Previous: Blame It On The Dragon Stew
Two months had passed since that dreadful night that left Noella devastated. She could remember crying as she sat on the floor, against her bedroom door, while policemen interrogated her. But Noella could not speak. Either she was in shock or her throat was sore, or both. They found a broken window at the back and the seemingly vandalized ground floor rooms, and concluded that there was a break-in. But they could not explain the burnt furniture, the sooty walls, or the piles of ashes on the second floor's carpet. If there had been fire, it was already extinguished by the time the firemen came. Hours later, when the police and the fire fighting team had left, Noella was even more confused. She did not know whether she should be relieved or guilty, but she was sure her energy left her. She was mentally, emotionally, and physically drained. Even she could not understand what happened to her, and so she decided to forget it and focus on her primary reason for returning to Tierra Laruja, to know about her her brother's sudden death. And because she associated the recipe box with the event, she decided to hide it.
Two months. And still Noella had not used a recipe from the black metal recipe box. She would not touch it and she tried not to think about it. But the situation would not stay that way for long.
...The three masked men had her cornered, and now, they were drawing closer, advancing toward her, an inch nearer with each step. They were laughing like a band of hyenas, taunting her, and intimidating her. Noella held the dark shiny recipe box close to her body. The man nearest to her played with the knife in his hand, it was glistening. Everything was in slow motion...
Where do you think you're going? She could hear him breathe. She could her heartbeat. She was aware of every movement, and she could almost picture the vibrating waves their voices made.
"Jade. Brass elephants. Silverware. Candlesticks. Jewelry. Take them! Take them! Take them all! Por favor, just don't hurt me! Tome todos que usted encuentre. Entonces déjeme. No hablaré al policía. Prometo! I swear!" Noella was pleading in broken Spanish. She must be really scared.
They only laughed harder. They were closer now. Too close. She had to be strong. Was she not filled with confidence just a few hours earlier? No, she could not break down. She needed strength. Where would she take it from? Beads of cold sweat formed under her eyes, on her forehead, and her around temples.
What's that you're holding?
Nothing. You can't take this away from me. This is the family heirloom!
Voices were swimming in her head. Like whispers in the well, they echoed. Each sound reverbirated. It seemed as though everything were repeating. Somehow the scene was familiar--call it deja-vu. But Noella was just a helpless observer. Soon her world would crumble and there was nothing she could do to stop it.
The recipe box. No! They can't have it. Wait. There's something connected to the recipe box that will make me remember. Remember what? Recipe box. Recipe, recipe, recipe. Yes, the recipe card! Something about a dragon. And a poem at the back of the card. What were the words again? Tower. Power. Dragon. Flame. Tower. Power. Dragon. Flame. Tower power, dragon, flame! I must invoke the Flaming Tower--
"I now invoke the Flaming Tower, and call upon the dragon's power. I now invoke the Flaming Tower, and call upon the dragon's power. I now invoke the Flaming Tower, and call upon the dragon's power..."
No, Noella, stop! Stop!
Her chest felt hot, similar to having a heartburn, only a lot more intense. The burning sensation rose to her throat, sending wave after wave of pain from her windpipe to her nasal cavities. Then her face felt hot and her head felt bursting. The sudden pain was so strong, Noella felt she had to scream.
She wanted to warn the three intruders. It did not matter that they meant her harm, if they remained where they stood, they would be piles of ashes soon, and that was worse! Noella wanted to say run, hide, go somewhere else, just don't stay here! but she could not. It was like like watching a movie, only she was also playing the lead role. From all angles she watched herself convulse. This was the point when Noella was about to scream.
Instead of a shriek, fire balls came shooting from her mouth, hot blazing orbs of flame, like small bright yellow suns the size of golf balls. They flew into the air, in all directions, burning everything that blocked their path. But just before the firey speheres hit any of the three masked men, the air temperature dropped and the fire balls decelarated to a full stop until they were all hanging in midair. A cold fog rolled in from the windows. Everything was still, and all within the Mezcado House, except Noella, was in the state of suspended animation.
Then a presence filled the room. It came from all directions before manifesting as a swirling cloud. It seemed to float beside Noella, hovering a few feet above the ground, contracting and expanding, aside from continuously swirling. It glowed in different shades of blue and green, casting phantom shadows in the hall lit by hanging fire balls. The cloud was without definite form, perhaps closely resembling a giant squid with many arms. When one of its arms waved, all fireballs crystalized and shattered into thin ice sheets. It was a spectacular display of power.
In the light emitted by the glowing apparition, Noella could see damselflies beating their wings rapidly as they flew around her. Wherever they went they carried soft fluttering sounds with them. The apparition glided to the direction of the man carrying a knife. "We cannot change what already took place." the apparition spoke with a voice that reminded Noella of small bells and of splashing water, and gave the impression of a thousand feminine giggles echoing. It was a soft pleasing melody, making sweet sounds in her ears.
"We cannot change what already took place," repeated the apparition. "But I can teach you how to prevent things like these from happening again. Contrary to what you think, the answer is in the box. If you want to give yourself another chance, we can talk over tea. You know how to conjure me." With that, the cloud seemed to return to the air.
As the apparition dissolved, scores of damselflies darted across the room. Then, slowly, pieces of ice scattered on the floor reunited into iceballs right where they used to be suspended, and then they seemed to boil, and they quickly returned to being blazing fire balls, as if had always been fire balls. The fog lifted and the pause was over. The fireballs accelerated towards the direction they were travelling before. And when the firey speheres hit the three masked men, one by one, they burst into flames, before exploding into dust, and finally leaving a pile of ashes where they once stood.
Outside, the rooster crowed. The sun was high in the sky but she was still in bed. She had only been dreaming. Noella stretched her arms up. There was a puzzled look on her face. She felt something move inside her clenched right fist. When she spread her fingers out, a bright blue damselfly rose from her open palm and escaped through the window.
Next: Lessons From The Water Spright