“Why do you always have to be so difficult?”
The words of the Elder Scribe rang in Lonna's ears even in the court yard. She didn't have to look around to know everyone was staring. Not one of her fellow apprentice priests and priestesses dared to speak. Lonna wondered how so much embarrassment could be brought about by simply asking a question. The question in particular was not meant to criticize or poke holes in the Scribe's teachings. Lonna only wanted to better understand the nature of her studies.
“I wasn't trying to be difficult, if the dragons have such a difficult time breeding what happens in the event that they go extinct? I know it is unlikely, but does that mean we cannot discuss it?” Lonna restrained her emotions like she'd been taught.
“Naida ought disown you for doubting her.” The Elder Scribe spat on the floor at Lonna's feet, an old custom meaning that the conversation had come to an ugly head. “Training is dismissed for today, you should all tend to your other studies and duties...and Lonna you better go spend your time in the temple pools and think about what you've said today.”
Like that the Scribe turned her back on Lonna and went inside her class room. With almost no from the Scribe calling for the dismissal of the day's training did the usual background murmur of the courtyard return as people hurried to comply.
“For a goddess of knowledge you'd think her priestesses would encourage seeking answers.” Lonna said to what she thought was only herself.
“You shouldn't pick fights, she'll have you swimming in the temple pools all day.” Responded Drew from behind Lonna.
“Laps in the pool don't bother me, it's the restrictive nature of this place that gets to me.”
“Did you think becoming a priestess was going to be a wild party?” Drew chuckled.
“Of course not, I came here to learn not to recite the same old tomes day in, day out.” Lonna kicked at an invisible stone and missed.
“Well no time to fret about that now, I'm going off with Benny and Lee for meditation. You better get to the temple before a Scribe notices your idle state.” Drew patted Lonna on the back before running off in the other direction from the temple.
The temple of Sea Serpent Queen it's self was constructed by her own dragons to encompass a water fall into it's architecture. With a stone walk way to get around on foot, the water fall flooded the lower levels, creating deep pools. Perfect for devout followers of Naida the dragoness of guarded knowledge and mistress of water. Although most of Lonna's fellow apprentices only saw it as a good way for the academically minded to stay in shape, not Lonna though. She did feel more connected to Naida when she was swimming, which could be explained away easily. Naida the queen of the sea kin dragons and goddess to mortal humans had not been seen in a long time. She along with more than a third of the sea kin population had dived down to depths unreachable to humans and had not surface for over a hundred years.
As Lonna dove in pool, she wondered what Naida and her dragons had been doing all this time. What had they found under the water that could hold the attention of a five hundred years old dragon? As her face made impact with the water, she felt it was away her resentment towards the Scribe and her embarrassment. For an hour Lonna did her laps and decided to enjoy the experience of sinking like a stone. Of course Lonna could hold her breath for longer than most people, but high priestesses could hold their breath in trances for up to an hour.
When sinking and resurfacing before any panic could sent in became monotonous Lonna returned to her laps before noticing she'd done her time. Swimming over to the steps at the front of the temple Lonna over heard a conversation, which mildly startled as she thought she'd been alone for the last half hour. The voices were coming from one of the bridge like walk ways above her. Not making any unnecessary movements or sounds Lonna listened in.
“And you're sure that's what sea kin said?” A somewhat familiar female voice asked.
“Yes he made it very clear, the queen will not return unless absolutely necessary.” A completely unknown male voice replied.
“Is it not going well? Is that why she won't resurface?”
“No, it's the other way round. Her construction of the city is going smoothly, so smoothly that she had already began work on plans for expansion.”
“So she's just going to give up on us?” The woman's voice raised for a second, but returned to a soft whisper once the mistake was noticed.
“The sea kin said that was not the case, but would not offer alternative cause for this desertion.” There was a moment of uncomfortable silence between the disembodied whisperers before the man spoke up again to say “We cannot allow this to get out, if you reacted this strongly what chance to the rest of us have?”
“Yes, you're right, I shall continue as always.”The woman seemed to have composed herself.
Hear the mysterious conversation come to an end and afraid to be caught eavesdropping Lonna slowly stepped back into the pool and pretended to have been swimming. When the sounds of footsteps had faded Lonna felt it was safe to come out.
Lonna burst into the apprentices' dorm and without worrying if anyone was watching went straight to Drew who was taking to Lee. Taking the oblivious Drew on her shoulder she spun round and began saying
“Oh Lonna there you... what's wrong?”
“Can I borrow Drew for a minute Lee?” Lonna asked ignoring Drew. Lee being a natural at reading situations nodded and back away.
“Tell me what's wrong?” Drew insisted once Lonna had dragged her away into the far corner.
“I don't know.” Lonna whispered.
“What do you mean you don't know?”
“I mean I do know, what's wrong, but I don't know if it's good idea to tell you.” Lonna was regretting her panic induced idea to come running to Drew.
“Did you break something in the temple? You didn't cause one of foot paths to collapse did you?”
“How clumsy do you think I am? No, I didn't break anything...I over heard something that clearly wasn't meant to be heard by anyone.”
“Who did you over hear?”
“I didn't get a look at them and I didn't recognise the voices...I feel sick Drew, like I'm in a constant fall into something bad.” Lonna could barely maintain her whispering as her breathe quickened and her great thudded like a lead drum.
“Clam down and breathe, if you can tell me what it is they said that making you feel so ill you might feel better?” Drew put her arm on Lonna's shoulder, anchoring her to the present moment. Stealing the panic long enough for Lonna to say
“No it's fine...I over reacted.” With the practised ( )eathing exercise that she'd been taught to render her emotions flat Lonna made the decision to keep the rest of what she knew secrete. It was the only way she could protect Drew's faith because what Lanna had heard could topple the entire following of Naida.
That night while everyone slept in deserved slumber, Lonna lay awake. What she had over heard was almost certainly she realised then was an Elder Scribe, not her usual mentor, but one who'd handled festival rituals. The man was possibly a high priest, seeing as he had direct contact with a sea dragon. A privilege not given to any follower. From what Lonna had read in their voices the Scribe had expected the news that Naida was postponing the return. While the high priest was probably far better at practising the balance of emotions, because he'd hidden his disappointment under a monotone of indifference.
This told Lonna that this was not the first time Naida must have sent messengers to her temples. It had been over a century since she and her kin dove under the waves. The only other dragon queen to have disappeared from the human world was Asalie queen of the Ever-flight kin, although their ( )eed were never really mean to land that often. Lonna rolled in her cot, the thought of the queen, the demi goddess abandoning her people for ambitions beyond that of knowledge. To desert her loyal servants and at the same time want her praise be sang was too much for Lonna. She'd taken oaths, vows and dedicated her life to this selfish god and that alone paralysed her.
As the night grew older Lonna continued to unpick at the loose stitches that had once held her life together. Till finally day broke, the bells tolled and breakfast followed. Classes started and ended, only to start again. Everything was a haze, an annoyance that tried to distract her from what was truly going on.
When the day came to a end and Lonna found herself back in the dorms and sitting in her cot, it once again took Drew's touch revive her.
“Hey, where have you been all day?”
“Hmm? I was with you all day what are you talking about?
“No you've been in your head all day. Are you still worried about what happened yesterday?” Drew sat down next to Lonna on the cot.
“No I'm not worried...it's something else...hey what would you do if you weren't trying to become a priestess here?”
“Why you changed your mood awfully quick....ummm I don't know, this is all I've ever wanted to be a priestess. Share in the magic of the dragons and teach at the schools. Isn't it the same for you?”
“Yes, of course.” Forced chuckled escaped Lonna's lips and not wanting to lie any further to Drew, so Lonna explained she'd not slept the night before. Drew hugged Lonna and smiled with such warmth it almost made the entire exhausting ordeal worth it. Lonna slept well that night.
It was during the next day Donna skipped ( )eakfast and instead visited the archive, where all knowledge regarding water kin dragons and their relationship with their human followers was kept. Along the walls of the archive were scrolls, some over a thousand years old. It had a heavy aroma of candle wax and dust. Being early there was no one around to ask her any unwanted questions, aside from a sleeping elder scribe, but Donna didn't think they'd be a problem. Trusting that elder scribes could probably nap along side the best infants. So quietly and quickly Donna dashed over to the scrolls that were kept for when an apprentice achieves the honour of becoming a priest or priestess. Checking each of scroll for their wax seal, which displayed their titles and authors.
“Hmmm...transcendental cut? Breath of Steam...Wet Nurse of Kin?” Donna read in mumbled bemusement as she stuffed each scroll into a bundle she made with from a dress. She thought she'd feel more guilt over this act of heresy, but they'd betrayed her loyal faith and why worship what will not grace you with it's presence. As she stuffed a last few into her bundle one thing did ( )ing to mind she wouldn't be able to forgive herself for. Drew wouldn't know why Donna was doing the things she was currently doing, but Drew would get to keep her faith in something. Even if it meant she'd loose her faith in Donna, probably curse her name as soon as anyone found that some of their collection of ancient dragon kin rites had been stolen. The punishment for that was unknown to Donna, as she was pretty sure most sane people would not steal from a dragon queen's temple. However she wasn't done with nabbing more saviours, she still needed one last thing.
As Donna tried to remove herself carefully from the Archive the Elder Scribe jolted awake suddenly and scanned the room with blurry eyes. Donna stood frozen and knew her plans had been futile. That was till the old scribe croaked
“The Archive is closed till after breakfast, come back later.” Donna had to stifle a nervous giggle, instead she bowed with all the grace of a fish out of water than fled the scene as fast as she could. So focused of leaving one awkward moment she ran straight into a new one, by clashing into an inconveniently standing High Priestess. She stood out like all high priestesses do. The unmistakeable hint of florescent blue shimmered under thin skin, the prolonged affect of ingesting droplets of sea kin blood every day in place of food and water for three years. A dangerous journey to ascend, as not all can be sustained. The toppled high priestess was splayed out on the cobbled ground while Donna stumbled over her. Without really thinking Donna rushed over to help the priestess up, but was stopped by a sudden wall made of impossible muscle. Of course Lonna cursed herself interally, high priestesses don't go anywhere without actual dragon kin guards. The two slabs of perfectly chiselled meat were so intimidating that Lonna was grateful they were in human form.
“I'm. Sorry. I. Was. Late.And.I-” Lonna's panic kept her from forming a real sentence and instead a stammer of all the excuses she could think of issued forth. Thankfully the embarrassment and the terror was momentiraly halted by the hand of the priestess extending to receive my help up.
“It's alright you are filled with the energies or youth and the scribes are so strict about such little things.” The high priestess's voice was like thick syrup and cream. Lonna felt like she would collapse on her knees right then and there and forget she had a bag of some of the most powerful secretes on her person. “You should go now, before you get in trouble.” As the priestess and her sea kin guards began to make a graceful departure something like pages blew across their path. A scroll, a scroll had fallen out without Lonna's notice, but now everybody's attention became focused on it. There was a moment of silence as one of the guards knelt down to pick it up, but that died as soon as the apprentices and scribes began to make their way out of the dinning halls. The court yard filled with a sea made of blue and green hues robes and dresses, all the same styles and patterns, but most importantly all wearing head scarf and veils. In that moment Lonna pulled her veil down and ducked into the crowd. She didn't look back, not even when she was so far away from the temple that it was simply a figurine on a mole hill to her. Although her heart could not look away as it got further away from Drew, but Lonna knew that change too.