It was late, and I was helping Markida with the dishes. The sun had already set, and the moon was large and bright. When I awoke Telion was already gone. Markida had mentioned something about seeing him on the beach and I wondered whether he was looking for the cube. I’d scared him with my panic attack earlier.
Karina was asleep, curled up by the fire, when suddenly he started, pricking up his ears. The door burst open and a soaking wet Telion stumbled inside, dripping water everywhere, seaweed in his hair. Markida bustled over to him, handing him a blanket.
“What, in the name of Tamir, have you been doing?!” She exclaimed.
“Here!” He said, ignoring Markida’s valiant efforts to dry his hair, and walking towards me. “Is this it?” He asked, an almost pleading look in his eye as he pushed my red satchel toward me. I took it. Inside was the Cube, glowing softly.
“Yes! You found it!” I flung my arms around his neck, startling him. “Thank you so much!”
“Found what?” Markida asked, peering over my shoulder, looking into the bag. She gasped. “Is that? No. Surely not. It can’t be.”
“What?” Telion asked her. She’d gone as pale as a ghost.
“Give it to me.” She reached out her hand, and I hesitantly handed it over. “What, may I ask, is a pretty girl like you doing with this?”
“I’m taking it to Mount Telmith. To seal it away as it should have been, five hundred years ago.” I explained, “That was where we were going, before we got caught in that storm.”
“You need a mage to do that.” She interjected.
“We had a mage, but he died.” I replied.
Telion spoke up.
“I’m a mage.”
I turned to him.
“You are. Now we’d have to take a bit of a detour so you could learn some new spells, but yes, that could work…” I mused.
Markida promptly interrupted me.
“He’s not going anywhere, and neither is the Cube. It needs to be protected.”
“I can protect it!” I said indignantly.
“Actually, it appears you can’t. Telion found it at the bottom of the ocean, by the looks of it.” She glanced at the still wet boy.
“I was in a shipwreck! I almost died!”
“It needs to be kept safe. I shall keep it here, out of harm’s way.”
“I am Princess Katiyana, second in line for the throne of Noranka, descendent of the Dragonfather. You will return the cube to me.” I demanded, angrily.
“Princess?” Telion asked, confused. Markida rolled her eyes.
“I don’t care whether you’re the queen to all Kantor. The Cube stays here. This is my house, and my village. My rules apply.” She said.
“But..!” I started, but was cut off by Telion.
“Could someone please, in the name of Tamir, explain to me what is going on? We’ve got cubes and princesses and mountains, but it’s not making sense!” he burst out, pleading.
Markida’s face softened. She sighed as she walked over to a large tapestry on the wall.
“Telion, have I ever told you the story this tells?” She asked him. He nodded.
“Of course. It’s about Tamir, the Dragonfather, and how he raised an army to defeat Killion Latemir and his dragons. They beat him and sent him away on a burning ship, but he promised revenge, even as the flames licked around his feet, he shouted that one day he would come and take back what was rightfully his. Then Tamir left with his wife for the north to train others in the art of dragon taming, and hasn’t been seen since.”
“Yes. I suppose that was the story I told you, but it wasn’t the whole story. You see, Killion Latemir’s dragons didn’t fight for him out of choice. He controlled their minds using this Cube. It was terrible. He caused devastation across the land, and the mind control was painful for the dragons, eventually killing them. Tamir and the dragon tamers built up an army, and after great losses managed to send the enemy into retreat. That wasn’t the end of it though. Tamir knew that Killion Latemir would someday return, so he ordered the Cube be sealed away under Mount Telmith. Hundreds gave their lives to be its eternal guardians, but they had a traitor in their mids. A young mage. One fool who wanted to live. She stole the cube and made her escape just before the doors were sealed. It is said that the dead wait inside ready to march forth on the world to seek revenge on the traitor and her family, destroying all that lie in their path, blinded by hate.
“The traitor didn’t make it far. The dragons hunted her down and killed her. The cube disappeared with her daughter, and slipped into legend. It hasn’t been seen since. Until now.”
She looked at me pointedly. I stared back, unblinking.
“I’m going to go and find my fool of a husband. We have important matters to discuss. Behave.” She glanced between the two of us, before turning away and heading towards the ruckus coming from the tavern.
“I’m leaving.” I announced as soon as she was out of earshot. Telion turned to me, raising an eyebrow.
“Tomorrow night I’m getting the Cube and leaving.” I repeated. “You could come, you know. I could use your help. It’d give you a taste of adventure, and we may be able to get you a dragon.”
“Er…” Telion faltered.
“Think on it. If you decide to come meet me at the well at midnight. Only take what you can’t live without.”
He furrowed his brow and I smiled.