Ten years later, Brandon had grown into a tall, strong, handsome man. He trained with the best fighters and fencing instructors. He learned to hunt, fish, and survive out in the woods. He would take long walks in the wood, hoping to run into Darrina, but he would always return home alone. Each time he would plant flowers in different areas of the woods to remind him where he looked for her. To stay humble, he would do odd jobs around the city. He would never tell anyone who he was and who his father is so he could be treated like everyone else. In doing so, he got to know the people and made many friends; he had two close friends, Bailey and Ethan, who would hang out at the bar after work. Many girls would approach them, but he was never interested. His thoughts were always on Darrina. "Hey Brandon, why haven't you taken a wife yet?" Ethan asked before taking a sip of ale. "Yea, you have your pick of all the girls in town." Said Bailey. "I met the girl of my dreams when I was a boy. I know she's still out there, and I will find her, and when I do, she will be my bride." They shacked their heads at him. "Brandon, you're a romantic fool." Said Bailey. "Let him chase the girl in the woods, Bailey. More maidens for us." Said Ethan smiling. They all laughed and finished their drinks. He returned home one day and decided to go into the forest and not return home until he found Darrina. He went to his father's study to tell him. His father was at his desk reading papers. "Father, I hate to disturb you, but I need a word." He looked up at him and smiled. "I need a word with you too, son, have a seat." He sat down and looked at his father his eyes full of hope. "Brandon, I have watched you transform into a good man since the day you were kidnapped as a boy. Every day you make more and more proud of you, but there is one thing you keep avoiding. It would help if you took a wife soon, or I will have to choose one. Captain Raven has a lovely daughter who would make a wonderful wife and bear you strong children." He started to sink into his chair. "I do not love her father. I want to find Darrina and make her my wife." He crossed his arms. "Ah yes, the girl you told us about all those years ago. Boy, you are chasing a dream; you have been searching for her for years. You need to come back to earth and do your duty to this family." He sighed. "She is real father, and I'm going to find her." He gave him a stern look. "Son, let's make a deal. If you return with this dream woman, I will admit I'm wrong and step back. But if you return alone, you must marry Alora." Brandon smiled and shook his father's hand. "Deal."
The following day he packed a bag and set off to the forest and ran into his friends. "Where are you going, Brandon?" Aske Bailey. "I am off to the forest to find my bride." They laughed as he started to look at them annoyed. He began to walk away from them when Ethan stopped him. "Hey man, if you are going into the forest, you should not go alone. We will come with you; I admit I want to see this girl you have been telling us about. Right Bailey." Bailey rushed up. "Right. It will be a fun camping trip." They laughed and headed to the forest together; as they walked, Brandon saw all the flowers he had planted and breathed in the sweet smell. They walked for hours on the path till he no longer saw the flowers he planted. It started getting dark and decided to make camp for the night. He built a fire and lay on the ground looking up at the stars. He breathed in the night air as he heard the fire crackled. He closed his eyes and drifted off to sleep and dreamed of her. The following day, they continued their journey, the sun was getting hot, and they started to sweat. They came to a pond and decided to take a dip. The cold water felt good on their hot sweaty skin, and they started playing around, splashing and laughing. They were so busy having fun that they didn't notice bandits coming out of the woods. They stole their clothes, bags and readied their bows. One of the men whistled loudly, getting the boy’s attention. They looked at the men, and Brandon froze; he recognized them as the men who had taken him when he was a boy. The leader stepped forward. "Stay where you are, boys. Thank you for these thoughtful gifts." Brandon found his courage. "Hey, that's our stuff!" The leader signaled to his men, and they pointed their bows at them. "Now it's ours. I will give you boys a choice, stay in the water, and we will leave you alive. Come out of the water and try to fight, and my men will shoot you dead." The boys looked at the bandits, terrified, and they laughed at them. "Take what you want; just don't hurt us." They went back into the forest, leaving the boys in the water naked. "What do we do now?" Asked Bailey. Brandon stepped out of the water and turned to his friends. "We go home. If we stay out here without our supplies, we will die. So, let's start walking back." They stepped out of the water and started back on the path back to town.
They walked for hours, naked and cold. The sky started to turn dark and grey, and they heard thunder. It began to rain; the rain came down heavy with the wind blew it in their face's, so they left the path to find shelter. They held their bodies as they shivered, running in the rain. They eventually found a cave and huddled together for warmth; the night was darkness they had never seen before. Brandon looked out into the darkness, and it felt cold and lonely. The boys woke up the following day feeling chilled to the bone, their muscles aching, and they couldn't stop coughing and were delirious with fever. They knew they would die if he didn't get back home, so they started walking. They stumbled through the forest, and Brandon's vision started to blur, and cold sweat was running down his forehead. His breathing became shallow and weak; his vision eventually went black. He dropped to his knees and fell on his back. His friends ran to him. "Brandon! Come on; man, wake up!" He was so sick with a fever that he couldn't tell which of his friends was talking. With the last of his strength, he forced out. "Darrina." To his surprise, he woke up in a cottage covered in furs, felt a hand stroking his hair, and looked up. It was an old woman with pale grey skin and warts on her face. "Lay still, young man; you are still weak; I will bring you some soup." She went to a large black cauldron and filled a wooden bowl; she walked back and handed it to him. "Eat and get your strength back; you’re lucky I found you, boy. There are bandits in these woods you know, and they would have killed you." Brandon took a sip of the soup. "We ran into the bandits you speak of. My friends and I were swimming, and they stole everything. Our cloths, our food, and our money." She walked to a table that had herbs and a stone bowl. "What a horrible thing to happen. Your friends are in the other room, and they are very sick. I had enough ingredients to make you medicine, but to cure your friend, I'll need more." He looked past her and saw his friends sleeping side by side on a table then looked up at her. "What do you need?"
"To make more medicine, I need the eggshells of a dragon. There is a dragon that lives in sapphire mountain named Tanwen. She has had many children and keeps the eggshells; she keeps them with her hoard. I am too old to get them, but you could. The older woman went into a chest and pulled out a pile of clothes, and he found a shirt, pants, and boots that fit him. She then gave him a backpack and an amulet. She went into a chest in the corner and pulled out a scroll. "Here is a map to Tanwen's cave. That dragon should be sleeping, beware she has little fire golems guarding her. The amulet will make it so they can't see you, but if you make any noise, they can hear you. If they find you, they will burn you alive. Now the eggshells are gold; just take the shells. If you get greedy and take her gold, she will wake up and kill you, dragons are very protective of their hoard. Oh, and watch out for a young human girl with platinum hair dressed in rabbit fur. If she catches you trying to steal from the dragon, she will kill you." He nodded, then took the map and headed to the mountain. He eventually found the entrance to Tanwen's cave and walked down to the entrance as quietly as he could. He walked into the cave and saw little balls of fire walking around. He could feel the heat coming off their bodies as he walked by them carefully, trying not to alert them to his presence. He got by and started to look around the cave; it was bright and colorful, with sapphires on the walls. He walked deep into the cave and found Tanwen sleeping on her hoard; he walked over to her when he felt someone grab the back of his neck. He then felt a sharp blade on his throat. "You dare to enter our home and try to steal from my mother!" He stood still and put his hands up. "Please Darrina permit me to speak." She spun him around and slammed him against the wall. "How do you know my name? Choose your words carefully because they could be your last!” He swallowed hard before answering. “My name is Brandon. You saved my life when I was a boy." He shut his eyes and waited; he then felt the blade come off his neck. She turned him around, and he opened his eyes; his heart skipped a beat when he saw how beautiful she had grown. "I remember you; goodness's you have grown into quite a man. What brings you here?" He looked her in her eyes. "I need your help."
They walked over to Tanwen and woke her. She opened her eyes and, first seeing Brandon, her neck lit up. "Mother, don't! This is Brandon, the boy we rescued when I was thirteen." The light in her throat dimmed, and she looked at him. "Yes, I remember you. Why are you here boy?" He looked at the hoard and saw the eggshells. "I need to confess something; on the way here, I was traveling with my friends, and we got robbed by bandits. We were left out in the cold with no supplies and no clothes. We all got sick and were saved by an old woman who said she needed the shells of a dragon to make medicine for my friends. I was never going to steal from you, Tanwen, I came looking for you for a different reason, but now I need to save my friends."
Her eyes lit up like fire. "That evil hag! Her name is Ashia. She is a witch that desires dragon magic; I put a barrier around the mountain to keep her out. She needs those shells to break it." He frowned and ripped the amulet off. "So, she had no intention of curing my friends. She just wants dragon magic." Darrina put her hand on his shoulder. "Don't beat yourself up; she has been tricking countless men into coming and stealing from my mother. Ashia hates my mother because she protects the forest from her." He looked at her concerningly. "Why didn’t your mom take care of Ashia?" She sighed. "She uses her magic to hide, and mother is not going to burn down the whole forest just to kill one witch. I'm glad Ashia did not trick you like the others." Brandon lightly laughed. "I'm not a fool. Seriously though, how do I save my friends?" Darrina grabbed her backpack and pulled out a vile of clear liquid. "Here, this vile is filled with my mother's tears. A Dragon's tears can heal anything, so you can use them to heal your friends if they are still alive." His face dropped. "What do you mean still alive?" She held his hand. "Ashia, has a taste for human meat. She might have already killed them." He took the vile and put it in his backpack. "Then we should hurry, Ashia is expecting me to bring her the eggshells. If I return to her empty-handed, she will be mad." Darrina pulled a gold eggshell out of her backpack. "This eggshell is mine, you can borrow it, so she thinks you succeeded. I expect it back when we defeat her." He took the shell and put it in his backpack. "Thank you, Darrina." Tanwen raised her head and exhaled hard enough to make the sapphire dust flow around the cave. "You both should go and deal with Ashia." He looked at Darrina with the light hitting dust sparkling around her. She looked into his eyes and took his hands. "Let's go and save your friends."