“This is Kazane,” Kamaitachi said. “She is my twin sister. She will take you into the mountains to find Ronin.” After a brief round of introductions and a quick breakfast, the trio took off into the mountains.
“Our uncle was Ronin’s rider,” Kazane began as they walked. “He named his dragon Ronin, or ‘masterless samurai’, because they were equals. They were never apart until the day the Blackbloods attacked them while they were sleeping. They got separated and my uncle was believed to be slain.”
“How long ago was that?” Celia asked.
“About 15 years or so,” Kazane replied. “At the beginning of Gustav’s traitorous plan. He told the King that he was fighting raiders and bandits, but he was not. He was trying to raid the temples to get gold to fund his endeavors. He was repeatedly unsuccessful. Once my uncle was slain, Goda and his forces moved in and drove Gustav out. Now, Xander has taken up his father’s cause. There are none like my uncle to keep them out, and Zenko does his best to deter invaders, but we cannot do this alone. But, I digress. Our mission today is to find Ronin.”
“Who is Goda?” Dally asked, knowing she’d heard the name before and struggling to remember.
Kazane shook her head. “That is a tale for another time. For now, we are almost to the last place I saw Ronin.”
They climbed up a small hill and onto a flat, barren patch of land stretched out in front of a cave. They started forward slowly. Kazane put a finger to her lips to signal they should keep quiet, but it was too late.
Ronin exploded from the mouth of the cave with a deafening, bone-shattering roar. Get away! It said. The trio stopped in their tracks, frozen for a moment. Kazane and Celia looked at Dally.
“Stay here,” Dally whispered as she slowly took a step forward.
Ronin lowered his head, spread his wings and roared again. The spikes on his helmet and armor were pushed forward to form a blockade of sorts. He clearly did not want company.
“Shhhh,” Dally said, her arms spread to her sides, “I’m not going to hurt you. I want to help you.”
Ronin looked at her for a moment, then let out another roar, every decibel of which was soaked in grief. He is gone! I do not know where he is, but he is gone!
Dally tried to take another step forward but faltered and fell to her knees as Ronin’s anguish washed over her. She tried to push herself back to her feet but ended up on all fours hysterically crying. Ronin took a step back, watching her with great curiosity. It took a few minutes for Dally to pull herself together. As she stood she locked eyes with the heartbroken dragon.
“I know how you feel,” she said, her voice shaky and cracking. “I too have lost. My parents were also murdered, possibly by the same scum that killed your rider. I never got to say good bye either. If you will let us, we would like to help you find where your rider fell and give him the honor he deserves.”
Ronin slumped to the ground, a single tear falling from his blue eye. He watched Dally as she slowly made her way over to him. She sat in front of him and put her hands on the spike at the end of his armored mask. Ronin sighed.
“Will you let us help you?” Dally whispered.
Ronin sighed again. Yes. I can take you to where I think he was last. I do not know if that will help.
Dally smiled. “It’s a start. Thank you, Ronin.”
Dally stood, and Ronin stood with her and exited the cave, turning so his left side was facing Dally. He laid down, allowing her to climb on his back. Dally knew he had not let anyone do that since his rider, and she was humbled to tears. She slumped forward and sobbed. She felt Celia and Kazane climb onto his back behind her, and when she turned to look at them she saw they had be crying too.
“Girl, you are a mess,” Celia said with a shaky smile. “I haven’t cried like this…well…ever!”
Dally smiled. “I’m not sure if I should be sorry about that,” she teased.
Celia rolled her eyes and shook her head. “Just get this beautiful boy moving,” she growled with mock anger.
“You heard her, Ronin,” she said as she gently rubbed his neck. “Let’s get moving.”