Leon, the Mighty Gale Chapter 12
By Samara Secor
As Marina sailed through the night sky on Ember’s back, she looked over her shoulder at the Goddess Tower. Now that she was aware of the shield on Althena’s power, she could see it as a silvery glow covering the entire tower and most of the landing platform. She turned back around just in time to catch Ember’s signal for her to jump off. She did so, slowing her descent with only the barest whispering of wind magic. Not too long afterwards, Ember landed beside her, his form human once more. “Hey, do you want to meet up with Lark and the others first?” Ember asked. “You probably won’t get another chance like this for quite a while since some of them are leaving Vane, too, on other quests.”
It was obvious to Marina that Ember was trying to put off telling about this person from his past as long as possible. However, prodding him into an answer now wouldn’t gain her anything, and she did want to meet Ember’s friends, so... “Of course, I’d love to meet them,” she said.
Lark intended to be long gone from Vane with Chris and Arek by the time the group that was going to fetch the Red Dragon Shield was ready to depart. Althena knew that he didn’t need the magic folk getting on his case about leaving Ember in charge. Because of that, he intended to spend as much time as he could with his wife, Tia, and daughter, Raven, before packing up to go. It didn’t take long for Tia to ferret out that he was leaving Ember in charge, and she made it quite clear to him what she thought of that.
“Mother, he’s not that bad,” Raven said pleadingly. “I traveled with Ember, too, on the way home. He’s really quite kind and caring once you get past his initial abrasiveness.”
“Kindness and caring alone does not make a good leader. I’m worried about his other qualities. Some of the magic folk barely tolerate us let alone some outsider. If they take a disliking to him, our relations could suffer a major setback,” Tia said.
A knock prevented Lark from making a reply, and he rose to answer it. The door to opened to reveal Ember and... Lark’s eyes widened, “Are you Marina?”
Marina nodded, “Is that so surprising?”
Ember winced, “That’s right. I forgot to tell you that she’s one of the magic folk, didn’t I? It isn’t a problem, is it?”
“Of course not. Even when I think I know what you’re going to do, you always surprise me, Ember,” Lark chuckled, thinking to himself, ‘He can remember to tell me she’s on the same level as Althena, but he forgets to tell me something like this... Well, I certainly can’t see Zarien objecting to another one of his own kind being on the team. It should even please the unpleasable Khein.’
Lark stepped aside to let them through. Then, he shut the door once more. Tia looked more than a little petrified to see Marina, but Raven was taking it all in stride. Even though she’d only known Ember for a short time, it was obvious that he wasn’t your average human. That he had one of the magic folk as a close friend didn’t really surprise her at all. She stood and bowed, “We are honored by your presence here, my lady.”
Marina made a face, “I guess the rest of my kind are still pulling the all-powerful high and mighty act on everyone, aren’t they? Well, just drop the ceremony with me, ‘cause I hate it. Long life does not equal superiority by any means.”
“Heh, I wish somebody would tell that to Khein and the others that feel like him...” Lark said wistfully. “But I shouldn’t be boring you with politics when you’ll probably get an earful while you’re on the road. Is there anything we can help you with?”
“Nothing in particular... Other than supplies, which Ember could have told you about anyway,” Marina replied. “It was just brought to my attention that I wouldn’t get a chance to see a few of the people around here for a while, including yourself, because you’re going on a quest as well. I haven’t heard what the quest is yet, but I’d imagine it deals with checking up on the other three dragons, right?”
“Actually, I’m only going up to check the White Dragon, since the thief of the wings claimed she was ill, but now that you mention it, we should check on them, too. But we’d better let that wait until we get the shield secured,” Lark laughed shortly. “Not that anybody could get to the Blue Dragon, anyway. He managed to sink his living quarters under that lake of his. I don’t anything’s going to get him out of there.”
Marina raised an eyebrow, “You’d be surprised what some people can do if they put their minds to it. But you’re right. It’ll wait. But about this thief... What’s he look like, and do you know of anything else he’s after?”
Lark looked warily over at Ember and said carefully, “You might say he looks a little bit like Ember. Quite a bit, actually. The only difference I could see was his hair had a good deal more purple in it. But to answer the other part of your question, he did show interest in someone else, namely, Chris, an apprentice to Althena’s temple. We’re not sure why he wants him, but that’s the other part of my quest... Getting him safely away from here.”
“Ah... Then, I guess he’s another person I’m going to have to meet tonight,” Marina said, thinking, ‘I hope he’s not a zealous fanatic when it comes to Althena... I might not be able to keep a straight face.’
For the night, Chris was sharing the room that Leon had been assigned. Pyra was also there, perched on a shelf and waiting for Raven to get done with her family conference. Chris sat down on one bed, drew his knees up to his chest and listened to Leon recount some of the dos and don’ts of his household. His sisters didn’t really sound all that worse than some of Chris’ fellow apprentices back at the temple, and the rules were quite a bit less stringent. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad after all, but there was one thing he wanted to find out first... “Do you have a garden?” Chris asked.
“A garden?” At first, Leon was puzzled, but he remembered the dirt that had been all over Chris’ hands when they first met and grinned, “Yeah, we have a garden. More than one, actually... One combination vegetable and fruit and another that’s just floral. But you’d better watch it, Chris, or they’ll never want to let you leave.”
At that point, there was a knock on the door, and Leon went to answer it. “Hey, Ember! How’s... uh...” Leon forgot what he wanted to say when he saw the magic folk woman standing behind Ember.
Ember took pity on Leon and broke the silence, “Marina, this is Leon. He saved me from a rather nastily poisoned dagger not too long ago, by blocking it with his own body. He saw what was coming before either Raven or I knew anything was wrong.”
Marina nodded, smiling, “Thanks for taking care of this reckless ex-ward of mine. He may think he’s always on alert, but the truth is...”
“Marina!” Ember looked more than a little embarrassed and whispered in her ear, “Leon and Chris don’t know I’m a dragon, you know...”
She whispered back, “There are plenty of embarrassing stories I can still tell about you without revealing that.”
“You... raised Ember?” Leon looked at Marina in disbelief.
“Hard to believe, isn’t it?” Marina commented cheerfully. “But, yes, I had the rather dubious honor of seeing that he lived to reach maturity, and it sure wasn’t easy.”
Pyra raised her head from her somewhat half-hearted attempt to keep out of Ember’s sight. ‘If she had to take care of my dad, doesn’t that make her sort of like... my grandmother or something?’ Pyra wondered.
Marina noticed the movement and said, “I suppose you’re the little lady that should be guarding the shield right now.”
“My name’s Pyra,” she put her head back down on her paws and grumbled, “I still say that my dad should be doing it right now, not me. He’s the head Red Dragon of Althena.”
“Your dad won’t be around forever, you know. Perhaps he realized that and decided he needed to give you a taste of the responsibility that awaited you,” Marina said.
“But I already know what it’s like!” Pyra rolled over, waving her paws in the air. “It’s one of the most boring, dull jobs in the whole of Lunar! Argh... I can’t stand it!”
“And, I’d imagine, neither can your father,” Marina said, thinking, ‘No one as restless as he is would ever want to stay in the same place for very long.’
“Exactly!” Pyra flipped back over and said, “And he’d probably already had tons of time in the outside world when he was my age.”
‘Hardly... More like less than a month total. Althena was almost as paranoid about letting us out of the tower as she was with Marina...’ Ember thought and cleared his throat, hoping that someone would take the hint and change the subject.
Chris did, and he stood offering his hand. “I don’t believe we’ve been introduced yet. I’m Chris, apprentice to Althena’s Temple.”
Marina took his hand somewhat distractedly, because she couldn’t seem to tear her eyes away from his face. ‘I don’t believe my eyes. He looks just like... But if that’s true, then no wonder the thief wants him. I just don’t know why Ember can’t tell unless he’s never seen... I never thought it would be possible to make him that angry, but if anyone could do it, Ember could,’ Marina thought and asked, “You wouldn’t happen to be the water mage that caused that freak storm today, would you?”
“Ah...” Chris blushed and laughed nervously, releasing her hand. “I didn’t do it on purpose. I was just using the spell that Vair gave us for testing our magical abilities.”
Marina’s mouth twitched in a smile. She had a pretty good idea just why the spell wouldn’t work the way it was supposed to, but now wasn’t exactly the best time to tell him. “I don’t imagine they ever thought they would run across someone who was able to grasp onto that much energy without being tutored,” she said. “But then, you were trained in the priesthood somewhat, weren’t you?”
“But that was healing magic based on...” Chris snapped his mouth shut, while Ember snickered, saying, “I’ll give you three guesses as to where I learned my arguments on the nature of power, and the first two don’t count.”
“If you’ve already bantered with Ember on the subject, then I hardly need to say more,” Marina said, adding, “Although, regardless of where you believe that such power originates from, meditation is good training for all magical fields, not just one of them.”
It made sense to Chris, but why did he feel as though she were holding something back? “Well, I think that I’ve caused enough chaos around here for one day,” Marina said. “There’s a lot of catching up that Ember and I have yet to do. I bid you all a good night.”
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