Aiora had nerves of steel, but the idea of that cursed dragon returning sent her for the hills. For now, she was safe, but for how long? How much longer would she have to wait for the Silver Dragon to return?
By the looks of it, days…
Aiora shuddered. She was a strong woman, with her unrelenting mana and sharp mind, but there were a few things in Denzethea that nobody should be cursed to know. If she had to, she would abandon all she knew and destroy anything in her path to escape it. It was simply that dire.
Just as I had in the past.
But, the past was the past. There was no use fretting on what could have been. So, Aiora did the only sane thing she could do and swiftly walked to the bath house.
Standing at the entryway, the water was motionless in the pools and there was not a soul to be seen. Aiora took a few careful steps in, holding over her personal dagger in case anything tried to jump out at her.
She did not leave Cateline out of fear. She left her out of realizing the past was coming for her. Coming for Lighthelm. Coming for all of them. Her history was bloody—and one of the only reasons the headmistress allowed her into this academy.
If she didn’t, Traburg in its entirety would be ash. Nothing more than soot beneath her boots. There was no use denying that, but that hardly meant she would go around spreading it.
Many didn’t know, but Jaspar served to be more than a scandal that stayed in the headmistress’s office too long. No, he was far more. He was the only line of defense when it came to keeping Lighthelm’s deepest and darkest secrets under wraps. Unfortunately, that meant Jaspar was owed a debt. Her life, to be clear, and that debt was not cheap. So, she figured adding to that debt was minimal in comparison to the price to be paid. It didn’t hurt to alert one of his assistant scholars that there was an emergency he needed to attend to.
“I didn’t think you’d come,” Aiora whispered as feet approached her.
“It isn’t often you ask me to meet with you, Lady Aiora.”
Aiora scoffed. “No Lady, please. I am not deserving of that title.”
“At one point in time, you were. Or, am I thinking of a different Lady of Javunger?”
Aiora narrowed her eyes and spun to face Jaspar. His face, which was wrinkled at the sockets and revealing just a hint to his true age, twisted in shock as she greeted him with an agonizingly terrifying glare.
“I said no Lady, and I meant it. You cannot be saying those things and expect people to simply ignore. That’s no ordinary title.”
“Alright, La—I mean, alright Aiora. What can I do for you tonight? Why did you ask me to meet you at the bathhouse?”
Jaspar’s expression of terror transitioned into anxiety, turning over his shoulder to make sure no scholars saw him frollicking amongst the common bathing quarters. Aiora figured he spent his evenings bathing in Leolina’s quarters. Wherever that was.
This amused her.
“I trusted you once with my life, Jaspar. Elven blood was on the line, and you did everything you could to ensure my safety.”
“That was guaranteed from day one, Aiora.”
“Still, I do not have that level of trust in my closest friends. So, I have come to the decision to trust you again.”
This was when that dumbfounded look vanished. Jaspar often played the fool, especially around Leolina, but Aiora knew he was no fool. He was wiser than his days, however many they were, and held the sadistic power only Dark Elves could hold. The same elves that were long dead. Extinct.
This time, when he looked her straight on, he was grimacing. “I thought we understood the level of debt your family owes me. Since you are the last of the Henderway bloodline, that debt belongs to you.”
“And we are both aware of the price I owe. Why else do you think I serve as the headmistress’s slave? I find no joy teaching that newcomer. Who is she, anyway?”
“I am not sure what you’re asking.”
Aiora took a few steps closer to Jaspar, nostrils flared and eyes boring into his. “Nothing but a puppet,” she spat.
He wiped the spit from his cheek and retreated just enough to create some space. “I will not stand here and allow you to belittle me like this, Aiora. You are the debtor, not me.”
Without awaiting another response, Jaspar turned and began to walk away. His arms were tense and knuckles whitened from clenching his hands into fists. She had the power.
“The Silver Dragon is coming.”
“And he is coming soon. Seraphine has decreed it so.”
After he took an audible, shaky breath, he turned to face Aiora. Although she could not see it, the runes along the back of her neck glowed brighter as the pride overcame her.
“When should we make preparations?”
Varin stood at the end of the corridor, his ear pressed against the corner wall. He could hear the echoes of two voices as he was readying himself for a bath. One that was undoubtable, the other he could hardly place.
“If it were up to me, Jaspar, I’d be preparing for war,” the feminine voice cooed. It was surely sarcastic, the low pitch prolonging the word ‘war.’
“This is no laughing matter, Aiora. Are you being serious with me, here?” The male said.
“I have never felt more terror than I do right now. Why would I kid?”
“The headmistress has to know. She’s the only way we are getting out of here alive,” the masculine voice responded.
“Then, lead the way. I have some things to tell Leolina, anyway—about that precious newcomer of hers.”
Stepping around the corner, Varin watched the glistening runes on the back of Aiora’s neck fade as she walked down the corridor, the man alongside her taller in stature. He had long, white hair and skinny arms. Jaspar.
Narrowing his gaze toward them, he dropped his belongings on a wooden bench and walked after them. Varin made sure to keep his distance, for if he alarmed them there was no telling what they would do. Aiora had a different demeanor about her right now, from the exaggerated and casual way she said war to the way she sauntered through the foyer. Her eyes did not leave the space in front of her, chin upright and posture straight.
Jaspar, on the other hand, looked anxious. His fingers tapped against the fabric of his pants, his head bobbing left and right, as if to ensure they were not being followed. Just as they disappeared into the headmistress’s wing, Varin decided to stop his pursuit and instead pay a visit to something he had been avoiding since he discovered it.
Afterall, Aiora had obviously referred to Cateline while discussing this tension with Jaspar. Perhaps it was time he started digging at that gut feeling he had about Cateline—the worst thing she could be was a traitor. A liar. A murderer, perhaps, but nothing more. More importantly, though, he needed to build Cateline’s trust if he wanted answers since Aiora was off on her own pursuit founded out of self interest, or so it seemed.
A visit to the western wing was long overdue, but he could not go alone. He feared what magic truly resided in that dust.