Ashes of the Dragon

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Chapter 8
Blessed is the Phoenix

The shimmering teal blue dress fit her perfectly, and Revin twisted to the left then the right to see as much of the floor length gown as she could in the mirror. The soft material caressed her body, so light it felt like a summer breeze blowing across her skin. The neckline plunged, exposing the delicate necklace that seemed as though it had been designed to match the arm and headbands. A graceful gold chain, made up of hundreds of tiny links, encircled her small waist, attached to the dress at several points. The two ends hung loosely down to her knees.

Keely stepped to Revin’s side and peered into the mirror.

“You’re beautiful.” The younger woman’s excitement was infectious, and Revin smiled.

“Do you think so?” her question expressed her tentative feelings.

“Absolutely.” Inga came in and immediately adjusted the waist chain so that it created a “V”, pointing down over Revin’s stomach, the loose ends centered in the front. The older woman stepped back and examined Revin then said with a bright smile, “There, it high-lights your hips and thighs.”

The comment made Revin blush, something she rarely ever did. What am I…a giggly little village girl? Revin cursed her reactions. Since she’d been a child, she had worked hard to hide her femininity—not only to appease the blacksmith, but also later as she fought her way into the rugged world of a dragon hunter.

Regardless, against her own stubborn, insistent nature, her smile grew into a grin. It was the first dress she had ever worn. The blacksmith had been kind, in his own coarse way, but he was perplexed by how to raise a daughter. The man figured that his upbringing had been good enough for him and therefore, was suitable for her as well. A stubborn man, he dismissed efforts by village women to dress Revin as a little girl and eventually everyone accepted Revin as just another young lad. For years she had tried to live like a man in a world ruled by males.

“We’ve got just enough time to fix this.” Keely stared back into the mirror. Her lips twisted as she looked at Revin’s hair.

“What’s wrong with it?” Revin always kept her hair pulled back and tied with a leather strip. It would have been easier to shave it all off, like most dragon hunters, but she’d kept the length to the middle of her back. She now realized it was an unconscious reminder of who she really was.

Revin felt something against her knees as Keely pushed her down to sit on the small chair that Inga had moved behind Revin.

“You have gorgeous hair.” Keely untied the leather strap and Revin’s reddish-bronze hair fell down to drape around her shoulders.

Revin wanted to point out that it wasn’t much different than Keely’s. Her nose crinkled as she realized that many of the women she had met all had similar hair and facial features, with minor differences.

Keely continued, “So thick and wavy. A gift. Why not display it for all to see?”

The heat increased in her cheeks as Keely took locks of her hair from both sides and pulled them to the back of her head.

Keely began weaving the strands and when she finished, she held up a small mirror so Revin could see the results. The braids encircled her head and fell into a “V” down the back. The ‘V’ matched the gold chain around her waist. The rest of her hair had been brushed out by Inga, so it flowed over her shoulders and down her back.

Keely had Revin stand and said, “The finishing touch.” She came up behind Revin and placed the silver and gold circlet on Revin’s head. “Now you’re ready.”

Revin’s lips pressed hard together. She sighed with a grimace as she turned from side to side again, finding it hard to believe that the image in the mirror was truly her. Revin’s head shook as a smile crept onto her lips. What would the Blacksmith think of this?

Dragon Image

Revin was in high spirits as she let herself be led through the large crowd gathered in the market arm in arm with Keely. Her goal, capturing the Gold, was ever present in her mind, yet she couldn’t help but savor the moment. She glanced over at the younger woman and smiled. Revin had never been close to another woman, so found her affinity to Keely strange. It felt as if they were somehow connected, though how that was possible evaded Revin.>/p>

Scores of torches encircled the square with others placed strategically throughout the market, enough so one could easily walk without fear of tripping or bumping into something. It was a cool evening, though much warmer than the night she had first arrived. Revin was glad she had insisted on wearing her knee-high boots rather than the simple shoes Inga had offered. She wasn’t used to a dress and the boots kept her legs warm.

Working their way toward one corner of the square they were constantly stopped by villagers, and others she assumed were folks from nearby farms like the Krogh’s, who were enjoying the festivities. Every time someone would turn and see them, they would nod to Revin with a smile and add ‘Blessed be the Time of the Burning’ and ‘May the Lady bless the Gathering.’

“Gathering?” Revin asked Keely above all the voices and clatter as music floated over the square.

“Don’t worry, it’s not until tomorrow.” The young woman patted Revin on the arm, brushed aside her concerns, and kept moving through the crowd.

“I don’t know…” Revin was worried in spite of Keely’s words. Each time a villager greeted her, it felt as if the blessing was intended specifically for her and not a blanket ritual address. “If the Gathering is important, I—”

“Oh, there’s Maeveen.” Keely stepped away from Revin as a gap opened in the crowd.

,p>Maeveen stood talking with several people across the clearing. She glanced in Revin’s direction, smiled, then turned and disappeared into the throng of people.

Revin stepped quickly to follow Maeveen, but when she reached the other side of the opening, she couldn’t spot the woman. She shoved her way through the crowd and noticed a woman.

Rushing, Revin pushed past several people and grabbed the woman by the arm.

The woman stopped and turned to look back. She smiled. “Blessed be the Time of the Burning.”

It wasn’t Maeveen.

Revin nodded in response, disappointed.

The woman inclined her head, then turned and walked away.

“If you’re looking for Maeveen, she had to leave and prepare for the morrow.” Farrel stepped out from the crowd to stand in front of her. He wore a finely spun silk shirt; its dark greenish-blue color complimented her dress. His hair was pulled back and held with a gold and silver clasp. Torchlight reflected in his eyes, which seemed to flash a bright blue.

“But I need to talk to her.” Revin couldn’t believe she had missed her opportunity to confront the mysterious Maeveen.

“You will. In the morning.” Farrel took her hand and drew Revin along toward another open area where men were swirling women around with the flow of the music. “Dance with me.” He led her out into the opening, then turned and put his other hand on her hip.

“I can’t dance.”

“You should enjoy the night. Dance with me,” Farrel smiled, his voice making her feel light-headed.

Get your senses woman! Revin scolded and shook her head. You haven’t eaten since this morning. But his request caused a separate problem.

“You don’t understand. I can’t.” She lowered her head and whispered, “I don’t know how.”

He didn’t say anything for a moment, and she was afraid to raise her head, which only exasperated her the more. What’s wrong with you? You’ve got nothing to be afraid or ashamed of. She had been brought to the edge of death more than once capturing wild dragons and with her odd childhood, she had given up apologizing for what other people thought she should be doing or how she acted. Fear and humiliation were emotions she rarely felt.

After a long pause, he finally told her, “Stand on my feet.”

“What?”

“Stand on my feet.”

“I don’t understand.” She couldn’t fathom what he wanted.

“Put your feet on the front of my boots,” he whispered and gently pulled her closer.

Revin looked down at his feet, still confused, but at some point, she had come to trust him. She stepped up so most of her boots rested on top of his. She almost fell off as his right foot lifted and moved to the side. She barely kept her right boot in place when his left foot rose and followed slightly behind the first. Revin couldn’t imagine the strength required to lift her body with just his feet… but he did. He kept moving and turning with her unable to do anything but be swept along as he moved around the dance area. He spun faster and she moved closer, her arms raised around his neck to keep from falling off as both his arms wrapped around her waist. The movement brought her face close to his shoulder and she turned so it rested there, her body tight against his muscular frame. The music seemed to fill the air and she felt completely relaxed in his arms. Her eyes closed and she breathed deeply. Something about his scent made her head swirl to match the twirling of their bodies.

Time passed, Revin couldn’t guess at how long, though she realized the songs had changed many times. At some point she had slid off Farrel’s toes and flowed in his arms to the rhythm of the music. She and Farrel had whispered to each other several times talking about nothing and everything. Finally, the music stopped, and she opened her eyes as if waking from a dream. She looked up into his face. A wide smile graced it and she sensed that he was filled with the same serenity that washed over her.

After a moment he released her, and she turned her head to see that she and Farrel were the only ones in the clearing. Encircling them was the entire crowd, smiling, eyes all focused on the two of them. Among them were Ranell and Trina.

“What…What are they doing?” Revin spun around, more confused than ever. A fear started to rise in her but was subdued by a warmth that flooded her like when she drank the Muspell.

“Blessed be the Time of the Burning. May the Lady bless the Gathering,” the villagers’ voices called out in unison.

She turned back to Farrel, and he put a hand on each of her upper arms. “They are captivated with the Phoenix and therefore confident about tomorrow’s Gathering.” The smile faded and his eyes stared into hers with a seriousness she had not seen before. He ran his hands up and down her arms as he said softly, “Revin…You are the new Phoenix.”

“Blessed be the Time of the Burning. Blessed is the Phoenix,” the villagers’ shouted again.

Revin pulled back from his hands, her body tightened. Her breath left her. She realized the clues had been there and she’d just ignored them. She turned in a circle looking at the hundreds of people as they all came forward to crowd close around her.

“Blessed is the Phoenix,” they chanted repeatedly.

Her head turned slowly as she tried to inhale deeply but could only gasp. She finally found Farrel’s face, Keely at his side. Somewhere in her mind she thought he looked concerned as he mouthed ‘It is your time’. Her stomach reminded her she hadn’t eaten for too many hours, a moment before she felt her eyes roll back in her head and the world was enveloped in obscurity.

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