Thunderlight: Chapter One (The Dragonian Series #2, by Adrienne Woods)

** I have the author permission to post this.**
Chapter 1

ANGER, BETRAYAL, AND HATE turned my stomach to acid. It consumed my mind and I watched as bottles, papers and books on the desk flew off and crashed to the floor.
A maid rushed to my side. She didn’t say anything, but her eyes reflected fear in their watery depths. The dustpan in her hand trembled as she started to sweep up the jagged shards of glass. Rising, she began to straighten the books that had fallen to the floor in a heap. Every few seconds her eyes darted nervously in my direction as if a mere breath would make me lash out at her with my outstretched hand.
I touched her face gently until my hand reached her neck, tightening slowly as my anger began to rise once again. My grip tightened around her soft, shapely neck as I lifted her up from her position at my feet until her face was level with mine.  Listening carefully I heard her heart fluttering like a bird trapped inside a cage.
“How did I become this way?” I spoke, giving voice to my reality softly.
She just stared at me with round, brown unblinking eyes. Her eyes were sunken deep into the surface of her face and her cheek bones were sharply defined.
Looking at her sullen face made me feel worse.  I lifted up my other hand and struck the woman hard across her cheek.
A cry left her mouth and I threw her from me as if she weighed nothing. She skidded across the floor landing in a heap against a wall of cold, unforgiving stone.  If I was a dragon I would blast fire, redeem this wretched place to a pile of insignificant ashes.
Two other maids, hearing the startled cry, rushed into the room. Their eyes were wide as they took in the room and the immobile heap near the far wall. “Sorry, me Lord,” the older one said, her voice slightly trembling. “She’s new, we will train her better.”
They picked up the maid who had come to and was sobbing. She clutched the side of her face, covering the huge, red handprint where I’d struck her.
I nodded. The old maid knew her place well, although I still didn’t care for her name, she knew where she stood.
I plunged myself down onto the chair and closed my eyes. A silent roar growled inside of me lighting a fire of rage deep in my core.
The girl had made it.
The Rubicon saved her life, so a part of him was still fighting me. I could still see her eyes searching mine. They bore into my soul, seeking answers. Howwas this possible? The wall wouldn’t allow any human to go to the other side.
Albert’s laughter echoed inside the castle; a startling reminder that good would always win. He would pay dearly for this. I would find a way, and I promised myself she wouldn’t live much longer.
I pushed myself up from the chair and rubbed my face hard. The emotion of my anger escaped my lips making a sickening sound. Rage that emanated from deep within me overpowered the haunting laughter and echoed throughout the entire castle.
“Master,” Cain’s voice interrupted my thoughts.
“Speak my loyal servant,” I said out loud. “What is the news?”
“Everything is in place. We won’t fail you,” his voice said in my head.
I closed my eyes, took a deep breath and let it out hard. “We’ll see.”

 

Tith

UMMER WAS ALMOST over but everyone’s spirits were high as Sammy searched for something in her room. I had recently arrived at the Leaf’s after spending the first weeks of my vacation with Becky. Sammy was in rare form this evening as she bounced off the walls of the room with barely contained excitement.
“Elena, cheer up! We’re going to the Warbel games and I know it sucks that Lucian won’t be there, but I promise, you are going to enjoy it, okay?” Sammy spoke fast as I moved out of the way of one of her shirts as it sailed toward me.
“Sammy, it’s not like I’m trying to be like this, I just really miss him…” my lips puffed out a breath. “Tell me again why the Warbel games are so mind-blowing.” I tried to change the subject away from Lucian. He was still away on a hunting trip with his father and the girls had decided the best way to brighten my mood was a sport that basically sounded like Greek warfare. I still had no clue what the Warbel games were about even after Sammy tried to explain it to me as she searched for the jersey of her favorite team. It sounded exciting as words like soldiers, attackers and scorers made it into her lengthy explanation.
“Because it’s the Warbel games,” she simply said.
The only thing I retained was that Warbel was some sort of dragon and human sport that they loved to play on this side of the wall. She also said that Dragonia had a similar game at the beginning of each school year, but it wasn’t as dangerous as the real one. I became even more confused when she started talking about raiders and incantations and couldn’t figure out how all of it came together.
Guess I’ll have to see it before I can really understand what it’s all about.
“The one thing you need to understand is that the game we are going to tonight is really dangerous,” she added as she continued to tear apart her closet, “and that the humans who participate are extremely well developed magic wielders, for their own safety as much as winning the game.”
Okay, awesome
. I thought sarcastically as I still had no clue what the Warbel games were about.
Sir Robert had gotten five tickets for all of us from a friend who couldn’t make tonight’s game.
Lucille, Becky’s mom, had also gotten tickets for her, Becky and George so we were all going to the game together.
I had spent the first three weeks of my vacation with Becky and Lucille. Lucille was not a typical mother but was the most selfless person I’d ever met. She also seemed way too young to be Becky’s mom and looked more like Becky’s older sister. She hated it when I called her Mam or Mrs. Johnson, and insisted that I called her by her first name. She was a lot like Becky in a sense, they shared the same type of fashion choices and clever comments, but she also had a love of art, which Becky didn’t have. That part connected with me one hundred percent.
Becky and her mother lived in a total opposite neighborhood of the Leafs, and they had more money than I could even dream of. I guess that was why Becky was a bit of a brat. Staying with them made me realize what type of a person she could be sometimes. Having all that money made Becky bossy and turned her into someone I never thought I would be friends with. But the thought of not having her around to give me her two cent comments, especially when I didn’t ask for them, was unthinkable. She was also one of the bravest and fiercest girls I knew and the best friend, apart from Sammy, a girl could ask for.
As we continued to look for the jerseys and get ready Isabel came up to give us a five minute warning. Blake had vanished around five, simply saying that he would meet us there. Sir Robert had given him his ticket before he disappeared so he would be able to find us.
Ever since that night at camp when he got wasted and he put me under some sort of hypnotizing spell that almost made us kiss, which was seriously ridiculous as he despised me, he’d been acting like his old self; arrogant and a total dick. Something about Blake being wasted and for some reason always wanting me, was really freaking me out…but it also made me wonder about a lot of things he was hiding and maybe that those things only came out when he was truly drunk.
I shook my head and the thoughts of Blake washed away as I grabbed my bag and followed Sammy to Sir Robert’s old Sedan.
The drive wasn’t that long and I gasped when Sir Robert pulled into the parking area in front of a giant mountain. There were at least a million cars already parked in neat rows and the noise coming from inside the mountain told me that it must be the location where the Warbel games took place.
Crowds of people, wearing different colors of jerseys, caps and scarves, huddled around. Some even carried flags and I saw a yellow flag with a huge hornet on top of what looked like a raider.
Raiders were flying objects that made me think of an enhanced skateboard.
Everywhere in Paegeia’s parks, and ports, people flew on them. You needed a special license for one and I tried so hard to suppress my laughter when Becky told me that her next try would be her fiftieth or so to get hers. Yes, Becky wasn’t one of the safest drivers out there. I still wondered every time I was her passenger if the inspector that gave hers hadn’t been smoking weed or something.
We climbed out of the car and a feeling of excitement rose inside my chest as I followed the Leaf’s into the opening at the bottom of the mountain. It was dark as the only light came from small tiny globes mounted in the wall. It took a while for my eyes to adjust to the soft glow of the lights as we piled into another tunnel.
People pushed and shoved us as we tried to make our way to our seats. The pace we moved was reasonable for such a big crowd, but it was still too dark and too cramped for my liking. We finally stopped when the people in front of us didn’t move. I hated every second we had to wait for whatever held up the crowd to pass. I was feeling jumpy and took huge breaths as the heaviness in my chest came back, mixed with a shot of adrenaline.
“Are you okay?” Sammy asked softly and I realized that I was squeezing her hand really tightly in my own.
“Sorry, just crowded. What’s happening at the front?”
“It’s normal, we’re close to the check-in point.”
I flinched as a huge horn blew right behind me. It echoed off the wall and sounded like an archangel announcing doomsday.
The crowd barely moved now, and I felt like punching the guy when he blew on it a second and third time. The other people thought it was funny, and I wished that I felt the same spirit inside of me, but this dark passageway was starting to creep me out.
After a few minutes, I could finally see the outline of what looked like five cubicles and people moving into rows. We took the one closest to us and waited until it was time to present our tickets. Ours had blue dots on them and I still had no idea what I was going to find myself at tonight.
It took a couple of seconds for my eyes to adjust as we entered toward a lighter room. Six black elevators, three on a side opposite one another, made my heart jumped a bit faster.
In Paegeia, an elevator wasn’t just an elevator. It was how the people of Paegeia traveled around the world, if you were a dragon, and inside Paegeia, if you were human. I hadn’t experienced it myself and had only seen them once inside their funny looking tubes when we went to fetch George at the Wall when he’d come back from the other side.
“Are these the same elevators they have at the Wall?” I spoke softly.
She laughed at the small shake in my voice. “No, Elena. These are normal elevators.”
People surged forward again as they maximized the elevator’s weight limit and I saw Sir Robert pushing the blue button. He wore a black t-shirt with a pair of jeans and a baseball cap. Wrapped around his neck was a green and black striped scarf.
Sir Robert Leaf was Sammy and Blake’s father and The Greatest King That Ever Lived, King Albert’s dragon. He looked nothing like the figure inside the museum of Etan, and he was nothing like I’d imagined. He was kind, always friendly and no matter how much Blake pissed him off, he would give me a soft look and a friendly smile. It was hard to imagine that he was Chromatic, a Night Villain, and one of the vilest dragons that roamed this world. The people of Paegeia didn’t address him as Sir Robert anymore. Some of them even thought that he‘d had something to do with betraying the King, but I knew better. He missed his rider every single day; he missed his Dragonian.
His wife, Isabel stood next to him with her arm wrapped in his. She wore a parka with a green and black striped beanie. A huge smile was plastered on her face, pure excitement written all over it. She was the spitting image of her sister. She had a twin sister who I was very familiar with. The first time I saw her I’d thought for a second that Constance, the doctor at the Infirmary was Sammy and Blake’s mom.
Sammy had doubled over with laughter when she’d seen the expression on my face when I’d met Isabel for the first time. She was, like Constance, also a Swallow Annex and I was sure if you put them together, you wouldn’t be able to tell them apart just by looking at them. She was also just as kind as her twin and made me feel at home from the moment I stepped inside their house.
The elevator screamed as we ascended into the peak of the mountain. It felt like forever, and a million things that could go wrong filled my head. The door finally opened and we all had to get out so that a couple at the back could exit.
When the door opened for about the fifth time, we spilled out.
We took a sharp left and walked into a stadium that was located at the very top of the mountain.
My knees began to turn into rubber as we neared. I really hated my fear of heights, and it usually kicked in at places like this.
The crevice at the top of the mountain was wide open and a million stars shone in the sky. Bright lights blinded me for a second and when my vision came back millions of seats were stacked in rows, mounted against the wall. It resembled a normal football stadium, except there were no poles, and as far as I could tell no floor either.
VIP boxes were located at the very top of the mountain and I couldn’t recall ever seeing so many people in my entire life.
Two huge bells were elevated in the air and stationed in opposite directions. Flags of all colors were flapping around the crowd. Blue, red, black, yellow, light blue and green holographic flags hung in the air and huge big screens were located on all sides just below the VIP boxes. Somehow Sir Robert spotted Becky and George in the crowd and pointed in their direction. Lucille saw us and waved excitedly.
Blake was still nowhere to be found and I guessed he’d probably snuck inside one of the boxes with someone. After all, he was a famous dragon.
When we finally reached them, Lucille gave me a warm hug while Isabel and Sir Robert greeted her with two kisses on each side of her face.
The vibe coming from the people in the crowd was overpowering. Some had dyed their hair the same color as the team they were rooting for, while some simply had scarves and jerseys on. It was so overwhelming that I didn’t know where to look.
My eyes caught the instrument that had made the horrible racket half an hour ago. Every other person in the crowd had one, and I finally saw the humor in them as I watched George blowing on one too. It made a low, hollow sound and I had to cover my ears as George’s breath lasted for at least two minutes.
The people around us applauded him when he finally ran out of breath and Sir Robert slapped him on the back. Becky and George both had a green beetle painted on their left cheeks.
Turning my gaze back to the crowd my eyes caught on a familiar face. He looked at me and winked.
I looked away quickly as images of my mission inside the cave flashed through my head. What the hell was the dragon from the Sacred Cavern doing at the games?
I looked in his direction again and he simply put a finger to his lips.
I wouldn’t dream of it. Guess the Warbel games are that huge.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls…. Oh and dragons,” a loud voice said over the sound system and the crowd went crazy. “Welcome to the two-hundred-and-fifth annual opening of the Warbel games.”
Fireworks exploded in enormous, glittering star-bursts against the sky. I gaped at the display as it lingered for a few minutes before the sparks descended to the ground. People yelled and cheered with their flags flapping in the air as horns blew.
The voice continued to speak about sponsors and the people who had made all of this possible. It was followed by a short show I’d only seen on TV. It was a display of Chinese dragon puppets twirling in the air. Fire erupted from the puppets and the crowd cheered again. After the show, the voice came back.
“Now, the moment everyone has been waiting for. I’m honored to present this year’s teams. The Sapphires.”
A team of humans flying on their raiders and dragons flew out of a huge door that opened on the opposite side of the arena.
The players all wore white and light blue uniforms, with flying goggles over their eyes and vests for protection. The man that led them did a somersault in the air and landed on his board once again; everyone soaked up his performance and screamed for more.
“That’s Luke. It’s a shame he plays for the Sapphire team, he is so frawesome,” Sammy yelled again and I laughed at her made up word, putting freaking and awesome together. It was something she and Becky were really good at. A close-up of Luke appeared on the big screen. He grinned with his goggles, now resting on top of his head, and waved at the crowd. I knew his face from the poster on Sammy’s bedroom wall.
“Which team are we supporting?”
“Duh,” she pointed to Becky and George’s green shirts. The name “Green Masquerades” stretched across the front and back with the outline of a dragon’s head.
“Go Masquerades,” I said weakly.
Sammy laughed at my pathetic attempt of a cheer.
The voice over the speaker introduced all the players on the team. There were four humans gliding on raiders. Four dragons, a Copper-Horn, a Fire-Tail, a Moon-Bolt and a Night Villain, flew out from an opening in the cave wall and hovered in the air below their human team members.
The next team, the “Yellow Hornets,” flew in from above our heads and the crowd painted and dressed in yellow blew on their horns. Around me yellow flags flapped in the wind created by the beating of the dragons’ wings.
They came to a halt opposite the “Sapphires” and the voice introduced all of the players. One dragon blew a fire bolt into the crowd as a cheer rose, but an invisible wall blocked it before it could do any damage. The crowd rooted as the Sun-Blast dug in and dove into the air.
Another team, wearing blue and black uniforms, was introduced as “The Blue Raiders”. I noticed as each team received their introduction that the dragons all had abilities and almost every team had a fire-breather and a Swallow Annex.
Two more teams, the “Red Crusaders” and “Black Leapers” were introduced to roaring cheers from the crowd. Last was the “Green Masquerades” and I was excited that it was finally our turn to cheer.
Four humans dived out on their boards to a roar of applause. The one in front made a loop on the raider and was followed by a couple more.
“That’s Blaze, she’s amazing on that raider of hers!” Sammy yelled into my ear.
“That’s a girl?” I yelled back.
Sammy’s dimples dented deep into her cheeks. “It’s not just men participating. She’s been the captain of her team for the past four years,” she yelled. “She’s tried every year to get Blake on the team but the Council doesn’t want to budge, and he’s not allowed to participate in his human form either.”
“Why not?”
“Multiple abilities, who knows.”
That’s so unfair.He’s not allowed to do anything. No fun. No wonder he does messed up things.
The booming voice introduced the four humans. Just as Sammy had said, Blaze Trulip was the captain of the team. She wasn’t afraid of anything, and she played the position of a soldier, which meant that she could be everywhere, score, defend, attack and help keep the other team from scoring. The guy next to her was Wilson DJ, who was introduced as the keeper. Richard, the diver, was one of the scorers with Baba Johnson. The last human’s name was Cole Brut. He bowed on his board which made the crowd cheer the loudest. He was a soldier too. The four dragons were Kyle, the Snow Dragon, Peter, the Sun-Blast, Dez, the Copper-Horn and Fick, the Green Vapor. They were the four attackers.
Once the team introductions were made the five referees were introduced. They wore black pants with boots and white and black striped shirts. They each had flying goggles and a baseball cap on their heads.
Sir Robert and George growled at the same time when Peter McIntosh was introduced as one of the referees this year. “He’s a cheat,” George yelled.
Clearly half the crowd didn’t like this Peter McIntosh dude, but he handled it well as the crowd booed at him and he bowed as deep as he could.
“The Yellow Hornets are going to win this year for sure,” Sammy said. “He used to be their coach.”
I shook my head. I’d never been into sports, exactly for that one reason. Dad hated it when they cheated at football. This would have been a game we could have enjoyed together. I could just imagine how he would’ve explained this one to me. I smiled as I imagined him babbling excitedly about scorers and attackers, the words leaping from his mouth while he crouched on the couch, like he did whenever he got excited when his favorite football team was about to score.
He must have missed this, I thought painfully. Knowing my father, this was definitely his sport. He used to yell at what patsies the quarterbacks and football players were whenever he watched the Sunday games. I still didn’t know what a patsy was, but the way he used it, it had to be something lame.
I cheered along with Sammy and everyone else when the teams left the arena. The Yellow Hornets and Sapphires stayed behind for tonight’s game.
The players each took their places in the field, if you could call it that. The two keepers stood in front of the two bells. We were in the perfect spot as each bell faced us on opposite sides. The rest of the players stood in a row in front of the keepers. They looked so small seeing them there, but the big screens captured each of their faces in turn.
One of the referees, not the McIntosh dude, was chosen as the main referee for this game. The other four stood on the sidelines. When the whistle blew the four dragons dove down with the scorer and the two soldiers. Their main target was a huge ax that dangled in the air a few yards below them.
Fire, frost, and acid balls flew through the air in rapid succession. All of them bounced off the invisible shield that protected the crowd and everyone cheered again as one of the humans on the yellow team got to the ax first. His goal was to hit the huge bell on the opposite side. He ducked and dove on his board, missed a couple of fire bolts, as a frost ball smashed into snowflakes right behind him.
The crowd hailed and it turned into what I knew as a wave. It was so fun to participate as it came our way.
When the man with the ax realized he was trapped, he threw it through the air to one of his teammates.
Seeing an opportunity, one scorer from the Sapphire team went for it, and grabbed the ax before the other yellow scorer caught it. The Sapphire crowd jumped up in their seats and yelled with fists pumping in the air.
By the sound of Sammy’s rooting, I knew we were cheering for the Sapphires tonight.
The scorer, which I assumed was Luke, twirled around on his board, ducking and diving through a couple of bolts and with a loud ‘gong’, he hit the bell with the ax. An animation of a dragon jumping up and down with a huge 3 flickering behind him, appeared on all the big screens.
Everyone I’d came with tonight whistled and yelled wildly.
Luke’s human team members congratulated him with high fives, back-slaps and praiseful comments.
I laughed as one of them bumped him with their head.
After the celebration was over, the players went back to their positions and the whistle blew once again.
The Yellow Hornets scored next and then the Sapphires were on fire, scoring three times in a row. Each time that animated dragon would come back, announcing the total points of the team who’d just scored. I now understood why Sammy was so crazy about Luke; he was really fast and always had a smile on his face.
As the game progressed, the crowd drew in a collective breath as a fire bolt headed for one of the human players. It was too late to block it and the fire bolt struck the player. One of his teammates caught him as his board smashed against the shield protecting us from the action. His teammate dropped him off at a Swallow Annex standing off to the side, who I assumed was there for medical reasons.
“This is why this game is really dangerous. You’ve got to pay attention,” Sammy said without taking her eyes off of the commotion.
The crowd cheered when the player got up, but he was way too disoriented to carry on and they had to make do without him.
The game started again when the Yellow Hornets scored another point.
Dragons flew in all kinds of directions, using their abilities on one another, while the scorers tried to gain extra points.
Suddenly, the stadium was silent as all the dragons in the arena froze in mid-air. As if some invisible force controlled them, their heads turned in unison in our direction and they came charging at us with a venomous look in their fiery eyes.

ANGER, BETRAYAL, AND HATE turned my stomach to acid. It consumed my mind and I watched as bottles, papers and books on the desk flew off and crashed to the floor.
A maid rushed to my side. She didn’t say anything, but her eyes reflected fear in their watery depths. The dustpan in her hand trembled as she started to sweep up the jagged shards of glass. Rising, she began to straighten the books that had fallen to the floor in a heap. Every few seconds her eyes darted nervously in my direction as if a mere breath would make me lash out at her with my outstretched hand.
I touched her face gently until my hand reached her neck, tightening slowly as my anger began to rise once again. My grip tightened around her soft, shapely neck as I lifted her up from her position at my feet until her face was level with mine.  Listening carefully I heard her heart fluttering like a bird trapped inside a cage.
“How did I become this way?” I spoke, giving voice to my reality softly.
She just stared at me with round, brown unblinking eyes. Her eyes were sunken deep into the surface of her face and her cheek bones were sharply defined.
Looking at her sullen face made me feel worse.  I lifted up my other hand and struck the woman hard across her cheek.
A cry left her mouth and I threw her from me as if she weighed nothing. She skidded across the floor landing in a heap against a wall of cold, unforgiving stone.  If I was a dragon I would blast fire, redeem this wretched place to a pile of insignificant ashes.
Two other maids, hearing the startled cry, rushed into the room. Their eyes were wide as they took in the room and the immobile heap near the far wall. “Sorry, me Lord,” the older one said, her voice slightly trembling. “She’s new, we will train her better.”
They picked up the maid who had come to and was sobbing. She clutched the side of her face, covering the huge, red handprint where I’d struck her.
I nodded. The old maid knew her place well, although I still didn’t care for her name, she knew where she stood.
I plunged myself down onto the chair and closed my eyes. A silent roar growled inside of me lighting a fire of rage deep in my core.
The girl had made it.
The Rubicon saved her life, so a part of him was still fighting me. I could still see her eyes searching mine. They bore into my soul, seeking answers. Howwas this possible? The wall wouldn’t allow any human to go to the other side.
Albert’s laughter echoed inside the castle; a startling reminder that good would always win. He would pay dearly for this. I would find a way, and I promised myself she wouldn’t live much longer.
I pushed myself up from the chair and rubbed my face hard. The emotion of my anger escaped my lips making a sickening sound. Rage that emanated from deep within me overpowered the haunting laughter and echoed throughout the entire castle.
“Master,” Cain’s voice interrupted my thoughts.
“Speak my loyal servant,” I said out loud. “What is the news?”
“Everything is in place. We won’t fail you,” his voice said in my head.
I closed my eyes, took a deep breath and let it out hard. “We’ll see.”

Elena

SUMMER WAS ALMOST over but everyone’s spirits were high as Sammy searched for something in her room. I had recently arrived at the Leaf’s after spending the first weeks of my vacation with Becky. Sammy was in rare form this evening as she bounced off the walls of the room with barely contained excitement.


“Elena, cheer up! We’re going to the Warbel games and I know it sucks that Lucian won’t be there, but I promise, you are going to enjoy it, okay?” Sammy spoke fast as I moved out of the way of one of her shirts as it sailed toward me.
“Sammy, it’s not like I’m trying to be like this, I just really miss him…” my lips puffed out a breath. “Tell me again why the Warbel games are so mind-blowing.” I tried to change the subject away from Lucian. He was still away on a hunting trip with his father and the girls had decided the best way to brighten my mood was a sport that basically sounded like Greek warfare. I still had no clue what the Warbel games were about even after Sammy tried to explain it to me as she searched for the jersey of her favorite team. It sounded exciting as words like soldiers, attackers and scorers made it into her lengthy explanation.
“Because it’s the Warbel games,” she simply said.
The only thing I retained was that Warbel was some sort of dragon and human sport that they loved to play on this side of the wall. She also said that Dragonia had a similar game at the beginning of each school year, but it wasn’t as dangerous as the real one. I became even more confused when she started talking about raiders and incantations and couldn’t figure out how all of it came together.
Guess I’ll have to see it before I can really understand what it’s all about.
“The one thing you need to understand is that the game we are going to tonight is really dangerous,” she added as she continued to tear apart her closet, “and that the humans who participate are extremely well developed magic wielders, for their own safety as much as winning the game.”
Okay, awesome
. I thought sarcastically as I still had no clue what the Warbel games were about.
Sir Robert had gotten five tickets for all of us from a friend who couldn’t make tonight’s game.
Lucille, Becky’s mom, had also gotten tickets for her, Becky and George so we were all going to the game together.
I had spent the first three weeks of my vacation with Becky and Lucille. Lucille was not a typical mother but was the most selfless person I’d ever met. She also seemed way too young to be Becky’s mom and looked more like Becky’s older sister. She hated it when I called her Mam or Mrs. Johnson, and insisted that I called her by her first name. She was a lot like Becky in a sense, they shared the same type of fashion choices and clever comments, but she also had a love of art, which Becky didn’t have. That part connected with me one hundred percent.
Becky and her mother lived in a total opposite neighborhood of the Leafs, and they had more money than I could even dream of. I guess that was why Becky was a bit of a brat. Staying with them made me realize what type of a person she could be sometimes. Having all that money made Becky bossy and turned her into someone I never thought I would be friends with. But the thought of not having her around to give me her two cent comments, especially when I didn’t ask for them, was unthinkable. She was also one of the bravest and fiercest girls I knew and the best friend, apart from Sammy, a girl could ask for.
As we continued to look for the jerseys and get ready Isabel came up to give us a five minute warning. Blake had vanished around five, simply saying that he would meet us there. Sir Robert had given him his ticket before he disappeared so he would be able to find us.
Ever since that night at camp when he got wasted and he put me under some sort of hypnotizing spell that almost made us kiss, which was seriously ridiculous as he despised me, he’d been acting like his old self; arrogant and a total dick. Something about Blake being wasted and for some reason always wanting me, was really freaking me out…but it also made me wonder about a lot of things he was hiding and maybe that those things only came out when he was truly drunk.
I shook my head and the thoughts of Blake washed away as I grabbed my bag and followed Sammy to Sir Robert’s old Sedan.
The drive wasn’t that long and I gasped when Sir Robert pulled into the parking area in front of a giant mountain. There were at least a million cars already parked in neat rows and the noise coming from inside the mountain told me that it must be the location where the Warbel games took place.
Crowds of people, wearing different colors of jerseys, caps and scarves, huddled around. Some even carried flags and I saw a yellow flag with a huge hornet on top of what looked like a raider.
Raiders were flying objects that made me think of an enhanced skateboard.
Everywhere in Paegeia’s parks, and ports, people flew on them. You needed a special license for one and I tried so hard to suppress my laughter when Becky told me that her next try would be her fiftieth or so to get hers. Yes, Becky wasn’t one of the safest drivers out there. I still wondered every time I was her passenger if the inspector that gave hers hadn’t been smoking weed or something.
We climbed out of the car and a feeling of excitement rose inside my chest as I followed the Leaf’s into the opening at the bottom of the mountain. It was dark as the only light came from small tiny globes mounted in the wall. It took a while for my eyes to adjust to the soft glow of the lights as we piled into another tunnel.
People pushed and shoved us as we tried to make our way to our seats. The pace we moved was reasonable for such a big crowd, but it was still too dark and too cramped for my liking. We finally stopped when the people in front of us didn’t move. I hated every second we had to wait for whatever held up the crowd to pass. I was feeling jumpy and took huge breaths as the heaviness in my chest came back, mixed with a shot of adrenaline.
“Are you okay?” Sammy asked softly and I realized that I was squeezing her hand really tightly in my own.
“Sorry, just crowded. What’s happening at the front?”
“It’s normal, we’re close to the check-in point.”
I flinched as a huge horn blew right behind me. It echoed off the wall and sounded like an archangel announcing doomsday.
The crowd barely moved now, and I felt like punching the guy when he blew on it a second and third time. The other people thought it was funny, and I wished that I felt the same spirit inside of me, but this dark passageway was starting to creep me out.
After a few minutes, I could finally see the outline of what looked like five cubicles and people moving into rows. We took the one closest to us and waited until it was time to present our tickets. Ours had blue dots on them and I still had no idea what I was going to find myself at tonight.
It took a couple of seconds for my eyes to adjust as we entered toward a lighter room. Six black elevators, three on a side opposite one another, made my heart jumped a bit faster.
In Paegeia, an elevator wasn’t just an elevator. It was how the people of Paegeia traveled around the world, if you were a dragon, and inside Paegeia, if you were human. I hadn’t experienced it myself and had only seen them once inside their funny looking tubes when we went to fetch George at the Wall when he’d come back from the other side.
“Are these the same elevators they have at the Wall?” I spoke softly.
She laughed at the small shake in my voice. “No, Elena. These are normal elevators.”
People surged forward again as they maximized the elevator’s weight limit and I saw Sir Robert pushing the blue button. He wore a black t-shirt with a pair of jeans and a baseball cap. Wrapped around his neck was a green and black striped scarf.
Sir Robert Leaf was Sammy and Blake’s father and The Greatest King That Ever Lived, King Albert’s dragon. He looked nothing like the figure inside the museum of Etan, and he was nothing like I’d imagined. He was kind, always friendly and no matter how much Blake pissed him off, he would give me a soft look and a friendly smile. It was hard to imagine that he was Chromatic, a Night Villain, and one of the vilest dragons that roamed this world. The people of Paegeia didn’t address him as Sir Robert anymore. Some of them even thought that he‘d had something to do with betraying the King, but I knew better. He missed his rider every single day; he missed his Dragonian.
His wife, Isabel stood next to him with her arm wrapped in his. She wore a parka with a green and black striped beanie. A huge smile was plastered on her face, pure excitement written all over it. She was the spitting image of her sister. She had a twin sister who I was very familiar with. The first time I saw her I’d thought for a second that Constance, the doctor at the Infirmary was Sammy and Blake’s mom.
Sammy had doubled over with laughter when she’d seen the expression on my face when I’d met Isabel for the first time. She was, like Constance, also a Swallow Annex and I was sure if you put them together, you wouldn’t be able to tell them apart just by looking at them. She was also just as kind as her twin and made me feel at home from the moment I stepped inside their house.
The elevator screamed as we ascended into the peak of the mountain. It felt like forever, and a million things that could go wrong filled my head. The door finally opened and we all had to get out so that a couple at the back could exit.
When the door opened for about the fifth time, we spilled out.
We took a sharp left and walked into a stadium that was located at the very top of the mountain.
My knees began to turn into rubber as we neared. I really hated my fear of heights, and it usually kicked in at places like this.
The crevice at the top of the mountain was wide open and a million stars shone in the sky. Bright lights blinded me for a second and when my vision came back millions of seats were stacked in rows, mounted against the wall. It resembled a normal football stadium, except there were no poles, and as far as I could tell no floor either.
VIP boxes were located at the very top of the mountain and I couldn’t recall ever seeing so many people in my entire life.
Two huge bells were elevated in the air and stationed in opposite directions. Flags of all colors were flapping around the crowd. Blue, red, black, yellow, light blue and green holographic flags hung in the air and huge big screens were located on all sides just below the VIP boxes. Somehow Sir Robert spotted Becky and George in the crowd and pointed in their direction. Lucille saw us and waved excitedly.
Blake was still nowhere to be found and I guessed he’d probably snuck inside one of the boxes with someone. After all, he was a famous dragon.
When we finally reached them, Lucille gave me a warm hug while Isabel and Sir Robert greeted her with two kisses on each side of her face.
The vibe coming from the people in the crowd was overpowering. Some had dyed their hair the same color as the team they were rooting for, while some simply had scarves and jerseys on. It was so overwhelming that I didn’t know where to look.
My eyes caught the instrument that had made the horrible racket half an hour ago. Every other person in the crowd had one, and I finally saw the humor in them as I watched George blowing on one too. It made a low, hollow sound and I had to cover my ears as George’s breath lasted for at least two minutes.
The people around us applauded him when he finally ran out of breath and Sir Robert slapped him on the back. Becky and George both had a green beetle painted on their left cheeks.
Turning my gaze back to the crowd my eyes caught on a familiar face. He looked at me and winked.
I looked away quickly as images of my mission inside the cave flashed through my head. What the hell was the dragon from the Sacred Cavern doing at the games?
I looked in his direction again and he simply put a finger to his lips.
I wouldn’t dream of it. Guess the Warbel games are that huge.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls…. Oh and dragons,” a loud voice said over the sound system and the crowd went crazy. “Welcome to the two-hundred-and-fifth annual opening of the Warbel games.”
Fireworks exploded in enormous, glittering star-bursts against the sky. I gaped at the display as it lingered for a few minutes before the sparks descended to the ground. People yelled and cheered with their flags flapping in the air as horns blew.
The voice continued to speak about sponsors and the people who had made all of this possible. It was followed by a short show I’d only seen on TV. It was a display of Chinese dragon puppets twirling in the air. Fire erupted from the puppets and the crowd cheered again. After the show, the voice came back.
“Now, the moment everyone has been waiting for. I’m honored to present this year’s teams. The Sapphires.”
A team of humans flying on their raiders and dragons flew out of a huge door that opened on the opposite side of the arena.
The players all wore white and light blue uniforms, with flying goggles over their eyes and vests for protection. The man that led them did a somersault in the air and landed on his board once again; everyone soaked up his performance and screamed for more.
“That’s Luke. It’s a shame he plays for the Sapphire team, he is so frawesome,” Sammy yelled again and I laughed at her made up word, putting freaking and awesome together. It was something she and Becky were really good at. A close-up of Luke appeared on the big screen. He grinned with his goggles, now resting on top of his head, and waved at the crowd. I knew his face from the poster on Sammy’s bedroom wall.
“Which team are we supporting?”
“Duh,” she pointed to Becky and George’s green shirts. The name “Green Masquerades” stretched across the front and back with the outline of a dragon’s head.
“Go Masquerades,” I said weakly.
Sammy laughed at my pathetic attempt of a cheer.
The voice over the speaker introduced all the players on the team. There were four humans gliding on raiders. Four dragons, a Copper-Horn, a Fire-Tail, a Moon-Bolt and a Night Villain, flew out from an opening in the cave wall and hovered in the air below their human team members.
The next team, the “Yellow Hornets,” flew in from above our heads and the crowd painted and dressed in yellow blew on their horns. Around me yellow flags flapped in the wind created by the beating of the dragons’ wings.
They came to a halt opposite the “Sapphires” and the voice introduced all of the players. One dragon blew a fire bolt into the crowd as a cheer rose, but an invisible wall blocked it before it could do any damage. The crowd rooted as the Sun-Blast dug in and dove into the air.
Another team, wearing blue and black uniforms, was introduced as “The Blue Raiders”. I noticed as each team received their introduction that the dragons all had abilities and almost every team had a fire-breather and a Swallow Annex.
Two more teams, the “Red Crusaders” and “Black Leapers” were introduced to roaring cheers from the crowd. Last was the “Green Masquerades” and I was excited that it was finally our turn to cheer.
Four humans dived out on their boards to a roar of applause. The one in front made a loop on the raider and was followed by a couple more.
“That’s Blaze, she’s amazing on that raider of hers!” Sammy yelled into my ear.
“That’s a girl?” I yelled back.
Sammy’s dimples dented deep into her cheeks. “It’s not just men participating. She’s been the captain of her team for the past four years,” she yelled. “She’s tried every year to get Blake on the team but the Council doesn’t want to budge, and he’s not allowed to participate in his human form either.”
“Why not?”
“Multiple abilities, who knows.”
That’s so unfair.He’s not allowed to do anything. No fun. No wonder he does messed up things.
The booming voice introduced the four humans. Just as Sammy had said, Blaze Trulip was the captain of the team. She wasn’t afraid of anything, and she played the position of a soldier, which meant that she could be everywhere, score, defend, attack and help keep the other team from scoring. The guy next to her was Wilson DJ, who was introduced as the keeper. Richard, the diver, was one of the scorers with Baba Johnson. The last human’s name was Cole Brut. He bowed on his board which made the crowd cheer the loudest. He was a soldier too. The four dragons were Kyle, the Snow Dragon, Peter, the Sun-Blast, Dez, the Copper-Horn and Fick, the Green Vapor. They were the four attackers.
Once the team introductions were made the five referees were introduced. They wore black pants with boots and white and black striped shirts. They each had flying goggles and a baseball cap on their heads.
Sir Robert and George growled at the same time when Peter McIntosh was introduced as one of the referees this year. “He’s a cheat,” George yelled.
Clearly half the crowd didn’t like this Peter McIntosh dude, but he handled it well as the crowd booed at him and he bowed as deep as he could.
“The Yellow Hornets are going to win this year for sure,” Sammy said. “He used to be their coach.”
I shook my head. I’d never been into sports, exactly for that one reason. Dad hated it when they cheated at football. This would have been a game we could have enjoyed together. I could just imagine how he would’ve explained this one to me. I smiled as I imagined him babbling excitedly about scorers and attackers, the words leaping from his mouth while he crouched on the couch, like he did whenever he got excited when his favorite football team was about to score.
He must have missed this, I thought painfully. Knowing my father, this was definitely his sport. He used to yell at what patsies the quarterbacks and football players were whenever he watched the Sunday games. I still didn’t know what a patsy was, but the way he used it, it had to be something lame.
I cheered along with Sammy and everyone else when the teams left the arena. The Yellow Hornets and Sapphires stayed behind for tonight’s game.
The players each took their places in the field, if you could call it that. The two keepers stood in front of the two bells. We were in the perfect spot as each bell faced us on opposite sides. The rest of the players stood in a row in front of the keepers. They looked so small seeing them there, but the big screens captured each of their faces in turn.
One of the referees, not the McIntosh dude, was chosen as the main referee for this game. The other four stood on the sidelines. When the whistle blew the four dragons dove down with the scorer and the two soldiers. Their main target was a huge ax that dangled in the air a few yards below them.
Fire, frost, and acid balls flew through the air in rapid succession. All of them bounced off the invisible shield that protected the crowd and everyone cheered again as one of the humans on the yellow team got to the ax first. His goal was to hit the huge bell on the opposite side. He ducked and dove on his board, missed a couple of fire bolts, as a frost ball smashed into snowflakes right behind him.
The crowd hailed and it turned into what I knew as a wave. It was so fun to participate as it came our way.
When the man with the ax realized he was trapped, he threw it through the air to one of his teammates.
Seeing an opportunity, one scorer from the Sapphire team went for it, and grabbed the ax before the other yellow scorer caught it. The Sapphire crowd jumped up in their seats and yelled with fists pumping in the air.
By the sound of Sammy’s rooting, I knew we were cheering for the Sapphires tonight.
The scorer, which I assumed was Luke, twirled around on his board, ducking and diving through a couple of bolts and with a loud ‘gong’, he hit the bell with the ax. An animation of a dragon jumping up and down with a huge 3 flickering behind him, appeared on all the big screens.
Everyone I’d came with tonight whistled and yelled wildly.
Luke’s human team members congratulated him with high fives, back-slaps and praiseful comments.
I laughed as one of them bumped him with their head.
After the celebration was over, the players went back to their positions and the whistle blew once again.
The Yellow Hornets scored next and then the Sapphires were on fire, scoring three times in a row. Each time that animated dragon would come back, announcing the total points of the team who’d just scored. I now understood why Sammy was so crazy about Luke; he was really fast and always had a smile on his face.
As the game progressed, the crowd drew in a collective breath as a fire bolt headed for one of the human players. It was too late to block it and the fire bolt struck the player. One of his teammates caught him as his board smashed against the shield protecting us from the action. His teammate dropped him off at a Swallow Annex standing off to the side, who I assumed was there for medical reasons.
“This is why this game is really dangerous. You’ve got to pay attention,” Sammy said without taking her eyes off of the commotion.
The crowd cheered when the player got up, but he was way too disoriented to carry on and they had to make do without him.
The game started again when the Yellow Hornets scored another point.
Dragons flew in all kinds of directions, using their abilities on one another, while the scorers tried to gain extra points.
Suddenly, the stadium was silent as all the dragons in the arena froze in mid-air. As if some invisible force controlled them, their heads turned in unison in our direction and they came charging at us with a venomous look in their fiery eyes.


Adrienne Woods,

http://www.authoradriennewoods.com/363091290


If you want to read more, you can find Thuderlight here: Amazon

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