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Bloodlines

by Nicholas R Yang 4 months ago in Fantasy · updated a day ago
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A post-destruction piece about a girl who learns she is more powerful than she could know.

Bloodlines
Photo by Jr Korpa on Unsplash

There weren't always dragons in the Valley. In fact, the heroes of the old world were said to have annihilated them all in the ages long forgotten so that our people could live in safety and peace, or so the histories had taught.

The Dragons had been gone from the world for centuries until a Mother worried about her child's wellbeing, stumbled upon a discovery that would change the world we lived in forever.

“...So did peace and prosperity reign, mostly, for a few thousand years. Self-governing nations grew across the globe and humans worked together to better what was left of our world after those great battles of old.”

One of the students near Susanna held their hand up for a while, but Mr. Jansen was too wrapped up in what he was teaching to notice. Reading from the notes he had and scratching on the blackboard.

“We became a technologically advanced race, and a new form of enlightenment dawned upon us. Our world had paved the way for a superiority that rivalled all the other races we share this great cosmos with.”

The class furiously scratched down notes on their individual notepads, the sound of pens inking paper almost drowned out the teacher’s lecture.

Jansen had a habit of moving quite fast when delivering information he loved to talk about.

“Alas, there were those who snaked their way into power that wanted nothing but wealth for themselves and control over everyone else. These betrayers dragged our people back into the dark ages.”

He turned a moment, looking at the class over his glasses, making sure everyone was paying attention, listening to the scratching of hands.

The boy beside Susanna shot his hand up again but wasn’t quick enough. Mr. Jansen had already turned back around and continued writing.

“They took everything we worked so hard to build and perverted our progress. They twisted our institutions into the form of a worldwide religious fascist nightmare. The Betrayers of our world were said to have been greedy and destructive without the threat of the Great Ones.”

“Boy, what’s your question?” Susanna moved over and whispered to the kid beside her.

She didn’t know his name, he was new and some Lord or some such from the other side of Eden. Must have not been able to make it in their schools or something.

“I just want to know if he can repeat what he said about Humans working together.”

His blonde hair was curly and silken like he hadn’t worked a day in the sun.

Susanna tapped her notepad, ripping the top sheet off so he could copy it.

“Inevitably, things came ahead. Just as it did in the great wars of old. We stood up against our Religious Dictators and pushed back, fighting for change in every way we could. Then, Miss De Vries and Mister Berntsen… Can I help you two?”

Mr. Jansen stopped his speech, staring at the two exchanging notes.

“Oh sorry Sir, I was just helping him catch up with the Notes. I didn’t mean to interrupt.” Susanna said quickly, pulling the notepad back to her.

The teacher scrutinized her words for a second, then decided the excuse was acceptable.

“As I was saying… Everything our heroes fought so hard to protect was wiped out by The Betrayers and their insatiable lust for control. Not only did they kill themselves off, but the casualties our race incurred were insurmountable.”

The teacher’s eyes flicked up to the ticking clock on the wall, then back to the blackboard,

“With their vicious weapons of war and their petty fights over ideals, land, and resources. The charlatan rulers of the world's false democratic oligarchies destroyed all that was built in the name of wealth and power. Those of us who survived scattered across what was left of the land.”

Mr. Jansen rolled up his long-sleeved shirt, his arms were covered in tattoos and his muscles looked like they were about to rip the cloth, some of the kids in the class giggled bashfully.

He stopped writing a moment, staring, unmoving at his notes. Then continued, shaking his head.

“Yes, well. As you all know, millennia have passed since then. The heroes that held the knowledge of how to destroy the Great Ones have all died out.”

“Or so people think…” Susanna mumbled, Mr.Jensen ignored her.

“Those of us who survived, what we now call The Great Removal, did so in small tribes. Much like our ancestors had done at the dawn of time. The Betrayers have paid the price for their ignorance, though some say they still wield power across this world in small fiefdoms of slavery. Much like the royalty of the Kingdoms of Old.”

Susanna mouthed the last part, it was a story she had been told many times by her nan,

“After wandering for so long, our families found this place and called it home. The trees, the reeds, and the rivers that surround us are why this place was named The Garden Of Eden.”

Mr.Jansen turned once again to face the class, leaning back against his desk and whipping the last of the chalk into the wall next to the garbage can, dusting off his hands.

“Funny enough, a pointed accusation for those who attempted to rule in the name of a God that may or may not have existed…”

The school bell cried out over the teacher's monologue, cutting him off in the middle of his closing statement.

“Alright, make sure you all read the assigned texts for Tyrsday! Manaday is a day off, remember, so none of us will be here! Those of you in the Tournament, good luck, and may the Gods protect you!”

Mr. Jansen called out over the noise of the students laughing and chatting as they packed their things up for the weekend.

Susanna De Vries sat and waited for the others to file out into the hallways. She ran her hands through her medium-length red hair, stretching.

Mr. Jansen had already begun to busy himself with papers as Susanna approached his old and cracked wooden desk.

“Mr. Jansen, couldn’t The Betrayers and the Great Old Ones actually be one and the same? Feasibly, couldn't those Dragons that managed to survive the purges of the middle ages disappear into hiding, then begin to place themselves into positions of power later in history to destroy Humanity?”

The bald-headed History Teacher pushed the sleeves of his blue and pink pinstripe dress shirt up further, revealing the entirety of his intricate and beautifully inked, scouting tattoos. He kept them hidden beneath his clothing most of the time. The little girls, and even some of the boys, swooned over them.

His ice-blue eyes levelled over his glasses with hers.

“I guess that could be one of the theories out there, Susanna. However, the Great Old Ones would have to be able to hide in plain sight. Unless they have some sort of shapeshifting powers that the histories forgot to tell us, then I couldn’t see that being true.”

Susanna wanted so badly to tell him the information she had been told by her Nan but she had been told so many times to guard.

“Though if they could transform themselves, it would make sense why those things happened in our history. Interesting thought. What brought you to this conclusion?”

Susanna shrugged,

“I guess it just made sense to me, given the stories we teach. I haven’t seen a dragon or anything like that before so I don’t know what they can do. I mean, it just doesn’t make sense for another Human to strive for the destruction of their own people. Isn’t that counter-intuitive to all of our built-in survival instincts?”

Mr. Jansen leaned forward, folding his hands.

“What you must understand, Susanna. Those people of the 20th century. They lived a far different life than we do. Hundreds of years have passed since then.”

Mr. Jansen stood up and walked to the board sliding it aside, revealing a white board under it. He erased all the notes he had written throughout the class.

Susanna seemed a bit confused.

He thought a moment, leaning against the white background and pointing to the ceiling with his marker.

“You see, these buildings our people have repurposed for our needs after settling here. They are actually the archaeological remnants of the 20th century's way of living. The Scouts found these places and cleared them of nasty things.”

Susanna nodded, looking around.

“Most of their people didn’t have to grow their own food or hunt, in fact, these became recreational activities to some at the end of the Enlightenment Age. They had places where they could go to pick up food and drink.”

Mr. Jansen placed the blue and red markers neatly on his desk, opened the top drawer, and pulled out a pack of fresh chalk.

“All of which was delivered by others who did those things for them to make money. They didn’t need to build their own buildings as we used to, they had people assigned to those tasks as well. Much like our Builder Caste.”

Jansen sat back down across from Susanna.

“My point is, that we understand the world differently. The people of the 20th century understood things in the scope of living, back then. They weren't as worried about survival as we did. They were worried about physical things, such as money and other items not practically useful to us anymore.”

Susanna finished his sentence, excitedly,

“Stuff like televisions, computers, or cars?”

Jansen laughed, nodding,

“Yes, little archaeologist. Self-destruction wasn’t really of importance, it seems. Material belongings took precedence. Of course, this is all speculation from archaeological science. Most recorded histories were destroyed in the Great Removal. So we have to work with the bits and pieces left.”

Susanna nodded,

“Mr. Jansen, one last thing. The Heroes. What could they do? What made them so special?”

Jansen chuckled again,

“Well, again, bits of stories. The Bloodlines of the Heroes have been said to be extinct for ages now, so there isn’t much left in reference to them.”

“I know that, Sir. But what do you know of them?” Susanna pressed,

“Well, from what we were told when I was a child, they were warriors of great skill and unmatched strength. Some were even said to have special elemental magicks they could wield. However many discrepancies between written and oral works, all the stories can agree that the heroes were quick learners and masters of their given blood disciplines. Why do you ask?”

Susanna nervously straightened the pink and blue linen cloth shirt and wool skirt that made up her school uniform. She shoved her books nervously into her brown cloth shoulder bag.

“Oh no reason sir, curiosity. Thank you so much, Mr. Jansen. I appreciate your time. Have a great weekend.”

Susanna quickly turned, waved, then hurried out of the classroom and down the concrete hallway. Leaving the History Teacher confused.

So many of the works her family guarded answered so much. Sometimes Susanna felt that she knew more than those of the Archaeological Societies, and always overstepped the boundaries set by her father's order. They weren’t to release those guarded secrets, she needed to protect the Bloodlines.

Doors with numbers slipped by as she weaved in and out of stragglers who were all heading home to prepare for the Manaday’s End of Cycle Celebrations.

She ran her hands across the rough-hewn brick walls and tottering brass numbers that hung from the many blackened wooden doors lining the hallways. Something about this place felt safe and secure, though, no-one really knew what it had been used for in the past.

Now this place was used for learning, these forgotten rooms had been changed into laboratories and classrooms for students.

Sussana slipped through a group standing by the exit, smiling as one of them said goodbye to her and wished her luck in the Tournament. She exited through the broken glass double doors and headed around the corner of the two-story building.

Out of nowhere, a shoulder hammered itself into her chest. The force and surprise knocked her to the ground. Pain shot through her as she landed on a pile of unused concrete slag.

“Watch where you’re going, De Vries. Wouldn’t want something to happen to you before the games...”

A muscle-bound girl, about 6 feet and wrapped in the fur pelts smirked. She had a nasty scar across her left eye, which had left it a milky white colour.

The Tracker’s hair was tightly wound and braided, glimmering a crimson red against the setting sun.

“Or is someone else going to die as an excuse for you not to join the fight again this year? Have any other Aunties passed recently?”

The Tracker stomped down on Susanna’s chest with a heavy leather and iron boot, it made a sickening snap. She could feel the air leave her body as her lung slowly filled up with blood.

Susanna gasped, trying to move away from her attacker. It was clear her ribs were broken as she began to cough up blood, as she pushed herself up onto her feet.

“Fuck off, Brody. It’s summer, why are you wearing furs you jacked up weirdo?” Susanna spit blood at her attacker's feet, clutching her side.

“Awww, wittle Suzy hurt herself? Hope it doesn’t affect your game on Manaday. All you lower caste dogs are the same. Weak and fragile. The Trackers will win and I will make sure you dirt mongers pay in blood.”

Brody pulled the gnarled-looking obsidian knife from her belt and thrust it deep into Susanna’s leg, but she refused to flinch.

Brody pulled the blade back in anger, running her tongue through the crimson liquid that crawled down its sharpened edge.

She spit it aside wiping her lips with a grimy sleeve,

“Tastes bitter. Your blood is that of weakness. You won’t make a good sacrifice to Skadi, so I guess I’ll have to kill as many of you as I can in trial and soak the grounds in your life essence.”

Brody wiped the blade on her pants and sheathed the weapon, sniggering.

“We will see,” Susanna muttered as Brody pulled a syringe from her side pouch and drove it into her thigh.

She pushed the plunger, and the yellow liquid drained into her veins. Her pupils grew large as the Jackamite flowed through her body. Brody stuck her tongue out like some wild animal, then sprinted to the nearby refuse pile.

This particular section of concrete ran parallel to the school. However, it hadn’t been taken care of as well as other sections.

For all of Eden’s talk of equality and fairness, it always seemed that the Agricultural Quarter wasn’t ever a top priority for the council in charge of running the city.

Pieces of the barrier littered the ground while creeping vines consumed its face. The twisted plant matter weaved itself in and out of cracks of the wall that had widened throughout the years.

Brody was able to use these to quickly scale up and over what was left of the barrier. Leaving Susanna to die. The students in the doorway seemed to have dispersed, not wanting to have to deal with a jacked-up Tracker. Susanna looked around, not seeing anyone.

Susanna shrugged and placed her hands together. A green light erupted from within her palms. She laid her hands on herself and felt her wounds slowly close as healing energy flowed through her fingers and repaired her body.

She felt her ribs snap painfully back into place, her punctured lungs mend and drain, then the wound on her leg sealed itself shut, leaving a vicious-looking scar.

“What a jacked-up dick,” she mumbled, cracking her neck and looking around once more.

Her parents would lose it if someone figured out she was using her powers in public.

Susanna dusted herself off and removed her bloody skirt, tossing it over the wall and into the encroaching forest beyond the ruin. She dug through her rough flax bag and pulled out a pair of stitched working leathers, slipping them on.

She would have to make some stupid story up about how she ripped it or lost it again.

Her family didn’t have much for trade, not like other people in Eden. So they weren’t as well off as some, though they had enough food and things to live comfortably. This was one of the few perks of being a Farmer, you could grow your own food and be self-sufficient.

Susanna swiftly made her way through the cobblestone streets, limping a little as the pain of her injury finished healing.

Even on this side of the city, it was fairly beautiful. Grey and brown bricks mixed with greenery every now and again. Trees or vines routinely grew out of crumbling foundations and piles of rubble, it seemed they were always trying to retake this place for themselves.

Even the repurposed stone and concrete buildings that had soot-coloured burn marks, chunks of brick or wall missing in places, or holes from weapons used in a war long past had their own charm.

Susanna hopped over piles of rubble and metal innards, stopping a moment to watch a team of Builders plink away at a beautiful stone monument depicting children holding hands and spinning in a circle around a rough-looking, circular town. It was supposed to be The Garden of Eden, but the Mason wasn’t finished yet.

The sounds of hand tools working away made Sussanna smile. Though they all had certain castes that they were assigned to after Primary School, she didn’t think she would mind being a Builder even though her family wanted her to be in the Scout Regiment. That was the highest honour someone could be granted in Eden.

Susanna had always thought this was an interesting way to run a society, Castes, and Positions given based on skills. The downside was that sometimes people would be put in positions they didn’t want. She had heard stories of methods to switch Caste training but hadn’t really worried about looking into it yet. She still had a year and a half left before her graduation.

These sights and sounds made Susanna feel like everyone here in Eden was working together to build something better for the future of the Nomadic people.

She continued through a row of buildings with wooden scaffolding crawling up their faces. Neatly placed piles of material lined the cracked stone street as the people tasked with building carried things here and there and worked away at the restoration.

Susanna figured she couldn’t really complain, no one was poor or hungry. Everyone had a position and they didn’t have to fear being killed by some raider, or creature that roamed the wastes.

Susanna turned the corner and walked for about thirty minutes. The street transitioned into a dirt pathway that wound its way neatly through the sprawling farmer's fields.

She remembered this whole section of Eden used to be nothing more than a nightmare of a landscape filled with the husks of destroyed buildings that scarred the sky with their jagged edges and destroyed walls.

All of that was removed when she was young, though. She remembered helping her Mother carry cinder blocks as Farmers began portioning off pieces of land with them so they didn’t overlap and could utilise as much of the space as possible.

Now, it was covered in flowing fields of corn and wheat. With vegetable patches and orchards that broke up the sea of stalks here and there.

Susanna ran her hands along the walls of corn as she walked, coming to a crossroads. She could see her Mother and Father’s Apple and Pear Orchard’s poking their branches over the sprawling fields.

What was she going to tell them about her skirt? She milled around a bit. Her parents weren’t going to be happy about it.

They didn’t have much to trade until the next harvest. Susanna guessed she could trade her time for another skirt. People always needed labourers. The Trackers always needed point guards, though that was dangerous work.

“Susanna, there you are. I was wondering where you had gotten to. You’re late.” Susanna’s mother's voice came from nowhere.

“Mother, what, where are you?” She looked around and didn’t see her.

“Doesn’t matter where I am, where is your skirt… You did not go to school in those working leathers, did you? We traded good pear jelly for that skirt you know!” Mathilda formed out of the corn stalks in a shimmer of energy.

She was wearing a light blue sundress with her brown hair tightly tied back in a bun, jade eyes shimmering in the fading daylight, and carrying a woven basket of what looked like fresh fish under her arm.

Mathilda was tall and muscle-bound, much like Susanna, from all her years as a Tracker.

“Gods, you scared me. Why are you using magick in public? And when did you learn to go invisible!?” Susanna protested,

“Shush Susanna! Not so loud! I found a strange cave behind the waterfall where I had been fishing. I got a little lost, and ended up in some sort of old religious temple or something hidden behind a false wall.” Her mother looked around, lowering her voice even more.

“The inside was lined with shelves full of scrolls and books. I read one of the scrolls, and I became invisible against my will; though I don’t know why it stopped working? Strange… will have to study more. I was waiting here to see if it would wear off.”

“Mother, what were you doing outside the wall fishing? You are not a Tracker anymore. It’s not safe!” Susanna scolded, quite furious her mother put herself in jeopardy like that.

“Oh give it a rest girl, I can still protect myself.” Mathilda pulled a short sword from the leather sheath on her back, swinging it around. Susanna ducked, narrowly avoiding the singing blade as it sliced through the air.

“What! Where did you get a sword from!” Susanna began but was cut off by Mathilda.

“Besides, how was I supposed to scout out the Tournament Grounds for you, hmm? Gods be damned if you think I’ll let you become a Farmer like your Father.”

Susanna began to protest but was waved off.

“He may like the life, and it's a good retirement for me. But you will be a Scout and I will make sure of it! Only the best for my little girl. What were we talking about?”

She stopped a moment trying to remember what sparked the conversation in the first place.

“Wait, you went out and scouted the grounds for me? That’s cheating Mother. Besides, I don’t know if I’ll participate this year.”

Susanna had a look of concern on her face that wasn’t missed.

“Oh save it, Susanna, the way you survive doesn’t matter when it’s life or death. Stupid girl. You will be participating in the tournament, you need to. How else are you going to prove that you are Scouting Material?”

“What if I want to be something else!” Susanna said, her Mother ignored her,

“You sure as Hel won’t be able to scout with the reading of books and solving of maths. Teaching and Sciences are all well and good, but there are plenty of those people around. You won’t necessarily be able to be part of those Castes. What if you were stuck as a Builder or Farmer!”

Mathilda bopped Susanna on the side of her head with the blunt face of the sword before she could respond.

“Think girl...use that big brain the Powers gave you.”

Mathilda was imposing and strict. But she also was very loving, despite times like these when she lectured Susanna.

These times were irritating.

“Mother, what if I want to be a Builder or a Farmer? What if I want to be a Senator? Or a Tracker like you? What if I don’t want to be a stupid Scout.” Susanna pouted a bit.

“Bah! Tracker, Senator, Farmer, Builder. They are all important, but that's not you, child. There is no way you are going to be happy being any of those things. I know you, Susanna, you were me when I was your age. Prideful, strong, level-headed, and ambitious. You need to be out there in the world, not stuck behind these crumbling walls.”

Susanna knew she was right, but refused to acknowledge that fact.

“You have the heart of a Viking, child! You are an explorer, like our ancestors of old. You want to feel the sea salt in your hair! The crashing of the waves against your skin! You want to find new places and see everything there is to see out there! I will make sure you do.” Susanna shook her head, lost for words.

“Yea, that’s right. Enough of this nonsense, hurry home. We have some training to do. We will talk about your skirt later.”

Mathilda put her sword away and watched as Susanna headed down the road.

“You are frustrating Mother! You know that! Annoying and frustrating!” Susanna called back, whipping a stone into the cornfield as hard as she could.

It blew a small hole in the stalks, shearing a bunch more causing them to collapse. This surprised her. She heard her mother laughing.

“See you shortly, Vikingar!” Mathilda called back.

Susanna grumbled picking up another rock and attempting to repeat the feat.

She held it in her palm and felt the energy flow into it. The rock glowed blue for a second. But it went back to a dark marble colour shortly after.

She tossed it aside in irritation.

“Evening young Ms. De Vries... Another lovely conversation with your Mother I take?” One of her family's indentured labourers greeted her as she seethed past him.

She rubbed her forehead and waved him off. He went back to pruning the branches of a nearby tree, chuckling.

“Shut it Droga... Go dig a hole or something.” Susanna spat the words at him with malice.

This just made him laugh harder, which, in turn, made her more irritated.

She pushed open the wooden door of her family's wattle and daub home. Tossing her bag onto the nearby hook. Her father was seated at the table reading something and looked over his wire-rimmed glasses at her with his blue eyes.

He looked a bit homely today, his face was painted with the scratchy beginnings of a beard, and his grey-black hair was left to hang down around his squared shoulders.

“You’re late Susanna.” Farren De Vries said coolly.

“You didn’t happen to see your Mother on the way here? She said she needed to run some errands. I have no idea what I’m cooking for dinner tonight.”

He placed the book he had been holding onto the table.

“Errands, ha! If going out beyond the wall and fooling around with caves, strange tomes, and fish is what you mean by errands... She’s almost home I saw her at the crossing.”

Susanna tossed herself into the chair across from her Father, folding her arms.

“You know she found some sort of strange temple back there and went and fooled around with strange papers and books. She was invisible in public you know!”

Susanna’s father pushed his glasses up onto his head and rubbed his eyes.

“How are we supposed to stay hidden if you all are going to be out there using your spells and such? What if Dragons or the Agents of Chaos are still around hunting us? You all put Eden in danger when you do these things.”

“I have no idea what you are talking about Father!” Susanna said on instinct,

“Don’t try and tell me you didn’t, Susanna. Droga saw you use Lay on Hands after that Brody girl attacked you... You were careless, you should have used your training to defend yourself from her, not your magick. You were lucky the Trackers jack up before they hunt. What if she had seen you with a level head?”

“What! You used your powers!” Mathilda’s voice came out of nowhere again. Susanna saw her head in the window as she passed it and kicked open the door.” Just what she needed.

“So did you!” Susanna yelled back.

“No, no, I didn’t... I read a scroll that made me invisible without my consent. You used your healing on yourself because you failed in defending from that Brody brat! What have I been teaching you all these years?”

The two began yelling over each other in inaudible arguments and oh reallys. Farren rolled his eyes.

“Alright, enough! Both of you shut your mouths and listen!”

Susanna rarely saw her Father get angry. He was usually a calm and easy-going individual, but something about Mathilda’s story really seemed to worry him. Mathilda and Susanna stopped and stared silently.

“Mathilda, you said you found a temple of scrolls and books? Do you remember where and if there were any markings or anything?“

“Farren, what's the matter?” Mathilda asked, concerned.

“Were there any markings, Mathilda!” he said loudly, pushing himself up from the table, hammering his hands down on the wood, and cracking it with his own super strength.

“Farren, calm down. It was in the Waterfall. There was a hollowed-out cave somewhere in there, I was lost when I found it so I don’t know how to get back. I found it while scouting the trial grounds for Susanna.”

“...But were there markings! or Runes! Something inside?” Farren pushed.

“Yes, there were. They looked like runes of some sort and everything was tidy. Protected by a magical wall. I didn’t touch them or anything. I’m not stupid. What's wrong?”

“What if it was a Dragon’s Lair, Mathilda? You said that you read a scroll and went invisible?” Farren tapped the book cover.

“They are the only beings that could possibly write down spells and magicks now. All the heroes that studied magick have been long dead and their knowledge lost. Wizard bloodlines are all gone. You know this! So stupid of you to read those, Mathilda! If it’s a dragon in there, they will know someone intruded and used their magick! We are the only bloodline that can use it around here!”

Farren paced back and forth vehemently as Susanna and Mathilda shrunk back a bit.

“Dragons are dead, Father...” Susanna reminded him, as she often did.

“You said it was on the trial grounds?” Farren spoke after pacing and thinking a while. Seeming to not hear Susanna.

“Yes, it is on the trial grounds.” Both Susanna’s Mother and Father looked her way in unison,

“Fine, I’ll do it.” Susanna preemptively spoke before anyone else.

“I’ll win the Tournament and go to the trials. Then I will find where this supposed Dragon Lair is and I will burn its works. Easy. What's the likelihood it’s still around anyways? You're worried over nothing, Father.” She said,

“No, not burn it,” Farren replied,

“You will take as many of the tomes as you can fit in a bag, and burn the rest. You will have to figure out which ones are important and which aren’t. We can’t come in with you, so you’ll have to do it on your own. You have the blood of a Sorceress, so you should be able to decipher them easily enough, it's inherent in our bloodline.”

“Why take them, Father?” Susanna questioned.

“Some Dragons are said to be obsessive writers of history and scholars. The Brass and Gold Dragons are some of those, friendlier, types. If it was, or is, a Brass or Gold Dragon, then it could have notes upon notes of historical significance.”

“Then we shouldn’t burn any of it, Farren. What if it has names and bloodlines like ours recorded.”

Mathilda crossed her arms,

“or knows the whereabouts of other Dragon Lairs,” Susanna interjected,

“If one survives, there are bound to be others. Why don’t we just get the girl to map the cave, and then we all go after the trials and move the volumes to our library in the basement? It’s our duty as Keepers to deal with this properly and protect these histories.” Mathilda responded.

They all sat quietly in the dimming evening light thinking,

“What do you think, Susanna? You’re going to be the one to have to scout this out. Do you think we should map it out and go back later? Or do we grab a few and burn the rest?” Her Father asked

“Dragons are supposed to be extinct. So, what if this was just a leftover lair that no one found? Mother said it was a false wall she stumbled through. It is most likely empty if there weren’t any massive magical beasts slumbering within. Can Dragons actually transform into other things?” Susanna questioned.

Her Father and Mother thought for a moment.

“The accounts aren’t clear on this. Some say they can transform into forest creatures, others say humans. But these were all written by religious nutjobs in an era quite devoid of rational thought. They told stories of Unicorns that can only be caught by virgins and massive tentacled monsters from the depths, as well.” Farren replied.

“What your Father is trying to say is that he has no idea...” Mathilda rolled her eyes and clarified.

“Well, if it can transform into a human. Then we are already fucked, aren’t we? They will know Mother went in and used its scroll and will already be in Eden looking for us. Why don’t we go before the Trials?” Susanna said matter of factly.

“Language!” Both her Mother and Father yelled in unison.

“Stupid girl, you can’t go into the trial areas from Laugerday until Manaday. They will be setting up the weapons and traps. Not to mention the patrols for cheaters. If you’re caught, you’ll be disqualified and someone else may find this place before us. Forget if you trigger a trap and kill yourself in the process.” her Mother scolded, in her usual condescending tone.

“Fine...” Susanna replied, standing up.

“I better start practising then... Let me know when the food is ready.”

She stood stripping off her school top and tossing it aside, not bothering to put another on. Her parents watched her go, and they began speaking to each other, but Susanna couldn’t hear what they were talking about.

She went into the backyard and began setting up the straw targets her father had made out of old corn stalks and hay, then picked up a handful of rocks attempting to fuse energy into them as she had before.

She held one in her palm and focused on it, taking a few deep breaths. It began to shimmer a strange blue colour. This caused Susanna to lose concentration in excitement and it dissipated.

“Damn thing,” she mumbled, squeezing her hand tight and trying to focus her energy on it again.

She felt a heat rise between her clenched fingers and focused on it intensely. The harder she focused the hotter and brighter it got.

“Common you stupid piece of... rock!” A flaming ball of energy exploded from within her fist, searing her flesh. She screamed out in pain, opening her palm.

The rock had fused into the melted dermis and it stung like nothing she had ever experienced before.

“Ah! What in the Nine Hells was that!” She asked herself, shocked and in excruciating pain.

She felt her Mother’s hand grab hers lightly, then, Mathilda drove a knife deep into the burned flesh causing Susanna to cry out. The girl yanked it away on instinct.

“Hush girl, hold on.”

Mathilda held it tightly, then quickly dug the stone out of the melted tissue. Tossing it to the ground.

She wrapped her other hand around the wound. They glowed brightly, and Susanna felt a cool blast of energy that soothed her burns. Mathilda let Susanna’s hand go. There were now nasty-looking burn scars left, but she felt better.

“You can’t focus and hold that much energy in a closed space. That's how you create a firebolt and if you don’t throw it at something, it will explode and harm you.”

Mathilda closed her palm and focused, Susanna watched as the same type of energy erupted from in between her mother's fingers, she cocked her fist back and forced it forward, opening her hand as she went.

A fiery ball streaked through the air into a nearby target, exploding an arm off and leaving it to smoulder and catch fire.

“Like that, try again,” Mathilda said softly, kicking a nearby bucket of grey water onto the flames.

Susanna nodded. She focused her energy and cocked her hand back. As she went forward, the energy gained heat and seemed to lose shape. Susanna’s eyes widened as the fire began to expand.

Panicked, she threw the energy ball haphazardly away. The giant fiery sphere exploded with a massive force, sending shockwaves of heat radiating around them.

When the smoke and fire cleared, Susanna had decimated the whole row of targets and one of the orchard trees nearby.

“Oops, Sorry...” she squeaked.

Her Mother shook her head laughing, as Farren came scrambling out in hurried fervour, a bucket of water at the ready.

“What in Hel are you doing out here!” he screamed, clambering to quiet the flames that licked at the tree.

He ran around in a panic tossing dirt and mud into the growing fire.

“Uh, no, that was a Fireball Susanna. Similar, but not the same as a Firebolt. Maybe we start with your rocks...hm”

Fantasy

About the author

Nicholas R Yang

An Archaeologist and aspiring Doctor, I am a part-time writer from the East Coast of Canada. Written multiple plays, poems, and short stories.

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