“Come out, Zima! I’m tired of playing hide and seek!” Aviva called from her perch above the bridge. “I’ve canvassed this area at least ten times. This isn’t fun anymore.”
She smelled Zima before she saw her – burnt peppermint breath enveloping her from behind. Aviva turned around to see Zima rising from behind the rocks beneath the bridge. Zima was a terrible sight to see. The dragon was as tall as a birch tree and as wide as the oldest pine tree on the other side of forest. Her scales were white and glittery like new fallen snow at sunrise but were as hard as plates of frosted glass. Despite her rigid outer covering, Zima’s long tail was flexible, grasping objects beyond her reach if needed. What Zima was missing were her wings. Aviva hadn’t asked her about this yet but she did notice the scars on Zima’s back.
“How could you not find me? I was right here!” Zima exclaimed. She regarded Aviva with a questioning look, taking in Aviva’s shoulder length, white hair, warm brown eyes and even warmer brown skin. The young girl – or woman as she insisted with they first met – was still holding her liege’s banner while sitting on her horse, Kite.
“You’re such a good hider, Zima! You just blend in with the snow.” Aviva finally dismounted her horse and leaned the banner against the saddle, stretching her shoulders and arms.
Zima snorted, “I don’t know why you insisted on carrying that banner the entire time.”
“I have to get stronger if I’m to prove that I can carry my liege’s standard. It won’t do for me to go into battle and then drop the flag when they need it to rally the knights.”
Zima snorted again causing Aviva to cross her arms. “I know you don’t think much of Egon but he is my liege and my cousin. He swears this war is inevitable. Our time together is numbered.”
Zima’s tail wrapped around Aviva’s waist giving her a squeeze. The tip found her shoulders and started to gently tap at the sore muscles there. Aviva leaned into the soothing touch with a sigh. She wasn’t sure what would happen to Zima once Egon started the war, but they had to find a way to remove the spell that had kept their kingdom trapped under winter snow for 100 years. None of the wizards they had brought over the years in had helped. Now Egon wanted to invade the next kingdom that seemed unaffected by the curse and take over their land for his own people. Aviva didn’t like the idea – you can’t simply take something that someone else has jut because you want it or even need it – but Egon had no ear for advice other his own greed and stubbornness. She was sure the war would further decimate their kingdom and leave them worse off then before.
Shaking off Zima’s tail, Aviva declared, “Let’s make the most of the rest of this day. Hide again, Zima. I’ll not pick up the banner or get on Kite this time.”
She turned towards the nearest tree and started counting to 50 while Zima bounded happily away. Zima didn’t see the tears falling from her eyes.
©️ iido 2019