The wandering lost are almost always never found; or at least that is what they want you to think, and it’s not hard to see why.
Here, the skies are perpetually misty. The ground is covered in rolling fog laden moss that creeps into every nook-and-cranny; claiming the quiet, untrodden corners hidden within.
The forest itself was a colossal beast in its own right, almost as old as the dragons who roamed within— ruling under canopies of maples, reds, and firs. Their horned crystalline crowns radiating off the glowing beams of sunlight like thousands of roving jewels.
“Aldryth,” a calm, monotonous voice cooed from a patchy clearing in the woods. Her pearly white scales curved into cloudy sky blue crystal formations that captivated even the dimmest light.
“Yes Devynar, my sweet…what is it?” Aldryth replied, turning to see what all the commotion was.
“They’re at it again…barely able to stop them from exploding…”
Amidst the curving snake roots and climbing flowers, a hodgepodge of squeals and excited whispers were heard. Aldryth peeked around the growing gathering and was surprised to see a small child sitting amidst the swooping tree limbs and willowing stalks of shadow-lilies that had already started tickling the small girl—sending her into fits of laughter.
She was clutching onto something dark, a satchel of some sort.
Nearby, hundreds of dwarfing sunflowers hid the winged hydras, small creatures that did little to hide their enthusiasm at the thought of a newcomer as they blushed wildly under the shade, their magenta cheeks swollen with glee as their wings fluttered, nearly sending them skyward before abruptly passing out.
A few of them had already fainted from their frenzied state of exhaustion sending powdery puffs of magical dust into the air, painting all around with vibrant glowing colors of neon pinks, green and blue.
“Poor girls…” Gwyer, elder of the small creatures jumped to the tip-top of the highest snake-root, apparently speaking on behalf of the other Winter Myrmanders, slinky, furry crested little terrors that had also huddled about curiously, leaping from petal to petal as they tried catching the fainting hydras.
“Sorry about all the mess, the girls get excited when we get company…it isn’t all too often as you know…” Gwyer continued pausing to send his own brilliant green sparks shooting from his fingertips as a net caught several winged hydras at once, softening their fall as they slowly hit the ground.
“Lessens the explosion…” Gwyer muttered gleefully as he tried dusting the plumes of colorful dust that settled stickily onto the leathery skin of Aldryths giant forearm.
“Never mind that…” Gwyer paused, giving a shy smile in Aldryths direction before stepping back to inspect his work— clearly oblivious to the growing aggravation that was Aldryth.
“I understand…” Aldryth continued in the most irritated of tones, as he swatted Gwyer away. “I understand what you are doing, but what is that and what is she doing here?” he asked, pointing at the small girl that had thankfully begun entertaining herself.
“Second one this month…I don’t think it’s an accident…” Devynar added. “You remember what happened to the last one, the little boy…such a tragedy.”
“Yes, yes…” Gwyer began, tensing his lips.
“I’m not quite sure; I believe she is an outsider, a human maybe…” Gwyer said, nervously fidgeting with his hands as he gave a wayward look to Aldryth and the other dragons—some as tall as trees, others as wide as caves— as they towered overhead casting shadows far and wide.
“It isn’t very often that we get all of us together for a cause,” Gwyer said in a nonchalant manner— gulping as he scrunched his face, grimacing in preparation for what might happen next; but no outburst came, no hellfire or torching flames. Just the feeble sounds of rustling leaves and other forest creatures could be heard.
Gwyer continued over the awkward silence unsure of what to say.
“What happened last time was an accident, the netting broke…besides, we delivered the poor boy back to his family. Magic is a finicky thing…” Gwyer whispered his eyebrows furrowed as he was joined by his brother Vaeryl, another Winter-Myrmander.
Aldryth grunted loudly, “not exactly…” he whispered, turning back to Devynar.
“Nosy little buggers, the whole lot of ‘em…” Aldryth hissed, not doing much to hide his contempt as Gwyer and Vaeryl fluttered about.
“I’m sure she is just lost…simply lost…” Gwyer whispered. By now the brothers had landed in the center of an owls perch and were nearly eye-level with Aldryth the dragon.
“Not a good idea,” Ehrendale, a younger Winter-Myrmander called from below.
“You’re too close, don’t push it…” a second nameless Winter-Myrmander begged.
“QUIET…We need their help…” Myrdin, a third and final voice called from below, heaving with every word he spoke. Myrdin was the oldest, tiniest, and most frail of the bunch; leaning woefully against a spidering bottle-bush for support.
“He’s right…” Gwyer whispered meekly, clutching the rigid bark as Vaeryl began talking. “You know…we should form a truce, make peace... I think it would be the most beneficial thing to do at this point. Our families have been at it for years, thousands of years, and for what. Maybe this child is an omen, a sign…”
Vaeryl didn’t get a chance to finish before a raging roar emanated from Aldryths clenched jaws.
“Wait…” Devynar chimed in, cutting in between Aldryth and the two brothers. It seemed she agreed with Myrdin as she addressed him, scooping him up into her clutches, swallowing his frame with her monstrous claws.
“I want to hear what the Myrmander’s have to say…” she declared, giving a low roar that hushed even the most non-existent of creatures, sending bugs and birds scurrying for cover.
“Myrdin, you have my attention, what are you proposing we do, and be warned, before you say anything; it can’t involve the use of magic…not after what happened last time…” Devynars soft, diplomatic voice held strong.
Short smiles filled the faces of Gwyer and Vaeryl who gathered around Myrdin.
It appeared the last of the winged hydras had passed out as the rest of the Winter Myrmanders circled around eager to be of any assistance to the Dragons.
“Well…” Gwyer began, patting Myrdin lovingly on the shoulder.
“We think the girl is a part of the Fire-Spell keepers, I found a satchel with blood-red rubies inside…you know, the forbidden ones that glow hot like cooked embers…” Gwyer stopped short of continuing, surely still quite rattled by what they had found.
“It’s a bad thing…these rubies; they hold many secrets, many powers that are greater than our magic or your strength…” Vaeryl warned his voice ominous as he held steadfast to the black velveteen satchel, giving the innocent little girl a weary glance.
Gwyer cut in—“it’s not just the rubies…” he began, “there is a crest embroidered on bottom of the bag, might have missed it if I wasn’t looking. It’s a modest thing considering its meaning…”
Gwyer paused, more so to catch his thoughts than to build suspense.
“On with it…” Aldryth snarled as the group took a closer look at the plain black bag. Sure enough, on the underside was an emblem no bigger than a patch of cloth. The image depicted was of a four sided jewel shaped shield, gold in color with a blood-red crown of rubies sewn at the highest point on the shield. A second diamond shaped shield framed the first, each corner housed something different—on the top left corner was the unmistakable coil of dragon tails, next to it on the right were flame-filled roaring fires; below each, the two bottom halves had billowing clouds and thunderous waves.
“What does this mean…?” Aldryth moaned, still more confused than ever.
“We aren’t quite sure, but, whatever it is doesn’t look good. Shields often tell a story of the family’s conquests…at least, that is what we have found during our studies…” Myrdin began, stroking his floor-length beard as he ran his hands over the bags crest—which, oddly enough towered over him as well—as he outlined the intricate sewing for clues.
“I think this group of humans might hold the answer to our problems. They are after-all the calm before the storm, the bringers of winter-tides and death to us all…they are the reason we are cursed, believe it or not, I’m sure you don’t remember that far back…” Myrdin queried before quickly rambling on—“but, the Fire-Spell keepers come in all sizes and shapes…the one we have here is just a child. She is likely a ruse, or a distraction. I’m surprised she has such powerful jewels at her disposal…she must be the daughter of a King.”
Myrdin paused again to catch his breath. It was taking him a lot longer to get through the story, much to the dragons dismay…
Wheezing ever so slightly he motioned for Ehrendale to continue on his behalf—“I believe what he is trying to say is…well…before we were Winter Myrmanders, we were bound to the sea but, the Fire Spell keepers put a stop to that figuring our powers would be limited but they were wrong. We lived well past our time; existing hundreds of years in these woods protecting the creatures within…”
Myrdin, finding his voice added—“I haven’t seen these sorts of rubies since that cursed day, and if I’m right, the coveted Ruby of Ruin will be hidden somewhere within their kingdom…”
The Winter Myrmanders hung to every word, spellbound.
“Well…that’s quite a story…” Aldryth muttered, interrupting Ehrendale and the old man.
“What exactly do you expect us to be able to help you with?” Aldryth continued, a look of skepticism hung heavily on his face.
“That’s just it…we can only go so far, our kind is never able to leave these here woods…” Vaeryl whispered, looking down in shame.
“It’s a part of the curse,” Ehrendale cried out.
“You can leave the woods, you can fly, and, the best part is, they won’t suspect a dragon…” Gwyer exclaimed, tossing himself wistfully towards the ground as he dwindled downward like a spindling leaf.
“You can make things right for once…” Myrdin added, seemingly crossing both fingers and toes as he gave a broad, toothless smile.
“Alright…” Devynar conceded placing Myrdin back on the ground as the rest of the Winter Myrmanders joined him, cheering the dragons on as they made their way to the forests edge.
“It will be a three day journey if we go by foot; half-a-day if we go by air…” Aldryth declared, “we need a way to carry the girl and her jewels safely...what did you have in mind?” he asked, looking to the quelling Myrmanders. The winged hydras had woken from their slumbers and were frolicking about—jumping from the padded yellow centers of the flowers, eager to tag along.
“Well, we scoped it out with the boy last time…still have the harness…” Gwyer revealed, pulling a thickly-sewn apparatus from thin-air.
“What is that…?” Devynar said, her eyes growing wide. “Didn’t I say no magic was to be used…” she queried, turning to face Myrdin.
“No…No, that’s not magic. The Hydra’s put this together. Its strong, from the ribwart plant, we even sealed it with roasted amber-resin…” he added, careful to not enrage the dragons.
“If you say so…” Devynar hesitated, watching as the girl floated atop the winged hydras and was strapped securely into the harness for lift-off.
“Here are the rubies,” Vaeryl huffed, as him and three other Myrmanders fought to carry the heavy bag to Aldryths open hand.
“See… no magic…” Vaeryl announced as he came to a sputtering stop against the webbed peak of Aldryths sharp claws.
“We will follow you to the edge of the forest; from there you will be on your own…” Myrdin declared, heading to the front of the line as they trekked onward.
“I think we should travel by way of Illumination Charms, namely our most favorite, the Expediantum-totalus which will take us to the furthermost spot within a matter of hours…” Gwyer boasted, turning bright red as he fought to contain his growing excitement.
Devynar hesitated slightly at the idea of using magic.
“We want to get this over with…” Aldryth hissed ignoring Devynars look of contempt.
“We do this all the time, trust us…it’s perfectly safe, albeit slow…but safe…” Vaeryl insisted, clutching the sides of his robes for added pomp as he snapped his fingers, calling the other Myrmanders together.
“You know what to do, make our fallen proud…” Vaeryl’s voice boomed over the surrounding woods as waves of calm light hovered around them like a sickly sweet haze and the words escaped his lips—“Expediantum Totalus”
At first nothing happened.
Aldryth began to step back.
“No…nobody move…hold your breaths, clear your minds...let the glow pass over you…” Gwyer shouted; a swirl of Myrmanders circled the intertwining orbs of light as each creature slowly vanished from sight…and like that, they disappeared into the surging silver coils.
About the Creator
Writing my escape, my future…if you like what you read—leave a comment, an encouraging tip, or a heart—I’m always looking to improve, let me know if there is anything I can do better.
& above all—thank you for your time