Their footsteps thundered up the stone steps, the sound ringing in Bowen's ears, as the guard rambled on beside him, fighting to catch his breath.
He had begun thrashing in his sleep, wildly, the nursemaid awakened by the sound. She had tried to rouse him, then to hold him to the straw, but to no avail. She cried for help, pages rushing to her aid, a number of guards pouring in to restrain him as his arms struck the air-
His strength was enormous, flinging three of them to the ground, as if fighting for his very life. It was only after the guard had come to fetch Bowen that he had started screaming-screaming, as if his body was being rendered in twain.
Bowen flew down the halls, coming to the small chamber, only to find his men crumpled on the floor and the bed vacant. Kara brushed past him, sinking to the ground, practically shaking a half-concious guard awake, demanding what he saw. Bowen twisted in the hall, panic surging, unable to breathe.
Armor struck the ground behind him, Kara yanking the man to a sitting position.
"Where did he go?"
The man groaned, eyelids fluttering.
She shook him again, "Where!"
"Th..there-" The guard pointed down a corridor, fighting for coherency. Bowen turned to him, "There, he went that way, up the-"
Bowen broke into a run and scrambled up the stairs, two at once, his scabbard scraping loudly across the stones.
"Draco!" He skid into a hallway, whipping wildly, "Draco?"
A few shaken pages and maids who had flattened against the walls pointed him towards an archway. Bowen sprinted out onto a landing, the rain coating him instantaneously. He turned, finding a stairwell, and hurried up them as well, calling the dragon's name into the storm.
His heart hammered to break his chest, ice coiling in his stomach, please, don't, please-
Bowen stumbled onto the landing of the tower, clawing himself to his feet, eyes searching, frantic-
The man stood upon the edge, between two merlons, his back to the knight. There was blood on his shoulder, an angry gash beneath his scalp. He shook, arms dangling at his sides, gazing down, down, down into the courtyard of the outer castle.
Thunder cracked above their heads. Bowen took a step forward, hand outstretched, pain blooming in his chest as he tried to breathe.
The man turned, almost too sharply, teetering from his perch. He was cold-so cold-rain pelting near sideways against his body. He peered through the downpour at the dark clad figure behind him, hair sticking to his face-his face, his eyes, his skin-his skin prickled and hurt-blessed all, everything hurt so badly-
He stared at the fingers stretched towards him, the arm, the shoulder-the face. He knew this man. He knew him, felt him at his core, all blue eyes and scarred cheek. He was the last he had seen on this earth-the very last-
Was the sky still dark? The stars did not shine here, not now-it was all wrong. So wrong, he had left this life, tiredly, thankfully, in a blessedly short wave of pain. But not here. No, it wasn't here-
Yellow eyes turned and looked again to the far-away ground, encased in walls of stone. It was there. Bound and hurting, there, across the stones. How could he have moved so far away from that place? Nothing was right. Death had released him. The man leaned towards the edge, at that space on the cold stone. Hadn't it?
Bowen stepped forward, pulse jumping as the man leaned too far over the lip. "Wait-stop."
'You are my friend.'
That same desperate gravel, the same painful sound. A body rigid between bursts of fire. An axe clattering to the ground.
'Without you..what do we do.'
His hand lifted to his chest, his fingers-thin, fleshy, un-clawed-pressing over his heart.
'Where do we turn.'
Yellow eyes slowly turned to gaze upon the knight. Bowen stood, gaze pleading, another boom of thunder crashing overhead.
Beat. Beat. Beat.
"Is this a dream..?" His voice was soft, his throat torn. Bowen started, unsure if he heard him speak, or if he had only imagined it. The man's fingers dug into his chest. "Is this a dream?"
"..No." He stepped forward again, slowly. "No-this is no dream." The knight touched his own chest, "I am here, just as you are, I swear it!"
The man's eyes searched his face, and flicked to the open air before him, to the sky and beyond. "...have I been condemned-have I not truly paid for my sins?"
"You are not condemned!" Bowen moved again, fierce, standing close enough to touch him, but he does not dare, not yet. "I saw you! I saw you take your place with them, with my own eyes, Draco, you were free!"
The man remained, shivering in the gale. Bowen swallowed.
"I don't-I do not know...what has returned you to us, or why, but you are here. Alive, just as I am. You are here, do you understand?" His heart leapt as those all too yellow eyes met with his. He nodded his head towards the man, "You are here. With me."
Draco quaked as the rain became all too real upon his skin. The thunder rumbled, the sound moving through his unfamiliar bones. The thin cloth over his body sodden, uncomfortable, freezing every inch of him. He lifted his hand, reaching for Bowen's-and he caught his fingers, chilly, but solid. Whole. Strong. There was no lie within Bowen's eyes. He was no figment about to disolve into the ether, leaving him to some cruel Hell. Warmth bloomed in his hand, and clarity broke through at last.
"Bowen.." Draco stepped down from the ledge. Knees buckled, unable to hold his tired body, but the Knight was there to catch him, an arm wrapping securely around his all too small body. "Bowen," He tried again, his throat still ripped through, clinging desperately to the man, his friend, his brother.
Bowen near collapsed, a wild sound leaving him, the weight of the once-dragon pushing him to his knees. Draco sagged against his chest, and Bowen gripped his shoulder, his chin against his forehead. "I have you.."
Draco panted, utterly drained, sinking against the warmth around him, Bowen's name on his lips. He didn't hear the others clamoring noisily up the stairs behind them, his vision growing hazy, darkness tunneling his eyes. Only Bowen's voice, drifting above him, anchoring the entire world.
"I have you, Draco..."
I have you.
Waves beat mercilessly against smooth, salt-ground stone, the white bluff stretching far above the temptestuous sea. The white-capped bay roared far below, echoing in the hollow, redstone walls built high upon the cliff.
Six men kneeled, heads bowed before an altar, staffs in hand, golden hilted swords tied securely to their waists-silent and awed before the voice that had only just retreated once more into the grey-black skies. One of them lifted his gaze at last, drying his cheeks of astonished tears, the others following slowly after.
So it was commanded, it would be done. There was no time to linger.
They silently trailed out into the rain, cowls pulled neatly over their heads, unheeded, trapsing muddy footprints towards the mouth of the far-away forest, determination set within their hearts.
They who would answer the call, they who served the blessed, they who worshiped an ancientness far older, far greater than any mortal man could dream of achieving in this lifetime or any to follow.
The torches still burned within those walls, casting shadows upon the floors-the flickering, orange light dancing across the many carved effigies-all shining in silver and gold, a chronical of those who had long passed. Reverent, to those great creatures who once soared the heavens, now one with them, sworn to keep an everlasting vigil over man, in life and in death, through all his trials of this world and the next.
Bowen himself had carried the limp body of his friend down from the tower, with the help of another guard. The bed had been righted where Draco had nearly torn the bedding to shreds in his terror, and his sopping tunic was quickly replaced. Bowen had been more than reluctant to leave his side, the man's hand still desperately fisted in his shirt as he slept. The healers who had come to the aid of his guards swiftly changed their attentions to Draco shortly after their return. And now, Bowen stood, hovering near the bed, watching as they worked, Kara at his side.
They watched the calmed, pale face of their friend. There was no question in his mind now. Questions still burned them both, but for now, they simply looked on in silent awe. Draco had returned, in foreign flesh.
"We need respond to Brother Gilbert." Kara's voice was faint. Though she herself had not seen nor heard what had gone on between them, Bowen's conviction was enough to convince her.
Bowen frowned, watching as a healer gingerly dabbed the still bleeding cut at Draco's hairline. It occured to him, strangely, that he had never seen the dragon bleed. It disturbed him.
Kara turned to her husband. "What should we tell him?"
"...Everything." The knight tore his eyes from Draco, "I will find Brother Peter. Gilbert should know-he may have some idea about all this...at the very least, we will need his help."
Kara nodded, gaze wandering back to Draco. Bowen looked again, aching, everything within him battling not to leave this room.
"..I'll stay with him." Kara touched his arm, mustering a smile. "Perhaps he will rest more soundly now."
Bowen took her hand in his, fingers lacing gratefully.
"And if he wakes.."
He pressed a kiss to her palm. She would call.
"I will be quick."
With a lingering kiss upon her lips, Bowen turned and hastened from the room. Kara looked after him a moment, then moved closer to the bedside. Though circumstances muddy, and times ahead looking all too grave...
Kara could not stop the rising elation in her chest. Her eyes burned with unshed tears, and she smiled, watching his peaceful breathing. All the while, swearing she could hear the steady beat of his heart.