his Vision wasn’t something he did lightly.
“Dragons … and Elves! By the Gods!” he finally muttered and Solara laughed lightly.
“You’ve been living far from the real world for too long. When His Majesty expelled his sister from Mithir, all that could even carry the scent of Magic or the memory of the Ancient Ones was also cast away, surviving only through legends and children’s tales. His Majesty never really liked these kinds of things. His sister, on the other hand, has always accepted them naturally …”
“How do you know all this?”
“I just know. I know a lot of things,” he added.
“But … these Dragons …” Kai said, still doubtful, and Solara smiled condescendingly.
“They’re real, you know?”
“Yes … well … how is it that you can hear them when no one else can?”
“I don’t know for sure. To tell you the truth, I never told anyone that I can hear them. I’m sure my sister knows, and that it doesn’t please her one bit. But when I think about it I guess it’s probably because of the Mark.”
“Yes. As you may know the leader of Temple of Solara is always a woman, the Supreme Priestess. But no one really chooses them. Every time a Supreme Priestess reaches a certain age, on a special day dictated by the stars, a baby girl is born carrying the Mark. She is the chosen one. The one to be raised and trained to become the future Supreme Priestess. My sister was born on such an auspicious day, but she didn’t bare the Mark. However, since no other girls were born on said day, and the Temple needed another Supreme Priestess, she was raised as one. I, on the other hand, was born on a day like any other, and I’m a boy as you can see, but I was born with the Mark they had been waiting for so long. And so, as long as I live and am able to perform my duties, there won’t be any more babies carrying the Mark. The previous Supreme Priestess passed away last Winter. My sister, who should take her place, isn’t allowed to do so, since she doesn’t have the Mark. And neither can I, since I’m a boy. It’s kind of ... complicated,” he added apologetically, and Kai sighed wondering what in that boy’s life wasn’t. “I don’t know if the previous Supreme Priestess could hear the Dragons or not. All I know is that I can.”
“This is all … so crazy …”
Solara laughed amused.
“Well, you should get used to it, Sir Knight.”