It was another morning when the Ixi stirred from sleep.
This time, she did not wake up inside her cozy room in the cottage, but outside
in the midst of a glade. Lush green trees formed an enclosed circle and created
a cool, relaxing shade where the sunlight was filtered between the thick branches.
Yellow poppies and lilac blossoms sprouted between the tall thick grass that
was decorated with beads of dew dropped water. Small puddles of rain left delicate
crystals on the soft earth, which tickled the Ixi’s nose.
Ritz’s eyes fluttered open after a long and restless
night. At first she couldn’t remember why she had been sleeping outside, but
then the past events flashed before her eyes and she remembered. There was a
terrible fight the night before in which a Darigan Eyrie and a mutant Draik
managed to crawl through the window and attack. Ritz succeeded in fighting them
off and protecting herself, but her nurse Kallisto had not been as lucky. She
shuddered as she recounted Kallisto’s terrible death. It had all been her fault,
she concluded, and therefore ran away from home never to return again.
The sac of items Ritz saved lay nearby behind
a stump of a tree. A little squeaking sound emerged from there. She pulled open
the bag and took out Flutter who seemed quite unaware of what had happened.
Ritz hugged the petpet close to her. It was the only thing she had left now,
the only companion she had. The Faellie’s eyes seemed hopeful for some nourishment
so Ritz scavenged for a few red berries and a little puddle of water. As Flutter
ate soundlessly, the Ixi realized how hungry she was herself. She would need
plenty of energy for the long journey she planned to take. But Ritz didn’t even
know where she was going. All she knew is that she wanted to get as far away
“Well its best we be on our way,” she told Flutter
once they had both finished eating. She repacked her things, tossed her sac
across her shoulders, and looked ahead for a good direction to follow. She could
go straight towards the mountains, which was steep but well sheltered. Or she
could go east following the path through the country land. Her other option
was to turn west to the river country, but she could see dark storm clouds forming
in the distance, billowing up energy and executing bolts of lightning. The storm
was moving closer, and Ritz instinctively knew that she would have to find a
dry shelter. The mountains were her best choice now; surely there would be a
cave of some sort for her and Flutter to inhabit.
They journeyed on crossing over rolling meadows
and green hills. Ritz felt the great rush of open-air flow through her face
and tangle her hair. It was getting colder as they climbed higher, so Ritz got
out a blanket from her sac to wrap around her shoulders. She shivered and breathed
out icy breath. They began to climb over huge boulders and rocks that were the
shade of gray matching the sky above. The gloomy clouds spat out drops of rain
so that it pattered on the ground. Ritz and Flutter began to run faster, winding
up the narrow path to escape the beating rain. The trees seemed like a good
place to rest, except for when Ritz spotted a lighting bolt crash upon a great
old tree so that it burst into smoke and flames. “Come on Flutter, lets hurry!”
remarked the Ixi with fright. She desperately scanned her eyes high and low,
observing the crevices of the mountain walls for a dry overhead or cave. The
rain was getting heavier and the air colder. Ritz was feeling weaker with every
step she took.
Just as they turned the corner, Ritz noticed
a crack in the mountain wall. It could have easily been passed by unnoticed,
but Ritz took a closer look. She walked towards it and discovered that it led
into an opening that was dry and sheltered from the harsh weather. Ritz smiled
with relief as she led Flutter in the cave. It wasn’t much but at least they
could call it home. She walked forward and peered into the darkness. Ritz lit
a candle, but when she saw what was in the cave she dropped it with a gasp and
screamed out loud.
“Who comes to disturb my lair?” called out a
“I’m sorry,” Ritz called back after a long silence.
“It’s just that there is a storm outside and I am terribly cold and tired.”
Something at the end of the cave stirred. Ritz couldn’t tell what it was so
she drew her sword just in case.
“Drop your sword,” said the voice. “I’m not going
to hurt you.” Ritz didn’t move a muscle. She didn’t know if she could trust
this mysterious person.
“Then show yourself in the light,” she called
back. The creature stepped forward so Ritz could see clearly. He was a handsome
white Draik, a dragon with enormous powerful wings. Ridged scales ran down his
back and his tail curved around his body. His eyes were wide and glossy but
there was also a hint of kindness in his face.
“Drop your sword!” he repeated. Ritz did as she
was told and let the sword drop from her grip to create a loud clang on the
stony floor. The Draik studied her for the longest time before saying another
“Well, I suppose it would be alright if you stayed
until the storm is over. What is your name, young Ixi?”
“I am Ritz and this is my petpet Flutter,” she
said gesturing to the shaking Faellie. For a moment she was considering telling
the Draik that she was Princess Ritzalina but she decided against it. She would
never return to be the heir to the throne of Meridell anyway. Besides, it was
too risky to be telling strangers more information than they needed to know.
“I am Evander,” the Draik said with a grunt.
He winced at the sound of his own name. Ritz stared at him curiously and realized
that he was hiding something else about himself also. Already they shared something
in common. He pointed to a smaller creature by his side. “And this is Firenza,
my Dragoyle. The little mini dragon was too busy playing with a shiny rock to
even notice the guests.
Evander started to scrounge around for some firewood.
“Here let me help,” said Ritz tenderly. She helped carry some of the wood to
the stones in the middle of the cave and lit a flame. The warming light flickered
and grew larger until it was the size of a bonfire. Almost instantly, she stopped
shivering and started to relax by the fire. Then they brought out some breads
and vegetables, which they tossed into a pot to start cooking. No one spoke
a word until the last bit of food was devoured.
“Thank you,” Ritz said graciously when she was
finished eating. But Evander didn’t respond; only stared sadly into the fire.
“What’s wrong?” the Ixi asked with concern. The Draik’s eyes shifted uncomfortably.
“Let me see your sword,” he said slowly. Ritz
was confused. What did the Draik want to do with her weapon? She doubted him
but handed him the silver sword anyway. After all, he was kind enough to allow
her to stay in his cave for the night. Evander turned the sword over in his
hands and examined it closely. He ran his fingers across the delicate words
of a strange language that circled around the hilt. A single silver tear dripped
from his eye and streamed down his face. Ritz almost felt like crying herself
from seeing the sadness that overcame the Draik.
“This is a very beautiful sword, Ritz. Use it
well.” The Ixi couldn’t take it anymore. She had to know what was bothering
him. Evander began telling her his story even without the Ixi asking him.
“A long time ago, I was a knight of the kingdom
of Riverence,” he began, sounding out the words carefully. “In fact I was one
of the best knights the kingdom had ever seen. I bravely fought in many wars
and challenged many beasts, and everyone praised me a hero. One day the king
came to give me a new quest. His daughter, a beautiful princess Uni, had been
captured and taken by a hideous monster, the Monoceraptor. Many fearless knights
had ventured to save the girl before, but none had ever returned from their
quest. However, the king trusted me to save the fair Apollonia and I agreed
to do this for she was my secret love and I would die for her. After successfully
slaying the Monoceraptor and freeing the princess, I was awarded a royal sword
for my brave acts. The sword was a true treasure and was handed down to many
kings and brave knights before me. It was considered an honor to receive. It
just turns out that the very sword in your hands, Ritz, was the same sword given
to me.” Evander paused to gaze at the sword once again.
“But why do I have the sword now and how come
you are not a knight any longer?” Ritz asked. The Draik continued sadly.
“Well, I loved Apollonia so much that I decided
to tell her my feelings, only to be crushed by not having them returned. The
beautiful princess wasn’t in love with me, but with my only friend, Faunus,
who was terribly jealous of my courageous act and of the sword I was awarded.
Faunus and Apollonia wanted to be together so badly that they developed a plan
to betray me. They told the king that it was not I, who had slain the beast
and saved his daughter, but that it was actually Faunus. The king believed him,
thinking that I had lied in order to get the sword. So he banished me from Riverence
forever, and ever since I have lived here in shame.” Evander ended his story
in a rage of tears just like the rain from the storm outside. A gust of wind
blew in the cave and the fire blew out.
“But what do the words around the hilt mean?”
“It’s the words of a legend. It means, For a
time of evil has come, a great hero will save us.” The Draik wiped his tears
away and studied the Ixi. “Strange,” he muttered. “Ritz, the prophecy is talking
To be continued…