My life, Stories

Lily, hold on!

‘Lily, hold on!’

‘What a brilliant piece of advice,’ Lily grunted, more to herself than to Poppy who’d called out to her, as it was almost impossible to hear anything over the wind whistling in her ears, not to mention the deafening noise the dragons made. She was currently hanging from a gigantic red one’s wing bone. She was holding on to dear life after their dragon had been attacked by another one of the creatures whose tail knocked her out of her position and almost off into the sky. At the last moment she’d been able to grab on to her dragon’s leathery wing and pulled her way back towards the dragon’s massive body in an attempt to get back on it. That plan had failed and she was all too aware that she wouldn’t be able to hold on for much longer, as her hands were getting sweatier and growing more tired by the second.

‘We need to go back or at least land somewhere!’ she shouted, trying to make herself heard over the continuous dragon roars and wind.

Poppy, who had managed to stay on the back of the beast when Lily slipped, nodded briefly to let Lily know she’d heard. Lily could see the panic in Poppy’s eyes. It wasn’t easy to fly a dragon on the best of days and today was pretty much as bad as it gets. The battle around them was raging on, drawing the dragon’s attention and the wind was picking up as well, making it even more difficult for the dragon to hear Poppy’s instructions. It took great skill and a powerful mind on top of years of training and bonding with a dragon to be able to control it enough to ride it. Poppy was young and inexperienced, but had been forced to take the reins anyway as they were losing dragon riders every day and needed to replace them or admit defeat. Without dragons they didn’t stand a chance. And they couldn’t afford to lose. Giving up now would mean that everything they know would be destroyed and millions would die. And the deaths wouldn’t be quick. The destruction wouldn’t be swift. It would be drawn out to ensure maximum amount of torture. They knew this as it had already begun to happen before they gathered the resistance and halted the doom’s progress.

Slowly starting to lose her nerve, Lily tried to swing her leg up again, as the dragon’s leathery wing beat down, but failed and nearly lost her grip completely. She closed her eyes, feeling tears and terror starting to overwhelm her. ‘I must hold on. I can’t let go. It’s not an option to give up,’ she whispered, to no-one in particular. She was out of ideas and about to lose hope. How could she not? They’d been in open battle for days and even before this she’d been in raid parties sent out to conduct surprise attacks on the enemy or scouting or bringing in more supplies. She was always busy, always in the thick of things. She was tired. It would be so simple to just let go and not have to worry about anything anymore. She was exhausted of trying to be what everyone expected of her.

Looking down, Poppy saw that Lily was really struggling so she focused all of her efforts once more on the dragon. She closed her eyes in concentration and thought: ‘It’s going to work. You’re going to hear me. We need to get somewhere safe. We need to land. I command you to fly away from the battle. Anywhere safe.’ She put as much conviction in it as she could muster, wishing that this time the dragon would pick up the command and do what she wanted. It was their only chance. Her magic was slowly waning and to be honest she was surprised it had lasted her that long. She had last refilled her reserves hours ago, before they set off towards the battle with the other troops who had been resting, if you could call it that. A couple of hours of fitful naps, more like dosing off from exhaustion than knowingly going to sleep. It was hard to get any rest so close to the war front. If you couldn’t get it out of your mind, it’d haunt you in your dreams. So it made little difference, but they were still grateful to know that at least for those few hours they weren’t in imminent danger from being burnt to death, thrown off a dragon, blown apart or any other common occurrences that came along with being in open war.

To Poppy’s immense surprise and relief, the dragon seemed to have heard and was now banking left, turning its back on the battle and making its way back. It didn’t take long for the dragon to get low enough so Lily wouldn’t be in mortal danger anymore. This seemed to encourage Poppy so she felt more confident when closing her eyes again and thinking: ‘Hurry.’ She felt the dragon speed up and looking down she saw the scorched ground fly by so fast it became a blur of fully burnt black and wilted yellow. Occasionally a grey rocky patch would break the monotony, but overall it was a bleak sight. Soon they were far enough so they were able to land.

Instantly Lily let go of the dragon, feeling drained. She tumbled and fell clumsily to her knees before collapsing completely. She was still alive. She could hardly believe it. She’d used the last of her magic to bind herself to the dragon as they’d been speeding off to safety. A few more minutes and her last drops of magic would’ve been gone and even though they weren’t flying that high, falling when flying at that speed would’ve been dangerous. So for now she was content just breathing in the smell of burnt ground and knowing that even though she’s not the hero everyone’s expecting her to be, she’s surprisingly lucky. And still alive.

As soon as the dragon’s claws reached the ground, Poppy slid off it. It wasn’t the most graceful disembarking, but little to do with dragons was graceful these days. Everything was rushed and technical, it was about practicality, not about what was right. That’s not something she wanted to think about now, however. She’d been lamenting over the poor treatment of dragons and her part in it ever since she was recruited to the army. She didn’t want to think about that either. She didn’t want to give in to her thoughts at all recently as a lot of them span around the horrors she’d seen, been through and inflicted. Attacking the enemy still meant killing and not all of the enemy soldiers were evil. Some of them were recruits like herself. The other side had just reached them before. She pushed all of that to the back of her mind and crouched down next to Lily. Her sister needed her and that’s all that mattered for now.

To be continued…

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The featured picture was drawn by my sister.

 

Stories

5 Years Ago

Lily kept tossing and turning in her sleep, grumbling something not quite human. Her voice grew louder and louder until she was screaming her head off, waking herself up. Ollie burst through the door, his little bare feet pattering across the cold wooden floor. He looked so frightened, looking up at his big sister, whom he’d just thought to be in mortal danger, at the very least! ‘Was it the monsters again?’ he whispered, as if scared they’d be overheard. Lily was covered in cold sweat and she felt feverish, yet when she glanced at her younger brother, her face softened and she whispered back ‘Yes Ollie, it was the monsters again. I’m sorry I woke you.’ She brushed the hair back from her brother’s eyes and pulled him close for a hug. Ollie hugged her back and said ‘Don’t worry Lil, I’ll protect you from them. Let’s go back to sleep,’ he added, letting a big yawn escape his mouth. ‘Yeah, you can stay with me tonight if you’d like,’ she said, and then added almost inaudibly ‘And here’s hoping for a dreamless sleep.’

When they finally awoke, the sun was high up in the sky and they could hear their mum clattering with a frying pan downstairs, undoubtedly preparing a late breakfast. Without saying a word they got out of bed and Ollie went to his room to change out of his sleep clothes and Lily did the same in hers. She sat down on her bed, plucking at a loose thread dangling from the sleeve of her moose pyjamas. Why did she keep having the same dream? Well, with the same characters at the very least.

It always started with her looking down on a massive battle where on one side were people – or wizards? – throwing balls of fire or lightning or what ever else their imagination could conjure up to the opposing side of, well, dragons, she supposed. They were quite big and scaly and were most definitely breathing fire. She had witnessed them scorching large areas of grass and ground – and people – in front of them, to ashes. There was so much death and destruction, it pained her to even think about it. She had to stop recollecting her dreams to remind herself that’s all it was – dreams. None of this was real. But why did it feel so realistic though?

The next part was almost always different. At times she swooped down, her wings – when had she grown wings? – spread wide, to let her glide without much effort. When she was close enough to the mayhem before her, she spoke. It didn’t sound like her, nor was it any language she recognised, but all action ceased immediately, all faces turning towards her.

At other times she dove down – again those blasted wings! – and started throwing balls of fire and ice upon both sides of the battle. Or sometimes just the dragons.

On some occasions one side lost or won, whether she participated in any way or not. Sometimes she was captured and tortured. Those were the dreams most often waking her up. And that’s what she’d seen again last night. But she hadn’t just seen it, she’d felt it. She’d felt the red hot iron touching her skin, making her dream self black out, but the screaming in her head continued. That’s when she realised it was her making the ear splitting noise, and woke up, panting as if she’d just ran for miles.

What did this all mean? Should she research dream omens or something? But she still couldn’t shake the feeling they weren’t really normal dreams. They just felt too real.

‘Okay, now you’re being an idiot,’ she told herself aloud, trying to sound as convincing as she could, for it’s quite hard to persuade someone, if deep down you know you don’t believe it.

Nevertheless, she got up from her bed and changed into comfortable jogging pants and a t-shirt and then went to the bathroom to brush her teeth where Ollie was just finishing doing his. He waited for her and then they went downstairs together. Half way down they could smell pancakes and hastened their pace, excited to see what had gotten their mum in a pancake mood, since it happened so rarely nowadays.

‘Morning kids! Slept well?’ she asked, her voice sounding light and happy, even if there were dark shadows under her eyes betraying how tired she really was. The kids sat down and each grabbed a plate with food and started munching. ‘Lily had a bad dream again,’ Ollie said, raspberry jam dripping from his fingers. Lily shot a warning look at her little brother and said ‘Uhmm, yeah, I did. But it was no big deal. What about you? We’ve not had pancakes in ages!’ Her mum’s face split into a big smile as she exclaimed ‘I got a promotion! I don’t have to work the night shifts any more! Magda, you know Magda, right? Well anyway, she retired so they were finally pumping one of us up to replace her and they said they’d actually noticed all the hard work I’d been doing and,’ her voice cracked and she burst into tears ‘Oh, kids, I’m so happy!’ She hugged them both and they were all whooping and cheering.

As they sat beside the fire, having finally stopped when it got dark, that’s what Lily was thinking about. How it all had started five years ago. How she’d been dragged into this mess, into this lunatic story. The dreams. She scoffed. She’d been right. They weren’t just dreams at all. They were the futures. Well, one of them would be in any case. Which one would actually come true, even Bel couldn’t say. Any change in even the smallest of details could alter it.

No, she really didn’t have the heroic nerve Bel seemed to hope for. Some of the futures she’d seen had been downright horrific. The things she’d seen, the things she’d herself done. She couldn’t bring herself to even consider it possible she could bring death and chaos like that or be tortured until she died – if lucky.

She sat staring at the fire for a while, thinking it all over. Becoming more convinced that all she and Ollie needed to do was to get off this strange planet. To go back home to their mum. Oh how she missed her right now. And the tears came again.

G.

Stories

Tectonic Llamas

‘What… What are these things?’ Ollie whispered, his voice shaking, as all his sister could do was gape at these creatures. And what a sight they were, too. Truly worth taking a few seconds out of your life just to be astounded by the wonders of this strange world.

Massive, no, absolutely monumental beasts with thick green moss like fur that looked to be covering what were great slabs of rock, making up some sort of an armour – overlapping in most places, yet leaving gaps in others. And the way they moved, it was like watching Time itself in slow motion. Their faces didn’t look too menacing though, Ollie noticed. And as the animals were grazing along, nibbling on the plentiful lush plants growing around here, rather than charging onward to attack them, he thought they ought to be rather safe.

Hearing a rustling of leaves behind them he turned around in alarm, but saw it was only Bel who didn’t seem to be surprised in the slightest by the gigantic beasts, who were now all slowly turning to face the same direction for reasons unknown to Ollie. ‘Oh, so you’ve seen the tectonic llamas,’ she said and then added with a sigh ‘Magnificent, aren’t they?’

‘Tectonic llamas? So the leaves we had for dinner weren’t poisonous and I’m not seeing things right now? That’s a relief I guess. What exactly are these llama things though? You know, if you care to share any more, or do you just expect us to know everything like you do?’ Ollie said, words coming out rather faster than usual, with a hint of fear showing through is sarcasm.

‘Well, they’re quite hard to explain,’ Bel said and seemed to drift off in thought for a bit, before carefully choosing how to phrase what she wanted to say ‘To be honest, we’re not actually sure what they are, we just know why they are. For most of the time anyway. Take a closer look at them. As in, close your mouth and actually use your wits rather than just gawp like you’ve never seen creatures resembling floating islands before,’ she paused, looking at the llamas ‘Erm, furry islands? Regardless, look at their sides and backs. Do you see anything?’

Ollie looked, and his sister, who had still failed to say anything, looked as well. ‘I don’t see anything?’ he said, sounding bewildered and slightly disappointed. ‘Ah, not to worry,’ chirped Bel. ‘What about you, Lily?’ she asked, but looking like she already knew the answer. ‘I see it,’ Lily said in a quiet voice. ‘I knew you would! See, I told you. You’ve got more magic than I’ve seen in anyone in a thousand years! And oh boy do I wish I was exaggerating. Being on the lookout for you for a millennium has been exhausting!’

‘Bel, you’ve still not explained,’ Ollie complained, trying to sound curious rather than confused, for he still didn’t know what he was supposed to have seen. ‘Oh, yes. I’m sorry, one can be entrusted with the most important of tasks for several aeons and still have the attention span of a flutterpuff. Anyway, these tectonic llamas represent our solar system,’ she said simply, as if hoping this would explain everything. Seeing the confused looks on her companions faces though, she rolled her eyes and continued ‘I know you don’t have quite as much magic as Lily does and that’s why she can see it. As you know, my magic depleted a very long time ago so I’m just digging around in my memories now but what a sight they were – where you can see their armour plates not quite touching, there’s magic shimmering through, flowing as an eternal underground river, golden and diamond flecked. And where they’re overlapping or forming ridges, which are actual coast lines and mountain ranges by the way, there you can see it bursting out as if a display of fire wonders. Ever so beautiful and something you’ll never be able to forget,’ Bel drifted off as if looking at it all in her mind’s eye.

‘In any case, like I said, we don’t know what they actually are. Whether they’re alive and breathing or whether it’s all just a sort of a game they’re playing – pretending to be peaceful furries so they wouldn’t be considered a threat and hunted down. But for why they are, there’s a rather simple explanation. Like I already said, they represent our solar system. So it’d be a really safe guess – one that no-one has dared to question or test so far – that keeping them here, hidden and away from any dangers, is how our planets are protected from the Athlore folk,’ her face turned grim as she said it, remembering stories from the refugees of other planets. The remnants of them at least, for not many escape Ahtlore warriors once they’ve targeted your home.

Lily turned to face Bel, tears falling from her eyes, but her voice steady when she spoke ‘You tell me all this hoping I’ll go along with your mad plan, aren’t you? Trying to soften me up and hoping I’ll have some stupid heroic nerve somewhere you can touch by showing me what you’re all fighting for and hoping that I’d take over?’ her voice had risen a bit when she said it ‘Well that’s not going to work. I know how this is meant to go – you find the destined one and she’ll pick up a sword and go chop the dragon into bits and everyone will live happily ever after. Well no. I’m saying no. I’m not the one you’re looking for. I don’t know what you see in me, but it’s not magic. And definitely not anything to make me believe I could make a difference. Not going to happen!’ she shouted, turned around and walked away, wiping tears from her face.

Ollie looked at Lily’s retreating back, shocked to see her sister fall to pieces like this, then shot an apologetic glance towards Bel and trotted after Lily.

Bel looked at them both going, and incredibly there was a small smile playing on her lips. She spread her wings and flew off in the opposite direction.

*Right, so. Tectonic llamas, eh? English is really missing out there. I was so surprised to discover that what we in Estonia call ‘tektoonilised laamad’ (literal translation tectonic llamas), are called ‘tectonic plates’ in English. I mean. What a let down.

Like I said – everything’s a story.

G.