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11.6 Chrysanthemum

# 2468 12 - 16 mins. 9

I woke up early the next morning not feeling well. I had dreams throughout the night of my parents. It was a topic I didn't like to dive back into in detail. Maybe I ate something bad or maybe my emotions from the previous night were making my stomach unsettled. Whatever the case, my stomach tossed and turned and woke me before the sun even rose.

I rose from my hammock, climbed down the tree, and nudged Tigala. "Hey, can you come with me?" I asked. "I need to go for a walk."

Tigala groaned and rolled over. "Now? Just use the privy already."

I looked around at Zef and Lolan who were still asleep. My stomach gurgled again. "I really can't right now," I said. "Please?"

Tigala grumbled as she pulled herself to her feet. She stood without saying a word and we made our way to the gate.

She was right, I could have gone to the privy near the lodge, but most of the representatives sat within eyeshot of it and I hated that thing anyway. It smelled and it was so unsanitary. It was much better to let nature take its course on waste than to pile it in one spot and leave it there.

As we reached the gate, the guard watched us pass. It was a shorter Human woman with a bow and arrows strung across her back. I wondered why the guards did what they did, or if they could be trusted. It seemed like each race had an equal amount of guards to man the walls. Maybe it was something we were exempt from since we were outcasts.

The guard glared at me but didn't say anything as she turned her gaze back to the forest landscape beyond the walls. I walked toward the forest while Tigala was still waking up as she followed.

It was a nice morning. The air was a bit crisp and there was mist in the air as the morning dew was whisked away by the morning sun. The mist worried me a bit, bringing flashbacks of the funeral the night before, and my encounter with the Elves the night before that, but I didn't see anyone following us. Plus, the mist seemed lighter and more natural than the heavy fog used by the Elves. I figured I was safe.

When I finally made my way to the trees, Tigala found a spot by a tree to sit and rest while I looked for a nice spot of my own. My stomach gurgled and grumbled at me for a long while, but it settled eventually, and I was ready to make my way back to the colony.

I stood upright and went to let Tigala know that I was ready to go. I saw her sitting where I had left her, leaning against a tree. I decided not to say anything since she was already a tad grumpy. But when I walked around the front of the tree, she still hadn't gotten up. I looked and saw that her head lay sideways against the tree like she was sleeping.

Before I could speak, I heard them around me. The Elves stepped out from behind trees and surrounded me. Galia, Leena, Luvon, and Tallessia stared back at me with arrogant smiles.

"What did you do to her?" I screamed the question at them, already pulling on my magic to attack.

Leena stepped forward and placed a shortsword at my throat.

"You don't want to do that," said Tallesia. She smiled with closed lips like she was having fun with this.

"What did you do?" I asked again, glaring at her.

"She's just stunned," said Galia. "Don't get all crabby. She'll wake up in a little bit."

I stared back at them confused and angry. Ready for a fight that I knew I would lose. Why wouldn't they have just killed Tigala and then me? What was their angle?

"So," said Tallesia, "can we put down the sword?" She looked at me with expectant eyes. I eyed the rest of the group and gave a slight nod.

Leena lowered the sword.

"What do you want?" I growled. I didn't like being ambushed, especially by someone as snooty as her.

"Just to talk," she said.

The group of Elves stood around me in a circle. "What do you want?" I said again.

"I want to know why you've been sneaking around," she said.

"You know full well why I've been sneaking around. I know what you are," I said staring back at her. I faked my confidence hoping it would give me an edge when things did start towards violence.

"Oh," said Tallesia casually. "And what am I?" Her lips spread into a wide grin.

"The Arcus. And I know you're behind whatever is going on here on Daegal," I said.

Tallesia pulled her head back in confusion. She looked around at the others. This was her angle then, to try and convince me that she wasn't part of the Arcus. How dumb dows she think I am?

"How do you know about the Arcus?" she asked.

"Oh, come on. Like you don't know. You're the ones that enslaved the Dwarves. You probably are the ones that made everyone disappear in the first place. And now you have a dragon," I said. I couldn't believe they were trying to play this game.

"Woah. I told you she's crazy," said Galia with a laugh. "A dragon? Seriously?"

I didn't say anything and just stared back at him.

"So you're saying you saw the Arcus on this island?" asked Tallesia.

"Yeah, that's what I'm saying. And one of them tamed a dragon and rode off on it," I said.

"You know dragons aren't real, right?" said Tallesia.

"Of course I know that. That doesn't change the fact that he found one and tamed it though."

They didn't know what to say to that. Tallesia looked at the others with a confused look on her face. I saw Luvon shrug and Leena shake her head. Whatever game they were trying to play, I was tired of it.

"So what are you going to do to me? Are you going to mind-control me like you did to the Dwarves? Or are you just going to kill me?" I asked.

Luvon responded, "We're not going to kill you or mind-control you. We don't know what you're talking about."

I saw Tallesia shoot him a look, and Luvon stopped speaking there.

"We aren't going to hurt you," said Tallesia. "We just wanted to know why you were spying on us the other night and why you and your friends think we're behind all of this."

"I reached in my bag and pulled out the ring. I saw them all tense for a moment and then calm once they saw what I had. "We found this where the Arcus had been," I said, leaving out the details about the teleporter, just in case they really didn't know what I was talking about.

Tallesia stepped forward and eyed the ring. She snatched it from my hand and said, "I've been looking for this ring. Where did you find it?"

"Beneath the waterfall," I said.

"The one marked on the map? I have never been there," said Tallesia. "None of us have."

"Look. Stop playing dumb already," I said. "Just do what you're going to do and get it over with."

"I'm not that stupid." She nodded at Tigala who was still limp against the tree. "I hadn't done anything yesterday and your cat friend nearly gutted me. If you go missing, I'm sure you're other friends will be after me in haste," said Tallesia.

I couldn't be sure how vengeful the others would be, but she was right. Having a lot of eyes on me was good thing in this situation.

"How did you know you saw the Arcus on Daegal?" Tallesia asked.

"They had the robes and necklaces. Lolan's the one who told me about them," I said. As soon as the words left my mouth I was afraid I had said too much.

"Hmm. And why would he do that?" asked Tallesia.

I had to think quickly. "I don't know. We all are outcasts in our own right. He lost his family and he trusts me."

"Well, that's interesting. And what are you planning on doing when you find these Arcus on Daegal?"

"Look. I'm done talking," I said. "Either let me go or do something already. Your choice."

I was ready for a fight. It would probably be over quickly, but I wasn't going to let them take me out without a fight.

Tallesia stepped forward and I squared off toward her, ready to defend. She saw my stance and stopped. "Look, whatever you think you saw, I can assure you, the Arcus has nothing to do with what is going on here."

"Yeah, that's exactly what you should say. You know that if you make me disappear, you'll be blamed and if you don't I'll go make it known that you're behind all of this. We saw you planning something. We know there is more going on here."

"That's right," said Tallesia. "You did see us planning something. But you have no idea what it was we were planning. You found a trinket of mine where you think the Arcus have been, somewhere where I have yet to go. You have a lot of inconclusive evidence."

"Don't try and pretend like you're innocent," I said.

"I would tell you to do the same," said Tallesia. "You really think that your hands are clean in all of this? You killed a Beastfolk who was here to find the missing people. Whether it was intentional or not, you gave us one less in number."

I stared at her with my eyebrows knit.

"You can think whatever you want, but the Arcus aren't here. They are involved in matters elsewhere," said Tallesia. "Now please, stop poking around where you don't belong." She shooed me away and then began walking away from me.

I looked around as the others dropped their formation around me and followed after her. Galia snickered at me as he passed. I glared back.

When they were all ahead of me I said, "So that's it? You know I have no reason to believe anything you just said, right?"

"Believe what you will," said Tallesia. "You're just a lonely Treek."

That made me mad. I glared through the back of her skull wanting to fight. Wanting to take her down before she did any more harm to anyone else, but I couldn't bring myself to do it. She had spoken with such confidence, that I didn't feel right acting on the information I had. Plus, I was severely outnumbered, even if I managed to wake up Tigala.

I forced myself to calm down. I took deep breaths. It was something I had learned to do from time to time to keep myself from acting out of emotion. Emotion was dangerous. It could lead you out of your depth. It could force you into a situation you couldn't get out of. So I did my best to ignore it in times like this. It didn't always work, especially lately, but I think being outnumbered four to one and having an unconscious friend nearby helped keep me from doing anything stupid.

They continued to walk away, and I continued to stare at their backs. I was embarrassed and upset, and angry, and I had no outlet for any of it. I fought with my own thoughts. Then, they were interrupted by a familiar noise. I looked to the sky.

The sound grew louder. It was the beating of wings—huge wings.

"What is that?" I heard Galia ask the other Elves.

"It's the dragon!" I shouted. I didn't believe them but in case they didn't actually know what was going on I said, "It's going for the colony. Can you do anything? Strike it with lightning? We need to stop it!"

The shadow stretched over us first, then we saw the creature flying straight at the colony. It was enormous.

"Quick. If you really aren't in on this, now is your chance to buy them time." I yelled. I was already doing what I could to build a bunker out of thick moist plants and bending branches over top Tigala who still laid unconscious.

The dragon flew past us and I saw the sky quickly darken again, except this time, it wasn't the dragon's shadow. A storm cloud stirred and sparks of lightning jumped from cloud to cloud. Then a large bolt struck the dragon in the back.

The wing beats faltered and the dragon screamed. It was barely past the edge of the trees when the lightning struck it. A moment after, I looked ahead and saw Galia standing out in the fields waving his arms. "Hey, you dumb lizard. Over here!" he screamed.

The dragon howled again and turned back toward us. I looked as it turned and didn't see a rider on top this time. It did still have the pink glow on its temples though.

The dragon screeched and then drew in a deep breath. I knew too well what that was for. As much as I was happy that they successfully slowed the dragon down, turning it our way wasn't exactly encouraging.

Another bolt of lightning struck the dragon right on the nose before it got a chance to burn the Elves into ash.

"Over here!" I shouted, waving the Elves over. Galia glanced at me and then back at the dragon. He bolted toward me. The other's followed.

My bunker wasn't big, though I had grown the walls pretty thick at this point. I weaved banana leaves into each other, stretched tree branches above it and tried my best to even use some plants to scoop dirt on top of it. It was a small hut at the edge of the forest.

The dragon screamed again, drew another breath, and blew fire all over where the Elves had just been. As they ran toward me, they were silhouettes in front of the blaze that was quickly gaining on them.

"Run!" I yelled, as I prepared a final few plants to cover the entrance to my hut after they found their way in.

They ran as fast as they could. Galia got there first, almost crashing into me as he barrelled into the hut. Then came Leena, Luvon, and Tallesia. Tallesia did crash into me, knocking me into the others in the already tight enclosure. And as I did my best to close the opening that they had just used, the blaze of dragon fire continued in our direction.

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