For once, it wasn't raining. There was no steady patter of rain on the saturated ground, no smell of damp earth in the air, no drip-drip as droplets fell of the castles high guttering.
He noticed this with a half-smile. It was easier to pretend he knew what he was doing when there was no rain to distract him. He turned to the tulips, wishing he could have the freedom to reach out with his mind to feel their life throbbing. He hadn't done that since… His mind wondered. Sometimes, I wonder if it comes back, he thought with a chuckle.
He looked back to the tulips. The pinkish-red was vibrant. The pure, perfect, happy colour seemed out of place in such a dismal place. He closed his eyes, breathing in the tulip's scent.
'And who are you?'
He turned, startled, to the speaker.
She was a pretty young lady, a few inches shorter than him, with a slim frame. Her long black hair was piled up on top of her head, in a style only the more important members of Morzan's court attempted. He thought she carried it off perfectly.
Her brown eyes were questioning, curious, fierce. He wondered what could have happened to her in the past to give her such a personality. Her tanned skin was just a shade lighter than her eyes, reminding him of hazel. He thought that she must have grown up somewhere sunny, open, free. Away from this place.
Her lips were pursed. They were cherry red and soft-looking. She opened your mouth to speak.
'Answer me. I could have you thrown out right now if I so wished. So, I'll ask again. Who are you?'
Her voice was threatening, a far cry from what he thought it would be. He realised who this lady was. Selena, Morzan's black hand. Suddenly, he realised what had happened in her past to give her such a personality, where the fierceness in her gaze came from, and why there was such an edge to her voice.
She began to open her mouth again. He was brought to his senses. Without thinking, he blurted out an answer as fast as he could.
'I am Neal, the gardener.'
A mere three years later, he finds himself far away from the woman he grew to love. He's chasing Morzan down dark alleys and tunnels, trying desperately to recover the egg.
His sword clashes again Morzan's, sparks fly, blood spills. His left arm, his shield arm, is already weak, made even more so when Morzan whacks the shield away and slashes desperately at his arm. It is only a scratch, but it could be his undoing. It is made even more important that the fight is finished soon.
Morzan's mail is exceptionally good; it has stopped many swords piercing the skin. But his sword may be narrow enough. He has to try, he can't defend much longer; it's now or never. He lunges forward, aiming for the chest. He feels the sword bang against the mail, and fears it won't work, but then he feels the sword sink into the skin. He plunges deeper, letting go of all his anger, and pulls the sword out only when he thinks Morzan is dead.
He picks up the egg from his body. It is blue, much like his dragon was. Morzan stirs one last time below, his breathing ragged, 'Who…' he whispers.
'Brother, don't you recognise me?' Morzan stays silent, breathing loudly.
'I am Brom, the dragon rider.'
The wind blows angrily against the trees. Leaves rustle around his feet and the hem of his robe and his beard blows in the ruthless wind. He narrows his eyes, but dust still flies in. He looks at the sight before him.
Far in the distance he sees the Spine and Palancar Valley. 20 or 30 houses are laid out neatly before him, but he guesses there are more than that in the village. Smoke rises from the chimneys of a few of the houses, and children play blissfully in the street. This was where she had grown up. This was where he would grow old.
He walks over to the inn, and sits down quietly outside. He notes the distrusting looks some of the villagers were giving him. He smiles a cracked smile, the first in a long time.
He looks around slowly. They all seem to be asking him the same question; 'Who are you.' Unbidden memories he wants to forget flash through his mind, Selena, Morzan, Oromis… Saphira. Who was he?
He opens his mouth to speak, his throat dry. His eyes rest on the girl in the corner with the baby in her arms. He smiles again, thinking of the future, and the past.
'I am Brom, the storyteller.'