Heavens Fall Without You
by Rune Lai
She fought him as he carried her in his claws. He didn't understand
it. Even if she had amnesia, he thought the sight of him would have
jogged her memory. "Don't you recognize me?" he bellowed into the
wind. "It's Lyle. Lyle Ra Mira!"
Perhaps being kidnapped had thrown her in shock. Or more likely it was
the sight of a giant bronze dragon that scared her. But Maia just
kicked and screamed. His beloved cousin, he had searched for her for so
long. Weeks. Months. Nearly all their family had given her up for
dead, but not Lyle, and now he would bring her home.
Lyle, a man in dragon form, swooped down towards a cave mouth. He
possessed the Sapphire and the entrance hummed in reply, granting him
passage. They dove into a metallic world. The forests and warm
hillsides of Landen disappeared, replaced by the interior of a mammoth
cylinder of technology. A transparent walkway snaked out in a maze
beneath them, but as a dragon Lyle merely flew above it. Monsters
created from the thousand year old war between the Orakians and Layans
milled about the passageway, but all stayed clear of the Dragon
Sometime during this journey Maia quieted. Lyle almost thought she fell
asleep, but a quick glance assured him that she had not. "Are you
feeling better?" he asked, softer now.
She lifted her head, meeting his dragon eyes with the tears welled in
her own. "Who are you?"
"I am your cousin, Lyle. We grew up together."
"Cousin? But you're a Layan monster."
He slumped his neck, wounded. "Monster? This is only my dragon form.
You don't remember it? You'll see my human face when we arrive in
Cille. You'll see. You'll recognize me." He hoped so. He prayed to
Laya that it would prove true. "Maia, we both are Layans. You were
about to marry an Orakian, one of our enemies! I couldn't let you do
"I'm a... But no one's seen a Layan in a thousand years!"
"Look around you. Save for me, no one's been through here for a
thousand years. On the other end of this is our homeland, and there are
plenty of Layans there. I'm taking you back to your family. Your
parents are worried sick about you. They've almost given up hope for
She fell silent at the mention of her parents. Poor thing, Lyle
thought. Even though she's afraid she wants to remember
"It won't be long," he said aloud as he swooped upward.
They exited the cave with a rush of air. The sphere of Aquata spread
out before them, wrapped in the darkness of nightfall. The once verdant
landscape was now covered with snow. There was no sign of the storm
that had raged in the days before he left, but it left in its wake a
chill that permeated even the thickness of his dragonhide.
"Take me back inside," said Maia.
"Cold?" he asked. He folded his talons around her, trying to block the
worst of the unnatural winter. He had only heard about snow in legend,
and the sight of it disturbed him. Never had this happened before.
"No, I want to go home. Back to Landen."
"Maia, who knows what they'll do to you there! They're cruel and
bigoted, without a regard for life!"
"They are not! If there's anyone without a regard to life it's you!
You're the one dragging me all the way out here, out in the cold, away
from Rhys..." She sniffled.
Lyle shifted his bulk. Hurting so much herself, she could not know how
much her words stung him. "Don't cry," he said. "Your tears will
"Rhys is a kind man." She sniffed again and wiped her eyes with the
sleeve of her wedding gown. "He didn't know who I was. I had nothing.
But he still took me in. He nursed me back to health. I would have
died without him. You think Orakians are bad but they're not. My
memory might not be complete, but I know compassion when I see it!"
They flew on in silence, but not over the ocean towards the Layan
kingdoms of Shusoran and Cille, where Lyle and Maia were respectively
prince and princess. The ocean had not yet frozen over and Lyle had an
idea. Unlike in the world of Landen where only Orakian settlements
existed, the sphere of Aquata was home to four major communities. One
of the islands was home to Cille, another home to Shusoran and the
Orakian kingdom of Agoe, and here on the mainland, a narrow strip of
land that was not an island merely because it was not surrounded by
water, was the town of Rysel.
The people of Rysel stayed neutral in regards to all affairs Orakian and
Layan, and expected others to behave the same during their visits. Lyle
had come here on occasion before and knew one of the townfolk. This
person had been the one who introduced him to the fact that there were
other worlds besides Aquata. Lyle had a feeling that this friend would
likely be able to help him here as well.
"Is this home?" asked Maia as they landed at the edge of Rysel.
"No," he said. "I hope to meet a friend here."
Lyle stayed in dragon form to prevent her from running. He would have
to let her go free of his claws while transforming back to his human
self and he couldn't risk her escaping, especially into temperatures
this bad, especially if she chose to leave town. The chill alone could
kill her in hours. That thin slip of a warm weather wedding dress
wouldn't give her more than five seconds of protection.
He crept behind a house on the edge of town. Light shown from the rooms
upstairs, its inhabitants likely huddled warmly together to avoid the
chill outside. Lyle tried to make his voice sound as human as possible
and called out "Benth! Benth! Come outside!"
Someone stirred inside and moved for the curtained window.
"No!" He shook his draconic head, forgetting the uselessness of the
gesture. "Just come out downstairs. It's Lyle."
A short while later, light shown through the downstairs windows. Then a
dark-haired young man opened the door, lantern in hand. "Lyle?" he
asked. His eyes widened when he found not a man standing by the back
door, but a dragon.
"No time for questions, Benth," said Lyle. He opened his claws so that
Maia had no choice but to move towards the back door. "This is Maia.
Could you please take her upstairs and make her comfortable? Her memory
was damaged some time ago so she doesn't know anything about Aquata or
the people who live here, but she is otherwise of sound mind." He
looked down at Maia. "And as for you, don't try to run. It's not safe
outside of town. These are nice people. I can't take you back to
Landen, but I will see what I can do for you."
Reluctantly, she stepped forward and Benth lead her inside. "I'll be
back," said his friend. "My sister can take care of her while I talk to
The dragon nodded as the door shut to keep out the cold. Snow began to
fall and he flapped his wings to shuck it from his skin. The light
traveled upstairs and only when it came back down again did Lyle
transform back to his human shape. He shivered mightily in the cold,
wrapping his cape around himself. He would have worn a coat had he
known the weather would get this bad, but even the coat might not have
Benth opened the door again, somewhat less surprised to now see Lyle the
man standing outside. Sparing the prince any questions, he simply stood
aside and gestured for him to come in. Benth started a fire in the
living room while Lyle flopped into a chair.
"I see you found your cousin," said Benth, taking out a towel and
offering it to Lyle. "Was she in that desert world I pointed you
Lyle accepted it gratefully but shook his head. "No, but she was in
another one. I wouldn't have found it if you hadn't told me about the
first. It's frightening to think that there's so much in our universe
that we don't know about."
"That's why I haven't told anyone about the desert world besides you and
my family. I'm not sure how to break it to people, and it's really not
all that necessary to know for the type of lifestyle we lead. We're
quite content right now."
"At least the people of Rysel are." Lyle planted his hands on his knees
as he leaned forward. "Shusoran and Agoe have been having skirmishes
for as long as I can remember. The cyborgs of the desert world... If
Agoe knew of them they could gather reinforcements and wipe us out! I
should let my father and uncle know as soon as possible so they can
"Maia says that not all Orakians are bad."
Lyle shook his head. "You didn't grow up Layan, or Orakian for that
matter. You think it's just a silly matter, two ancient kingdoms
fighting each other, but it's more than that. It's our heritage. If we
let the Orakians gain ground for just one day they would be over us like
"People are people," said Benth, taking a seat in a chair across from
Lyle. "That doesn't mean they'll suddenly be your best friend, but if
the both of you ever took the time to cool off and think things over,
maybe you'd actually remember the reason you began fighting."
Lyle scowled. "Everyone knows that Orakio and a band of his followers
attacked Laya and started the whole thing."
"And to hear an Orakian tell it, the reverse is true."
"We can't both be right."
"No," mused Benth, "though I suppose you both could be wrong." Catching
the look on Lyle's face the young man waved a hand to dismiss the
matter. "Academic interest. Never mind."
A moment of silence passed. Then Benth asked, "Is that why you're
upset? Because of the different worlds and that Orakians might not be
as evil as you were lead to believe?"
"Maybe some of it is because of that, but really it's Maia." He could
not help but glance at the staircase leading to where she had gone. "I
found her and I should be happy; thrilled. I dreamed of flying back to
Cille with Maia on my back; the two of us laughing and crying as we
returned to her parents. There would be good cheer and festivities. I
would have upheld the honor of being a Dragon Knight.
"Somehow none of it's turning out right, and it's not just because of
her loss of memory. Even if she doesn't remember the details of her
past, Maia is still Maia. I want to trust her judgment, but in doing
that there is so much more demanded of me."
"Have you talked it over with her?"
"I couldn't. Not as a dragon. Maia looked at me with fear.
Fear. My dearest cousin was afraid of me. Maybe after she's calmed
down a bit upstairs I can talk to her then, but not before. I kidnapped
her on her wedding day. She's terribly upset."
Benth sank back into his chair. "That certainly complicates the
"More than you know."
Lyle lowered his gaze and when he spoke again his voice was soft. "Maia
is my fiancee. There aren't very many men eligible to marry her because
of her status as princess. Just a handful of nobles and myself. Our
parents decided it when the two of us were little. We grew up friends.
Maia was very dear to me. I could trust her with anything. She would
never laugh at me, even when I did something terribly stupid. I knew
about the marriage arrangement, and I grew so used to expecting that I
would one day marry her that I never thought it might turn out
"I love Maia, she means the world to me, but she doesn't love me in
return. Even if she had her memory back, she wouldn't love me, not as a
future husband." He sighed. "And now she's fallen in love with someone
else. I don't know if she'll still love him once she gets her memory
back, but if she does I want to see what kind of man he is for myself.
I won't let Maia marry a man who isn't deserving of her."
"And of yourself?" Benth asked.
"I don't know. It's probably healthier for our bloodline if she marries
someone else. I suppose I'll do that too."
Lyle heard footsteps on the stairs, moving back up the steps. Maia.
The brash and cheerful Lyle of the recent past would have been
embarrassed if she heard him saying such things, but now he felt
nothing. Those were his feelings and if she did not accept them now she
"Listen," he told his friend. "Tomorrow I have a favor to request of
you. I noticed the lake hasn't frozen yet. Please, take a boat and get
Maia back to her family. They will reward you handsomely."
"You're not going to take her back yourself?"
"No. If this Rhys fellow is the man she thinks he is, then he must be
madly searching for her. I want to see him, see what lengths he's
willing to go through for her. You know for how long and hard I sought
Maia. I expect nothing less from him. I'll monitor him, and if he
proves worthy, and Maia wishes even after getting her memory back, I'll
let him see her again."
There was little else to say to that, so Lyle bedded down in the living
room for the night after Benth provided him with a pillow and blanket.
When morning came, Lyle and Maia broke their fast still on different
floors of the house. Lyle stepped outside the door when Maia came
downstairs. He would escort them to the boat, to make certain Maia
boarded with Benth, but no further than that.
She barely glanced at him when she came out the door at Benth's side.
Lyle trailed them both, silently, to the wharf. When they reached it,
Maia paused. She turned and met his eyes, still without a sign of
"Your parents will get your memory restored," said Lyle. "After
that... Well, it's your decision."
"I heard you last night." Her words, free from tears, sang like music
in his heart. "Your voice sounded... comforting. I can't put it any
other way. I'm glad to know why you're doing this."
She never heard his challenge. By then she had climbed aboard and
walked towards the small cabin. Benth patted Lyle on the shoulder.
"Don't worry," he said. "I believe there is a natural order to things.
You know the reasons you're doing this and that's all that really
matters. It will all work out in the end. You'll see. How can
anything truly bad come out of love?"
Then they left. Lyle watched the boat pull away until it became a speck
on the horizon. He turned and left the sleepy town of Rysel behind.
Midway back to the cave he changed to his dragon shape and flew like no
other creature could. He envisioned Maia's homecoming, how the faces of
the people of Cille would light up upon the return of their beloved
princess. His aunt and uncle would emerge from their punishing
depression and Cille would be a kingdom revived.
Shusoran would benefit too, for what happened to one kingdom happened to
the other. It was inevitable with the royalty so closely related. Yes,
Lyle should be pleased, but why did he have to feel so sad? Why did his
good-natured cheer have to become a mask? He hoped he would sincerely
like this Rhys. He'd better, for Rhys's sake.
The dragon flexed his claws as he dove through the connecting tunnel
between the worlds of Aquata and Landen. When he ermeged on the other
side he flew over a town, making sure its inhabitants could see him.
Rhys would recognize the dragon as the one who kidnapped Maia and come
looking for him. When the Landen prince came to fight it, he would find
a man instead, a curious man named Lyle who would offer him a way off
this world to continue his search for Maia. It was only fair, since
Benth had helped Lyle find his way out of Aquata.
As for Maia... Maia...
Lyle winged down on a large island south of the kingdom of Landen.
Maia now thought he swept her away out of his own personal love. And
truly that was a good part of it, but it was more than that, more than
just him, more than even their royal relations, more than the people of
Cille. She didn't understand. She was everything, everything that
mattered. History would weep and the heavens fall without her.