THE AIR IN RAVENNA'S lungs hardened. A moment passed as she struggled to react. Fear clutched at her ankles with invisible claws, rooting her to the ground. Her knees trembled. Her hands quivered. The dragon's glare pierced right through her, a storm of animosity churning within its darkened eyes. Its scaled lips tugged backward. Beyond the array of aged fangs, a flame of blues and whites flickered within its throat.
As her nails dug into the heels of her palms, wisps of ice danced around her knuckles. A grim resolution washed over her. This was it. Either she overpowered this dragon, destroying any chance of her learning control, or the dragon actually killed her. There was no other alternative.
Except...Ravenna was already dead.
When the realization hit her, she pushed her fear away and buried it deep down within the depths of her mind. The frozen air inside her lungs thawed as she met the dragon's gaze and said, "You can't kill me."
The dragon snorted. Its lumbering body leaned down until the its muzzle hovered a few inches away from her. Sunlight glinted against those gnarly teeth and the wetness that covered its black gums. That icy flame grew larger. Puffs of frosty smoke escaped, nipping at her skin. "Is that right?"
Ravenna squared her shoulders. "You can't kill what's already dead."
A cloud of ice enveloped her. It was a gentle, cold kiss of air that made her jaw clench tight. It didn't hurt. It didn't burn her skin like she had expected. She scrunched her eyes closed and waited until the blast of cold stopped. Then she opened her eyes and glared.
The dragon had vanished.
Her gaze immediately dropped to the ground. She scanned the earth for any signs of movement, for any sort of lizard-like shape. A frustrated sound escaped her as she searched the surrounding trees. "Get back here you coward!"
"Why should I?" The dragon called lazily. "You plan to hurt me."
Ravenna scowled. "I have been looking for you. There are rumors that you have turned several Imperials into ice."
"That is quite an interesting accusation."
She pin-pointed the dragon's voice to a towering oak that sat several feet away, leaning against the side of the mountain. Its branches splayed across the rocky formation like fingers. A small reptilian body stretched out across the lowest branch, dark eyes focused on her.
"I need you to teach me how to control this," Ravenna told him. She held her hands out and focused. A tendril of white snaked around her right arm. "I can't stop it. I can't do anything with it except kill."
The dragon's mouth twisted around a sly smile. "I have yet to see the bad in that situation."
"I don't want to kill people!" Ravenna snapped. "I am not a murderer. I don't like hurting defenseless humans."
"Yet the moment you feel threatened, your powers are your first defense. You were very well prepared to kill me if it ensured your survival. At the time, you felt that my murder was justified."
Ravenna shook her head. "That was self-defense."
"First lesson, undead human," the dragon said. "Murder is only self-defense if your victim has actually attacked you or threatened to harm you. Never once did I say I would kill you."
She opened her mouth to protest. The dragon quickly interrupted. "Second lesson. Mortals won't care whether or not they attacked you first. You will always be the anomaly, the enemy. Therefore, their murder will always be justified."
"That's not true," Ravenna protested.
The dragon arched an eyebrow dubiously. "Then how were you cursed?"
That made her hesitate. The memories flashed by so fast it made her head spin. She hastily dropped her gaze to the ground. It was like the dragon had said. Humans had attacked her. The Imperials had accused her of witchcraft and planned to execute her. "They didn't leave me cursed like this," she said softly in their defense.
"Only a select few humans have the ability to manipulate curses," the dragon said. "Yet they almost always are involved in setting them free."
Ravenna fell silent for a few moments, lost in thought. She doubted that the Imperials had anything to do with the demon that had terrorized her village. Another villager could have very easily tampered with dark magic, however.
The dragon watched her carefully. With each passing moment, his weirdly shaped smile grew more and more cunning. "The murder of a human is always justified. This is their world now, and in their world we are the monsters."
"I understand," Ravenna said absently. Her stomach twisted with unease. The idea that another villager had caused the murders made her sick. At first it seemed impossible. She grew up with them. Watched them prosper, fall in love, and have children. But then she remembered back to when she was younger. A public execution. The old baker from the market bakery had been discovered with his drawers around his ankles, an orphaned boy cornered in the basement. Another public execution. George, a man of noble descent, had been accused of stealing jewels from other women in town. Several women had even been accused of witchcraft, as Ravenna had.
She gulped and pushed the memories aside. It had taken all she had to originally suppress them.
"Humans are vile creatures, child," the dragon commented softly. "Not only do they seek to torture their own kind, but others as well. They must be stopped."
She looked up and found his gaze still locked onto her form. His eyes were narrowed, his expression intense. Ravenna turned away. "I need a teacher," she reminded him. "Will you help me or not?"
The dragon's eyes flashed mischievously. "Now who could resist a sweet damsel in distress?"
Ravenna glowered at him. Her hands curled into tight fists at her sides and her jaw clenched. "That doesn't answer my question," she snapped.
"Oh, but it does."
The dragon's scrawny body fizzled like waves of head against a stone road. She watched, frozen in a mixture of awe and horror, as its body warped and stretched until it regained its natural size. Its massive wings flapped once, twice and then it hovered over the ground. Claws grasped her arms like cold bone pinching against her skin. The wings gave another mighty flap and then Ravenna's feet no longer touched the ground.
Her scream was drowned out within a current of gushing wind.
Sorry it's kind of short! For some reason this chapter was harder to write. I think its my little dragon. At first I was going for that dark, mysterious type. Now I'm not sure what I'm doing with him. Anyways, thank you for your support and feedback! <3 :D
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[wattys 2018 shortlisted] Humans see her as a dangerous threat -a witch that must be executed. With the uncontrollable ability to form ice at her fingertips, Ravenna is forced into hiding amongst the humans, stealing to survive. That is, until she h...