“Don’t you worry. You’ll do fine…” Her father called out a few paces behind her.
Lunete glanced over her shoulder and used a hand to hold back the amber-blonde locks that tried to whip at her face.
His smile was meant to embolden her…it failed as he added softly, “This time.”
Next to him was her older brother, Balen, a slightly smaller version of their hefty father with the same shoulder length blond hair, but his beard lacked the fullness and grandeur of the older man’s. Balen gave her an encouraging grin. “You can do this, Luna.”
But can I? As is, she’d have died the last two times if not for…Not this time, she gritted her teeth, determined. Lunete was well past the age of Renascence. She couldn’t face everyone’s disappointment a third time.
She shook her head, then inhaled deeply with a shiver, though she couldn’t be cold.
‘You’re ready my love,’ the tranquility in her Mother’s Mind-voice instantly settled Lunete.
‘I’m scared Mother.’ Lunete chewed on the inside of her cheek, then licked her lips as she clenched her fist.
‘I know, my Dear. Remember, I’ll always be with you.’ Lunete took another clearing breath, taking comfort in her mother’s promise.
She shuffled her feet forward until her toes hung over the edge. Just lean forward. She tried to convince herself, but her body refused to obey.
“If you’re not ready, you can try again next year,” her father suggested, though they both knew it was unheard of after the age of eighteen.
“She won’t be able to show her face if she backs out now,” Balen whispered to their father so she couldn’t hear.
Lunete grimaced at the words. Her enhanced hearing was a recent development, one of the gifts that she thought was a sure sign it wastime, yet it wouldn’t help her achieve Renascence if she wasn’t truly ready.
She already hated to go into town. The whispering was bad enough. What she couldn’t stand were the scornful looks and the occasional patronizing comment, ‘Poor Old Frode Strom couldn’t find Renascence, tried four times. The unfortunate wretch eventually wandered off into the Wastelands…never to be heard from again’.
A rumble, like faraway thunder sounded and Lunete looked down the valley. A red dragon entered the valley from the south. It rose gracefully toward the ridge where Lunete was perched.
“It’s now or never,” she said softly, her voice shaking.
She inhaled, filling her lungs, then leaned her head forward. The rest of her unwilling body followed as she toppled off the ledge.
The air tore at her clothes, tears flooded her eyes. At first, Lunete was exhilarated, the sky seemed endless as she scanned the horizon, her entire body felt alive. Then she looked down and realized it was definitely not endless.
Panic struck Lunete like the wind blustering up the mountainside and she wondered if she had made a huge mistake.
She suddenly remembered to spread her arms and legs out. The slapping of her top and pants fluttering, as she dropped through the air, drowned out any other sound.
Lunete tried to keep her eyes open in spite of the wind, her attention consumed with the deadly ridges that raced toward her. She strained to turn her head to the south and spotted the Red swooping down toward her. No! She couldn’t let the dragon get her.
Damn. She had become distracted and was nearly out of time. She squeezed her eyes shut and focused on a tiny point of light in her mind that stood out like a torch in the dead of night. A spot that had always been there since early childhood but had doubled in size over the last year. However, no matter how hard she concentrated nothing happened.
She could Sense the Red nearly on her. Lunete twisted to the side, she could Sense the dragon’s claw slip just past her hip.
The creature screeched and shot upwards.
Lunete knew the Red would try again, but she also knew there wasn’t enough time.
Lady of the Sun and the Fire of the earth, she prayed to the Goddess, Take my life and grant me Renascence or accept my Spirit in death.
Lunete uttered a soft whimper and emptied her mind, resigned to her fate. She couldn’t face her family, her community again. Her body relaxed as she submitted to the Goddess’ Will.
It was then, her thoughts silenced and her own will submitted to the Goddess, that the tiny light flared into a blazing inferno, the warmth that always filled her veins turned into a fiery storm. There wasn’t any pain, in fact, just the opposite…it comforted her like an old friend.
Engrossed with the light and fire, it took her a moment to notice how the air current felt as it flowed under her wings. WINGS! Lunete eyes burst open, her head snapped left, then right. Bronze, nearly golden wings tilted slightly as she started to climb up to meet the Red.
She beat her new wings and flew past the Red, who turned and followed. They circled each other, dipping and rising, as they glided gaily high above the valley.
She was lost in the moment, until the Red turned to descend. Lunete dove and reached the valley floor first. She had been told what to expect, but as her rear talons touched the ground, the reality of landing was far different from her imagination, and she tumbled forward several times.
Laying on her side, a grumbling growl escaped her maw unlike any sound she had ever made, then she shut her eyes as a bright light encompassed her.
Something tickled Lunete’s nose and she used her hand to brush strands of tangled amber-blond hair from her face. She paused, held up the hand and stared at it. I’ve changed back. She wiggled her fingers. Amazing. Lunete had dreamt nightly of being able to shift like everyone else but had all but given up hope. Now, reborn in the Goddess’ light, she would finally fit into her community.
Lunete sat up as the Red touched down gently and approached her.
A flash of light surrounded the dragon and it quickly faded away, replaced with a familiar slim, yet muscular, red headed woman who continued toward Lunete.
“You did it,” her mother nearly shouted with excitement.
“It was incredible,” Lunete responded enthusiastically. “I was trying too hard. I just had to surrender to the Goddess.”
Lunete’s mother, Chelinda, hugged her tightly and whispered in her ear, “The Goddess has blessed you with her gifts.”
As they separated, Lunete’s nose crinkled as she asked, “Why couldn’t I do it earlier?”
Chelinda shrugged. “The Goddess’ time is not our time.”
Lunete frowned at the answer, but let it go…for now, and glanced up. “I can’t believe it.” She waved her hand across the sky. “It felt so natural.”
“The landing, not so much.” Her mother chuckled.
A clatter sounded from the trees across the valley and two bears charged out of the forest.
They bounded across a ridge, and dropped down into a small ravine, hidden from view.
Light flickered from the gully, then her father and brother came over the crest.
“You were great Luna. It…it was spectacular.” Balen was animated, he waved his hands back and forth imitating the dragons soaring through the sky. “I knew you could do it.”
“Ah huh.” She glared at him for a moment, then grinned. “It was so exhilarating.”
Her Dad hugged her, his bear-like strength would have crushed anyone without dragon like bones. He held her at arm’s length, stared intently into her eyes, and said, concern mixed with pride, “The Essence in you is…it’s so intense.” He glanced over at his wife, his brows narrowed. “I can Sense it. It’s almost overwhelming.”
Chelinda put a hand on Lunete’s shoulder, and spoke in a reverent tone, “I believe it’s why the Goddess waited so long to bless her. Our daughter is meant for something special.”
Luenete sighed, her shoulders drooped. Just when I thought people would quit talking about me.