Chapter 2: To Feel, to Heal, and to Hurt

After they had finished their training, Zera had worked up quite the appetite and suggested that they grab a snack from the galley. Normally, Pyrus would have also been quite hungry, but his worries hindered his appetite. Nonetheless, he decided to accompany the Ice princess, figuring that it was better than lying awake for the Inferno knows how long.

Zera grabbed a full plate of moss and sliced canolies and filled her water bottle to the brim. Pyrus grabbed a portion that was half the size of Zera's and poured himself a small glass of water. Although the feeling of water was unpleasant in the throats of the Fire citizens, it was just as important for them to drink as it was for those of any other world. Water was life, which is why Planet Ice had been the most raided world out of cluster. Pyrus felt bad, thinking of how often the people of Ice lived under constant threat. Although Planet Fire had its share of raids, it was nothing in comparison to what Planet Ice had endured.

The two sat down across from each other at a nearby table. Lady Zera almost immediately began gulfing down her food. The girl was famished. Although he knew it was rude to stare, Pyrus could not help but watch the Ice princess in amusement. She was so small, but it looked like she could devour a lava dog.

Zera glanced up and saw that the Fire prince was staring at her.

"What?" she asked, bewildered. "I'm allowed to eat!"

"I didn't say anything," Pyrus replied with a smirk.

"Just because I'm a princess, it doesn't mean that I cannot indulge myself once in a while. A warrior needs her nourishment."

"You don't have to justify yourself," Pyrus said, still amused. "Training burns a lot of calories."

Zera then looked down and noticed the miniscule meal on Pyrus' plate.

"Then why aren't you eating much?" she asked. "If anything, you should be eating more than I am."

Pyrus let out a small chuckle. He knew that she was right, but he was not certain if it would be wise to tell her his reason for eating very little.

"I just have a lot on my mind," Pyrus said. He figured that it was not a lie; rather, it was just an omission of truth.

"Really?" she asked. "Like what?"

Zera was always an inquisitive girl. Although Pyrus would never admit it, he appreciated this inquisitive nature. It was this nature that made Zera into the intelligent being that he admired and respected. On his world, girls were raised not to ask questions, and were expected to only speak when spoken to. Before he had met Zera, Pyrus never thought about the archaic rules that plagued his planet; they just never occurred to him. Zera gave him something to think about. She challenged him, which, in turn, helped him to be a better ruler to his people.

Regardless, Pyrus was uncertain if it would be a good idea to share the horrifying images that he had seen in his dream. He did not understand what they were. He had saved Zera that time on the bridge, so why did this dream show the opposite? He had escaped his homeworld before the Beast had arrived, so why did he perish in this dream? Was it just a dream or was it something more? Pyrus was confused. Zera saw the conflicted look on the prince's face and became concerned.

"Is something the matter?" Zera asked.

Pyrus snapped out of his brooding frame of mind and focused his attention back on Zera. She looked different than she did when he first met her. She had grown quite a bit. Zera was nowhere near as brash as she used to be. She remained calm and Pyrus could feel her gaze sinking into him. It was almost as if she could read his thoughts. Part of Pyrus wondered if she actually could. After all, she did spend time with Zuma.

Pyrus thought about telling Zera that it was nothing and to not worry about it, but he knew that she would never buy it; she knew him too well at this point. He sighed and decided to tell her what had been plaguing him for the last couple of hours.

"I don't know what your take on dreams are," he started. "...but on my world, we always took dreams as signs sent to us by the Inferno. They were messages designed to educate, reveal, or warn. Our ancient texts are filled with stories of our rulers and their interpretations of dreams. The rulers who heeded their dreams were rewarded or spared from danger. However, those who refused to listen to them often suffered severe consequences."

Zera listened intently as Pyrus continued.

"These stories were drilled into my head as a kid. As the ruler of Planet Fire, I was expected to take all of my dreams seriously. The Inferno was to be revered and the ruler of the planet was its mediator... the "Lord of the Golden Light" as they put it. The Vizier was a firm believer of this. Part of me always wondered how much truth there was to it. The way we were brought up made me afraid to express my doubts... it made me afraid to even question. It just didn't feel right."

Zera felt very sad as she listened to Pyrus. She could not comprehend how difficult it would be to be raised in such a manner. Pyrus was burdened not only with many responsibilities, but many fears as well. She thought that her planet was quite strict, but now realized that compared to what Pyrus had to endure, it was actually very lenient.

"I'm sorry," she said.

Pyrus looked into eyes. The Vizier had always told him that the hearts of the people of Ice were as cold as their planet. However, Pyrus saw that his late mentor could not be further from the truth. He saw sincerity and compassion in the Ice princess. Lady Zera had the heart of a gentle flame.

Pyrus gave a gentle smile.

"It's okay," he told her. "I still have a lot to learn. Part of me thinks that I always will."

"My father always taught me that dreams could mean many things," Zera told him. "They could be completely insignificant and related to something that you ate before you slept, or they could be your subconscious trying to tell you something. It's hard to say."

Pyrus listened as Zera continued.

"What was most important was that we talked about our dreams, whether it be through writing about them or speaking about them to someone else. By writing down what happened in our dreams, we would be able analyze them and discern the meaning behind them, if any."

Pyrus contemplated her words. He realized that the people of Ice were far more open about the possibilities and were far calmer about discussing them. He already felt far more relaxed than he did earlier. He decided to be a little bold and ask her something personal. For some reason, he felt that he could be on that personal level with her. His gut told him that he could trust her.

"What kind of dreams have you had, if you don't mind my asking?"

Zera seemed somewhat taken aback by the personal question, but quickly regained her composure.

"I've had many," she said. "Some were terrible and others were wonderful. To answer your question, I often dream about my mother. I remember how she smiled. She was so kind and gentle. She had an amazing sense of humour, too. The way she could make my father laugh... she had a way with him that no one else did."

Pyrus listened to Zera chuckle at that last sentence. The image of King Cryos laughing was hard to take in. He sometimes wondered if the Ice king even knew how to laugh.

"My dreams could mean many things," Zera said. "Whether its my subconscious speaking to me or my mother, one thing is for certain: I miss her very much."

Pyrus saw that Zera was struggling to keep her emotions inside. He imagined that Jade trained her to toughen up and have control over her feelings. However, he was skeptical about how healthy keeping them in could be. His people were known for being hotheads, but one thing was for certain: they never repressed their emotions. Fire was the element that represented feelings. Pyrus knew that feelings were not meant to be hidden.

Although the ancient texts commanded the people of Fire to refrain from touching the opposite sex, Pyrus felt compassion for the Ice princess and reached out to comfort her. However, he temporarily forgot the consequences of his actions.

Zera jerked her arm back in pain, shocked from the burn that came from Pyrus' hand touching hers. She looked at him, surprised, but not angry.

Pyrus was immediately apologetic. He cursed himself. He wished that for once—just once—he could touch her without causing pain. His people adapted to survive the harsh heat of their world. However, that came with a price. His fiery being damaged those who were not of his world. He thought of Zera and how her people could heal others; more specifically, how she had healed him. He envied that ability. He wished so hard that, for once, he could heal instead of hurt.

"I'm sorry!" he said. "I keep forgetting. I didn't mean to..."

"It's okay," Zera said, cutting him off. "I know that you didn't mean to. It's sweet that you care. I don't usually speak to many people about my mother."

"It sounds like she was a wonderful woman," he said. "I never knew my mother. She died when I was born. I could tell that my father was hurting, but he never let it hold him down. There were many people who mourned the loss of my mother. They said many wonderful things about her. I just wished that I could have known her."

"I'm sorry," Zera said. She knew Pyrus had been through a lot. It broke her heart to listen to what had happened to him.

"It is what it is," he said. "The important thing is that I don't let it hold me back. Sometimes I feel sad, and that's alright, but it's important for me to not let those feelings hold me back. When I talk about them, I don't hold them in to fester inside of me."

"Well, you're a very brave prince to have endured everything that you have," Zera told him. "I can't imagine losing my entire family and my world. I don't know how I would manage."

After a momentary pause, Pyrus explained, "Before my homeword was devoured by the Beast Planet, the Vizier told me that my duty was to show my people that those of Fire are not afraid to do what must be done. All of these thoughts ran through my head. Part of me just wanted to give up, but I couldn't. I knew that my people relied on me, and I couldn't let them down. When you're a ruler, you do what you have to do."

Zera pondered the prince's words. He wasn't the prince she remembered from that first day on Planet Fire. Although he had lost nearly everything that was dear to him, the prince of Fire remained steadfast in his love and loyalty to his people. There was more rock in him than ten Quarriors combined.

"You really are a lot like my father," Zera explained. "...only with a flaming head and a hot temper." She smirked at the quip.

Pyrus laughed at her remark. Aside from Femur, Zera was one of the very few who could get him to laugh. Whenever life was dull, he could always count on her liven up the mood.

"I try," he responded, humoured. "Believe it or not, you're not too different from your father, yourself. He does what needs to be done. It took a lot of courage for him to abdicate the throne that time. He certainly cares about you a lot... and I can see that you're the same way."

Zera smiled. She truly did care for her father... and many others as well. The prince of Fire was certainly wise beyond his years.

Pyrus continued, "If you're anything like him—and you are—you would because you must."

It was at that moment that the prince of Fire realized that he quoted the words of King Cryos on the day he faced the "Trial by Fire." Suddenly, the Pyrus was reminded of the horrid visions from his dream and cringed.

"Pyrus? What's wrong?" Zera asked, concerned for her friend.

"I..." Pryus started. However, before he could say anything else, the ship's alarm interrupted him.

"What's going on?" Zera asked aloud.

"I don't know," Pyrus responded.

The two got up from their seats and headed for the control room. Something was going on and they were going to find out what it was.