“If we follow that plan the Mists will fall for a period, we can’t do all of that and keep the Mists up,” Anima warned.

“A good plan,” Tera said standing “needs a good try.” She moved herself to the center of the room and outstretched her arms as if on a cross. “Ready?” All those in the room nodded and braced themselves. Kianika didn’t know if the plan would work, but the Queen’s seemed to have more faith in her than she did in herself. Tera turned her palms face up, and two images started to flicker into existence. There were two pieces of land in each hand, terrain Kianika recognized from their earlier procession. Inch by inch Tera brought her hands forward, working the images closer. Her brow furrowed, and her teeth bit her lower lip. The leaves that surrounded her body started to change color starting at a vibrant green and moving into reds, yellows, and browns. The ship they stood in began to rock from side to side like a grandmother rocking an infant. The closer her hands came together the rougher the ship’s movement became, Kianika grasped at a ledge so that she didn’t find herself sprawled on the ground.

The leaves began to drift off of Tera, and a fungus started to grow on her trunk. Anima flew back and forth agitated enough to start small whirlwinds. “Tera, you can’t do it. You need to stop, or we will lose the Mists completely.” Tera shook her hair and with a massive sigh brought the two pieces of land together. This time Kianika fell to the ground, the rotten wood in her hand. She looked up towards Tera and tried to move away; no longer did Tera have a humanistic quality, she was something fierce, something more powerful than anything else in the world.

The two pieces of land started to mesh together and raise in Tera’s hands. “This is it,” Procella stated, “be ready.” The ship began to propel upwards, and Kianika saw water sweeping past the portholes in her peripheral. At one point she saw a Triton swimming away, leaving his post. As soon as they broke the water’s surface, bright sunlight poured in the portholes causing Kianka to bury her head in her arms, the full force of sun proved too much for eyes that had adjusted to the depths of the ocean. And then everything stopped moving, and a moment of peace descended on the group.

A roar interrupted the peace, undoubtedly from the Dragon whose entire lair now rested on a plateau rather than the bottom of the waters. “May speed be in everyone’s favor,” Tera said before collapsing into a pile of autumn leaves. Anima dissolved a porthole and flew out of the opening followed by Procella now in wind form. Kianika stood and wobbled her way out of the ship, the ice castle looked stunning in the sunlight, and the ships looked old and worthless in comparison. She only hoped that their value proved true to her plan.

Growing up Kianika had never run, all the other kids ran around playing games of war or tag, but Kianika preferred to sit under a cypress tree and read the works of the great philosophers. Now, she regretted that decision. Her lungs panicked, taking shallow breaths when she needed the maximum amount of oxygen possible. She needed to get out from the debris field, already she could see ships starting to sway and two tornados descending from the sky. She ran against all of her instincts, to the dragon’s lair instead of away. Her job, the one she volunteered for, no planned, was to free the dragon from his shackles for the first time in two millennia. When she explained this part of the scheme the sister’s fought her, but to eradicate Matoria of the beast, there was no other way.

As she started to scramble up the ice stairs, she allowed herself to look back. Hundreds of ships were flying around in two large tornados, their sides bursting apart into kindling. So far everyone was doing their job, she took a deep breath and started to do her own. She ran into the fortress ready to face a monster she struggled to imagine.

The beast looked different from the miniature one Tera had shown her. This dragon’s scales were brown on one side, and vibrant blue on the other. He limped as he placed weight on his dead side, and an electric blue current replaced the molten lava that had pumped in the images veins. “And who exactly are you, humanoid.” The beast stated before turning around to face her. She hadn’t thought he knew of her presence, but he looked at her with little surprise. She tried to start her monologue but found her mouth dry, and her tongue cemented between lips. “I will not ask again humanoid; I granted a gift in asking at all.”

“I,” stammered Kianika, “I am seeking shelter. I knew now that a creature of your magnitude existed in reality.”

The dragon scoffed and stretched his wings to their full span, “I have been in this land far longer than you. What do you seek shelter from?” He started to walk closer to Kianika causing her knees to give and herself to collapse into a puddle beneath him.

“Two tornadoes are raging, and the land has been pushed from the water like magic. There is no way off this plateau I found myself on; the edges are all filled with waterfalls clearing ocean from this area.”

The dragon paused and turned to head towards what he might have thought of like a window, but instead, it looked like a small house could fit in the enclave. “You speak half truths, but something gives your story a stench. What is a humanoid doing under the ocean in my domain?” Now that the beast had shifted Kianika could see the outline of a woman in the ice he had stood before. The woman was recognizable as the fourth queen, but she didn’t look to have life within her. She glowed a very pale orange beneath the ice but made no movement not even a blink of her eyes.

“I came to see the ice, I became careless and slipped from a berg into the water. I would have died at the bottom of the ocean, but it appears that instead, I will die either from weather or your majesty.” The dragon didn’t move, didn’t even seem to acknowledge that she had answered him. She prayed to the gods that he would take an opportunity to bargain with a damsel in distress.

Still looking out at the whirlwind of ships he started, “you humanoids always misunderstand those who look nothing like you, my strength, scales, and power do not make me thirst for blood, I wish no harm to you. I know who is at the base of this change. And I can’t say that I am surprised. I knew they would attempt something to get her back.”

“Who sire?”

He ignored the question, “A wrong fell upon me, imprisoned for two thousand years, kept under water, away from the heat of the sun that powers the essence of my being. They look like you, young humanoid, but they are the ones that you must fear. I will grant you asylum with one small request.” Here he turned and got closer to Kianika. She nodded up towards the beast. “Stand,” he demanded, and she tried to lift herself, her limbs shook and not from a desire to look helpless, from acknowledging that truth. “You will release my shackles, righting an ancient wrong, and allowing me my freedom.”

Kianika looked at the shackles around the beasts ankles. “How can I do so? And if I do, how do I know my safety will be procured?”

“Your hands are small enough to twist the mechanism. I have struggled for years, but my claws keep me from the delicate work.” The dragon answered. Kianika waited, looking at him with a quizzical expression signaling that she wanted the second question answered. “I give my word as a creature of old; an instant death promised me if I break the pact until you harm me, no harm may I do you.” At this, the dragon bowed his long neck, and Kianika felt the magic link form. She nodded and moved towards his legs, and with shaking hands, she released one shackle and then another.

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