“Aaaaaaaaah!! Make it stop!! Please, make it stop!! I can’t take it anymore!!!!”
“ALEX!!” Lilly shouted, “You have the remote.”
I glanced down at my hands. Right. I’m holding the remote; Lilly is strapped to a chair.
I turned off the TV.
“Right. So… torture by Justin Beiber movie isn’t going to work.”
“Ya think?” Lilly smirked. “Come on, Alex. Just shine the light in my eyes, start hitting me. Real torture.”
“I–” I looked at the array of painful devices on the table. Soldering iron, clamps, taser, hot glue gun… “I can’t.” I sighed. “I–I don’t want to hurt you.”
“I’ll be fine.” She smiled. “You can heal me when you’re done, remember?”
“Yeah, but… you really want this?”
“It’s not about what I want. It’s–it’s the only way for me to get control over my power.”
“There has to be some other way.” I shook my head. “Something that doesn’t involve me torturing someone I–” I stopped myself before I said “love”. Probably too soon for her to hear that.
“I’m a dragon slayer, Alex. I… I’ve been through worse.”
I felt a sudden sadness wash over her mind. She was remembering something painful.
“How exactly does one train to slay dragons?” If the memories were painful, maybe… maybe I could just push her to tell me, and… and I wouldn’t need to actually hurt her.
“Lots of combat training, for one thing. Learning how and where to strike. It’s… it’s pretty much what you’d expect.”
“I can tell there’s more to it than that.”
“I–It’s nothing. Just…” She sighed. “Dad always said I’d make a great dragon slayer. Told me I was a born swordswoman.” She swallowed. “I always beat my brother in our sparring matches. But… Dad was worried I wasn’t dedicated. I–I kept asking what the point was if the dragons are all gone anyway. He said they might come back, and–he made me–” She turned away. “It’s nothing, really.”
“Lilly. Look at me.” I didn’t need angelic mind-sensing powers to know she didn’t want to talk about it. But it sounded like something she needed to talk about.
She looked at me again. Crying. “I–I can’t talk about. It’s… I’m not allowed to… I can’t reveal slayer secrets.”
“You can trust me. I care about you, and–and if something happened, you need to talk about it.”
A long pause.
“O–Okay.” She nodded. “Dad–he said dragon eggs could lay dormant for thousands of years. That… that there were eggs hidden across the world, and… and they could still hatch. It’s the job of the slayers to find the eggs and destroy them. I… I said maybe they could be raised to be good, and…” Another pause. “The next time he found an egg, he brought it back and gave it to me. Told me I could test my theory.” She stopped.
“That was nice of him,” I said.
“I–I thought so, too.” She shook her head. “He–he told me how to care for it, get it to hatch, and… and I did. For months, I… I kept it warm, and–talked to it, and… he was so cute when he hatched. I–” A little chuckle. “I thought he was just the cutest pet ever. Named him Sparky. I…” Sigh. “I was so foolish, thinking I could raise a dragon. Went okay for a while, but then–” She turned away again. Crying even harder. Her mind was full of sadness. Despair. And… guilt. “Please, do… do I have to talk about it? I… I don’t think I…”
I swallowed. Seeing Lilly like this was tearing me up. But I knew she had to let it out. “Keep going.” I forced myself to smile. “Don’t make me get the whip.”
She smiled at the joke. “I… I thought I could control him. And… and I did. For a while. I could tell when he was about to breathe fire, and… and I’d close his mouth and say ‘no, bad Sparky. No fire.’ … Howard–my brother–he always called me a fool. Said one day Sparky was going to eat me, and not–” Sniff. Sniff. “Not to come crying to him when it happened.” She stopped again. Hands shaking despite being tied to the chair.
Mine were shaking, too. I couldn’t let her go on like this. If she was going to relive a tragic memory, I couldn’t let her do strapped to a chair. I started untying her. “I’m gonna free you so you can cry on my shoulder, okay?”
“I… thanks. But you should be–”
“If you want me to torture you into continuing your story, you’ll have to take control of my mind and make me torture you. Otherwise you’ll need to settle for the ‘caring friend’ routine.”
She didn’t laugh this time. The joke didn’t even faze her.
“You… you can stop.” I finished untying her hands and moved to her feet. “If it’s too–”
“No. I… I need to face it. I… if I hadn’t… if I hadn’t been so stupid…”
Untying takes too long. I burned through the ropes instead. Grabbed Lilly and rested her head against my shoulder. Hugged her tight.
“Th–Thanks.” She rubbed my wings gently. Sniff. Sniff. “One day Howard and I were arguing. Can’t remember over what. Probably just… something stupid. Sparky came over and… he looked straight at Howard. I–I knew what was coming, but… but I didn’t stop him. The next thing I knew…” Sob. Sniff. Sob. “I tried to put him out, but… it was too late. It was all my fault.” She buried her head deeper in my shoulder.
“You–you shouldn’t blame yourself. A young dragon is–it’s way too much responsibility for one person.”
“My dad came running. Saw Howard. And Sparky. And… and he handed me his sword… Said he hoped I’d learned my lesson.”