Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Facing Azura

The visual prompt:
Our main characters are:
A Blue Dragon ~ A dragon that breathes frost. She's a cold intellectual.
A Cyclops ~ What he lacks in depth perception he makes up for in lasers.
The special object in this story is:
A Tempest in a Teapot ~ This brew is storming.
Our story takes place in:
The Underworld ~ You always thought this place was beneath you, yet here you are.
I can clearly remember watching helplessly as the Blue Dragon flew away with Lady Lamia's Majik Book of Spells. I remember thinking, when it happened, "How am I supposed to tell the old witch that I had lost her precious tome to a monster?"
It had been a cold winter's day, and I had simply been walking along the country road, engrossed in my studies and minding my own business, when she appeared completely out of nowhere and landed right in front if me. Perhaps my nose had been too deep in the book to have noticed the dark shadow of her flying above me.
She was as tall as a house, with wings thin and translucent as ice. She was a beautiful creature, in a fierce kind of way. She roared in my face, and frightened me so much that I couldn't even scream. I simply threw my book up in the air and ran for the hills, hiding behind a thick-trunked tree.
I thought she would surely give chase and eat me, but she wasn't interested in hunting young humans for lunch. Instead, she inspected the fallen spell book that had landed in the dirty snow. I watched her as she picked it up from the ground with her thin, scaly blue claws, brushed the cover clean, and lifted off gracefully with her icy wings. I couldn't help but admire her power of flight, because her wings seemed so thin and fragile that they couldn't possibly lift the blue bulk of her so easily, but they did. She quickly became a distant flapping light blue dot against the lighter blue of the sky.
I came out from behind the tree with a gloved hand to my chest, feeling my thundering heart. I thanked my lucky stars that I was still alive, grateful that the dragon hadn't attacked me. But then I realized that my life had been spared at a great cost.
I imagined that when Lady Lamia heard what had happened to her book, she would have preferred it if I'd been killed.

"Why hello, Trixie. Oh, do come in out of the cold, my child, there's a dear."
Shivering with my ragged red scarf pulled all the way up to my neck and covering my nose, I nodded to her in thanks and stepped inside the witch's cottage. It was much warmer inside, so I could remove my winter hat and pull my scarf down a bit. I held my hands over the fireplace to get the feeling back in my fingers.
"How lovely it is to see you again. I didn't expect to see you back at my house so soon." Lamia limped over to her thick armchair and eased herself down into it.
She may have been a witch, but she acted much nicer than you would have thought. She looked like she could have been my grandmother. She was, as a matter of fact, a great deal older than Gran Gran, though she didn't look it. Her thin white hair was like the work of spiders, many cobwebs criss-crossing around her head. Her face was pale and wrinkled with age, but her eyes still shone with youth and energy. How she held on to these two impressions, of being both young and old at the same time, was magic in itself.
She picked up the cup of tea she had been drinking before I'd knocked on her door. "Come, come child, what brings you here? I only lent you my Majik Book of Spells yesterday. I was sure it would last you all winter."
Lady Lamia was a dear friend of mine, and let me borrow her old books all of the time. She loved her library dearly; every leather-bound tome was like her own child. She didn't let just anyone borrow her books to read. I clasped my now toasty hands together, biting my lip. How was I going to break it to her?
I took a deep breath and decided to just tell her the truth. "My lady, I'm very sorry, but... You know how you warned me not to take or read the Majik Book out of doors? Well, yesterday, after you gave me the book, I..." I paused, hoping she'd understand. "I couldn't sit and read it anywhere at my house. My brothers kept teasing and bothering me in every room I tried, and my father told me to stop filling my head with nonsense. My mother asked me to go to the market for some bread and cheese, so I um... decided to bring the book along."
She looked up from her tea and stared at me in silence. I noticed the tea set sitting on the table next to her, and saw that the teapot was trembling slightly. The witch's eyes asked me to continue.
I spoke quickly, pleadingly. "Please forgive me Lady Lamia. I know I ought to have left the book at home, but I couldn't help it. I was too excited, and wanted to study your spells right away. I thought it wouldn't do any harm to read as I walked, and then... I was so stupid. Without even thinking I threw the book away just as soon as I saw it. I know I should have held on to it, but..."
"What did you see?" she interrupted. Her fingers gripped the armchair angrily like claws. I didn't quite notice her as I was distracted by the teapot, shaking with rage next to her. It began making even more violent movements, hopping about and spilling water from its spout. It clattered loudly on the china tray as if a demon were bouncing around inside it, or perhaps a storm was brewing in there.
She stood up from her chair and walked over to me. I redirected my attention immediately to her as she grabbed my shoulders and shook me, surprising me with the strength with which she did so. "Tell me, Trixie. What was it that you saw?" she demanded.
"A blue dragon, my lady."
She paused in her shaking, though the teapot continued to dance on the tray.
"I was so scared, I thought it was surely going to eat me! It took the book and flew away with it. There was nothing I could do." I wanted to cry and beg her for forgiveness. "I'm so sorry. I will take any punishment that you see fit. You can turn me into a frog or a worm or anything, or cast a spell to make all my hair fall out. I know I deserve it."
But Lamia was no longer listening to me. She walked away and stood to stare into her fireplace for a minute. After a while, the teapot seemed to calm down, and the lid stopped trembling like it was going to boil over. The storm seemed to have passed.
The witch then wandered over to her big library, her thin fingered hands running over the spines of her books in search of the right one. I followed and kept close behind her, wondering what she was looking for.
"A Blue Dragon, you say, my dear?" She reached for one of her high shelves and pulled down a thick, dusty green volume. She brought it over to her armchair and sat with it. I got a quick peek at the title, "Pr├Ždictas Fatales et Monstra", before she opened it up, turning many pages before she found the right picture. "Do you mean this Blue Dragon?" She stood the book up on the arm of the armchair and turned it towards me.
At first I thought she was pointing to the illustration of the Giant Cyclops, with moss growing on its body and an orange beam of light shooting out its single eye, but then I looked at the picture on the facing page.
The resemblance was astounding, the artist had depicted her so well. There was the dragon herself, gorgeous, graceful and terrifying all at once, perched on a frozen mound in a cold looking cave, wings open at her sides and breathing a cloud of frost instead of fire.
"Azura Belua. That is her name. She is a powerful Wyvern, technically not a dragon at all, as she only has two legs, but her common nickname of the Blue Dragon stuck," explained Lady Lamia. "The legends say that she got ostracized by her fire-breathing, gold-hoarding brethren, as she is more of a cold intellectual. She doesn't go out of her way to hurt humans or kidnap damsels in distress, preferring to steal books and raid libraries to add to her collection. She guards it jealously, and will freeze any creature who tries to come between her and her books."
I noticed for the first time that the mound she had her tail wrapped around tight like a blue snake was actually a mountain of books. Her claws clutched them protectively as she blew frost at an unseen enemy.
"It says here that she lives alone, deep in the Cavern of Tarturus," said the Lady, slamming the book shut in my face and giving me a hard look.
I grew pale and my eyes became wide and scared. I knew what she wanted me to do, and I began shaking my head. "No, not the Cave of the Underworld! No one ever goes there. You can't mean... You don't mean I have to go into that horrible place and... retrieve the Majik Book of Spells from the dragon, Azura? Is that what you're asking me to do."
The witch nodded at me. "I'm afraid so, Trixie. You see, all the potions, hexes and incantations I've ever studied and developed were written down in that one single book. I've spent years and years, my entire career as a Majik witch, putting that spell book together. There are no copies of it at all, and you can't find spells like the ones I know in any other Grimoire in the world. It is a very, VERY valuable book. Azura must have known just how valuable it was when she spotted you reading it." She stood up again and went to put the book back in its place on the shelf. "You asked me for a punishment for your carelessness. Well, that is it."
Unable to look at her, I clasped the edge of my over-sized winter coat, biting my lip. I couldn't go to the Underworld, I just couldn't. Everyone said ghosts and evil spirits lived down there, and anyone who ever tried to enter the cavern never came out. I knew my family would be incredibly worried about me. Well... my mother would be worried, at least.
Lamia looked sad as she sat back down, and when she saw how scared I looked, she smile at me kindly. "Oh, don't worry, dearie. I guess it doesn't have to be a punishment at all, just a humble request. I'd be too weak and old to go on an adventure like that. And without being able to study that book, you'll never be able to learn how to do Majik, like I used to be able to do."
Ever since I had found out that the Lady Lamia used to be a famous witch back in the day, it had been my biggest dream to become her apprentice and make Majik of my own. I had begged her and begged her to show me her spells, until finally, she had allowed me to borrow her spell book and study it during the winter. And now I had completely failed her.
I fell to my knees near where she sat and touched her frail hands. "But Lamia, couldn't you teach me how to do Majik yourself?"
My friend shook her head. "My memory and powers aren't what they used to be, so I could hardly teach you properly, even if I wanted to. Unless you would like to go through all the years of trial and error that I had to go through to become a witch and compile your own book, there is nothing that can be done. Either you rescue my book from the cold clutches of Azura Belua, or... I'm afraid," she stood up from her chair, pulling me up along with her by my hands, and then she turned me around and started pushing me quickly towards the door, "you are no longer welcome in my house."
With a shove, I was out in the snowy night, facing the dark forest, and I heard her slam the door behind me.
When I turned around to say something more — I'm not sure what I would have said, but probably something like "wait!" or "my Lady, if you'd please reconsider"— I found that the house of the witch was no longer there. It hadn't turned suddenly invisible, it was simply no longer physically there. Lady Lamia and her cottage had vanished.
I knew that until I got back her book and made right the mistake I had made, I would never see her again.

To be continued...

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