Between Lost & Found – Chapter 7

The girl ran through the woods. She jumped over fallen trees and ducked under low hanging limbs. She heard the thundering footsteps behind her and tried to pick up the pace. One of the dogs ran past her and the rest followed. The pack had grown but were still clumsy with their big paws and large heads.
The girl had noticed that she was changing as well. Her legs and arms had grown longer and thinner, although she wouldn’t have believed that she could get any thinner. But she was stronger than she had ever been. Her legs moved quickly and her eyes had grown keen.
The last dog to pass her cut too close and bumped straight into her leg, tumbling the girl and her long limbs to the ground.
The girl cried out in shock, but when the dog that had bumped her came back to lick her face and nudge at her to get back up, a laugh bubbled out of her.
She had never been so happy.
She lay on her back and watched as a swarm of insects flew amongst the leaves of the trees above. They sparkled blue and reminded the girl of the beetle she had once tried to save. The swarm flew downwards in a cyclone of wings. A couple of them came to rest on the girl’s chest and she had to stop the dog from pouncing on them. 
They were so beautiful. Long bodies and elegant wings. Wasps they were, but they did not sting the girl. They simply walked around on their fragile little legs and then took off again, buzzing pleasantly as they flew away. 
How improbable they were. Such tiny creatures. How was it possible that they contained the same things as she inside their bodies? Brain. Stomach. Heart. And to be able to fly with such small wings, fine and delicate and barely there at all.
As quick as the wasps had flown away, the rest of the dogs, whom she considered her brothers and sisters, came back as well, all crowding and licking and playing. The girl sat up on the soft mossy undergrowth amongst the tumble of wagging tails and boisterous bodies. 
The dog that had rumbled her nudged at her arm until she lifted it to let him under. She hugged his thick neck tightly as he kissed her face. She stroked his soft shiny coat and watched the love on his expressive face. Ears down, he crept further and further on to her lap. She couldn’t stop patting him for a moment, lest he nuzzle his way back under her hands.
‘Oh, Fury. I can’t pat you forever,’ she said to the big black dog that gently lay on top of her. 
She watched his coat gleam as she stroked his neck, but caught sight of her hands. The bones in her fingers had become pronounced, the spaces between joints had lengthened. And she had to think, how many joints are there meant to be on a human hand? There looked to be too many. The tips of her fingers were becoming pointy and her fingernails seemed to be changing color.
‘They’re just dirty,’ she thought, but something about her hands made shivers run up her spine. 
Suddenly, the entire pack’s ears were pricked and they were all staring off into the woods in the same direction. One of the dogs, she couldn’t figure out who began to growl deep in their chest. 
Out of the trees came a beautiful being, a woman, with fiery red hair and green scales instead of skin. She had black horns that rippled and curled from the top of her head. Her face was long and her eyes were large ebony globes cracked with volcanic crimson. She was a dragon. But also a woman. She was naked bar a belt with a sword in its hilt. It was the same dragon lady she had seen before. 
The black dogs continued to growl. They all stood in front of the girl, barricading her from this strange woman. 
‘Sweet girl,’ said the dragon lady in a feminine but rough voice. She then got down on one knee and bowed her head. ‘I mean you no harm.’
At this sign of subordination, the dogs stopped their growls but did not back down, did not lower their hackles. 
The girl stood up and the dragon lady looked up, but quickly put her head back down. 
‘I know you from somewhere,’ said the girl. ‘I have seen you at my home.’
‘Yes, forgive me, sweet girl. I have been …’ she chose her words wisely. ‘… Observing you from afar.’
‘Afar? You came in my home while I was asleep,’ said the girl, for she was not entirely stupid.
‘I have been mesmerized by your beauty and your voice,’ said the woman. ‘News of your crystal voice has traveled far and wide across the kingdom. I had to hear it for myself. I wished to talk to you, but I am afraid that your pack mother wouldn’t allow it.’
The girl heard the words but she was not listening properly. She had never been complimented before, she had especially never been called beautiful. Something grew inside her, a new feeling that she couldn’t quite explain. But she liked it. She wanted to hear the words again.
‘My beauty?’ she asked.
The dragon woman looked up and back down again, keeping her head bowed, horns pointing towards the pack of dogs protecting their sister. ‘Yes, sweet girl, I had heard stories of the human beauty that could sing to the forest. I had to come and see her for myself.’ She chanced another look at the girl and her dogs, but this time she kept looking.
‘And what was it that you wanted to say to me?’ The girl stood up a little taller.
‘Our queen wishes to have a meal with you, she is to have a feast in your honor,’ said the dragon lady.
‘Queen?’ thought the girl.
She stepped in front of the pack and the dragon woman stood up. At full height, she towered over the girl as a tree does a shrub.  
‘What is your name?’ asked the girl.
‘I am Lady Kavain, left hand of the queen and keeper of Dracorllia,’ said the dragon woman with an inflection a human couldn’t mimic.
‘Dracorllia?’ asked the girl, trying her best at the strange accent.
‘Yes, that is my home, where all the Dracorlla people live. It is on the other side Evermeer,’ said Kavain.
‘Evermeer?’ asked the girl.
Kavain smiled, showing her sharp teeth, glistening white. ‘Yes, sweet girl, that is where we live. That is here,’ she said with a sweep of a taloned hand.
The girl felt excitement building up inside her. There was a queen and she wanted to meet with her. She was throwing a feast in her honor. She tried to keep her decorum, but the smile touched her lips, escaping like a bug trapped in cupped hands, squeezing through the cracks between fingers. 
‘When is this feast?’ asked the girl. She may not have been stupid, but she was still young and impressionable, hopeful.
‘Why, tomorrow night, sweet girl,’ said Kavain. She said night as if that was an actual thing. But Kavain had not seen darkness since she was a child and the last human king had ruled. 
The girl laughed a little, for she had not seen nightfall either. ‘How will I know when it is night?’ the girl asked.
‘I will return tomorrow and escort you to the castle.’ Kavain looked over the girl. ‘And bring you some clothes. Maybe you should also think of taking a bath. It is rude to be in the presence of the queen smelling of dog.’ This last sentence made Kavain kick herself. She immediately saw the look on the girl’s face change. Kavain bowed her horned head toward her and averted her eyes. ‘Forgive me, sweet girl, I only wish to serve the queen and yourself.’
‘That’s okay, Lady Kavain. You did not offend me,’ the girl lied.
‘I must be off to inform the queen that you will be able to attend. Her Grace will be quite pleased,’ said Kavain, straightening up once more.
‘I can’t wait,’ said the girl.
Kavain bowed for the last time and then turned to leave. She tried not to think about the young human girl and her sweetness. She could see it on her face, her excitement at such a prospect as to meet the queen. Instead, she thought about her own daughter. Her beautiful Kavina. And all the other Dracorlla children in her home. The death of this one human child would continue to save theirs.

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