THIRTEEN

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Chapter Thirteen

As the horses have become loaded up and I find my fingers numb from the chilling air, I look ahead to the path that only leads upwards, straying farther away from both the camp and the Temple: the only two places I can memorize my way around in this new world. With my body covered in the same cloak that reminds me of a fox, my horse covers the rough terrain of the side of the mountains with ease, the reigns of the horse tied to a rope that is attached to Duke Gravon's own horse. With what I know to be a three-day journey total, the horses are packed lightly, the food and water having passed the King's approval for the trip as he wanted to leave as soon as the sun was beginning to fall into the ground. As my eyes flicker to the male who I seem to only trust on this trek, he hands me a warm mug, steam rising from the surface as the mug warms up my hands the moment they wrap around the cylinder. Thanking the Duke, I take a long drink from the mug, welcoming the warmth of the liquid that reminds me of an herbal tea my mother used to make. It has only been at most an hour since I last saw sight of the camp that reminds me at least as a source of warmth and haven. But now I am out in the great unknown once more, surrounded by only two males who are not human, and on a journey to speak with some goddess. To think a month ago I was in my home, wrapped in the welcoming covers of my bed, the glowing light of my phone illuminating my room as I would chat with good friends about what the future would hold for us or reflect on memories that brought a smile to my face. Funny how things can be taken for granted and next thing you know, you are tossed into unfamiliar territory.

"Duke Gravon, how far away is the Temple to this goddess?" I ask, recalling how the Duke informed me a day ago about the Temples, about how they were built for the gods and goddess where worshipers could speak with their deity.

"Dregh?" The Duke asks, his horse slowing down so ours are walking beside one another, allowing for a more personal conversation. Looking from the Duke quickly, I see the King ahead of us by a few meters, concentrated on the path ahead as he seems to be consumed in the world of his mind. "We are not headed to her Temple, no, for that would mean we would be sailing across the oceans for a week before reaching the volcano where here Temple is built." So, they have volcanos here. It makes sense for a goddess of fire or dragons to have her Temple built upon the surface of a volcano although I would not wish to step foot on a volcano. "Children of the gods and goddess, they can seek communication with their parents by casting a simple spell at a high peak." It makes sense for why we are headed up the mountains then, to reach a high peak where the King can perform a spell to summon his mother. I remember Soka telling me of dragons, of how they keep to themselves for the most part unless disturbed, telling me it would be very rare for me to every meet one, yet here I am, to meet the goddess of dragons within a few days. Growing up, I found dragons to be mere creatures of someone's imagination from long ago, creatures that I found to be impressive when movies portrayed them with heavy computer-generated images. As a child, dragons were what I wanted to reach about when my mother's maid would tuck me in for bed because my mother had locked herself away in my father's office or was out on another one of her trips.

"Why must we speak to his mother? Why does he not do this on his own?" I ask, taking a sip once more at the drink in my hands. The Duke looks to his King, simply shrugging his shoulders as he takes the reigns of his horse, causing it to slow down as mine does as well. The King still looks lost in his own world, not once glancing back to us at all. He made sure my horse was tied up to the Duke's in case of escape, but he does underestimate me there. I would not be dumb enough to run off when these men could easily catch up to me because I am just human and have no sense of direction in this world. If I wanted to escape, I would be smart about it, not putting my survival on the line whatsoever.

"My guess, Lady Candice, is he has plans for you with his mother." I raise an eyebrow, looking from the Duke and to the path ahead of us, the path only becoming steeper the farther we travel in the winter chill. "For a child to reach out to their deity parent, it is often frowned upon in the ancient books dating back to the creation of Iduna."

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