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Rendelen. One of the largest cities in all of the Great Continent. Conveniently named after one of the great houses. Cadmus, Aries, and Giscela sat around a campfire with the stars gleaming overhead. Their wagon was thrown together so haphazardly for their trip that the cords of rope looked ready to untie at any moment. They had enough for the three day trip. Aries had a strange sense of familiarity as they were packing. It reminded him of when he came to the cave to kill Cadmus so long ago.
He leaned into Cadmus’ chest and looked up into the night sky. He had always found it strange how the Gods interacted with mortals below. If the Gods had any sense, they should have made the world less painful. Aries stretched and relaxed. Cadmus did not seem to mind the weight shift and a pleased rumble left his chest.
“At least the Gods have given us some reprieve,” Aries joked and glanced up towards his lover. The dragon’s blue scales shimmered in the moonlight and the fangs that stuck out of his muzzle had a similar sheen to them.
“From the snow, wind, or…?”
“I think he means something different,” a voice said with a mischievous twinkle.
Giscela leaned against the wagon. Even in a robe and trousers, she still had a royal poise to her. The blonde hair was curled and came down to her shoulders. Her hair was braided in the back to keep out of the way of her arms. Her sword belt had a dagger on the left and a sword sheathed on the right.
Cadmus huffed and he brought his tail around to Aries’ leg to wrap around his human’s right ankle possessively.
“I’m only kidding,” Giscela chuckled. “The mountain was not easy on us.”
If they had gone out in the winter rather than the spring, Aries figured that no amount of clothing would have saved them. Cadmus picked a wonderful spot for his previous home but a horrible spot for guests.
Cadmus was still quiet. He had been quieter and more contemplative since they had left. Aries could sympathize. The dragon had everything he could want in the cave. Books, company, and his love. But it was not meant to last. Even though he seemed confident in his resolve before they left for the unknown, Aries knew there was an unresolved tension. As much as Aries was forced to change, Cadmus had to as well.
The silence between them was awkward. Aries shifted. Perhaps the Gods did have some tricks left. Giscela went quiet.
Aries reached up to his dragon’s cheek. The blue scales felt warm and inviting on his fingers. They had the same fire in them that glowed in Cadmus’ eyes. The pondering dragon snapped out of his trance.
“I’m sorry, love…”
“Do you wish to talk about what has been on your mind for the past day? You look like something is haunting you…” Aries frowned. The knight was not stupid but being direct always worked for Cadmus. Well, it worked when Cadmus was in the mood for it.
Cadmus sighed. “I’m not upset. It is common for us to leave our homes for extended periods of time but you must understand that I had lived in that cavern for most of my life. It is exhilarating to be out but I also have questions.”
His eyes flicked towards Giscela.
“You fought by my side, Giscela and I trust you. But you must have your reservations.”
“Cadmus, you speak as if you are a diplomat, but you are more than that,” Giscela walked forward and took a seat beside them. “Do not use such a diplomatic tone.”
Cadmus chuckled and his tail flicked. Aries’ felt the chest he was laying on rise and there was a nice rumble underneath. The weight that was in Aries’ chest lifted.
“Very well. Then tell me, will we really be spared from the Senate?”
Giscela crossed her legs. “We will be resisted at every turn but I will do everything in my part to protect you, Cadmus.”
It was Aries’ time to frown. “Edward might have different ideas.”
“Yes, well he is incompetent, so I will not have any trouble-“
“Giscela, he is a Lord. He will not go quietly.”
The Queen shook her head. “I may not have all the power that the Senate has but I do have say with the other Lords and Ladies of the various houses. Particularly, the Lavish family entrusted pieces of art with our family after our wars.”
“Art can be used as a bargaining chip?” Cadmus questioned. “Seems like a waste of culture.”
Giscela smiled. “These are not just any pieces. I will show you when we get to the capitol.”
Cadmus’ pose relaxed. Perhaps it was Giscela’s confidence or maybe it was the way she reassured the dragon that everything would be okay. Her charisma was like a bright beacon in the dark night sky and both Cadmus and Aries felt maybe something could work their way in Rendelen.
“As strange as it is, I hope that you are correct about the pieces. I would hate to spend most of my time in the dungeons of this grand capital.”
“You have to trust me,” Giscela encouraged and placed her hand on Cadmus’ own. “Both of you.”
“We do, my Queen,” Aries answered.
Cadmus’ bahis siteleri grumpiness subsided for a moment and he looked at his lover snuggled up to him.
“I am glad to be out of the cold more than anything.”
Aries smiled and leaned back against the dragon. There was hardly any space between them. They took up most of the spot on the dirt road. The wagon may have been old but it was durable and still had some life in it. The cracks in the wood along with the wobbly left wheel gave the wagon character. Or so Cadmus would joke.
An idle finger started to twirl around one of Aries’ long locks of hair. The sharp claw that it was attached to was only inches away from Aries’ right cheek and the human shuddered. They were as sharp as swords but so gentle on his hair. The dragon gave a pleased rumble as he felt the soft locks of blond hair and Cadmus spoke up.
“I always was fascinated with hair…”
Cadmus gave a bashful chortle. “It is kind of strange to even feel it again. I…”
The dragon shrugged. It was rare for Cadmus to even talk about the past but to hear that humans were getting their hair cut by dragons was other worldly. It felt like there was some sort of secret. Something that Aries was missing and the human could not put his finger on it.
“You can continue if you wish…,” Aries said and the fingers that were going through his hair stopped. There was pain behind the sigh of his voice. Cadmus fumbled with the scissors, opening up the small, metal case.
There was a wistful sound to his voice and Cadmus looked towards the stars. The two were quiet and enjoying the ambient sounds of the night. Cicadas chirped in the tall, wavy prairie grass. The crackle of the fire in the middle of the group casted a warm, welcoming glow across the dirt road. The mountain that they spent two days making their way down loomed over them. There were hardly any trees where they were located. They stood like lonely guardians over the planes and their odd shape was due to the heavy winds that cut through the valley.
There was an odd, stoic calm to them. Even with the winds pummeling at their bark and peeling away their leaves, their seeds still scattered across the desolate valley.
“Do you mind if I…cut your hair?” Cadmus asked with shyness to his voice. Giscela’s eyebrows rose.
“You know how to cut hair?”
“Why yes I do,” Cadmus said with a charming smile. He got up from his sitting position and walked over towards the wagon before digging through it. Aries looked over his shoulder, watching the large dragon dig through the wagon. There was absolutely no way he would have any type of tools, right? The absurdity struck Aries mute, his mouth open in awe as he watched his lover dig through the wagon with clear intention.
“Are you sure you can cut my hair? You cannot have a barber kit in-” Aries began until Cadmus pulled out a small, silver case.
As Cadmus walked forward, he had a smile fit for a small child who found a beautiful stone in a river. Aries could see the engravings on the front, the divots in the metal looking like a pair of dragon wings and the clip that held the small box shut was made of a beautiful gold.
“I stand corrected,” Aries said and Giscela, who had been standing by and watching, seemed even more impressed.
“The fact you kept the small thing in such shape shows your commitment to the craft,” Giscela said as she eyed over the two lovers carefully.
“Mmm, I suppose so,” Cadmus hummed and his tail flicked happily as he walked over to Aries. The dragon walked behind his human, opening the box and looking over his tools. A dark black comb flanked by two pairs of scissors and there was a straight edge blade held in a black pouch. The scissors were as silver as their case and the silver was engraved with a tail. The appendage started at the handle and made its way out. At the midpoint of the blades, it split.
Cadmus held the black comb in his left hand and took the smaller scissors in his right. Aries did not have to turn around. Cadmus kneeled in front of him, his large frame practically blocking Giscela from view and he felt a comb come up through his bangs.
“You really don’t have to cut my hair, Cadmus,” Aries blushed as Cadmus brought the scissors up to the long bangs and snipped across them. The first strands of hair fell from the front of Aries’ head and onto the ground.
“Nonsense. You will feel better if you have a haircut and a clean shave. I want to do this.”
Aries chuckled as Cadmus made his way around his bangs. He already could see strands beginning to fall as he lined up his comb and more hair fell to the ground. Giscela watched in the background as Cadmus worked around Aries’ head and more and more hair fell.
The human thought back to when he had long hair. It was probably during his long three day adventure when he made his way to Cadmus’ cave and then stuck inside. Well, maybe not stuck. At least, not after he grew to know Cadmus. Aries gave a soft smile canlı bahis siteleri as Cadmus started to move to his back which had the long, curly locks. Cadmus brought the scissors forward and they cut through his hair like parchment.
“Are these enchanted?” Aries asked curiously as Cadmus worked his magic, his brow furrowed as he concentrated on his craft.
There was a pause from Cadmus and the dragon brought his hands down to his side momentarily.
“Do you mind if I tell you a story, Aries? I do have your attention after all…”
Aries shook his head. “Of course I do not mind.”
There was a pause. It felt as if it would go on forever. Giscela moved closer, her ears perking as Cadmus looked for his voice.
“After I was banished from my Kingdom, I had no money to speak of. I was alone in a foreign land surrounded by creatures that I had no bearing being around. My cave was situated on top of a mountain, far away from civilization but not far enough to be away from the graces of townsfolk.”
Aries listened politely, wondering what his lover had in mind with the story. He had never heard Cadmus talk about running away from his home. It was such a painful topic that Aries decided to let Cadmus make the decision when he wanted to talk about it.
Cadmus started to work again, the scissors coming up to the sides of Aries’ head and clipping along the sides.
“The cave that I was in had nothing in the way of amenities but I managed. An enchanted mobile bag that carried all my belongings helped.”
Cadmus chuckled. “I do wish I still had that bag. Some birds took it. Probably live inside of it now.”
Cadmus shook his head. “Anyway, I decided to look for work and it took a long time to gain the trust of the village next to the cave. When the townsfolk realized I could perform magic, I was given the sick to heal. I was tasked with bringing livestock back to health. All of it could be done with basic healing but humans lost their connection to magic long ago.”
Aries hummed. He thought back to how natural it felt to connect to the strings of magic and energy around him now that Cadmus had showed him the technique back in the cave months ago.
“When the village started to trust me, I was allowed to come down. They kept me as their secret. I was paid in food, water, and clothing. Sometimes, they would give me furniture that they built with their own hands. It was quite….charming.”
Aries could feel the smile Cadmus was making even though he was turned away from the dragon.
“However, I was offered something strange one day. A husband of a sick wife came to me and asked if I would cut her hair. He was far too old for such chores even though he was raised as a barber. His fingers were beginning to lock up and he was having trouble holding the scissors.”
Cadmus paused, quietly making some small cuts to Aries’ hair and using his paw to wipe away some of the top. Giscela watched quietly, the merriment in her features now stone. There was a pit in Aries’ chest. He had a feeling where the story was going.
“The woman was blind and the husband dutifully took care of her. I was tasked to cut her hair. The husband taught me how to hold the scissors properly and how to use the comb appropriately.”
Another cut and Aries felt hair roll down his back.
“The husband fell ill as well.”
Another lock of hair fell.
“His final wish was for me to care for his wife and continue to cut her hair. So…”
The courage he had in the beginning of the story faltered. Giscela stepped forward and placed her hand comfortably on Cadmus’ right shoulder. She gave a comforting squeeze.
Cadmus sniffed. “I would stop by and cut her hair, but I also took care of her. She was blind. She never knew what I was. Her mind was also torn. I don’t know what kind of illness she had but it consumed her. She would merely hum as I cut her hair. There was nothing I could do. I have seen the village torn down and rebuild itself countless times from a distance but I had never seen a human die.”
“Cadmus…” Aries whispered. The human pulled away from the dragon but Cadmus placed a hand on Aries’ chest and pushed him back into the chair.
“It is fine, Aries. I want you to know about my past.”
Cadmus continued to cut Aries’ hair, his hands steady even with the emotion in his words.
“Strangely, I hoped she would not know her husband had passed. Each time she hummed, I think it was what her husband would hum when he was working outside.”
“I remember one night, I felt different. There was something inside me that compelled me to go to the village. I don’t know what it was but I could feel it. Something deep inside of me that told me to fly and to see her. When I was in the skies, I could see the candles flickering around her home. In the night, it pulled me in. When I landed, the villagers did not react. I cannot remember who handed me the husband’s scissors but they canlı bahis were tasked to me and the villagers from that point forward considered me as one of their own.”
Cadmus took a long breath, a small puff of smoke leaving his nostrils. He brought his hand up to wipe his eyes.
“I-I’m sorry, Cadmus,” Aries began. “You must have lived through so much.”
“it is fine, my love. You humans are quite resilient, even with your small lifespan.”
Cadmus smiled through his tears, giving another sniff. “I know, I should not be crying while cutting your hair but…”
Giscela rubbed Cadmus’ back soothingly. “Cadmus, your story is one that celebrates life. You have helped so many. Including us.”
The scissors shined in the moonlight as Cadmus used them. The blade moved a bit quicker with Giscela’s words.
Locks of blonde hair fell down onto the ornate scissors and onto the dirty ground below. They held memories within the strands. Strife for the ones he loved and commitments he made. A commitment to kill Cadmus and save the princess. A commitment to his mentor to come back as a man with the head of a beast. He was like a lizard molting an old skin to replace it with an old one.
“Your neck might feel lighter after all this,” Giscela joked with a smile as she made herself comfortable near the fire. “You have as much hair as me.”
Aries came out of his trance. Cadmus was to his left, his warm breath in his ear and tickling the sensitive skin there. “Yeah. I never thought I would get groomed by a dragon.”
Cadmus smiled. “Nor did I think I would ever get the chance to cut the hair of a human, once again.”
A comfortable silence fell between each of them. The snip of Cadmus’ scissors curtly snapped around Aries’ head. Locks of hair turned back to strands and soon Cadmus was grooming the sides of Aries’ hair. The sparrow was lost in thought and his mind wandered back to the intensity of Edward’s face. He had the sword of the Lanishes and the way he scowled sent a shiver down Aries’ spine. Would they really be safe when they made it to the capital?
Even if Aries had the strength of a dragon, would they be able to stay safe? Aries wished they had the crystals. He would be able to at least lean on magic. Maybe Cadmus could have even taught him how to properly wield it.
“Cadmus, is there any way to gather those magic crystals again?”
The dragon continued cutting Aries’ hair, but gave a small tisk. “I would not want to abandon our quest for the ability to use magic.”
“That is not what I intend,” Aries replied. “I just want to know what all our options are…”
Cadmus sighed and moved up towards the human’s scalp. He was careful around the more tender area. “My little sparrow, those are crystals I took when I fled from Cinere. The only way to get more is to wait for the volcano to erupt.”
Aries hummed thoughtfully. The fact that he had never heard of such an island in any of his education was concerning. If the island was hidden from him, he would know any different. His curiosity kept eating at him to know more.
“The volcano produces the crystals?”
“Yes. No one knows when or how they are created but they are filled with the energies of the Earth. Much like how everyone in the world is connected by this energy, so are the crystals. Since the middle of the Earth is where we are all born from, the crystals are the purest of crystals.”
Aries tisked. “So, we can wait until the next eruption.”
Cadmus paused. “I do not mean to be rude, love but have you ever seen a volcano or know what it is?”
Giscela chuckled. “Don’t bully your lover, Cadmus.”
“I am not bullying! It is an honest question.”
Aries shrugged. “No clue. I thought it was some sort of tool.”
Cadmus and Giscela looked at one another before their eyes snapped back to Aries. Cadmus was careful and patient as he continued cutting Aries’ hair. “A volcano is a natural structure. Something here before even you and I were. Imagine a mountain with a massive hole on the top filled with liquefied rock.”
Aries’ mouth went agape.
“I only thought crucibles could melt metal.”
Cadmus chuckled. “It is surprising that you have never heard of such a thing.”
“Randelen is like a trap that people stay in for most of their lives. Aries is a tad bit sheltered,” Giscela chimed in.
Aries shot Giscela a look and in defense, the Queen held up her hands. “What? You leave the Capitol for an extended time and now you are going on hiatus with a dragon.”
“Heh, fair,” Aries smirked. “But anyway, tell me more about this volcano.”
Cadmus took a moment to collect himself. He gave a couple last snips to the top of Aries head. The look was coming together but more needed to be done. He started to move around to the human’s side.
“When a volcano erupts, the molten rock spills out the top. It rolls down the sides of the mountain and into the valley below.”
Aries was respectively quiet. His breathing was slow and steady as he imagined standing at the foot of the volcano and looking up. He could not imagine anything that spewed pure hell out of its belly, but Cadmus was telling him things that could be in a fairytale.
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