Dolphin is a wealthy young SeaWing with all that she could ever want. She’s favored by Queen Coral, has loving parents that spoil her, and she’s almost ready to grow up and get treasures of her own. But when the SkyWings attack the Summer Palace, all that she has is burned down and she loses everything. She is now poor, and has to face the challenges of being lower class. Meanwhile, a revolution against the rich among the lower class SeaWings is brewing. Now, Dolphin has to choose her side in the revolution, and her life just may depend on her choice.
“Stay out of this, Emeralsada,” a yellow-green SeaWing commanded harshly, practically screaming his head off.
Three SeaWings were huddled up in a corner of a dark cave in the Summer Palace where no one could overhear them. They were dripping wet, but they didn’t bother to dry themselves. They were deep in conversation.
“But I should be able to help in the revolution!” the blue-green SeaWing known as Emeralsada complained. “I gathered all the information for you from the rich, I made diagrams for the plan, I gave many useful tips and tricks to help us with the revolution, and now I’m not actually allowed to even participate in it! You need me, Kelp!”
She was fuming, her anger rising like the tides at night. Her anger was directed at the yellow-green SeaWing, Kelp.
“SILENCE, EMERALSADA. I THOUGHT WE AGREED ON THI-” Kelp was cut off by Emeralsada.
“You lied to me! You said I’d play an important role in the revolution. No, you’re just using me as a tool to do all your dirty work! Kelp, you promised me I’d be allowed to fight in the revolution! Now you leave me in the dust even though I did most of the work, and you’re going out to ‘fight like a hero’ and claiming credit for all the work that I did!” Emeralsada spat, her emerald eyes burning into Kelp with intense, fiery fury.
“It’s not like that!” Kelp roared furiously, but he looked defeated.
The third midnight blue SeaWing sat in the background, keeping his interaction with the 2 screeching Seawings to a minimum. He was getting nervous now because there seemed to be almost a mad, wild look in Emeralsada’s eyes.
“Sadly,” Emeralsada sneered, seeming absolutely insane at this point. “I don’t think you’ll suffer that heroic little death you’ve been dreaming about, Kelp.”
She hurled herself at Kelp, claws outstretched to cut his throat. Emeralsada was hungry for the taste of his blood on her lips. Her madness was practically taking over. Kelp was frozen in shock and she quickly pinned him down, her jaws starting to sink into Kelp’s throat. Suddenly the third SeaWing knocked Emeralsada off her feet.
“Emeralsada, what were you thinking?!” the third SeaWing screeched. He was disappointed, scared of her, and furious at her at the same time. “If we want to win this revolution, we have to work together. And wasn’t trying to murder Kelp a bit extreme?!”
Emeralsada nodded, embarrassed and ashamed because of her loss of temper. Why had she overreacted so extremely? Was she a psycho?
“Sapphire’s right,” Kelp agreed, back on his feet.
He was still absolutely outraged that Emeraldsada had nearly murdered him, but he knew how to control himself.
“Let’s go, and Kelp, let Emeralsada fight in the revolution,” Sapphire, the third SeaWing said. He flew out of the cave with the other SeaWings following him. “We’re not going to let this revolution fail. We need all the help that we can get.”
I woke up to the wonderful aroma of fruit and seafood. My servant, Emeralsada, was right by my side. She was holding a silver tray with some mangos from the RainWing kingdom on it along with some minnows.
“Good morning, my lady,” said Emeralsada with absolutely no emotion in her voice. You’d never guess she was my best friend.
Emeralsada and I were friends, but obviously since Emeralsada was lower class, she had to act like any other servant when she was under the watchful eye of my parents. When they weren’t around though, we could have as much fun as we pleased. Servants and wealthy young ladies like me aren’t allowed to be friends, but I don’t care. We get along well, too, probably because Emeralsada is only a year older than me.
I sat up in my bed, which was a giant empty clamshell filled with pink silk sheets, a floral quilt, and fancy pillows. I couldn’t imagine anything more comfortable. I popped a few minnows into my mouth and took a bite out of one of the mangos. “Thanks for the snack,” I replied to Emeralsada in a casual way. Emeralsada just bowed. I realized we were supposed to be acting formal right now. Oops.
I did a long stretch. Emeralsada removed the covers on my bed for me and helped me get out of bed. I walked towards my vanity. Emeralsada pulled the chair out so that I could take a seat and Emeralsada applied my makeup. I put on my pink tiara and my pearl necklace. It was time for the morning feast. I loved my luxurious life, but sometimes it got a bit boring. I don’t know how I would’ve put up with it if Emeralsada wasn’t around to keep me company.
I walked downstairs where my mother and father were waiting.
“You’re finally awake!” Angelfish, my mother cheered a little more enthusiastically than she should’ve. My father didn’t say anything but just smiled.
We flew towards the feast with Emeralsada following us, the silver tray in her talons. Everyone else was already seated once we arrived. Emeralsada placed the half-eaten mango on my plate along with a few handfuls of minnows. Someone poured me some orange juice and flew away. I put some eggs on my plate and started eating. They call the Morning Feast a feast for a reason! The food is great!
Anyone who was chatting silenced as Queen Coral cleared her throat to speak. “Dolphin has nearly reached the age where she’ll graduate from school. She’s a fine student, but she’ll be an even better worker for the SeaWing government. I look forward to her as an adult dragon member in my kingdom. I’m very proud of her.”
The Seawings all around me applauded. Pride surged through me, so much of it in fact that I thought I was going to burst. Queen Coral had praised me in front of all the other Upper Class SeaWings! I held my head high, even though I was blushing a bit. I was honored! Queen Coral cleared her throat again.
“I have one more announcement to make,” she told us, and I was surprised to hear she sounded almost giddy. “I have found my long-lost daughter, Tsunami. There is now going to be a new princess!”
I nearly spit out the orange juice I was sipping. There was going to be a new princess! Queen Coral looked absolutely delighted, and I could tell she was having a hard time containing herself. I, on the other hand, couldn’t feel any less joyous.
I had always wanted a sister, a true friend of my own class, a friendship that I wouldn’t have to keep a secret from my parents. Jealousy welled up inside of me and I felt like crying in a hole. Anemone was so lucky she had a sister! I despised Anemone, but right now I wanted to be her because she’d now have a close friend and a strong bond. Not me. I realized how lonely I actually was. Emeralsada was my only true friend, but most of the time she had to act emotionless towards me. I had no friends that didn’t act like they barely knew me half the time. The tears were stinging my eyes but I blinked them away. I had to remain composed in front of Queen Coral.
Once we were almost done with the feast, I quickly asked to be excused. My mother said yes and I ran straight up into my bedroom without even having to think. I wailed and sobbed like I was still a little hatchling. I cried into my blanket and I didn’t care that there were tear stains all over it. What was I, useless? Worthless? A waste of money and time who didn’t deserve a nice sister? I actually started believing that. When I heard footsteps coming up the stairs I tried to wipe the tears away. As Emeralsada entered the room I was still sniffling.
“Dolphin!” Emeralsada gasped. “What’s wrong?” She sat beside me and she wrapped me up in some of my pink sheets until I looked like a caterpillar in a caccoon. I was still making a waterfall of tears.
I don’t know what I did next, nor why I did it. Maybe I felt cold to Emeralsada at the time, maybe I thought it was her fault that I felt so lonely, or maybe I thought I wasn’t good enough for Emeralsada’s care and attention. I’m still not sure. Either way, after what I said next, my own guilt has engulfed me since.
“Leave me alone!” I screamed, my eyes still stinging from my own tears. “I don’t want to be babied, can’t you tell that much?! GO AWAY! I don’t want you here! You’re nothing but a lower class servant to me!”
I immediately regretted what I had said. Emeralsada’s expression read so much hurt that I tried to apologize, but she was already storming out of the room. I was being abandoned by my only and best friend. Ouch. She whipped around to face me, a mix of anger, hatred, and pain brewing in her emerald green eyes. I hid my face with my blanket as if I was trying to hide from my mistakes, as if I was trying to hide from the world, but I knew I couldn’t do that.
“FINE!” Emeralsada snapped. “BE THAT WAY!” She stomped out of the room, making sure that I heard her walk away and leave behind our friendship. This time I didn’t cry or sob or shed a single tear. I just stared at the door as if she would appear and say she was sorry if I stared at it long enough.
I fiddled with my silver chain necklace that Emeralsada had given to me. It was my prized possession, but now I didn’t want it anymore. It only reminded me of my guilt. We were no longer friends because of my stupid actions. I threw the necklace across the room, furious at myself, and as I threw the necklace, my own hurtful words were echoing through my mind.
I didn’t sleep that night. I just tossed and turned in bed until I finally gave up on trying to sleep. Too much was on my mind. I stared out the window and the moon distracted me for a little while, but not for long. Soon the memories of Emeralsada and I crept back into my mind. They weren’t the memories of today, though. None of them were. The memories that kept on haunting me were the happy ones. I remembered when I first met Emeralsada as a hatchling, when we first started becoming friends, when we stayed up all night when my parents went out for dinner, but the thing I remembered most was Emeralsada’s reassuring laugh, and that’s probably what I missed the most. I smiled and cried when I thought about all our good times. We had so much fun back then, yet when I remembered I ruined that all of that, the tears wouldn’t stop. I cried myself to sleep that night. The tears stained my blanket and spilled out of my eyes until there were no tears left. I had emptied myself of all my sadness until I felt hollow inside.
Only then did I realize how tired I was. My head collapsed onto my pillow and my eyelids felt heavy. Everything inside of me ached of weariness. I could’ve sworn I saw a pair of emerald green eyes out the window as my own eyes started to close.
I smelled smoke. I didn’t know how I knew it was smoke, considering I never had never smelled smoke before, but I just did. I couldn’t see anything, and I didn’t know why. I heard flames crackling and screams, and then I realized there was fire. I broke into a run. Right in front of me, I could feel the heat, the almost unbearable warmth of fire. There was a wall of fire, right in front of me. I could tell. I immediately turned left. There was an earsplitting crack. I tried to wail for help but no noise came out of my mouth. What I thought was a tree fell on top of me. It fell right on top of my legs and burning pain seared through my body. It was the most indescribable, searing pain I had ever felt. My body ached from the pain. The weight of the tree was just too much, and I couldn’t escape no matter how hard I tried. Worst of all, the tree just had to be on fire. The flames lapped up the tree, inching closer and closer to my legs. Sweat covered me from head to tail, not just because of the heat, but because of my own fear. The fire was only a few inches away from my tail...
My eyes popped open, and they were as wide as saucers. Phew! Just a dream. The dream felt so real, I thought I literally could smell the smoke, feel the heat. Then I realized I could still smell smoke, even though I was awake. I looked around. I gawked at what I saw. My room was engulfed in flames, and the fire seemed to be eating up all my possessions and treasures. I instinctively ran towards the door, but glistening gold flames erupted in front of it just as I started to approach it. The only way out was the window, but that glass was thick. And when I say thick, I mean really thick. There was no way out. My own fear and horror seemed to drag me down. I coughed and wheezed from the smoke and my eyes watered from the heat. It was truly a nightmare, only this time it was real. I was going to die.
The fire was rapidly burning down my bedroom. The flames were heading towards Emeralsada’s necklace, next. The necklace. Not that! I swiped the necklace with outstretched talons before the fire could melt it. I couldn’t lose that! It just meant too much to me, it was too precious. The metal necklace burned my hands, but I held onto it tight, trying to ignore the pain. I was just grateful the necklace hadn’t burned into ashes.
Suddenly the glass window smashed. The bits landed all over the floor of my bedroom and cuts covered my body. How on earth did that window break? It was as hard as rock! I assumed the window had exploded from the fire. Not surprising. I looked out the window. Everything was burning and crumbling to the ground, but that’s not what shocked me the most. It’s when I saw Emeralsada out the window, holding a chunk of a marble column. Then the realization of it all hit me. Emeralsada had broken the window for me to save my life.
It didn’t matter to me anymore that my home was burning down. Emeralsada was okay, she still cared about me, and I was all still in one piece. I bolted out the window and gave Emeralsada a huge bear hug, ignoring her shocked expression. We just stood there, hugging each other for a while as our world burned around us.
“Why?” I asked her. “Why did you come back for me?”
She smiled sadly. “I should’ve known you thought I hated you. Listen, I’m sorry.”
Those words had so much meaning to me. Those were the words I wanted to hear more than anything else in the world. I was overjoyed that she cared. I was elated that she saved my life. I could barely contain myself. Tears of joy slid down my cheeks.
“Dolphin, don’t cry!” Emeralsada exclaimed.
I grinned. “Emeralsada, these are tears of joy. I’m happy to see you. You didn’t do anything to upset me. I couldn’t be happier to have you by my side, in fact. Anyways, can you explain to me what has happened and where you’ve been?”
“The SkyWings are attacking,” Emeralsada explained. "The place is burning to ashes because of their fire breath. Currently too many SeaWings are trying to evacuate the kingdom at once, so we have to wait for the crowd in front of the exit to dwindle. As for where I’ve been,” she hesitated. “I’ve been trying to access you this entire time.”
She seemed to be hiding something for me, but I just shrugged it off. We watched the palace burn. Flames danced in Emeralsada’s eyes. It was beautiful yet tragic at the same time, like something out of a painting. As the once lush foliage burned to a char, the SkyWings could now attack us much more easily, I realized. We had to leave soon if we didn’t want to burn to ashes like everything else here would.
“It’s time to say our last goodbyes,” I murmured.
Emeralsada stayed quiet like me, and I guessed we were both saying our farewells through silent prayer. Then we flew through the exit of the kingdom, leaving behind our home as we knew it.
Even though the crowd in front of the exit to the Summer Palace was shrinking, I still had to shove my way to the front along with Emeralsada. This was something I wasn’t used to because people would always let me pass first or move out of my way for me because I was the daughter of some of the wealthiest dragons in the SeaWing tribe. At first I thought they were just going to let me past as usual, but that was before I discovered it was pandemonium. Dragons were screaming and pushing to the front of the exit and arguing kept on breaking out. Dragonets wailed and people lost each other in the thick crowd.
Once Emeralsada and I got through the tunnel the crowd seemed to disappear into thin air. I looked back at the chaos and saw a little dragonet, probably less than a year old, crying and trying to reach out for me in the midst of all the craziness. I started to swim back and reach out for her as well. She looked lonely and I couldn’t see her mother in sight. Emeralsada dragged me back, though, away and away from the crying, lost little dragonet. I felt sympathy for the little hatchling and I felt guilty I hadn’t reached her.
“What did you do that for?!” I screamed in Emeralsada’s face, fuming. “Did you want that little dragonet to be left to the chaos and the fire and the SkyWings?!”
“We can’t save everyone, Dolphin. We have to save ourselves, then others,” Emeralsada replied somewhat matter-of-factly, yet I saw a trace of guilt cross her face.
Then we paddled to the Deep Palace. It was the only safe place now, we weren’t safe anywhere else. The journey to the Deep Palace was short, but I didn’t swim out in the open that often so I didn’t have a lot of experience swimming in strong tides. The raging currents kept on knocking me off balance. I was exhausted even though we weren’t even at the Deep Palace, yet.
I kept on paddling until we reached the Deep Palace, which suddenly seemed much more beautiful now that I knew it would be my only home for a while. It was a beautiful underwater city with bright blue lights and marble buildings with lots of pearls and clams everywhere. It was so crowded! I just stared around for a while until Emeralsada nudged me. I expected her to say something like “get moving” or “we have to go”, but I was wrong.
Instead, she gasped, “I can’t believe it.” What?! I was confused. That didn’t make any sense to me.
“What do you mean?” I inquired, still perplexed.
She pointed to the silver that was still around my neck. “You saved that from the fire….” she whispered. “Why? You thought I hated you, then.”
I nodded. “I did,” I admitted. “But this necklace, it meant so much to me. It allowed me to hold onto the memories. And I didn’t hate you. I really just hated myself.”
She gave me a quick hug and swam off. I paddled after her, trying to keep my head up and out of the crowd. Everyone was talking around me so I couldn’t make out what Emeralsada was trying to say to me. I poked my head out of the crowd and I saw her far ahead of me. I shoved my way closer to her, but I kept on bumping into people in the process. There were lots of shouts and complaints that I tried to ignore. Finally, I was close enough to hear her.
“Emeralsada!” I called after her. “We need to find my parents!”
She nodded and made an abrupt turn left. I followed, not knowing what to think. I was shocked at how quickly she found them.
There were no hugs or tears or laughter, though. I just stared for a while at what my father, Mako, held in his arms. There was a grim silence in the air, and for good reason. I collapsed on the ground and quietly wept. My heart was twisted with grief. My father held my dead mother’s body in his arms.
Why? Why did this all have to happen? I was caving in on the inside. My mother’s body was still warm. I sobbed into her pearl necklace. She was gone. Gone. It hurt so much, my soul literally ached. I realized just then that no amount of physical pain is equal to a devastating blow of emotional pain. I had never felt more alone in my life. My mother was like my guardian angel. She protected me, helped me, taught me, and most of all, loved me. Her love was like a shield, but it was gone in an instant. The ocean may have washed the tears off my cheeks, but her loss was like a scar that would never vanish.
Emeralsada was sitting next to me, her face somber. Even though we were underwater, I could tell she was crying. I realized that my mom was like a second mother to her. Not even my father could keep a strong face. He was crouched behind me, wailing and screaming to the heavens. He soon lost his energy collapsed onto Angelfish’s body and wept. He was trembling and I rested my hand on his shoulder to try and soothe him. It was strange, seeing your father cry. I realized tears were still spilling from my own eyes.
“We’re going to be alright….” I flashed in aquatic, trying to convince him it was true, but soon I started sobbing and screaming as well. Would this torture ever end?
I felt a hand on my shoulder. I nearly jumped out of my skin just to realize that it was only Emeralsada. “We have to go see Queen Coral and talk to her about this.”
I nodded, envious of Emeralsada’s ability to think clearly and stay strong in situations where I would’ve just crumbled to the ground. I nudged my father. I didn’t have to say anything because he clearly understood. Mako rose to his feet and picked up my mother. We set off to find Queen Coral, our heads low and our feet dragging in the sand behind us.
After a while of swimming through twists and bends of the underwater city, I was about to lose hope in finding the Queen. Even though Emeralsada and my father were right by my side, I felt an uneasy loneliness. I let out a dramatic sigh. How could this get any worse? Emeralsada had heard me sigh and squeezed my hand tightly.
“Dolphin, you know we’re going to be okay,” Emeralsada encouraged, but I wasn’t so sure I believed her.
My whole world had turned upside down. My house was burned to ashes, the SkyWings had attacked the Summer Palace, my mother had died, and this was the first time in my life I had ever seen Emeralsada look so defeated. Her head was low and there were circles under her eyes. She was practically dragging herself through the ocean rather than swimming. I felt just as broken down as she did. I don’t know how my father managed to lead us all, but he did.
We finally found Queen Coral, heading in the direction towards her palace. She held her head high, unscathed. I was amazed at how strong she was after the fire, but from the look in her eyes, I could tell something was deeply troubling her.
“Your majesty!” Mako called boldly. “I have some very tragic news.”
Queen Coral swung around to see us. She looked at me, then my father, then Emeralsada. I couldn’t help but flinch when I saw the Queen’s cold expression directed at Emeralsada.
“Where’s Angelfish…” Queen Coral trailed off. “Oh, oh no...”
My father nodded. He explained how when he was evacuating the SeaWing Kingdom, he tried finding Angelfish and me, but the house had already burned down. He said he found Angelfish’s body a few yards away from the house in an area thick with smoke. Mako claimed he retrieved the body and then went looking for me. He continued on until we reached the point up until now. Queen Coral nodded and listened, her face grim.
“I noticed that you kept all your money in the Summer Palace, which means, I hate to admit it, it’s all burned by now,” the Queen told my father. “Now, I’ll be able to donate a small amount of money to your family, but until you are able to pay your bills for your house in the Summer Palace and the Deep Palace, you will have to step down from your job and find another one. I’m terribly sorry, but I can’t afford to give you any more money than what I am offering you at the moment. You must find a way to pay the bills for both of your houses, or buy a smaller, less expensive one to live in. To meet the requirements for the job you have, you must be able to afford you house. You know the rules. I’m very, very sorry.”
My jaw dropped. We had no money! Things just got worse, even though I thought they couldn’t. My dad had lost his job and now we were poor because we couldn’t even afford our own homes and jobs. That was one of the most devastating things you could ever hear. What hope was there? My whole world was plunged into darkness. We were doomed to dying on the streets of the SeaWing Kingdom. Tears were forming in my eyes. I could tell it was taking all of my father’s effort to stay calm.
It was then I realized how furious at Queen Coral I was for not giving us more money. Three moons, she was one of the richest dragons in Pyrrhia! I also realized she wasn’t giving Emeralsada a donation of money at all. She lived with my family half the time, being our servant, so it was ridiculous that she wouldn’t get any money! I couldn’t control myself anymore.
“How could you?!” Dolphin screamed. “You give my father and me money, but not Emeralsada! It is cruel and unfair! She saved my life! She was like a sister to me! She has done all the hard work around here! Now how come she isn’t getting paid for all the good deeds she has done?! It just isn’t FAIR! You’re not fair! LIFE ISN’T FAIR!”
Tears were streaming from my eyes, yet they were still blazing with fury. My father rested his tail on my shoulder. Queen Coral pointed at Emeralsada with disgust, treating her as if she was inferior to her.
“You expect a lower class servant to get money from me, Queen Coral?” she gasped. “She’s lower class, Dolphin. Don’t you understand? You must not be able to think straight because of your loss. Now both of you, go. Dolphin, I need to speak with your father.”
I was about to protest, but Emeralsada shook her head. I sighed, utterly defeated. I dragged myself into the place I once called my underwater home, collapsed on the couch, and fell asleep in an instant.
When I woke up, I wasn’t in my home anymore. I was in a tight, crammed marble house with a slightly broken door and algae growing in the crevices of the marble. The windows were murky and hard to see through. There were no floorboards, just sand beneath me. It was repulsive and disgusting here! Three moons, I wasn’t even laying on a bed! It was just a nest of old blankets and sheets that a lower class dragon would sleep in. Then I remembered the past day’s events. I now was a lower class SeaWing.
I noticed there was a small, old kitchen to the right of the front door. Emeralsada was cooking something, and boy, did it smell good! She walked past some chests to the left of the front door and into the corner under the stairs where my nest was. I noticed there were other nests that dragons were sleeping in right next to me. Was there any privacy here at all? I didn’t have any time to think about it because then Emeralsada started speaking to me.
“Dolphin, you’re finally awake!” she whispered cheerfully, being very careful not to wake up the other dragons sleeping by me. I tried to keep a smile on my face. I definitely didn’t feel joyful.
“What do you mean, ‘finally awake?’” I asked her.
“Dolphin, do you know how long you were asleep?”
I shook my head.
“Well,” Emeralsada pondered for a few seconds. “You fainted in your former house and you slept there for about a day. You and your father had to move in with me, which was another day you slept through. For the past couple of days you were also asleep, so that means you were out cold for exactly 4 days.”
I gaped at her. I was asleep for 4 days?! I saw my father sleeping in the nest next to me, but there were 2 other dragons I didn’t know here, and an empty nest I knew must’ve been Emeralsada’s.
“Who are they? I thought you said you lived here!” I exclaimed, pointing at the 2 other dragons.
My father heard the noise and grunted awake. Oops.
“See that midnight blue SeaWing?” Emeralsada told me, pointing to one of the dragons. I nodded.
“That’s my brother, Sapphire,” Emeralsada explained. “And the green one is my friend, Kelp. I’d be careful not to wake him up. He’s more grouchy than usual when he is disturbed during his afternoon nap.”
I didn’t like the sound of Kelp. I tried sitting up, but my limbs were surprisingly weak after sleeping for 4 days, and I collapsed into my nest. Emeralsada looked at me. “I know why you’re so tired,” she told me. “You must be starving!”
As if on cue, my stomach growled loudly. I blushed. How rude of me! Emeralsada just giggled. She walked off to check on whatever she was cooking. My father looked at me and beamed.
“Dolphin, you’re awake!” he boomed.
I heard Kelp moan and remembered what Emeralsada had said about Kelp being extra grouchy in the mornings. My dad had just awakened him. Uh oh. Kelp sat up groggily and started yelling curses at Mako while getting out of bed. My dad looked startled. Who was he, yelling curses at my father just because he was a bit noisy!
“Leave him alone!” I commanded.
Kelp seemed like he was about to protest, but Emeralsada shushed him, lecturing him that it was rude to yell at guests. She gave me the tuna stew that she was cooking and I ate all of it, right down to the last drop, but I was still hungry. I was about to ask for more when Kelp spoke.
“Hello,” Kelp said coldly, his voice like the lonely echo of stone. “Nice to meet you, Dolphin.”
I suddenly wasn’t hungry anymore. I had a feeling it was going to be a long, long day.
“Hi,” I stammered, frightened by Kelp’s dark tone of voice.
I was a hundred percent certain he wanted to maul me right now, and that thought alone sent a shiver up my spine. I didn’t want to find out what this dragon could do to me. Emeralsada said that she had to go get the mail and went outside to get it. Mako had fallen back asleep again. I was alone with a SeaWing who was about to beat me to a pulp. Great, just great. An eerie silence hung in the air. Kelp broke it.
“So, princess?” he sneered. “At a loss for words? You scared to get your fine silk gloves dirty while proving you can do something on your own? Too used to having everyone else do the work for you so you’re unable to handle a little work? I wouldn’t be surprised if that was all true, my lady.” Ouch, I thought. That stings. I tried not to flinch and I didn’t respond, holding my head high. I wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction of making fun of me while I threw a fussy tantrum. Kelp menacingly raised his fist. I tried not to appear terrified, but that was pretty hard, considering the circumstances.
“Well? Do you have anything to say for yourself?” Kelp asked me.
“Actually, I do,” I replied coolly, mustering up all my courage. “Those things you said, they are all lies. I am not a princess, because I am not the daughter of Queen Coral. I have no silk gloves, not anymore. That may be how all the other wealthy ladies my age act, but I am different. I will prove myself to you, trust me.”
He seemed mildly impressed, which shocked me. He lowered his fist just as Emeralsada entered the room. “Maybe you’re not as bad as I thought,” Kelp admitted to me, grumbling.
“Would you two stop bickering?” Emeralsada sighed, rolling her eyes. “Oh, and Dolphin. I need you for a minute.”
I nodded and followed her outside. “What is it?”
Emeralsada explained, “I need you to help me wash all these towels.”
She showed me an entire basket full of grimy, dirt-covered towels. I gagged. This definitely wasn’t going to be fun. She gave me the basket and ran back inside. She came out with an empty basket, a bottle of soap, and a scrub board. She pointed to a clothes line with towels hanging on it.
“Can you put the towels on the clothes line and fold them into the empty basket?” she asked me. I nodded again.
I took off the towels, folded them, and put them in the basket as she instructed me to. She finished up washing the dirty towels and I helped her hang them on the empty clothes line. Suddenly, she slapped me with a soggy towel and giggled. What?
Soon we were flinging towels at each others’ faces and bursting into laughter. We talked while chucking towels at each other and it reminded me of the days when we had pillow fights and sleepovers. My heart ached when I realized those days were gone. Soon we were both knocked to the ocean bed because of our brutal towel fight, towels littered on the sand. I was hooting with laughter as Emeralsada helped me onto my feet. We finished up hanging the towels and I could’ve sworn I had a million bruises on my body, but I didn’t care. We had so much fun. When Emeralsada and I finished our chores, we played tag. A smile was glued onto my face. Maybe this new life wouldn’t be so bad after all.
“Hold on,” I told Emeralsada. What was that noise, in the seaweed? She looked at me curiously as I went into the seaweed bed. I gasped at what I found. It was a little baby dragonet, probably less than a year old. She was shivering and crying weakly, but despite this, she seemed to be a little angel. This young girl seemed familiar to me. Then I remembered. This was the little dragonet I saw when escaping the fire, the one who was reaching out for my hand. She was okay! I was so overjoyed I almost cried, cradling the freezing child in my arms. It looked as though she was old enough to speak.
“What’s your name?” I asked her.
She didn’t respond. I asked her again. The dragonet looked up at me with wide, innocent mint green eyes.
“Seafoam,” she whispered softly. “My name is Seafoam.”
“Dolphin!” Emeralsada called. “Where are you?”
What will I tell her? That I just randomly found a dragonet in some seaweed? I thought.
“Over here!” I yelled.
I heard Emeralsada push her way through the seaweed and she walked up to me. She just stood there, gaping, when she saw what I found. I smiled nervously, wondering what her reaction to Seafoam would be. “Look what I found!”
She just stared. Her face had surprise written all over it. I could understand her shock. Then a look of realization swept across her face. This was the dragonet who she had left behind during the evacuation of the Summer Palace. By her face, I could tell that guilt still pierced her heart.
“How did you find her?” Emeralsada finally asked.
“Well, I just-” Seafoam cut me off.
“Why did you leave me out there?!” the little hatchling shrieked, snarling at Emeralsada with bared teeth.
Yikes! I thought. She sure has a nasty temper! And an astonishingly good memory! I tried soothing Seafoam with comforting whispers, but it didn’t work.
“She at least tried to save me!” Seafoam spat viciously, pointing towards me. “She keeps on saving me, but you keep on stopping her! Why?! Why?! She tried to save me during the collapse of the Summer Palace, but you stopped her! STOP IT! STOP IT!”
She started screaming some more. The little dragonet looked like she was about to burst into tears. I felt pity for her, but how dare she talk to Emeraldsada like that? Then I realized she was right. Emeralsada had stopped me from saving her. It hurt to think your best friend could be so cold-hearted. Don’t think like that. Don’t think like that. Let’s just take her to our house, well, our house is more like a shed rather than a house. Either way, let’s just take her to our house. Emeralsada flinched at Seafoam’s words.
“We better be heading back now,” I said, trying to get everyone’s mind off of what Emeralsada had done. “She’ll need to warm up, rest, eat some food, and clean up a bit.”
As if on cue, the tiny little dragonet fell asleep in my arms. She snored softly, and I held her close to me, feeling her breathe in and out against my blue scales. My eyes filled with joy. I wish I was that innocent, sometimes. It was hard to believe just a few moments ago she was yelling at Emeralsada.
We swam back to our house in silence. There was nothing to be said. When we were at the front door, Emeralsada asked something that I would’ve never expected to hear come out of her mouth.
“Dolphin, do think all those things Seafoam said about me were…true?” she asked me. I could tell she was trying to sound casual, but from the way she looked at her talons and how she bit her lip told me she felt really, really upset about it. I shook my head.
“Emeralsada, no, I don’t think those things are true,” I lied.
The truth was, well, that some of those things were true, but I didn’t have the heart to tell Emeralsada that. And either way, it wasn’t like she was a bad person or anything. I hope she couldn’t read my face to tell that I was lying.
“You really think so?”
I nodded, trying to hide my expression.
“Okay, then let’s go inside.” We walked into our house where Mako was still lying in bed. He couldn’t have been okay if he wasn’t up by now. It was already past noon! Something must be wrong! Without thinking, I put sleeping Seafoam in Emeralsada’s arms and raced next to my father. I started getting nervous. What if he’s sick? I thought, starting to panic.
“Are you okay?” I asked, my voice a bit cracked.
My father let out a low moan, then nodded slowly. He blinked the sleep out of his eyes and looked at me.
“I’m fine, dear,” Mako said calmly. “I’m not sick, just tired. I’ve had a very, very long week.”
He didn’t notice the tiny dragonet in Emeralsada’s arms yet, but I didn’t bother to tell him. He did need to sleep. Something in my head told me it was a bit more than weariness bothering my father, but I didn’t pressure him. I sat by him as he instantly fell into a deep, uneasy sleep.
I didn’t dare leave my father’s side. I didn’t know what was keeping me next to him, but for some reason, I stayed. He kept on murmuring something in his sleep that I couldn’t make out. I listened closely, and managed to make out what my father was mumbling. He was saying “Angelfish”, my mother’s name. It sent a chill up my spine to even think about my mother’s burned, broken body. Then it hit me why Mako was staying in bed all day. Sure, he might’ve been a little tired, but he must be depressed. I didn’t want to think about that, I didn’t want to admit to myself that my mother was gone and my father was lonely and depressed. But it was the truth. I wished it wasn’t. I rested my hand on my father’s shoulder, as if to comfort him in his dreams. I had never imagined my father looking so defeated, but there he was, curled up on the ground and trembling. I remembered how much I looked to my father for help and advice, how he always helped me back on my feet in difficult times, how it seemed like there would always be his shoulder to lean on. Now instead of me needing him, he needed me. It seemed like another weight of new responsibility on my shoulders, but I couldn’t let Mako down, I just couldn’t. I had to help him out of his depression in one way or another.
My thinking was interrupted when I heard a tiny voice. I looked at Emeralsada, and then at Seafoam. The tiny dragonet was squeaking, “Food! Food!”
I had to stop myself from laughing. Seafoam was just so cute! My heart became lighter as I grabbed a bowl of tuna soup to feed to the baby. When Emeralsada saw me pick up the bowl, she gave me a quizzical stare.
“Dolphin, what the heck are you doing?” she asked me.
I didn’t understand what was wrong. I was just going to feed the baby.
“I’m going to feed the baby the soup, she’s hungry,” I simply replied.
She stared at me as if I had just said, “Rainbow catfish that can fly are real.” I still didn’t understand. Couldn’t Emeralsada tell that Seafoam was hungry? She needed to eat, after all. Then Emeralsada just started laughing. What had I done wrong?
“Dolphin, can’t you see?” she told me. “Seafoam is too young to eat soup. Her stomach wouldn’t be able to handle the soup and she doesn’t have any teeth yet. She can only drink liquids or eat mashed-up fish. Instead, we’ll have to buy whale milk to feed her.”
I blushed. Was it really that obvious that Seafoam couldn’t eat soup? Emeralsada patted me on the back. “It’s okay, you couldn’t have known that anyways. Either way, you’ll have to go to the market to purchase some whale milk. I have to stay here to look after Seafoam and do the rest of the chores.” She put some money in my talons. “The market is very close to here. The path by the seaweed leads to the market. Trust me, you won’t have any trouble finding it.”
I nodded, swimming out the door. I thought I’d be fine. I’d just be going to the market. Little did I know how much trouble I’d get into.
I walked down the narrow path, clutching the coins in my talons tightly. I felt strangely lonely without anyone at my side, walking with me. I guess I wasn’t used to being this independent. The path seemed never-ending at first, but soon up ahead, I spotted blue lights flickering, huge marble buildings and statues everywhere, and not to mention that coral was growing off the sides of walls. It wasn’t as glorious as the main section of the city was, as it was just a small market area with only a few other shops and homes in the area, but it was much more appealing to the eye than my own home. I looked around. What did whale milk even look like?
I then spotted an old SeaWing with dulled scales and scars covering all of his body. You would’ve suspected a man like this to look tough, but he seemed weak and frail, almost starving.
“Whale milk! Whale milk over here!” he was calling in a raspy voice.
I pitied this man, covered in grime. He looked like he would literally fall apart any second. Then I realized not a whole lot of other people here were in great condition either, wearing rags and having circles under their eyes. I sighed. Living like this was horrible! How could anyone let this even happen? Focus, I told myself. You need to get whale milk from the man. I walked towards him. I wasn’t exactly sure what to say to this SeaWing. I felt uncomfortable around him for some reason, maybe because of his condition, or his social class, but then I remembered I wasn’t rich anymore. I had to stop judging dragons like this.
“Hello sir,” I said, trying not to look down at my talons awkwardly. “Can I buy one bottle of whale milk?”
The SeaWing smiled, showing crooked yellow teeth, and he laughed hoarsely. What have I done wrong this time? He replied, “Oh, there’s no need to call me sir. And of course you can have some milk, young dragonet.”
Normally I would’ve flipped out if someone else had called me a young dragonet, but this time, I ignored it. He handed me a bottle of whale milk and I put the coins Emeralsada had given me in his talons. His eyes widened when he saw the coins that were given to him. He must’ve been the poorest dragon in Pyrrhia to think such a small amount of coins were so valuable, and that thought only made me feel more sorry for the dragon.
“Thank you for the milk,” I told him, but the elderly SeaWing just shook his head.
“No, thank you,” he responded, gesturing towards the coins.
I couldn’t help but smile. It felt good to help the needy, it made me feel proud of myself and important in a way I had never felt. I waved goodbye to the man and looked for the path from which I had came. The only problem was, there were many worn-down, sandy paths connecting to the market that looked just like the ones I had came from. How would I know which was which? There were wooden signs with numbers painted on them next to some paths, but that just made things more confusing. I chose a random path, crossing my fingers, hoping that it was the right one. It seemed just like the one I had came from at first, but soon the path got noticeably wider, and there were other paths branching off from it. This probably wasn’t the right path, but I kept on going anyways. Soon I could see a whole other section of the city ahead, and I started to turn back.
And that was when three dragons leapt out of the shadows and pinned me down.
The dragons pinned me down and held me in place. What the heck were these dragons doing?! Fury and anxiety built up inside of me. What do they want? And even if they have a good reason to pin me down, I refuse to be their puppet! What will they do to me? I growled, snapping my jaws at a SeaWing covered in gold pearls. Another murky blackish-green one kicked me in the head for that. Pain seared in my forehead and I bit back a cry of pain. I was starting to feel light-headed. A tiny female SeaWing covered in so much jewelry I could barely see her scales whipped me with her tail, but it didn’t hurt much, considering her size. I struggled, but soon decided it was no use because these dragons had pinned me down good. I tried not to panic.
“What do you want?!” I snapped, trying to hide the fear in my voice. I had no idea who these dragons were or what they were capable of.
The blackish male one sniggered. He didn’t sound much older than some hot-headed, conceited teenager. “It looks like we’ve got a feisty one!”
I growled again. This dragon just made my scales prickle in annoyance. “Stop talking about me like I’m a fish, you arrogant snob! Now ANSWER. MY. QUESTION.”
I forgot my fear because my mind was too focused on the thought of how good it would feel to punch this dragon in the snout. I raised my fist, being a bit reckless because of my agitation. I bared my teeth as well. The one covered in gold pearls chuckled.
“Watch your sassy little mouth when talking about my boyfriend, peasant,” she said smoothly and slowly, as if she was explaining something to a little kid. “Otherwise, you might regret what you’re saying.”
She twined her tail with the blackish-green one, smiling warmly at him, even though her eyes bore into me, full of venom and hatred. That seriously didn’t match her smile at all. The male one kissed her on the cheek. I gagged. The tiny one covered in jewelry stepped forward, wrapping her tail around my neck and squeezing me. The worst part was, she was covering my gills up as well. I gasped for air or water or anything I could breathe, and that was when I realized I was being strangled. The couple smiled.
“Good job, Beluga,” The one wearing gold pearls said proudly, running her tail across the tiny one’s back.
So the tiny one’s name is Beluga, I thought before focusing on the situation once more. The only male SeaWing in the group walked up to me and pushed Beluga aside as I took in a huge breath of water through my gills. He sunk his claws into my shoulder, and I was trying not to cry from the pain. Thankfully, no blood spilled out, though. Otherwise, we would have attracted sharks from miles away. He growled at me.
“Tell me your name!” he demanded, his voice as cold and stern as the echoes of a cave.
I spat at him. “Why should I? And either way, if you want me to tell you my name, you have to answer my questions, first. What are your names? Why are you doing this to me? What the heck is wrong with you?”
The female with the gold pearls snorted. Beluga hid behind her as if she didn’t want to do this or be here. “And why should we answer your questions?”
“Calm down, Conchshell,” the blackish-green SeaWing said coolly, resting his tail on the female SeaWing’s shoulder. The fact that he was so calm scared me. “If she refuses to keep her end of the deal, she’ll regret it and you know that. To answer your questions, my name is Octopus, and as you probably already know, my girlfriend in the golden pearls is Conchshell and the SeaWing over there behind her is Beluga. Well, you don’t seem to be very familiar with how being a lower class works, so it’ll take some time to explain. We are some of the few higher class SeaWings that know what is happening to your lower class, but we are unable to help you because if we contacted government officials, they wouldn’t listen to us and if they discovered we knew this much, they’d execute us, meaning our lives would be lost for trying and failing to help you. If you leave your lower class area, many upper class SeaWings would spot you, pity you, and that could start uprisings, which leads to death. Our tribe is in no condition to fight within itself. If you enter the upper and middle class towns, you will probably be executed as well because the government doesn’t want higher class citizens to see you in this pitiful state. Technically, we’re protecting you, not trying to harm you. And I seriously hoped the second question cleared up the very obnoxious third question.”
Even though he did have a point, I wasn’t entirely sure I believed him. After all, could I trust a group of dragons who just beat me to a pulp?
“I bet you just want an excuse to use some lower class SeaWings as a punching bag!” I hissed.
Beluga, Octopus, and Conchshell started growling at me. Oops, not exactly the right thing to say.
“You know,” Conchshell sneered. “My boyfriend and my little sister may have came here to protect you, but I came just for the reason you said, to use some SeaWings inferior to me as some punching bags. You’re barely too weak to defend yourself! It’s quite amusing, and a good vent for anger. And by the way, you still have to keep your end of the deal we made, too. you have 3 seconds to tell me your name before I decide to kill you.”
I opened my mouth to say my name, but apparently, 3 seconds had already passed. She leapt at me and slammed me into a piece of coral, which shattered around me, and the bits of the hard coral floating in the water scraped some of my scales off. I winced.
“Now, I have another filthy, useless dragon to eliminate,” Conchshell said gleefully, her gold pearls around her neck reflecting the evil glint in her eyes. “Say goodbye to the world.”
Okay, this dragon is seriously messed up in the head, and now I’m going to die. Just great. Just as she raised her claws to slice my throat, I roared and threw some coral debris in her eyes. She screamed. I grabbed the whale milk bottle that I had bought, my heart beating, and I swam away from her as fast as I could because my life depended on it.
(In order of appearance)