CHAPTER 3 - Green
The first thing she noticed about the girl was green.
The stranger was young and slender, her hair cropped short in a fashion Lucy was unfamiliar with on women. Her wide blue eyes were friendly – warm even, as she stood in the center of the chamber with a canvas bag slung over her shoulder. She was quantifiably pretty, cutting a stunning figure in her lilac tunic and loose ivory sarong – the edges of which brushed over her bare feet.
What did the people here have against shoes?
Still, none of that was what initially caught the blonde's attention. No, she was transfixed by the fact that a large swan with lime and fuchsia plumes had soared in through the window – only to transform into the woman now standing before her.
Lucy blinked twice, looking back towards the curtains as if another magicked animal were going manifest through the opening.
The girl appeared to sense her unease, clearing her throat to gather her attention. She gave a tiny wave with her tapered fingers, a sheepish grin pulling at her lips. "I'm sorry to have startled you. I was planning to use the door, but then I realized I didn't know which room you were in. So then I just flew around the building until I found you – I guess I got a little over excited."
She held out her hand to shake, taking a few steps towards the bed where Lucy was seated. The blonde's forehead wrinkled slightly, as if she were afraid the pale digits were about to turn into talons. Hesitatingly, she reached out – taking in how the Other beamed when they shook.
This must be the friend she had been told to expect.
"It's fine, don't worry." Lucy greeted, forcing herself not to snatch her hand back as she returned it to her lap. She ran her tongue along her front teeth in a nervous gesture but remained polite – her earlier outburst with the master of this house had been a mistake. It had been thoughtless to provoke him, especially when she didn't know what his intentions towards her were. For now, she would take advantage of any hospitality these people offered. "It's nice to meet you. My name is L—"
"—Lucy, I know. I'm Lisanna, it's nice to meet you too!" The woman chirped, canting her head to the side only to suddenly straighten as if she just remembered something. She unlatched her bag, riffling through it as she murmured under her breath. "Now where did I put it…"
"Aha!" She yelled, startling the blonde as she pulled out a few folded articles of clothing along with a smaller satchel. Lucy raised a brow at that, the original bag was far too small to have held all of that within. She must have said that aloud because Lisanna responded a moment later.
"It's bigger on the inside, quite common here in Magnolia though don't ask me to explain how it works! I've always been quite good at physical transfigurations but these sorts of spells go over my head – that's pyske craft." She explained in a cheerful tone, demonstrating the enchantment by sticking her arm deep within it, retrieving an assortment of different items that had no business fitting inside the constrained space.
Lucy was fascinated despite herself, peering closer as if she could decipher its secrets. Caramel eyes flickered from the bag and then back into the blue orbs watching her with amusement. Sensing no animosity from this Other, she ventured forward with a question – hoping to get some answers at long last. "I've never heard of a pyske before, I gather you aren't one?"
Lisanna giggled, pushing a lock of her silvery hair behind an ear even as she shook her head. "No, I'm not. A pyske is type of sprite, they're brilliant and can make just about anything when they tear themselves away from their books long enough to bother. My people aren't as interested in being cooped up – druids prefer to focus their attentions on the natural arts."
"I hadn't realized there were so many differences," Lucy admitted, "I confess we didn't often discuss the particulars of what lay beyond the Edge where I'm from. This place, you called it Magnolia?"
The woman fluttered her hands, scratching the back of her neck guiltily. "I'm sorry, I'm sure you must feel overwhelmed. Yes, it's the only large city we have, though there are a few other minor tribes and villages scattered around the rest of Fiore. We prefer to keep to ourselves, away from the temporal lands."
Lisanna nodded, her demeanor shifting to solemn as she took in the girl seated before her. "Temporal – mortal, the human realms change so rapidly that it is difficult to keep track of who is in control. Some of your kin take more kindly to us than others – but it's been years since we moved freely between the mountain borders."
Lucy shifted, folding her legs beneath her as she leaned forward – her blood buzzing at the new information. "We've been at war for centuries, I've never come across anything in our history that said we've been friends."
There was a beat of silence and the blonde began regretting her comment when the Other sighed ruefully, one corner of her mouth curved up. There was a sadness in her aqua eyes, ancient and eternal. It seemed at odds with the cheerful persona she'd displayed thus far.
"There was a time that it was second nature to live side by side. Still, not all of us are warriors – eventually the growing animosity pushed us back beyond the hills. Nowadays, only the very brave or very foolish wander to your lands."
There was a finality in her statement, as though further prodding wouldn't be welcome.
The princess drank that in, mulling over the words even as her mind jumped to her lessons – to the deep-seated hatred and fear her people had for the Others. Though this place was different than she'd imagined, she couldn't ignore the destruction she'd seen wrought with her own eyes. She couldn't forget the warnings of their thrall.
Her silence was noted.
"I am aware of what they say about us in the Golden Plains." The shape-shifter stretched, cracking her knuckles as she continued with one last piece of information. "But our memories are long lived. If you don't believe us, I'd suggest accessing our archives yourself."
Lucy chewed the inside of her cheek, her gaze darting around the room as she mulled that over, unease churning in her stomach. It was now closer to midday, the sunlight bright as it flooded the chamber – the alabaster cliffs of the suspended city visible from her angle on the bed.
She played with a ringlet of her hair before glancing back at the woman. "I don't understand why you're being so kind. Why would you offer to open your records to an outsider? I don't see how it benefits you to bring me here, only to treat me as…as a guest."
The words came out a bit desperate, bewilderment clear in her voice. Lisanna took it with stride, her tone placating as if speaking with a spooked animal. "I am not your enemy Lucy. I hope you come to see that soon – until then you are our guest. We'll do what we can to keep you comfortable."
At that she turned back to the items she'd originally retrieved from her bag, placing them on the mattress. Lucy counted three more of those long robes, some undergarments, and two pairs of flowing white pants. Running her hands through the spun cotton, she noted they were in her measurements.
"I was told you might need some new clothes and we're close in size. If you don't like them, we can always find something else later." Lisanna explained, tossing another nightgown on top of the small pile before opening a container. "I was also told you haven't had a chance to eat yet, so I brought you a late breakfast!"
Within seconds she brandished a platter of fresh dates, spiced olives, and cream slathered bread – warm and thick. Beside it was a bowl of sliced melon and a canteen of mint-soaked water. Lucy's mouth quivered, not realizing how hungry she had been until that second – momentarily forgetting her frustration. She instantly popped a stray grape into her mouth, her eyes falling shut as the flavor exploded on her tongue – sweet and tart.
Licking a stray drop of juice from her lips, she gave a weak smile, pausing before she could reach for more food. "Thank you, this is delicious."
"I'm glad to hear it! Whatever you need, just let me know." Lisanna cheered, cheeks rosy while her hands clasped together in front of her. Lucy gave a small nod, chewing on a slice of bread as she gathered her next thoughts.
She took a deep breath, considering her next words with care. Her eyes were downcast as she spoke. "So if I ask, will you take me home?"
The woman's smile faltered, an apology in her eyes. "Anything but that. I wasn't the one to bring you here, Natsu was. Dragons are notoriously prickly and I really rather he wasn't angry with me. They don't take kindly to others taking what is theirs."
The princess balked at that. Her mind flashed back to the imposing figure – all dark eyes and sharp angles. Power had hummed from his skin, crackling in the air.
She swallowed thickly.
"I don't belong to him." She spat out, pushing the food away from her and backed towards the headboard. "And if he won't let me leave then I'm a prisoner, no matter how gilded the cage."
The shapeshifter carded her fingers through her hair, her eyes flashing so that her pupils flattened to slits, only to return to their original state when she blinked a moment later. Lucy gulped, her throat dry – her early suspicion of the Other returning in full force.
"That came out wrong. If anything, I meant you were under his protection. He would take it personally if you disappeared under his watch." Lisanna tried, leaning against the closest bedpost.
When that didn't appear to calm the blonde, she continued. "I really didn't mean to upset you, but he had his reasons for bringing you here."
Lucy dug her toes into the sheets, letting the feeling ground her as she wriggled uncomfortably. "I don't think he would be willing to share them with me."
"You should give it a try, he would surprise you."
The young royal was shaking her head before Lisanna had a chance to finish her sentence. "You don't understand. I don't think he'd be willing to talk to me about anything. We aren't exactly on the best of terms."
At that the druid leaned forward – more curious than intrusive as she entered the younger girl's personal space, her head cocked to the side in a distinctly feline motion. "I doubt he would have brought you here if you were on poor terms."
I should have let you burn.
The gruff words echoed through her skull as clearly as if he were standing there beside her, their quarrel cemented in her mind. It sent a shiver down her spine, reminding her of the smoke clogged hallways, the books burned to cinders and the flames licking the walls – trapping her.
The acrid taste of fear filled her mouth, but she couldn't ignore the stubborn knot of guilt broiling in her stomach – warning her that she wasn't without fault. She couldn't deny he had saved her life in the end, and in response she had screamed at him.
He shouldn't have threatened her, but she shouldn't have pushed him either.
Not before she understood exactly what was happening.
Eventually, the silence in the bright room became uncomfortable, the druid clearing her throat as she waited for some sort of response. Lucy sighed, playing with the hem of her long tunic before giving a half-hearted response.
"We might have gotten into an argument this morning." She stated, her voice a bit reedy as the lingering stress of the moment coated her words.
"Ah." Lisanna hummed, her expression unreadable.
Then suddenly, her attention shifted. She glanced up to the ceiling as if she sensed something, avoiding eye contact. "I wouldn't worry about it too much. For now just relax, eat something and explore a bit."
Lucy's brow furrowed, watching as the woman shook her shoulders restlessly – her fair skin rippling as if something wished to claw out of her. The girl's ears twitched, the shell of them wide and pointed in a way they certainly hadn't been when she had first arrived. "Are you alright? You seem distracted."
Lisanna glanced at her, and Lucy realized her bright eyes had sharpened again – the pupils elongated like a predator's. She recoiled instinctively, her spine straightening as the Other spoke, the faintest hint of fangs poking out from her pink lips. "I'm fine, just remembered something. I have to run but do take care."
The woman smiled slightly, gathering her bag over her should once more before slinking over to one of the nearby windows. She paused in the archway, fingers brushing against the sheer curtains as she looked back at the girl perched on the bed in the center of the room. "I hope to see you again soon, Lucy."
She didn't give the blonde a chance to respond before her body shuddered, her back arching as she shifted within the space of a heartbeat – a hint of snowy fur glinting in the sun before she vanished into the open air.
Lucy found herself alone for the third time that day, the sudden silence jarring. She didn't think she could get used to that, the way they casually flung themselves off the cliffside. It only served to remind her exactly how far away she was from home.
Lucy licked her fingers, savoring the last bit of cream from her meal – full and sated. She had already changed her clothes, pulling on something more fitting though it the robes felt as odd as the pieces she had found in the wardrobe earlier. She found the airy material strange as she breathed deeply, her lungs unrestricted. At least these seemed to be in her size, regarding the pastel silk with curiosity, following the thin silver threads as they wound in flourishes of embroidered roses at the cuffs.
She rotated her hand, watching the light flicker against the sterling strands as she considered the events of the past twenty-four hours. She bit her lip, tasting the remnants of salt as she thought back to the night before when she'd defended the Other – her instincts shouting at her that he was innocent – a surge of protectiveness insisting that beating him was wrong. She had been so sure, only for him to abduct her in the dark, spiriting her away beyond the Edge and away from everything she had ever known.
When he'd appeared that morning, she'd felt disoriented – the marble city outside her windows was not the dystopia she had been expecting. Even the Other had seemed less petrifying – his scales vanishing beneath his skin – his eyes free from the inky black that had swallowed those reptilian orbs the first time she'd seen him.
She hadn't been afraid, but that in of itself felt wrong.
She had seen her home catch fire, the flames writhing as they raced through the streets of the capital, climbing the walls as the structures turned to ash. She could still hear the screams of her people and the palace guards before they had fallen silent, dispatched by the very man who now held her captive.
She could recall all of it, and any gratitude she had for being pulled from the wreckage had evaporated. She didn't know how he had calmed her so easily, why she hadn't bolted when he'd first entered her chamber. The doubt was there, and the perplexing introduction of the two newcomers hadn't helped. They had been kind and as they attempted to convince her that everything would be okay – that they didn't intend to hurt her.
That despite what she had seen, Bosco was still standing and her people were safe. She was safe.
She didn't know what to believe.
All she knew was that she was trapped in this gods-forsaken castle in the sky, and she couldn't find the way out.
She had been wandering the bluff-side villa for the past hour, trying to comprehend the layout – her blood humming at the ever-present silence. Her hackles were raised, her spine stiff at the feel of eyes on her – following her tracks as she wove through the winding hallways and rooms, the bright white sandstone seeming too cheerful.
She hadn't forgotten the druid's unease when she'd left, how she had been distracted – her sharp vision trained towards the roof as if she could sense something creeping just out of sight.
It was almost as if something was waiting in the shadows, lurking – watching.
The day was withering, the sun beginning its descent when she finally heard something.
Ears perking up at the notes of a low whine, Lucy made her way to the opposite side of the main floor – entering the west wing before she found its origin. The room was large, cavernous – inclining downwards as the stone hewn walls grew coarser – as if this chamber was a natural pocket within the cliff-side rather than a construction.
Like so many other areas, one section was open to the elements – the arc of the hollow gaping over the sea beyond, proving that the keep was on the outskirts of town. The waves crashed against the rocks below as the wind whistled through the cave, the source of the sound she'd heard earlier.
Unlike the other rooms however, this one had stairs.
Lucy licked her lips, fingers flexing at her sides as she took a step down, her eyes glued to the space before her. Afghans rugs and glossy furs littered the floor, overlapping while still more were rolled and stacked in a far corner. Gilded mirrors of every shape and size were strewn around, making the collection spread before her seem endless.
For that was what this was – a collection.
Piles of precious gemstones seemed haphazardly placed as they glinted like starlight between rivers of gold – strings of pearls embroidering small mountains of coin. Bolts of shimmering satins and iridescent silks were draped over a large carved table, as if abandoned by the richest of royals. Still more curiosities dotted the chamber, painted pottery, and marbled sculptures so delicate it seemed as if they were hewn from glass.
She had never seen anything like this before, it was more expansive than even her father's coffers. She weaved between the stacks carefully, caressing her fingers over a wolf pelt as she padded barefoot across the woven carpets, the paths unusually well-kept despite the chaotic state of treasure. Finding a particularly pretty set of porcelain, she peeked inside, raising her slender brows at what lay within.
In stark contrast to the abundance of diamonds and amethyst stacked at her right, the fine china she found was filled with buttons.
They were all shapes and sizes. Some were carefully crafted and molded from metal while others were roughly carved from wood. Canting her head to the side, and brushing her locks away from her face, she pivoted on her heel. Her initial sweep hadn't been thorough, and now she realized here were other similar mundane oddities scattered in the cavern.
There was a chest of spoons hidden behind an old tapestry, and one of the vases held nothing but thimbles. A further look at a desk revealed mismatched game pieces and she could swear the pile of rocks by the entrance had been stacked too carefully to have been accidental.
Fascinated, she wandered further in, a sparkle in the corner catching her eye. She moves towards it, seeing a small silver box resting precariously on a pile of gold, a thin key resting within the lock. Her hands flexed, curiosity bidding her forward.
She reached out, her fingertips just brushing against the cool metal when suddenly she was jerked back – a tight grasp around her wrist yanking her back in a spin so that her back was pressed flat against the frosted pane of a looking glass.
Her arms were slammed up, a firm grip gathered both her hands and pinning them up by her shoulders. She gasped, the wind knocked out of her as she looked up into pitch black.
"Hasn't anyone ever taught you not to touch what isn't yours?"
His eyes were blown wide, the colour bleeding into his sclera just as it had the first time she'd seen him. The onyx within flashed, seeming darker as he glared down at her through his rosy fringe, jaw tight as his nostrils flared. There were no scales in sight, but a hint of sharp canines was visible from between his lips.
Her senses were suddenly flooded by the scent of wildfire, crackling through her even as she caught a whiff of rain-soaked soil – fresh from a summer storm. It curled around her even as the heat as his arms caged her in – sinewed forearms creating distance from his torso, still wound tight by the dressings she had spotted that morning.
She swallowed thickly, suddenly parched.
"I didn't mean any harm, I just wanted to see it." She whispered, as if speaking too loudly would provoke him – those eyes still regarding her with lethal focus.
"What're you even doing in here?"
"I had nothing else to do, so I thought the estate might be worth exploring."
"And this is the place you decided to check?"
She bristled at that, nose wrinkling.
"The door wasn't locked. I assumed it would be alright and that you would have shut it if I wasn't allowed in."
He looked at her, canting his head to the side – assessing.
"I didn't think I needed to. Most people are smart enough not to trespass on a dragon's hoard."
Lucy bit her lip, remaining silent even as a flush crawled up her cheeks. The indignation that has been building in her began to evaporate, his words ringing true.
She didn't know why she kept doing this, antagonizing him would do nothing to help her cause. She knew what she was supposed to do – duck her chin, lower her eyes, apologize.
That was what she had always been taught. To be seen and not heard – to remember her place, and yet instinct screamed that she shouldn't. Everything about him set shocks through her system, the soft hair on her arms standing on edge as if to warn her to be on guard – that she was in the presence of a predator.
She wondered where this sixth sense had been when she'd first seen him in her father's hall, why she had been so quick to trust him then and not now.
He must have read it all on her face – the fear and defiance, logged down by the haze of confusion filling her head. It was as if it were this place – throwing her internal compass into disarray.
His lips quirked down, brows furrowed at her reaction.
He clicked his tongue, pushing off and away from the mirror. He released her wrists slowly and stepped back, shoving his hands into his pockets as he considered her. Her knees buckled ever so slightly, leaning her weight against the glass as she waited to see what he would do next.
It was silent for a moment, his eyes scanning hers before he blinked – the reptilian slits giving way as his pupils shifted. Her breath caught as his irises flashed, sage overtaking obsidian – sparks of amber flecks alight within.
Her spine went ridged when she heard a deep sigh, clearing her throat as he regained her full attention.
"Stop acting so nervous, I'm not going to hurt you." He drawled.
"You haven't given me a reason not to be."
"If I wanted you dead, you would know – and you definitely wouldn't be standing here right now."
She flinched internally at his words but stood up straight as she moved a few steps forward.
"Then just tell me why you brought me here!"
He didn't respond, the muscle at his jaw contracting. Lucy's patience was fraying, stepping closer still until she was the one crowding him.
"And don't tell me it was to save me. You were the one who put me in danger in the first place, and all you had to do was get me out of the building. You didn't need to bring me here. It…it makes no sense."
Her throat felt dry, glaring up at him – trying to ignore the figure he cut as he loomed over her, the lines of his broad shoulders tense. The gleam in his eyes was alarming, feral – unreadable.
"Do you really think," he started, the tenor of his voice smooth and lulling. "You were safe all alone in that castle?"
She watched as his gaze dipped away from her face, falling lower and to her side. She scowled, her hand automatically reaching to cover her ribs, wincing slightly at contusions she felt there.
"That's not your call to make."
He shrugged slightly, not disagreeing with her as he crossed his arms across his chest.
"I don't make a habit of abandoning my people."
She bristled at that, fists bunching in the fabric of her long tunic, the silk spilling through her fingers. Her eyes darted to the treasures surrounding them, the jewels and precious metals of his hoard glittering in the fiery rays of the setting sun. Lisanna's words from earlier echoed through her, remembering what she said about dragon's and their possessiveness.
"I don't belong to you."
"That's not what I meant."
"What the hell is that supposed to mean?"
Her heart raced as she noticed his fingers twitch, the embers in his eyes blazing as she felt the now familiar tremor of his power heat the air – simmering just beneath his skin. Her breath stuttered, thinking she might have pushed him too far, only for him to turn abruptly on his heel.
She gaped at his back as he made towards the stairs that connected to the rest of the manor. He paused right before entering the hallway, his hand braced against the door frame as he turned to look at her from behind his shoulder.
"Well?" He asked as he glanced at her, half exasperated when he noticed she hadn't moved. "Do you want to find out or not, Changeling?"
He didn't wait for a response.
The last thing she saw was the gleam of jade in those shadowed eyes, a wry grin plastered on his face as he disappeared around the corner.
"For the fourth week of Christmas my true love gave to me..."
This is the long (too long, I know) awaited update for "The Edge". You've learned and seen a lot in this chapter which I hope sated some of your curiosity on all the topsy-turvy things going on with poor Lucy. Is this the direction you were expecting it to go? How do you like their characterizations? Lisanna? The cavern? I know a few of you were upset at her for lashing out, but I want it to be abundantly clear that she has literally been torn away from her home, and Natsu isn't exactly helping. Though he isn't quite the monster she thought he was either...
Regardless, I hope you enjoyed it! The next update shouldn't be too far off, but in the meantime, please check out the new Nalu stories I've recently started! "Helix", "Departure", and "Once Upon A Dream" occur parallel to each other - so I would suggest starting with "Helix" and continuing in that order. I hope you take a look and let me know what you think ^.^
I would like to take a moment to thank everyone who has followed, favourited, or reviewed this story! Thank you so much for supporting The Edge. I also want to give a special thanks to all my reviewers as well. You're the ones who keep me going! Thank you to Snavej, Mekhashikito, Juvia is my spirit animal, mayu05, MWilsondet, Stubenhocker, Stellar, fafou14, CrazyZaika, neffateri13, Poxxy, Meow Orbit, Forbidden-Hanyou, foreveranimez, Lady Of The Sphinx, CelticHeart13, Kikachoo, mautrino, JAKEDSNAKE, Leomae2.0, Duchixx, miamu-chan, AzmariaMinohi, Firefly9917, Rroxz, nationalcarmen, divergent demigod 1234, noseinabook145, Terra of Life, Deborahpflover, YukiMC, rmadhumita378, nature's Nymph, JustSomething, stranger1999, Daisy73, BeachBumBabe, DreamWeaver2121, and of course the birthday girl herself MorriganFae!
Your feedback means a ton to me, and I always make a point to respond to all reviews and messages. Thanks for reading, The Edge will be back in Blue.
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