Onyx Dreams Ch. 29bykitazkitten©
Author's Note: smegger and I would like to thank all readers, reviewers and voters for making Onyx Dreams so popular.
The cool breeze slowly slid over the silky smooth skin of Kennice as she slept, causing small goosebumps to rise upon her delicate skin. Outside, the twin moons of the dragon realm slowly began to ascend the night sky, their soft light slipping through the large bay windows. Gradually they worked their way across the floor and along the bed covers. With what seemed like sentience they almost seemed to reach out and touch her, triggering something within her mind...causing visions to surface in her dreams.
Kennice blinked. "I'm dreaming," she muttered. It was one of the first things she had learned as a high priestess in training. How to tell the difference between reality, hallucinations and dreams. If she was dreaming then it had to be important. Only the powers of the universe granted such things. It was up to her to pay attention to them and interpret them.
In front of her, the world flickered and shimmered, changing and shifting, reshaping itself to fit its new design. The night swirled around her, dragging her down into the forgotten past. The past that only Erykia remembered now, the lost story that time had forbidden be remembered.
In front of her, was Erykia...but this time it was different, this time, she was young and beautiful. And behind her...was at first glance, Cyrus. It couldn't be him though...this was too far into the past to possibly be him...
Kennice was confused. But the man, he was Cyrus's twin in every way, even down to the tilt of his head as he regarded the younger Erykia.
Even his smile was the same, the one that said he was truly in love with the one before him. "Erykia, how I have longed to hold you in my arms once again. How long has it been since we were last together?"
"We were together just last night, silly boy." Erykia reached up and stroked his cheek, her own smile lighting up her face, complimenting her beautiful features.
He blushed a little and nuzzled into her touch, sighing softly, "Forgive me my darling, it's seems so long when I have to deal with those dragon riders...they just don't seem to understand the basic terms of right and wrong." He turned away for a moment, looking out the window. The window of the same room Kennice had fallen asleep in. "I don't know what to do anymore Erykia. I feel this burning inside of me, and every time I have to deal with them it grows ever stronger."
"Burning how? Skarl, are you ill?" Concerned she came to his side, her hand going to his arm as she tugged gently on him, wanting him to turn around so she could check him for sickness.
He pulled his arm away a little harder than he intended, his frustration growing at her not understanding what he meant. "No, I am not ill. It is a burning of outrage. At how these people preach about being good and right and wrong, yet they themselves ignore those very rules." He turned around to look at her, his eyes softening, "Come away with me Erykia. We can start afresh, away from these vile deceitful people."
Erykia frowned. "How are they ignoring the rules, my dear? I'm trying to understand but your reasoning is eluding me." Lately Skarl's behavior was strange, strange enough to frighten her. And his words. She refrained from mentioning it because she was afraid that maybe she was imagining things that were not there. They had only been High Priest and High Priestess for five years yet the changes in his speech and thoughts had been gradual.
"I speak of the way they are training you Erykia. They are cruel and torturous yet neither you nor your superiors do anything about it. Not even the dragon riders wish to do anything about it. The villages too are in a state I shudder to think of. The clans are beginning to fight amongst themselves again yet the riders and druids stand by and do nothing except talk about solutions. Always talking yet never doing anything."
She blushed at his mention of her training. "They do what they think best," she replied defensively, not wanting to think about the punishment the druids had heaped on her for failure to produce a fruitful fertility rite with Skarl. Before him, she had always had great results each year she had performed the fertility rite with a different male. But she had fallen in love with Skarl and he with her. They had been wed with the Council's blessings but the last three years, the results of the rite had been less each time. The Council assumed it was her fault and she had been punished. Skarl had gotten upset with the decision and the result but she had gritted her teeth and accepted the will of the druids. "Please, Skarl, you knew this was how it was going to be when you took this office. We have to think of our people. If our efforts fail, then it must be our fault. Everyone is working to find some fix to the problem. Patience, we must have patience."
"They are not working Erykia! Open your eyes for gods' sake. They have done nothing to help with this land's problems, nothing to help any of the people." He sighed and turned away again, moving to the window and staring out into the dark raining night. On the edge of his hearing he could just make out the faint whispering once again. He could almost understand it now, every time he heard it, it got a little louder. It was as if there was a demon on his shoulder, whispering dark thoughts into his mind. He pushed the feelings aside and closed his eyes, trying to calm himself.
"Skarl," Erykia changed her mind and decided not to say anything else. Instead she wrapped her arms around his waist and laid her head against his back. "Please, my love, try. If you have a suggestion then bring it to the Council tomorrow. I will stand by you whatever you decide."
"And what if my decision was to leave? To travel off into the distance for reflection and to see just how deep the corruption runs?"
"Then I shall go with you. You are my husband and High Priest. We must work as a team or else fall apart."
"This I cannot allow Erykia. The council would pursue us to the ends of the world to keep us within their control. Their spies would be hounding us wherever we went, checking up on us constantly."
She pulled away from him. "You CANNOT allow? I think, my husband, you have forgotten that I am a free thinker. I can choose what I wish to do."
He turned around slowly, his face softening once again, smiling at her, but his eyes were wet with coming tears. He lifted his hand gently to her face, stroking her tender flesh before whispering, "Forgive me my love, but I must do this alone."
The surge of energy from his fingertips seared into her mind like a knife, knocking her unconscious. His arms caught her, moving her carefully to the bed, the tears now falling from his eyes. "I will return to you Erykia but right now I can no longer stand the stench of their hypocrisy." With that said, he turned and fled the room, his robes rustling as he did so.
The vision wavered and Kennice felt the pull of consciousness. "No, not yet!" she wailed but her mind and body had other ideas as it dragged her kicking and screaming back to wakefulness.
* * *
Hayden's large head hovered worriedly above his rider. She had been thrashing in her sleep. He'd come to stand guard and wait for her to rouse. He was unprepared for her reaction. The scream of denial and her whipping forward, eyes wild, hair loose as she blinked rapidly. "H-hayden?"
He drew his head back a moment before blowing warm air gently across her to let her know he meant no harm. "Yes my rider, I felt your distress in your sleep. Tell me, what has happened?"
"I had a vision. Of Erykia and someone named Skarl. My lord Hayden, he looked just like Cyrus. I mean I truly thought it was him. How is this possible?"
He let out a soft sigh and looked at her for a moment. So she had finally found out the truth behind her lover in a way. It was time to fill in the blanks. "It is a long and complex story my rider, but the short version is that he is the sole descendant of Skarl the Dark."
"I still don't understand. The druids never mentioned a High Priest called Skarl. I would have remembered. And High Priestess Erykia..." she trailed off as she thought about what she had seen in the vision. "None of this makes sense. The druids told me to pay attention to my dreams but how can I do that when they have no rhyme or reason?"
"It will make sense in time, for now sit and listen to what I must tell you. Over one thousand years ago a promising man known as Skarl rose through the ranks of the priesthood. He had great potential that was as yet untapped, his skill matched by no other in the world. His methods however were questionable at times. But there was one thing he always held to, that thing was truth. No matter what happened he held truth over everything else, because as he saw it, evil was always buried underneath layer of lies. So uncover the evil behind something, you had to strip away these layers of lies to get to the truth." Hayden sank down so that his head was eye level with the bed. "Eventually he was inducted as High Priest and married the current High Priestess Erykia. It was then that he began to question the motives of everyone. He felt that was his duty to the people. What he found changed him gradually and the queen of the dark dragons found that in him and exploited it. He disappeared five years after becoming high priest to 'reflect upon himself' as he told his colleagues. In truth, he was tracking down and digging deep into what he now saw as a twisted world of corruption. This was secretive even from the council's watchful eyes but Skarl blamed them for their own blindness to such evils. He saw them as ignoring it rather than not seeing it, and it warped the good inside him. It transformed him into the monster history remembers him as. It was much the same path Cyrus has taken, and I fear history may be about to repeat itself."
"Cyrus is not like this Skarl," Kennice countered hotly, sliding from the bed to put on a robe. She glared at Hayden. "He is a good man."
"As was Skarl, but even good men get lost sometimes, rider. You must be prepared to end this by any mean necessary."
"What do you mean by any means necessary?" Kennice warily eyed Hayden.
"If things go as the council fears...you may have to be the one to do as Erykia did before you. To end his life before he does anymore harm."
"High Priestess Erykia killed someone?" Shock and horror warred with revulsion at the thought of harming someone.
"Yes, she had no choice, it was Skarl, her husband. It was a choice between him and the world and she made the right choice for all of us." He leaned down so his eyes were level with hers. "Do you understand what I am trying to tell you Kennice?"
"You want me to kill Cyrus! I won't do it! I will not!" She backed away from Hayden.
"I do not wish you to Kennice, no one wishes that. I am trying to tell you that if we are not careful there may be no other choice to preserve our world."
"Every life is precious. I will not lose one. I'd rather die myself than harm another on purpose." Kennice stood, her back ramrod straight with tension.
Hayden sighed once again, the air warming around her. "You would sacrifice the world over him?"
"Not the world, just myself."
"I hope that it does not come down to that my rider."
He leaned his head back looking down at her. "Have you had any other revelations this night?"
"None that I can understand. I cannot believe that the High Priestess is as old as you say she is. How is that possible? Is it some druidic ritual that was performed to give her such longevity?"
He shook his head and a wry glint came to his eye. "On the contrary my rider. It is the ultimate gift a high priestess can receive, it comes from the king of dragons himself. Only those who have done a priceless service to their people receive such a gift."
"But isn't it bad to outlive everyone you know?"
"Not everyone my rider. I still have a good few millennia left in me yet."
"How long will she live? I mean if nothing ill befalls her?" Kennice wasn't sure if she wanted to be high priestess. The prospect of living life without anyone at all she knew was frightening her. Even though she loved Hayden and respected him, even humbled that he would choose someone like her, she couldn't imagine life going on and watching generations come and go.
"She will live for as long as she deems it is necessary for her to do so. The gift will last until she feels that a suitable replacement for her has been found. Someone who will protect the land and its people."
Kennice gulped back the bile that rose. She was that replacement. It was what they had been grooming her for, wasn't it? Why hadn't they told her? She shook her head. She knew why. If the knowledge had been given her to start with she would have ran the other way. Instead they had cultivated in her a love of the land and the people to prepare her to take over the job of caring for both.
"I don't know if I want this," she whispered.
"Look deep in to your heart my rider, only those with true devotion to this land could have come as far as you have. Only you could have come this far. Do not doubt the powers that lie within you. There is much more to come I feel." He lay his head down close to her once more, looking up at her with one of his cat like eyes.
Automatically her hand reached out and she caressed his snout. What he said resonated with her feelings and for a moment she resented him for it. Reminding her of her duty. But was it a duty if she felt this emotional about it? So many things to ponder on. "I will consider your words for you are older than I."
"Many people are, but simply because one is older than you, does not mean that their words are any more wise than one who is younger than you. Many a word of advice has come to me from those much younger than I. Sometimes those with the least time have the best to say."
"This is true but most elders don't listen. I have found this to often be the case. They assume experience makes them wiser. I hope I am not that way when I'm older."
"We can only be what we are meant to be my rider. One can simply go with what the fates decide and make the best of it at times."
"Perhaps." Her stomach rumbled at that moment and she blushed. "I see that fate has decreed that I eat. Will you please lead the way, Lord Hayden to the nearest dining room?"
He smiled and nodded, turning away and holding out his leg for her to climb up him to save her walking. "I hope the food agrees with you more this time."
"Yes, I hope so too." Grinning she nimbly climbed up his shoulder and to his back, carefully seating herself. She decided to push all her nagging worries away and concentrating on the moment. She would eat first and worry later.
He walked with a powerful stride, the lower ranked riders moving to the side and bowing respectfully to Hayden. However, their eyes never once met Kennice's, and if one did, it was filled only with disdain and disrespect.
Kennice was confused by the looks she was getting. Had she done something wrong? She inched closer to Hayden's hide and wondered.
Softly his voice sounded in her mind to reassure her. ~Take no notice rider, their partners are set in their ways and feel that a high priestess does not deserve a seat of power such as this. But fear not, the time will come when you may prove them wrong.~
~Is it true that no high priestess has ever been a dragon rider?~
~This is partially true. There was one, the first high priestess to encounter the dragons. They led her to discover those with the true gifts of druidic power. She rode on the dragons' backs but she was not a rider as you know them today. So yes, you truly are the first high priestess to become a rider.~
~Oh, why do I not find that reassuring?~ She grew quiet, her hand straying to his warm hide as she thought about the implications. There was so much she just didn't know nor could fathom. Sighing she once again tried to organize her thoughts so that she could focus on what needed to be done immediately.
~Do not worry rider, you have not been with me long. You are still settling in to the role. As a general rule, when you find yourself sitting in a chair the same way you ride me is when we know each other well enough to worry about trivial matters as the opinions of others.~
~If you say so. YOU are the king and I am just a visitor here. I do not wish to make enemies nor violate laws.~ Kennice squared her shoulders. They had reached the dining room. She hoped this time to stay awake and not faint like some silly maiden.
~Know this my rider, you are not simply a visitor here...this is now your home. This is where a rider can access their full potential.~ He came to a halt by his table and angled his leg out so she could climb down. ~I have arranged for some more familiar food to be brought for you, my mentor would like to see you once you have eaten.~
"Mentor? Who is that?" Kennice slipped back into vocal speech. Her head was throbbing slightly from all the mental exchanges. Her eyes lit up when she recognized the food that was being set on the table before her.
"His name is Nightseer, you have met briefly before at your wedding. It will be a personal meeting, I will not be allowed to enter. These words must be heard only by you."
"Oh dear." Hastily swallowing the hot cup of soup, Kennice looked flustered. "Is he your chief adviser then? Or does he have some royal title I need to be aware of?"
"His title is in his name, rider. Nightseer, royal adviser and oracle of events. He sees all things important to the preservation of this world and ensures they pass." His voice grew dark as he remembered the dark omen he had been told of his mate Brenna, and the terrible state she had returned in. "Even if those events lead us through a darkness we have not known before." He did not know whether he could forgive Cyrus for what he had done.
Kennice noticed the pauses and felt anger color the bond between her and Hayden. It did not feel as if he were directing it toward her so she said nothing. Just stroked his hide.
"Forgive me if I am disturbing your meal rider, these are turbulent times and many things weigh down upon my mind." He gently blew warm air down upon her. "Eat now, you will no doubt need your strength, sometimes such visits can be...interesting."
"Of course Hayden." Kennice finished her meal and stood. "I am ready now. I need to get it done before my nervousness makes a disaster of things."
He extended his leg once again for her to mount him and spoke softly, "Hold tight my rider, the route is dangerous and the tunnels are treacherous for their crosswinds, I do not wish you to fall."
"I will stay on, I promise." Kennice got herself in place and gripped his body with her knees.
Hayden strode out onto the ledge of the great dining hall, a huge yawning chasm lay before them, blackness the only thing at the bottom. "What we seek lies in a cavern deep into that chasm, do not be afraid rider, nothing that lurks there will harm us while I am with you." With that said, he spread his great wings and took off, gaining enough height to escape the platform before dipping low and folding his wings back, their speed increasing dramatically, forcing her to grip his thick scales with her hands as well to stop the winds ripping her from his back.
~Is it always this rough?~ she mentally shouted.
~No, this is a good day, usually there are bats too.~ His body twisted suddenly, jerking them to the right into a tunnel just barely big enough for his large wingspan, however no matter what twist, turn or obstacle came up, he cleared it with ease, giving an almost perfectly smooth ride aside from the almost gale force winds rushing past her face.