The Pearl Ch. 09byThistlethorn©
Edited by PennLady
This is a copyrighted work of fiction. All rights reserved.
I watched spellbound as the moon rose. It seemed to me to rise faster then it should have. Before I knew it, she was riding high in the sky and her light was everywhere. I had been out in the full moon before, but the light seemed different to me. More mystical, and wonderful, and just more beautiful than I'd ever realized. The air seemed infused with the light and I wondered how I'd missed this beauty all my life.
As I watched, lanky rabbits began to congregate in the meadow, all staring upward. It was one of the weirdest things I'd ever seen. I looked back to Chang and he indicated I should continue to watch. I turned back and saw that they were now all sitting up on their haunches, faces aimed at the sky. I felt something brush over me, causing a thrill that made my scales shudder. I could almost pass it off as a breeze, but I felt it in my pearl. Then things shifted.
For a moment everything dimmed, like a filter was drawn across my senses. Before I could react everything was back and even though I appeared to be in the same place it was all very different. The light was different. My eye-sight as a dragon was better than as a human, but things were heightened. The interplay of light and shadows were softened as normally happens in moon light, but somehow the light itself seemed sharper and brighter. The sounds were clearer and more pleasant. The smell of the air was distinct, and with each breath I could smell and taste the magic of this place. Or this version of the spot, since where I was hadn't physically changed. It was the same spot on the river.
The feel of the grass and water against my body was more intense. The river's energy washed over me where my legs and tail were still in the water, and I could sense the energy of the grass as a tickle against my scales. I could feel the moonlight on my body. It was the most exquisite feeling, sublime and ineffable. The moonlight worked under my skin and scales, coursing throughout and settling in my pearl. And, oh yeah, I wanted more.
I looked back again at Chang, and even he looked different. The moonlight glistened off his dark scales and his golden eyes took on a silvery sheen. But again, the biggest change was hard to quantify. Chang always had a natural majesty to him, even when he was relaxed or joking, but now it was more pronounced, and he was even more imposing. The air danced around him as if just waiting for his command. I could see the energy of the river interact with the moonlight where it reflected off the water.
"Um, what just happened?" I managed to squeak out.
"Reality has two sides to it, the physical and the spiritual. You have spent the entirety of your time in the physical. This is the spiritual."
"And they are linked," I said, trying to get the rules straight in my head. "But if that's so, how can you be in one then in the other, like they're different places?"
"They are interlinked and interwoven, flip sides of the same coin. But same as there is a width between the two sides of the coin, there is a very fine...." He paused here, searching for a word. "Barrier, I suppose, between them. Most stand on one side of the barrier or the other. However, though very few are aware of it anymore, most beings are capable of traveling through. Some are able to stand in both at once, but I find that experience gives me a headache."
I was about to comment on being certain someone produces a pain medication for just that particular ailment, when Chang again indicated the field I had turned away from. He wore a knowing smile.
"I believe she would like to speak with you."
I turned back to the meadow and saw a figure that nearly stopped my heart. A woman stood perhaps a couple of yards away from me. She was statuesque and stunning, her pale skin was luminous and her silver-white hair fell in a radiant cascade down her back. Her clothes seemed to be made out of the moonlight and flowed gracefully around her. She had a gentleness to her, and a stillness that instantly put me at ease. She sat, though on what I couldn't see, and gestured for me to join her. The rabbits gathered at her feet.
I hesitated a moment, overwhelmed. Then with an insistent GO the river forcibly pushed me towards her. It was the first time I could remember the river doing something like that. I walked over, feeling shy.
When I reached her, the rabbits made room for me. Caught up in the peacefulness of her presence, I laid my head in her lap. There was a strange Wonderlandesque nature to the perspective. The rabbits seemed to be proportionate to me as a dragon, and to her as a human. But I was able to lay my head in her lap as though she were roughly the same size as me. I was beginning to see how this could give someone a headache. Not that it really mattered. She ran her hand through my mane and I sighed.
"So you are Chang's newest fledgling and protégé." She smiled down at me. Her voice was lilting and pleasant.
"It is very nice to meet you."
"It's very nice to meet you too, ma'am." I nodded.
She gave a delicate laugh. "You certainly are polite."
I heard Chang's laughter. "Perhaps he is to you, my lady."
She regarded my face as she continued stroking my fur. I soaked it up, her attention and her energy. "Oh, come, he can't be that bad."
"As you say, my lady." I wasn't looking at Chang, but I could hear the smile in his voice.
She continued studying me. She raised my head up and looked into my eyes. Her eyes were the night sky, and I became lost in their depths. I felt her look through me, into my soul.
"You have a very gentle nature, and a true heart. You will make a very fine addition to this clan."
She arranged my head in her lap and traced something on my forehead with her finger. I trembled at her touch. When she was finished, I felt infused with the moonlight. There was an intense high as the energy flowed through my body. It was ethereal and felt like a breeze blowing inside. It also tickled a bit, like the river. While the sensations seemed contradictory they melded seamlessly. As the energy settled in my pearl, my head lolled in her lap and my body lazed bonelessly at her feet. The coalesced energy ensconced inside me felt like a piece of the moon itself and I couldn't have been happier to have her favor.
She observed my state with quiet amusement. "I had originally planned on acquainting you with some of the lore regarding your clan. But looking at you, you are clearly a fledgling barely able to keep your eyes open."
I wanted to dispute the statement, but she was right. I was coming down from the high fast. I was still carrying a comfortable buzz, but sleep was not very far away. "I'm afraid you may be right, ma'am," I slurred, then remembered what Chang called her. "My lady," I corrected.
"Then I think I'll leave that instruction to Chang. Do you have any questions, Sebastian?"
"Why do oysters make pearls from moonlight? And why are all these rabbits here?" I was allowed to ask the closest thing to a deity I've ever seen a question and what do I come up with? Rabbits and oysters. Oh, the banality of it all.
I heard Chang chuckle. But to her credit, the moon took my questions seriously.
"Oysters make pearls so that humans may have a bit of the moon at all times. The human race was meant to live with magic, and in earlier times the people made good use of it. It may now seem that people have moved past their need for magic, but they haven't. They have simply buried it under distractions. So these little reminders are still left to be found."
I nodded and did my best to assimilate what she was saying, but sleep was closing in fast.
"And these are not rabbits." She bent and picked one up. She laid it along her forearm with the animal's chest resting in her hand while stroking it's fur with the other hand. Up close I could see the build was longer than a rabbit, and the ears and legs were bigger. "They are hares, and they are sacred to me."
"Right, bunnies are sacred. Don't hurt the bunnies or anything bunny-like," I muttered as sleep overtook me.
When I started to wake up, it was daylight again. I could tell I was still in the spirit world. I was curled up in a loose spiral in the meadow with Chang curled around the outside edge. As I looked around and fully woke up I felt myself slide back to the physical world. Since the two looked exactly alike, the experience was watching Chang fade out as the light and sounds became duller. It was about mid-afternoon. I thought about trying to go back when I was seized by a sudden dread. Something was terribly wrong. The buzz from the previous night faded as a chill spread through me from my pearl. I bolted for the river, thrashing into it as the dread escalated to panic.
"What happened?" I demanded.
nothing has happened in or around the water
"Are you sure?"
That answer didn't jibe with what I was feeling. I ran quickly as I could for the closest bad section of the river. It didn't occur to me to call Chang, but he caught up with me there anyway.
"Sebastian, what is the matter?" His confused tone only frustrated me more.
I rested my front legs on the concrete bank and craned my neck trying to see if something was wrong. Nothing seemed out of place.
"I don't know," I snapped and repeated my actions on the other side of the bank. Still nothing. I began to head further down river when I felt something pin my tail to the bottom of the river. I looked back to see Chang standing on my tail.
"Calm yourself," he said gently.
"But...." I protested.
"Calm yourself," he repeated, a little more forcefully.
"Chang...." I tried to pull my tail out from his grasp.
"Sebastian." This time his voice was accompanied by thunder. I stopped what I was doing and looked at him, mouth agape.
"Thank you." His tone was calm again. "Whatever has you so frenzied is not going to be well-met by you in this state. Now take a moment and calm yourself."
My nerves were raw even though my panic hadn't lasted long, and the last thing I could imagine doing was calming down. Whatever this was, it demanded action. I returned to trying to tug my tail out from Chang, without success.
"I don't have time."
"Do you know what's wrong?"
"No," I admitted, almost afraid to elaborate further.
"So, if I let you go, what are you going to do?" He was reasonable, but I wasn't in the mood for reason.
"Run down river and try to find what's wrong." Because it had to the river, damn it. It had to be. If it wasn't the river, there was only one other thing I could think of that would cause this feeling, and that made me feel worse.
"Did the river indicate there was a problem?"
Again with the reason.
"No it didn't," I snapped irritably. "But something's wrong."
"And you think running haphazardly in a random direction to an unknown problem that may not even be on the river is the proper course of action?"
I could understand the logic he was laying out, but this feeling, this sense of urgency, pushed me to act.
"Well, what would you suggest?"
"Calm yourself. I believe I may have mentioned that."
I gave in and took several shuddering, ragged breaths. It didn't help much.
"Now, then. What is going on?"
I took another, deeper breath and tried to will my heart to stop thudding in my chest. "I don't know. I woke up over there then came back here and had this horrible feeling something was just wrong. Really, terribly wrong," I repeated for emphasis.
"And the river gives no reason for concern?" Chang's queries continued to be calm, but I saw the worry enter his eyes.
"The first thing I did was ask the river. The river said nothing had happened."
"And do you have a reason for doubting the river's assessment?"
I looked down. "No."
"I see." Chang lifted his leg from my tail. "I shall go check on Dakota."
I looked up and started to protest.
"Sebastian." He was still gentle, but firm. "I understand how much you love her, but that is what makes you a particularly bad choice. Control is not your strong suit, and in your agitated state you may do something you will come to regret."
Apparently, Chang had reasonableness in bulk. However, an image of brick shit house lying dead under my claws came to mind and I looked back down. He was right, of course, no matter how much I hated it.
Chang read my mood. He nudged me against my head and I looked up. There was no judgment in his eyes or words. "Sebastian, you mean well and I do not believe for a moment you would hurt anyone unprovoked. But you have a dragon's nature and when that is provoked, you will respond like a dragon. In time you will learn to integrate and control those responses, but until then it is better to avoid confrontation. You have my word, I will do everything in my power to assure her safety."
His words both comforted and concerned me, and reminded me how much more I had to learn. I nodded.
"I will let you know if she is in danger." And with that he was gone.
I walked back to the meadow and curled up as the river offered what consolation it could.
I sat in my living room, surrounded by things that usually comforted me but now only offered nothing. My comfort, my feeling of safety, had been shattered. I had always thought of my home as a sanctuary, but it had failed to keep the bad things away. I heard the sound of the door splintering off it's hinges seconds before it slammed into the wall. I jumped until I realized it was in my mind.
I remember reading somewhere that humans invented time. I never believed it. Humans didn't invent the passage of the seasons, the inevitable progression of life to death, or even the passage of day to night. Now I realize what we invented was the perception of time. The phone had to be reached to be useful, and that took time. More time then I thought I might have.
Even with the phone reached, it would take time for help to arrive. I felt phantom blows along with some very real pain on my bruised flesh. The knuckles I cut on his teeth when I punched him in the mouth throbbed, as did my tetanus shot. It seemed that time held it's breath, then stood still.
All at once the police were there, pulling him off of me. Between my last look at the clock and this one maybe twenty minutes had passed. Barely any time at all. With that realization, time resumed it's flow.
The police took my statement. I was taken to the hospital, and Chad was taken to jail. One of the police officers stayed with me and took me home when I was released. There was some bruising, a cut on my hand requiring a tetanus shot, and some pain pills. Fortunately there was nothing I needed to be kept for. On the ride home the officer advised I call a friend. She gave me a card for victims' assistance and confirmed with me I wanted to press charges. I did.
When I got home, I wedged the back door shut and nailed a piece of wood across it. It wasn't a great fix, but would hold until I got the land-lord over. Then I straightened my kitchen and tried to go to bed. But time wasn't done playing it's games with me. The night dragged on. I didn't take the pain pills at first; when I'd taken them in the past they made me loopy. After the hours stretched for awhile, I took them just to have the release of passing out.
I knew Chad's time in jail was limited at best. Since we never lived together, the attack wasn't considered domestic violence. It was assault and the break in was aggravated trespass, both misdemeanors. As it was Chad's first offense, they wouldn't keep him very long. Maybe overnight, maybe a bit longer, then one of his friends would bail him out. I looked at the business card the police officer had given me and thought about the advice to call a friend. There was a friend I wanted to call. Badly. I was honestly kind of surprised he hadn't shown up yet, but I was also thankful.
The look Sebastian had had at the restaurant haunted me. He would have taken on Chad there, had I let it go that far. I suspected...no, I knew this time was only different in the level of what was done. If Sebastian was willing to take Chad on for being a general ass in a restaurant, for this he would do much worse. If I told him. I chewed my lip as tears welled in my eyes, because, damn it, I wanted to tell him. A few words would be all it took, and Chad would know pain much worse than what he visited on me.
Sebastian's power wasn't mine, but I could direct it. I knew what he could do, and in the end, I knew what he most likely would do. I also knew what he'd do to himself afterward. I'd seen it all before. I had the power to destroy Chad for what he'd done to me, and I wanted to. But in the process, I would also destroy part of Sebastian. The price was too fucking high. I had the power, but was helpless in the face of it. The tears turned to sobs as loneliness and rage crashed down on me.
A knock on my front door shook me from these thoughts. I went to the door wary, though it wasn't like Chad would knock. I looked out the window and was surprised to see Chang. I wiped away the tears and opened the door to let him in. The look of sorrow and sympathy that crossed his face as he looked me over nearly undid me. I looked away.
"I am so very sorry this happened to you," he said in a soft voice.
"How did you know something happened?" I asked, looking back to him.
"Sebastian knew, but clearly not at a time when he could do something about it."
"Does he know what happened?"
"Good," I replied as I turned away from him.
"Are you afraid of what Sebastian will do?" His voice was still soft.
"No. I'm afraid of what I want him to do." I could hear the hardness and rage in my voice, and was ashamed of it. I burst again into tears. I felt his hand on my shoulder and I let him turn me around. The expression on his face spoke only of concern for me, no judgment. I fell against him and sobbed as he gathered me into his arms.
We stood like that, for how long I couldn't say. After a while, I realized he was humming. It was a sweet, pretty sound that struck me as out of place with the rumbling thunder I associated with him. It was comforting. I pulled away as I again wiped tears from my face.
"What is that?" I asked, my voice catching slightly.
"Just a simple tune I learned long ago. I find music can be soothing." He guided me to one end of the couch and gestured for me to sit. He sat at the other end and folded his hands in his lap.
"Can you tell me what happened?"
I nodded as I took a moment to compose myself. "It was Chad."
"I feared as much. Are you badly injured?"
I shook my head. "No, just some bruising." I raised my hand. "And I cut my hand on his teeth. What have you told Sebastian?"
"Only that you are not in any immediate danger, and that there are some things I need to sort out."
"He accepted that?"
"He didn't like it. I may be testing the strength of our relationship, and his faith in me, but I am telling him the immediate truth." He paused, giving me a pensive look. "What more of the truth he is told is at your discretion."
I pulled my knees up to my chest. "What do you think?"
"There are no simple answers. I do believe he has the right to know. But I also understand, and furthermore, agree with your concerns. What is being done about Chad at this time?"
"He was arrested and I'm pressing charges." I sighed, my frustration coming through. "But it won't be long before somebody bails him out, I'm sure."
A look of concern came to Chang's face. "Can you specify what 'not long' is?"
"My guess, today or tomorrow."
"I see." Chang looked speculative.