"Wake up sleepyhead." I felt someone nudge me and I slowly opened my eyes. "Finally! I thought you would sleep the day away!" Rose giggled. I smiled and pulled her close to me and kissed her softly on her snout. I couldn't stop looking at her eyes, they were so full of life.
"Come on. Let's get up." Rose said, pulling, but I pulled her back into my arms as she attempted to stand.
"Why do we have to get up?" I asked her, wrapping my arms tightly round her and kissing her neck. "All I want to do is spend the day here in this bed with the most beautiful dragoness in the world!" I rolled over pinning her to the bed below me and kissed her neck some more.
"Oh you!" she giggled some more. "But we have to get up!"
"Because what?" I asked sitting up to look down at her. I felt my throat close and the breath catch in my lungs as I looked down at her. Her eyes had become pale and lifeless, her colourful and vibrant red scales had faded and I felt all the warmth leave my body as I saw the bleeding wound and the knife sticking out of her stomach. I felt myself gag and I looked back to her dead eyes, which suddenly flared to life, becoming blood red and powerful before she yelled.
"BECAUSE YOU KILLED ME!!!"
"AAARRRGH!!!" I bolted upright with a shout and wrapped my arms around myself to try and calm down. I noticed with a start that my body was covered in sweat and I was finding it hard to breath. I stared into open space, but all I could see was Rose's corpse looking up at me, her words echoing in my ears.
Something touched my shoulder and I jumped, scrambling as far away as I could from it till I backed into some wooden crates. Something moved in front of me and I began to panic until I saw that it was Aceh. The moment I realised it was him, I began to calm down, and I remembered where I was. Aceh was kneeling in front of me, a worried look on his face. He slowly reached out and placed a paw on my shoulder.
"You okay?" He asked. I simply nodded and he reached with his other paw and wiped away a tear from my muzzle. I hadn't realised that I was crying but I now felt them, tears streaming uncontrollably down my muzzle.
"Shhh... it be okay." He cooed softly. I don't know what came over me then, but I practically launched forward and wrapped my arms round Aceh in a hug and cried into his chest. He simply rubbed my back and let me cry.
Soon after, while my face was still buried in Aceh's chest, I heard the voices of the others, they had heard me scream and had come running to see what the commotion was about.
"What happened!?" I heard Cody yell as he scrambled into the wagon. Aceh must have given him a look because no one said anything else and Aceh never spoke a word. I felt someone kneel next to me and rub my back; I pulled away from Aceh to see Eric, who had a sympathetic look on his face. He didn't speak but gently took my paw and placed something in it before standing again and walking back to the others.
"Come along everyone. Let's get some rest." Eric said calmly and I watched as everyone followed him. Cody hesitated at the entrance, but I nodded at him in a silent message that I was now okay. He nodded back in understanding and left with one final look over his shoulder.
Turning back now I looked at my paw and saw what Eric had placed in it. It was Rose's necklace, the one I had gotten for her at the market place. I smiled as I remembered how happy she had been when I'd given it to her. I then recalled what the merchant had told me. 'Love should always be protected.' Remembering those words I grasped at the necklace tightly, making a solemn promise to myself that I would never fail those I loved again; that I'd always protect them, no matter the cost. I put it around my neck and looked up to Aceh, who was still there next to me.
"Better now?" He asked and I nodded.
"Yes. Sorry about that." I said wiping away my tears.
"Is all right. Any time." He turned and settled back down where he had been sleeping. I continued to sit there; I didn't want to sleep any more. The dream had been too vivid, too frightening and I was afraid I would see Rose's corpse once again if I closed my eyes.
The next few days were pretty much the same. Aceh would wake me up before dawn and begin training me, and we would rotate through the different moves and stances, and how to link the moves with each of the stances. Tigers Palm was complex and precise; each and ever move had to be timed perfectly or you would never get the chance to throw your opponent off balance. At this point Aceh was teaching me how to move quickly and fluidly, he would spar against me forcing me to defend myself, forcing me to learn how to counter different types of attacks.
After the morning session we would stop so that we could travel. As before I would be made to balance on the wooden beam along the top of one of the wagons till we again reined it in for the night. I was glad to see that every time I went up, I'd fall less and less.
Then before dinner Aceh would put me through my paces by calling out a certain stance and/or move and I would have to do it instantly without hesitation or he'd make me do push ups; five push ups for each time he deemed me too slow. He would also constantly criticise my motions, telling me to widen my stance, to lift my elbow an inch higher, how to breath when moving... it was constant, relentless criticism. After all that was done, I'd retire to the fire to eat. A couple of times Cody actually had to help me, because I couldn't move my arms enough or keep a tight grip on my spoon due to my exhaustion. Cody seemed more than happy to help me; in fact he seemed to enjoy it.
After finally finishing my meal I would retire to the wagon early to sleep and rest. Before I'd get a chance to fall asleep though, Aceh would appear and get out the Manseer oil, insisting on giving me a full body massage. The massages were great, they really did help ease the pain and stiffness in my muscles and I was sure on more than one occasion that without them I wouldn't be able to move the next day. The way each massage session ended though was the bit that made me uncomfortable. Each time, no matter how much I willed it not to happen, I would get a raging hard-on and have to... deal with it. Aceh would deal with his as well but the fact that we would do it in front of each other was the bit I found most disturbing. He even offered on the nights I was particularly sore to help me out, but I forced myself to deal with it myself. I just wasn't that comfortable with another male touching me in such a way.
After dealing with our mutual problems we would fall asleep and each night I would awaken from another nightmare about Rose. Like the first night, it would always start off happily and each time it would end up with her dead and blaming me for it.
The eyes were what stayed with me though, those savage blood red eyes, there was something that terrified me about them beyond the actual dream itself. It was as if there was something incredibly evil and powerful behind them and whatever it was it wanted to hurt me, maybe even kill me. I'd tell myself it was just a dream but that didn't help, the more I thought about the more I felt fear building up, where that fear was coming from I didn't know but whatever it was I had realised last night while laying there trying not to sleep after having one of the night terrors that I was more afraid of those eyes than I was of the dreams.