the price of love pt iv

last time, on iGoddess...

“She Who Never Lets Go is out there,” I said.

She Who Never Lets Go. She Who Never Forgets...nor Forgives. i had many names for her, primary among them My Inner Flaming Narcissist.

i leapt onto my warhorse and meant to simply gallop in search as i had with all the others. my warriors let out a resounding roar as i wheeled my mount and he reared up, beating the air with his mighty hooves and bellowing out a blood-boiling whinny of his own. my heart pounded in echo of his bloodthirst, but just as i tightened my grip on the reins, he began to morph right before my eyes.

sleek chestnut neck elongated, grew scales that deepened to the smouldering redblack of still-burning coals. swift, straight legs thickened like oak stumps and bent in upon themselves. stout hooves grew into five-toed, leathery feet with obsidian talons the length of my sword and as thick as my thigh. the swishing horsetail was shed and in its place grew a powerful tail with wickedly curved spikes at the end. my steed unfurled expansive wings that ruffled like canvas tarp in the wind, and --astride a great red dragon-- took to the air.

my companions grew smaller as we lifted higher into the air. i felt a pang at this, leaving them with nary a farewell, but somehow i knew they were still with me. all ninety-nine of them.

flying low, we could not find my Inner Flaming Narcissist, and so I pointed up and the dragon rose higher. there! running full tilt through the barley as if the hounds of hell itself were after her. perhaps hellhounds would have been preferable, compared to myself astride a red dragon?

i pointed at the small form running, and the dragon opened his mouth and a veritable fountain of liquid fire gushed forth and flooded the countryside in flames. just before it hit my enemy, she dove headfirst into a small opening in the side of the hill. not even the barley caught fire. not so much as a whiff of smoke on the air once the dragon ceased his onslaught. we circled around for another dive, and this time the dragon spat fireballs. circle and dive, this time raining brimstone.

again and again he barraged the hillside with sulfur and flame, but it was no use.

once more i pointed to the ground and he nodded, coming to land right beside the mouth of this tiny hole in the hillside. from the air it seemed tiny as a rabbit hole, but in truth it would have fit a child quite easily. however she had shrunk to fit, or the cave mouth had widened to accommodate her…it was an ability she alone possessed.

i had to doff my armor, even leave my sword behind before i could fit. i squeezed through the mouth of this cave and crawled, but it widened a few paces in and i could walk freely. it was blacker than hell and i could not see my hand in front of my face. the only light came from the mouth of the cave, where i could see –in great detail—the clear sky to the horizon, each stalk of barley, and the red dragon watching me carefully.

a few more paces and the tunnel forked three ways. immediately i knew She Who Never Forgives had taken the middle fork, but still i hesitated. somehow i knew that a few paces beyond the fork, the tunnel curved sharply down, became almost a chute that led deep, deep into the earth. and it was a maze down there, i knew. somehow, i just knew.

i had lost her but could not admit it. i struggled with myself, wanting more than anything to go after her and be done with it! but i also knew that i would very likely lose myself if i followed. get lost? no. i would lose myself...whatever that meant. i was a warrior, not a philosopher! but somehow i knew it was a dangerous maze down there, filled with the unknown that was all the more monstrous and dangerous because it was the unknown. if i went down there, i would never see sunlight again.

a deep, rumbling voice echoed from the cave mouth. “my friend and lady knight,” said the dragon, “how dost thou intend to proceed? thy quarry is lost in a warren of twists and folds even thou could not hope to unravel.”

draconic, the language of the draq, was a very high and formal speech, i knew. and this was as informal of speech as a dragon could manage; we were very old friends, he and i. but the old forms must be met. again, something a philosopher or perhaps a historian would understand, but i was a simple warrior. all i knew was that old friends through lifetime after lifetime, it was enough for me that i just knew. “i am conflicted, old friend,” i confessed.

before i could continue, the dragon spoke again. “thou art out of thine element, sister, and deep in thine enemy’s lands.” the warning was simple but elegant; his telling me the advantage was not mine would have been redundant.

and yet i lingered, torn between chasing after my Inner Flaming Narcissist and admitting defeat, but the dragon was right. i just could not admit it gracefully. i could not let go of the chase. not when i was so close to utter victory!

"pride blinds thee," he said. "thou wouldst follow Destruction to its end and salvage thine dignity, even as thou risks all."

i laughed, but it was a bitter sound. he was right, as usual. i wanted to save face, to save myself the trouble of hunting them all over again, to save myself from feeling stupid and like i had failed by not cutting off the head of the hydra. and yet i was willing to risk my life to save face. he'd said it: i was being stupid and egotistical. i couldn't see any alternative, however.

finally, gritting my teeth and fighting not to punch the walls and scream in frustration, i turned heel and climbed back out of the tunnel. my friend waited as i lost myself in thoughts. i was wallowing in my dark mood, defeated and frustrated beyond words. how could i get her?

...how could i destroy her?

to pt v.

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