Chapter III: A Glimpse of the Past
After he cleaned her up and treated her wounds, Leinheart gave her a wooly blanket to help her dry off. She was able to stand up on her own again by this time. He escorted her a different room. In it, she could see a bed, a potted plant in each corner, a small desk, and an armor suit hanging on the wall for decoration. It was cracked in several areas, but otherwise, it was obviously new. She sat down on the bed. It was very comfortable, almost immediately relaxing her.
"I still need to wash your clothes," Leinheart stated,"so until then, make yourself at home." She nodded, and watched the dragon as he walked away. It was then she noticed something strange about him. A mark on his back made her gasp. On the lower spine was the same mark that was on her thigh, the dragon brand. Before she could ask about it, he was already out the door.
The moments passed. The pup puzzled to herself, wondering about the mark. Why does he have one? Why would his own people do such a thing to him? The more she thought about it, the more confusing it seemed. She began to glance around the room, and from the corner of her eye, she noticed something she hadn't before. On the table was a small, black book. A quill pin laid next to it. Her first thought was that it was a journal. She was all curious now. She stood up and approached it. As she picked up the book, she kept thinking to herself. She knew it was wrong to read it, but the answers she was looking for were more than likely inside. So she opened it to the first page, and began reading it.
The journal dates back two years prior to the current event:
'I always thought eighteen would be the biggest year of my life. Ever since I was a hatchling, I always dreamed of the day when I would become a knight to the hierarch. I began training at thirteen, pushing myself beyond my limits. I was excited when I finally turned eighteen. I was able to meet the grade easily, and was enlisted into the army.'
'I was immediately recognized by General Zokorov, the most dangerous and terrifying dragon in Fantasia. He asked for me personally. I was nervous just being in his presense. I thought serving in his troop would be the greatest experience of my life. But I was young, and naive.'
'Among all the dragons in the troop, I only made one friend out of them. Her name was Jade, and she had just enlisted as well. But the gestures she would sometimes make made me think that maybe she had feelings for me. But I told her I wasn't interested. I wasn't looking for a mate, and I wanted to remain friends. She took it hard, but she understood.'
'It wasn't long before I received my first assignment. It was simple, or at least, it was suppose to be. We were to raid a nearby wolf village, and kill anything that opposed us. Most commanders would've captured any survivors and make some kind of profit out of them. But not Zokorov. With him, it's always 'leave none alive'. We waited until nightfall. The wolves never saw us coming. It took only minutes for us to slay the entire pack, and burn their village to the ground.'
'When the raid was over, I was ordered to find and finish off any survivors. I only found one. He was only a pup, but 'orders are orders', I thought. I was about to finish him. But then he opened his eyes, and looked at me. When those eyes met mine, I just couldn't go through with it. I started to wonder what the point of all of this was.'
'Zokorov noticed, and told me that if I didn't kill the pup, then he would do it himself after he killed me. He was always the kind of person you would never say 'no' to. But I refused, and told him what I thought about him and the cause. The next thing I knew, I was just barely hanging off the ground by the throat, by his bare hand. I thought he was going to choke me to death, but at the last minute, he decided not to. He had me arrested instead, and ordered Jade to do it. She was just as afraid of him as anyone else, so I didn't hold anything against her when she went through with it. Zokorov stayed true to his word and killed the pup. I could hear his cries as I was being taken away.'
'When we returned to the city, I was tried by the Heirarch for disobeying a commanding officer. In our culture, a crime this severe is punishable by death. But because of my youth, it would've been considered unethical. Instead, I was branded, and sentenced to ten years in prison.'
'The dragon crest, the symbol of our people, is normally used to show ownership. But it can also be used as a sign of punishment. Dragons with this brand are forbidden from leaving the city, and are often treated like criminals. But in truth, the only crime they really committed was standing up for what they thought was right. But compared to everyone else here now, I'm nothing more than a lowly peasant, and am treated as such.'
'I can't explain it, but something inside of me changed that day. I had a lot of time to think while I was in prison, and now I can't help but wonder, why am I here? What was I really fighting for? I was only in prison for over a month, until I had a visitor. His name was Kiro. He was the blacksmith in Valleshire. He was apparently present on the day of my trial, and he had been scraping and saving just for a chance to meet me. He told me he was taking me away from this place. I wasn't sure if I could trust him, or anyone for that matter. But even so, I decided to go with him. I figured anything he had in store for me would be better than sitting alone in a cold, dark cell.'
'After a few months, I became his pupil. He taught me everything he knew about smithing. I knew it meant a lot to him since he never had children of his own. Over time, I began to look up to him as a father figure. I suppose it was only natural, since I grew up without parents. And deep down, I knew he looked at me as a son.'
'After over a year of training, I finally became a fully fledged blacksmith. Kiro and I became partners. He even let me test out any finished weapons to make sure they were fit to sell. For a while, everything was perfect. But then one day, Kiro suddenly became ill. I thought it was only a matter of time due to his advanced age. As much as it hurt to think about, I knew his time was running out.'
'I had hoped he would get better over time. He didn't. It progressively got worse by the day. Eventually, it got to the point to where he couldn't even stand on his own feet. It went on for weeks. I did everything I could for him. But nothing worked. The day finally came when I knew it would be his last. But I refused to leave his side. I'll never forget his last words to me: I'm blessed to have met you, and I'm proud to call you my son.'
'He handed me a dagger. And then he told me,"My father gave this to me. And now, I want you to have it." It was a beautiful work of art. I suppose I only noticed because I was a smith. A silver blade, and a golden handle with a special design: on the grip was a dragon sitting on a ledge with it's tail hanging off. The wings of the dragon served as the arms of the handle, each with a short chain hanging of the tip. Kiro passed away shortly after he gave it to me.'
'I was crushed. The only other friend I ever had was gone. It's still hard to believe that was only a few months ago.' The rest of the pages were left blank.
Shadow had a lot to think about after reading the journal, but unfortunately, she didn't have much time, as the sound of a familiar voice caught her attention.
"Is there something I can help you with?" Her heart skipped a few beats, and she almost jumped, turning around to see Leinheart standing behind her.
"Leinheart! How long have you been standing there?"
"I'm sorry I read your journal," she said fearfully, with the feeling that he would do something."I was just.."
"It's okay. I know why you did it," he finally interrupted. She seemed to calm down.
"So, you're not mad?"
"Well, I am a little upset, but in a way, it was probably better for you to learn this way."
"You mean about why you seem so different?" He nodded."It's awful that they would do such a thing to you."
"Yes. But truthfully, what really hurts me is that I couldn't save that pup. When I saw you in pain, I couldn't bear to let the same thing happen again. Not while there's something I can do to stop it. And I assure you, as long as you're with me, nothing will happen to you." As she thought about it, only one response came to mind.
"I don't know what to say, except thank you."
"It's no trouble. But next time you want to know something, just ask."
"I will," she assured,"I promise."