The Point

The drums jarred Nya’s body with every step she took through the night, over uneven ground, down a path she didn’t want to be taking. Way off ahead of her, so far away, she could barely see him, soldiers led Gavin toward The Point. In a moment, her family would branch off and go a different direction, toward an overlook where they’d witness the sacrifice. Because her family was royalty, they were required to be present, by law of the land. Nya could’ve gotten away with staying back or even letting Rok lock her in the tower, but she’d already determined she needed to be there.

The moon shone bright above them. Earlier in the evening, there had been some wayward clouds, dancing along the surface, interrupting the perfect beams of light that filtered from the orb down to the earth. But now, all of them were gone, and the further they got away from the villages, the less interference there was from torches and lamplight so that the stars created a heavenly display of bright pinpricks against a dark background as well. It might’ve been beautiful under any other circumstances, but at the moment, it was the most hideous scene Nya had ever seen.

She walked along, her long gown gathered in her fists in an attempt not to trip, though she didn’t care if she muddied the hem. She would never wear this dress again; in fact, she might just burn it. All around her, members of the King’s Guard walked alongside them. They were allegedly there to keep the royal family safe, though, if the dragon wanted to scorch all of them, he easily could before any of the soldiers could even raise their swords or shields, not that they’d do any good against a fire as hot as the blazing sun. Tonight, Nya had to assume the guards were there more to make sure she didn’t take off than anything else. Rok Phin was never more than a stone’s throw from her side.

Gavin’s family was not allowed to come with them. Even though his father was a member of the army, and therefore, he should be allowed to escort them, as he had every other time a sacrifice had been made to the dragon, the fact that he was Gavin’s father negated his position, and he was left behind. Not that he would’ve wanted to go and leave his wife alone to endure this by herself anyway. Visions of Gavin’s mother, distraught with tears, filled Nya’s mind. Fighting tears, she walked on, wishing this night would just be over.

But then… what would tomorrow bring?

How would she go about her day, knowing Gavin was gone? So much of her time was occupied with either exploring the forest or the castle with him or thinking about what they’d do later, after her studies, after his drills, she had no idea what she would do now. 

Thoughts of Gavin’s endless drilling to become a member of the army made tears well up in her eyes again. All of those hours he’d spent preparing for duties he’d never get to carry out. None of it was fair. She looked at her father, walking ahead of her, and wished she could sacrifice him to the dragon. Why had he done this? Was her sister, Eru, right? Had her father been so worried that Nya was in love with Gavin that he’d order the young man to his death? There had to be more to it. None of it made any sense.

They reached the junction in the road where the royal party would branch off and head to a large tower that overlooked The Point but should be out of harm’s way, assuming the dragon was pleased with the sacrifice and saw no reason to unleash his anger upon the king or his family. As Nya turned to follow her family, most of the soldiers came along with them. Gavin was giving them no problems, so only a handful were needed to secure him to the altar at The Point.

She caught his eye. She hadn’t meant to. There was a large space between them, nearly an entire world between them, for that matter, but she’d looked into those dark orbs of his and saw no fear there. He even smiled at her.

How he could face this with so much courage, so much… grace, she wasn’t sure. If it were here, marching toward certain death at the talons of a large, fierce creature, she would probably be pissing her pants. But not Gavin. He would stand there and look the dragon in the eyes.

Boots and slippers echoed off of stone steps as they climbed the stairs to the tower. With every footfall, Nya’s heart sunk a little lower into her chest. This all needed to be over with. She needed to go home, throw her blankets over her head, and wake up to find it had all been a dream, a nightmare.

Only, when she woke up the next day, it wouldn’t be over. This wasn’t a dream she could just wake up from. It was real. And in a few minutes, Gavin would be dead.

The royal family reached the top of the tower and took their positions in front of the only opening in the stone building, meant to protect them as much as possible from the dragon’s fiery breath. Everyone knew he could singe the entire stone structure and turn it to ash if he wanted to. The fire that shot from his mouth was powerful enough to do that.

Nya stood behind her mother and a little to the side. Her father carried an eyeglass that allowed him to look more closely at what was happening at The Point. Nya didn’t need to see anymore than she could. It was obvious that the guards who had accompanied Gavin were attaching him to the altar now. His arms were spread wide, shackled to two stone pillars. When the dragon came and pulled him away, his arms were more likely to break than the chains. Not that they’d ever found arms left behind. The dragon was far too greedy to let that happen.

Once Gavin was secure, the soldiers moved away in a hurry. It wouldn’t be long now. The dragon never left the sacrifice standing there for more than a few minutes. At least, he was merciful in that regard.

Rather than stare at the silhouette of her best friend out there in the darkness alone, Nya turned her attention to the moon. The light was just missing Gavin now, but it would move momentarily, and he’d be bathed in the soft, warm glow of the Dragon Moon, and then, a shadow would pass across the orb, interrupting the beams, and the dragon would swoop out of the sky, his sharp talons sinking into Gavin’s flesh before the dragon plucked him away, flying up into the night sky with him and likely devouring him before he even reached his lair somewhere on the top of Scale Mountain to the west.

As the moon shifted, so did Nya’s eyes. She watched the beams as they seemed to widen and then followed them down to see Gavin drowned in moonlight. Sucking in a deep breath, Nya held it and raised her eyes back to the moon.

They heard him before they saw him this time as a loud screech filled the night air and a furious flapping of wings large enough to cover most of the throne room floor if spread end to end across the expanse. All eyes lifted to the moon as the dragon’s massive form came between the satellite and the earth. 

He stopped mid-flight, opening his mouth and giving another roar, a blaze of fire shooting out of his mouth and heating the air around him. The fire hung there for a moment and then went out. Most of the people in the tower shirked and backed up, but not Nya. She took a step forward, closer to the opening, staring the dragon down, not that he could see her or take note of a small woman in a ball gown. He should take note of her, though. Someday, he would have to deal with her, she vowed that to herself and to Gavin.

The dragon did seem to turn his head then and look in her direction. While it was more likely that he was just apprising the situation with the king and the royal family, for a second, she felt as if his massive red eyes were burning through her.

Then, the dragon shifted, lowering his wings and descending quickly on The Point. Gavin’s face was raised to the sky but even as those sharp talons swung toward him, he did not move, did not falter.

The dragon reached out with his claws and made a sweeping motion through the chains, something Nya had never noticed before. Perhaps he always did that, and she hadn’t seen, or maybe he was just more leery of leaving behind good arm meat this time. Then, his claws wrapped around Gavin and he lifted him off of the ground. The dragon roared again, but no fire shot from his mouth. His red and black scales caught the moonlight for a brief second as he screeched and then took off toward Scale Mountain, not looking back at Nya or her family.

Just like that, Gavin was gone. Nya stood for a long moment, her eyes cast to the sky where the dragon had vanished, where Gavin had vanished. A solitary tear slid down her cheek as her mother rested her hand on her shoulder. “Come, daughter. We must go.”

Nya nodded, but she didn’t move. She couldn’t. Not yet. Someday, before too many moons passed, she would find a way to avenge Gavin and destroy the dragon.

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