Ashley couldn’t ever remember being as happy as she was now. She had fleeting memories of the time before her dad had lost joint custody and those seemed to be happy; but she didn’t really remember them lucidly. Thus, for all intents and purposes; the now was the best time of her life; which didn’t bother her at all.
This was the only time in her life that she felt that she could control her destiny; her actions now would decipher where her life would be twenty years from now. She was happy about this. She no longer had to rely on others, but relied solely on her own intentions, gut feelings, and actions. She felt as if she could go anywhere and do anything, and she felt liberated.
She never acted on whims. This was unheard of. She never had the money, nor did she have the time, but now that her mother was out of sight and soon to be out of mind, she could act on her feelings. She decided to call up Judy’s Travel Agency and ask what kind of deal she could get. She didn’t care where she went, as long as she was a minimum of 5000 miles away from this joint.
“Hello, this is Judy. How may I assist your travels today?”
“Ummm… yeah, Ummm.”
“Would you like to tell me where you want to go, ma’am?”
“That might be a problem.”
“What is your name, dear?”
“It seems you don’t care where you want to go.”
This Judy person seemed to know so much about her situation, just by listening to her tone of voice. Maybe she has been in a similar situation.
“How about Malaysia?”
“I don’t want to get bit by anything… foreign.”
Judy chuckled a deep gutted laugh and replied, “What is your heritage?”
“Great! I have a trip here to Bavaria that would please you.”
“Okay, let’s do that. When can I leave?”
“Tomorrow at 5 am.”
Ashley had to hurry. She had to gather things she may need for the next three months. All of her clothes were dirty, but she didn’t mind taking it to Europe that way. She figured the people there smelled anyway. She could not believe this. This opportunity is beyond her wildest dreams and there is no way that she could not be visibly ecstatic.
Shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste and stuff of the like. Check and Check.
Passport, cash, ID’s? Double Check.
She had stayed up all night getting things ready and packed. She had called the few friends she had, left a message for her brother Willhelm and caught a cab to the Paragon City airport. She was tired and physically exhausted, so check in felt like a dream, and it seemed as if the security had felt for her anyway; they didn’t hassle her. She was asleep almost as soon as the plane was in the air. Hell, she didn’t see a reason to not, I’d be afternoon when she got to Heathrow and after that, she was scheduled to take some sort of train from London to Continental Europe… she hadn’t actually taken in the details all that well in the rush of getting ready. Ash knew the details and tickets were somewhere in her stuff, and that was all that mattered in her brain at the time, so she fell asleep for what seemed like an instant for the transatlantic flight, and then again for the train ride. In fact, even the cab ride to her hotel, checking in and then the bus trip to get to her first tour destination was all a blur, even checking out her luxury suite felt like an insignificant detail.
The castle was the first thing that was clear to her. King Ludwig II had had several fairy tale castles built during his reign as king, most weren’t finished. Neuschwanstein was one of these, though one could hardly tell the way it towered above his father’s Hohenschwangau castle. Ludwig had been called mad, but as Ashley took in the area and the beauty of the mountains around it, she fell instantly in love. It was his retreat, and an everlasting shrine to Richard Wagner, the composer to whom Ludwig was the patron of. It felt strangely familiar to her as well, she could almost felt as if she could look into the past and see the king as a child playing in the woods of Hohenschwangau, and then hiking in the mountains with friends to the spot the castle stood later as a young man.
As the tour bus climbed the mountain her sense of déjà vu only increased, especially as the tour guide spoke of the castle being built, the words were said, and perfect pictures like memories popped into her head. The inside of the castle was a complete dream; Ashley didn’t know anything about the operas the décor was illustrating, but she almost thought she heard each song being played in her head. Then as the tour came to its end , Ashley found herself being quietly called away from the group… and she wandered through unfinished parts of the castle until she found herself at a dead end. For a moment she thought to turn around, and then she realized with a start, that invisible symbols were forming on the bricks and when she reached out and touched them, a wave of something ancient rolled over her and she found herself staring at herself in dragon form, and yet, it was not a reflection as it had in been in the mirrors of Jeanette’s apartment. Confusion hit her. Dragon? What? That was a dream; she had dreamt that she had gotten into PCU and then manifested fire powers, and then run off to the Rogue Islands in search of her brother… hadn’t she?
Her head swam and a strange set of emotions began to bubble up inside, she should be afraid; and yet she was not. She felt a tear well up and begin to drip down her cheek and watched a diamond fall down her cheek. The name rushed through her very being and then out of her lips as a silver clawed hand and a hand of caramel colored flesh touched and the tears met each other on the stone ground…
Her eyes shot open and the whole of her dream melted. Wandering into the Castle been the same dream she had every night since she could remember. But the dragon hadn’t shown up until a month earlier when she had come to realize Labaredas wasn’t just an alias she took up… it was the dragon that resided in her. But a flight to Bavaria? This was new… and didn’t make sense… what was so special about Bavaria? Ashley sat up and stretched, immediately noticing Vic was decidedly absent. She could hear him bumbling about with his gear in the next room. She sighed and flopped backwards then rolled over to her side, staring at red glow of the clock that read 4:10 AM and counting and falling back into drowsiness slowly until he came back in and settled back underneath the covers, stroking her cheek before laying back, and with his touch she fell back into the realm of Mab.