Blake looked like someone who was going to fight a war in space, and he was ready for it.
His suit looked slightly different than mine. He was wearing special kind of shoes, with white pants and a white vest that showed off his mark.
I didn’t like that, as it was also his giveaway.
He tugged at the pants. “I feel like I just joined a boy band.”
I laughed. “You are in a boy band.”
“Not what I meant.” He looked at me and it was as if he could read my mind again. “We’ve been through this before.” He touched my face. “Nothing is going to go wrong.”
“Did you get everything we need?”
He lifted some of the flaps in his vest. Each pocket carried a type of gun or bullet with different-colored serums. “We are prepared. He will go down, and we are going to kill this son of a bitch.”
“Now give me your hand.”
I did as he asked, and he took out a glove from his left pocket. They were my gloves for my axes.
He put it on for me and kissed the jewel on top. He repeated this action with the other one.
I wanted to cry, and for some reason I felt like the tears were close for him too. Silence lingered for a few seconds. Blake didn’t even look at me.
“You need to breathe.” He finally spoke and I looked up. “It’s all you have to do today, okay?”
I nodded. “You too.” I sighed and grabbed him around his waist. Don’t cry, he is not going to die, and you aren’t either. You will find the missing ingredient. The Saadedine was going to die, not us.
“It’s time,” Emanuel said and I opened my eyes and let go of Blake.
He grabbed my hand tightly in his and led the way.
This was it, we were going to meet the others who were stationed close to Areeth.
I climbed into the SUV that carried Emanuel and King Helmut.
Sir Robert was going with Becky, and the other SUV would bring King Caleb and some more guards.
We drove to the elevator at a small port. Many people waited for us, some cried, plenty prayed, and we all took it in as we entered the elevators.
You can do this, Elena. You are well trained, trust your reflexes, trust your instincts.
We found a small gathering at Areeth as well. We took the elevator that went to David’s place as they’d made camp close by.
Constance and Annie were among them with Connie, Gertrude, David and Charles.
I ran over to Constance and Annie and hugged them.
“You are going to be fine. Trust Blake, Elena. He will never let anything happen to you.”
“Becky!” Lucille called.
I couldn’t even look at her.
Constance saw this, and pulled my chin back to meet her gaze. “She is fine, just a bit overwhelmed. She isn’t angry. It’s a big day for her.”
“I love you, Constance.” I hugged her again. “You were like the mother I never had.”
“And you, the daughter I missed so much.” She kissed me on my head and sniffed. “Trust Blake.”
I nodded again and saw Blake hugging his mom. Sir Robert was also there.
It only hit me now that her entire family was going to fight this war, and she had to sit on the sidelines and watch.
Sammy was crushed in between Blake and Isabel. They just had to make it. They had no choice.
Annie was next. “You make sure that thing is dead, you hear? You can do it. I know you can. You and Plucky.”
I couldn’t help but laugh. My eyes were thick with tears, but I laughed.
“Come here.” I hugged her even tighter. “I am going to see you again. I know I will.”
“Of course you will.” She sounded so sure of herself. “I know you will.”
I hugged both of them again, and when we broke, Queen Margerite was there too. She gave me a kiss on my temple and hugged me too.
“I’ve buried too many young children. Promise me I won’t have to attend your funeral too.”
“I promise,” I said, even though I knew I couldn’t really make such a promise.
She found King Helmut, and he put his arms around her. He wielded his shield immediately, and I could see her laughing but couldn’t hear a word he was saying.
Isabel came over and hugged me too. “Just don’t you dare die, please.”
“I am not planning to,” I said and hugged her tighter.
I found Lucille’s eyes on me as she just held Becky tightly, and to my surprise, she let one of her arms open and Isabel nodded for me to go.
I ran to her and hugged her tightly. “I’m so sorry that I withheld that from you.”
“Don’t be. It’s all good. You two must just breathe, okay.”
We both nodded.
“Love you, Mom.”
“Love you more,” both of them said with tears in their eyes.
“We have to go,” Becky said, and she hugged Lucille one more time. “You are the best mom ever.”
“Don’t you dare say your goodbyes, Rebecca Johnson. You get to your father and you come straight home, you hear?”
“I promise, Mom.”
She wiped away Becky’s tear, something she almost never did, then wiped her own.
“See you soon.”
“You bet.” Becky gave her a beautiful smile.
She walked over to George.
“And remember what we spoke about, George!” Lucille shouted.
“With my dying breath!” George yelled back.
“It’s not funny.” Becky slapped him really hard, and he laughed, rubbing the spot on his arm with which her hand had connected.
We said goodbye to so many people: Connie, Gertrude, David, all of them. Even Charles. Some of those we had brought back were going to fight too – fight to end their fear, for revenge and to get back their farms.
Four SUVs were waiting for us, and we quickly filled them one by one quickly.
Blake and I grabbed one with Sammy, Dean, Sir Robert, King Helmut and Emanuel.
He took the driver’s seat and each pulled off in turn.
I stared at all the people who had come here today to bid us farewell and good wishes.
They waved their flags and when they finally disappeared, it felt as if I could breathe again.
I really wanted to see them all again, but I wanted it at no cost. I wanted Blake next to me, alive and not in some stupid coffin that was going to disappear into the water.
If not, then there would have to be two of those coffins.
When Emanuel reached the top, both Blake and my eyes grew.
Goose bumps flushed my skin. Before us was a sea of warriors, ready. Dragons, and their riders, shifters, already in their true form, foot soldiers, and many Metallic dragons. Fin-Tails to be precise. “They came back,” I said softly.
“Most of them came back. We got the call from the port that the Wall was creating some sort of glitch as they flew in colonies to get here.” King Helmut turned around, and I could see the emotion in his eyes.
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
“So that we could see the looks on both your faces.”
“Close your mouth, Blake. The dragon war had many more dragons than this,” Emanuel chirped from the front, and Sir Robert laughed.
“Those were the days.”
King Helmut slapped him on the arm. “Will be again, Sir Robert.”
He laughed at that and watched out his window, sighing. He was going to see my father real soon.
The SUV stopped and someone was already addressing them over a PA system. It was someone I’d never seen before.
Then Blake got out and the entire crowd started to cheer.
I couldn’t see what he was doing, as I was still inside the SUV.
I took a deep breath and climbed out the same time King Helmut did.
He was wearing a completely different outfit and had shaved his mustache. Why, well, I didn’t ask. Probably war reasons.
He looked so different.
Everyone bowed when they saw him, and we approached the podium.
King Helmut addressed them first. He spoke about my dad, about the gratitude he was feeling that they had all come to fight, to free Etan. He promised Goran would die and everyone cheered again.
The side of my mouth curled, knowing that Goran had no idea what was coming for him. I looked at Blake; he didn’t share my emotion. What was going through his mind? Had a part of him looked forward to having Goran as his rider?
I swallowed hard.
Blake spoke next.
“Today all of us come together. Human, dragon, shifter, to face the greatest threat to our peace we have ever known. Today is the day we say no more!” At this, a cheer rippled through the crowd.
“We stand here not divided by our differences but bound by our desire to free those who have been enslaved, fix those who have been broken and take our revenge on those who are guilty.”
As he spoke, his voice began to change, sending a sea of goose bumps rushing over my skin.
“I won’t lie to you. Many of us won’t make it back, but I swear to you your sacrifice will not be in vain. Standing together as one we will free our fallen brothers and sisters. We will free Etan!”
As he said those words, he let out a shout that echoed in the soul of every person listening.
Then the entire crowd went crazy as he exploded into his dragon form. He was a mixture of purple, red and white. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.
Becky and George cheered the loudest, even Sammy joined in as he flew into the air.
It riled them up.
Dragons growled like I never heard them growl before. It wasn’t scary, it was fierce.
The other animals all made their sounds, and the riders screamed for war.
They were ready.
Blake prepared to land and I couldn’t help but stare at him.
The suit covered his face and his entire body, paws, everything. It was stunning.
He looked majestic, and I’d never felt so proud to know he was my dragon – the dragon that would give me the moon and stars, the dragon that would love me forever no matter what today’s outcome was.
To me, that was enough.
I didn’t need to know what the stupid dent was all about, he’d showed it to me the past few months through all the little things he did. A spell couldn’t do that; it just wasn’t that powerful.
It has to be real, it was real.
He moved toward me and transformed back into his human form as he reached the steps.
The white suit ran like a gel over his perfectly sculpted body then grew back to the ops suit that was made just for him. He kissed me fiercely and smiled as everyone cheered again.
“You like my display?” he asked.
I laughed. “It was totally frawsome.”
He laughed. “Let me guess, awesome.”
“Whatever you say.”
I kissed him one more time. Remember this kiss, Elena, in case it is the last one.
We went in at five that afternoon. It was night time, early morning hours in Etan.
I took King Helmut and Emanuel through and they waited for King Caleb and his guards.
All of them sucked in a breath, as this was the first time they’d seen Etan after so many years.
Their entire group was here, and I knew the minute I went back for the others they would be gone. This was it, as I said my farewell to them.
I grabbed King Helmut around his chest. “Thank you for everything,” I said.
“This isn’t goodbye. You will see your father alive. That is my promise.”
Emanuel hugged me next. “Take care of Blake, and please just make sure your heart is beating at the end of this.”
I nodded. “You too.”
King Caleb nodded once and they waited for me to go back into the Creepers before they left.
Blake was next. Then it was Becky, George, Sammy and Dean.
I had to say goodbye to them as the minute Sir Robert came through the Creepers. Our paths were going to change.
I grabbed George first. “Promise me you will make sure she gets through this.”
“I won’t give up without a fight. She will be fine.”
I wasn’t talking about their operation. I was talking about afterward.
I smiled and remembered the first time I’d seen George. His dragon form had scared the shit out of me. “Such a long road we’ve traveled down. You are a cool Moon-Bolt.”
He hugged me again. “This isn’t goodbye. Don’t you dare. Think of the consequences. I’m not going to lose my princess and my best friend. We’ve lost way too many friends already.”
I nodded. “Same to you.”
Becky was next. “I know you are fierce, you’ve scared the living crap out of me a couple of times. You will be fine.”
“Remember our promise, Elena.”
I nodded. “Say hi to your dad, and mine.”
Sammy was last. She shook her head as tears sat heavy in her eyes. “I won’t choose. I refuse. So you both better get through this, you hear?” She looked at Blake too. “Don’t split up. Stay with one another.”
“Sammy,” Blake said.
“I don’t care if you are the Rubicon. You are my brother, and you are like my sister, so don’t you dare die on me. None of you better die on me or I will burn your asses,” she said as a tear rolled down her face.
“We won’t.” Blake hugged her.
“Take care of her, Dean,” Blake said.
“With my life.” He slapped Blake’s hand into a firm shake.
“Elena, you should go get my father.”
I nodded and went back into the Creepers.
Sir Robert was just like Emanuel; he didn’t even flinch as I took him through. He gasped at the inside, like all of them had, and made sure the orbs were securely in place.
“They will come down, Sir Robert.”
He smiled and we walked on. I pulled him back. “I need to speak to you about something.”
“No, I do. I’m sorry for that beating.”
He shook his head and smiled. “You are a lot like your father, and mother.”
“I wasn’t finished yet. Sorry about not telling you sooner.”
He sighed. “Like I told you before, a part of me always knew that your father was alive.”
I nodded and smiled. “One more thing. Make sure Blake will be okay, if –”
“Don’t you dare. I am not going to do that. So you’d better make sure that you stay alive. Dents can’t live without their riders. It’s almost impossible for a normal dragon bond, but somehow we pull through. It’s not going to be the same for my son. So you fight because I won’t promise you that.” He sounded angry.
I took a huge breath. “Okay.”
“Just tell my father then that I’m sorry, he will be disappointed that I disobeyed him.”
“Tell him yourself.”
He turned around and waited for me. I took his hand and we walked out the other side.
They went in the opposite direction after Blake and his father shared a hug.
“Be safe,” Blake said.
I watched Sir Robert leave with all of my friends.
“What was that about?”
“What?” I asked.
“In there, Elena. I heard everything you said. You are not going to die, and neither am I. You get that.” He sounded pissed off.
“I know, I’m just –”
“There is no just. You are not going to die. We made that decision last night together.”
I went back and brought in Raymond, who was going to come with us. He knew where we had to go.
When we came out, Raymond took the path that led to the farms, but quickly changed direction and went in a totally different direction.
Blake didn’t say a word. I didn’t even wield my shield. Why was I so stupid? I should’ve wielded my shield.
I can’t die, and neither can he. I started wondering what the missing ingredient was all over again.
We met up with troops about three hours after leaving the Creepers. Blake gave me a robe from his bag and pulled one over his shoulders for himself.
He didn’t use a spell again to make us look like the ten-year-old and her father.
It wasn’t pretend time anymore; this was go time.
The group took us into an underground facility and we discussed the plan again.
They had a bit more intel on the Saadedine. The pictures were blurry; someone had died taking one of them.
It was all so real now, but still, we couldn’t capture what he was really like. It was too dark.
“So he is in the dungeons?” Blake asked.
“Yeah, that’s what we’ve got.”
I started to feel tired. I should’ve gone to bed earlier last night. I should’ve slept more.
We were waiting for eleven in the morning to strike. There were still six more hours or so to go.
I didn’t want to listen to any of this anymore and went to sit on the floor in one of the corners. I leaned my head against the wall and closed my eyes. Sleep didn’t want to come, and I felt Blake’s warm body sitting near me.
He pulled me closer and rested his chin on my head as I pulled my legs over his.
“You are not going to die. We will stay together, fight together, and we will make it together. You can help with the Saadedine.”
“You bet your ass I’m going to help.” I was always going to help then I realized that he had been planning to ditch my ass in some safe place and let me sit this one out.
“Just promise me one thing. Breathe.”
“I’ve promised plenty of people that one.”
“I’m not plenty of people, I’m Blake Leaf.”
“Fine, I promise I will breathe, Blake Leaf.”
“Already rubbing off on you, huh?”
I laughed softly. “It was bound to happen. We spend like every minute of the day together.”
“Not long enough,” he said as he rubbed my arm and kissed me on the top of my head.
I smiled. We were silent for a while and my mind went back to what-ifs. “I know you don’t want to talk about it, but how would you picture us if we had grown up together?”
“It would’ve been completely the opposite. Knowing that I had a rider out there, even if she has a scrawny ass.”
“I thought my ass was sexy.”
He chuckled. “It is to me, but others might think it’s a bit scrawny.” He smiled then huffed as if a memory had flashed through his mind. “It would’ve been different. That I know. I would’ve been claimed a long time ago. Lucian would still be alive, maybe even Brian too, as this, this would’ve never happened.”
“Did you speak to your dad, and find out if there was a Cooper and Marica warning them?”
“I asked if he was sure nobody had warned them. There wasn’t. My father would’ve killed Goran himself if there had been someone like that.”
“It was just a silly dream.”
“You think we would’ve been friends?”
“The best,” he said. “Turning into something much deeper later on.” I watched how his fingers entwined with mine.
He smelled so good; even on his way to kill a beast, he smelled good. “I cannot help but think what sort of a mother she would’ve been.”
“You would’ve been different, that is for sure.”
“I don’t think so. I mean, I wouldn’t be like Arianna.”
“You could’ve been best friends.”
“No, I would still be best friends with your sister, as she would’ve been at the palace too, just like you.”
“So you really have wondered about this a lot?”
I smiled. “More than you know.”
He kissed me on my temple. “We will never know. It is no use wondering about things that never were.”
We were silent then and I looked at our hands, fingers, entwined.
“I love you, Elena Watkins,” Blake said.
I looked at him and smiled. “I love you more.”