Written By Damien Knight
“Protect her with
your lives. Guard
of the Moon.
She is my light and
I will be in her shadow.”
The march had taken over a month where before the surroundings had been snow-covered, now patches of flowers peaked from the ground. The capital was to the north-west of Lenagard, the land of the elves. A trail of destruction lay behind them. They had avoided the cities, but the forests were soaked in blood rain that mixed with the melting winter snow. The icy wet drips fell off the trees and clawed down Arajuan’s back causing him to shudder from the cold. The unit was close now; a stench of dragons wafted on the wind. Arajuan was one of the
few who could distinguish dragon blood that made him invaluable to the emperor.
“Halt.” He commanded.
The men stopped and Arajuan looked to Socrates. He needed to send a scout to assess the path ahead.
“Fly up; show me where the eggs are laid.”
Socrates flew to a low-lying ledge and scanned the mountainside. Arajuan spotted the eggs in a circle through the bird’s eyes. The nest appeared abandoned by the parents. It was normal for dragons to leave, he thought, and the young survive without parental care. These, he thought with a wicked chuckle, would not survive no matter the circumstances.
Arajuan counted them, 1, 2, 3 and such. Eleven eggs in this clutch. This was average clutch for a dragon. Socrates examined the ground; there was a path nearby for the men to climb. The bird then flew toward Arajuan which let him see the path. It was a broad clear path. There was little in the way of brambles or trees. Everything appeared too easy, the eggs were sitting right in the clear at the end of the path under a shallow cliff hanging. The simplicity concerned him as his face scrunched up in thought. Arajuan had a plan and turned to brief the men.
“Now up there are eleven dragon eggs in an unguarded nest. Unguarded does not mean safe to approach. The path ahead looks clear but I do not trust it. We will make our own way up. This is a dangerous mission; you boys are new soldiers only recently baptized in the blood of battle. The ancients had a phrase written in poetry ‘O to see a dragon birth. To travel to one’s dark lair deep within the earth pray the dragon spares thee.’ Pray, men, if Rork or Mika Tsuki
return to the nest you will have little chance of surviving their wrath. This will be your last mission if you aren’t cautious and obedient.”
When Arajuan finished with his speech, he ordered the men into marching position. The men were as prepared as he could make them. They now had months of experience, raiding enemy towns and slaying those who stood in their way.
He turned toward Tsuke and Tuk.
“You two, take the rear and guard our backs. Now everyone follow me and keep silent.”
They hiked the mountainside at a steady pace. Arajuan led them through a narrower hidden path. He could smell the elafi that frequented this narrower path. It was a tougher climb but at least his men could not be seen by dragons here. He wished he had more elves under his service. Gori despised elves because they were allied with the dragons. To Arajuan’s dismay this meant few were in his service. A pity as these men did not move fast enough and even though once killed they were easier to reanimate, they made even slower zombies.
The Omayasp Mountains were gorgeous with clean air unlike the Aldranari Volcanos. Weathered rocks exposed the rock layers in folded formation and had steep high peaks. The snow-covered valley below dotted with streams from run offs going along the mountainsides. Arajuan was not a creature able to appreciate the splendor of nature. His mind was too busy cutting away branches on the elafi trail.
It took a thirty-minute hike to reach the nest. Arajuan looked at Socrates in a staunch silence, they did not need to speak for the bird to understand. He flew swift along the
mountainside scanning the area for any danger. He understood that if Socrates spotted a dragon, he would share the vision.
Arajuan sniffed the air, eyes closed, and his lips drawn tight. Mika Tsuki laid these dragon eggs within the past few days yet they appeared to be a week of hatching. To break these eggs would just hatch the baby dragons. It was clear she waited until the last moment to lay.
“Take caution these eggs are near hatching day. Do as you wish with them but if after smashing them and the baby inside is still alive leave it to Tsuke and Tuk.” He commanded.
“Yes, Sir!” The men replied.
Arajuan’s eyes connected with the twin guards and he nodded. He placed them in charge of the soldiers as he explored the nest. He heard them attempt to crush the eggs. Dragon egg shells were hard as rock but very porous. He understood that the soldiers would have a tough time breaking through them. Let them build their confidence before they die, he thought with a wicked chuckle. He shook his head in mild disgust even his thoughts sounded like Gori’s. He had to get back to the task at hand.
Arajuan examined the eggs circling the flat ground. There an egg stood out, it was fragrant, different and he wanted to investigate it. He picked it up and counted the rest of the eggs once more including the one in his hands. Now there were twelve eggs, but he remembered there being eleven. Did he miss this one?
Arajuan lifted the egg with a steady hand. It had a sweet-burnt cinder aroma, and the shell was smooth. He bent closer and examined the egg using mage sight. It was similar to the other
ones why did he not sense it? Was this due to the barrier he now saw around it. the magic glowed like a tiny blue beacon from the egg. The grin on his face was genuine as he placed it on the ground he then removed his gloves. He would end this egg himself anything with magic this strong could not be handled by the soldiers. He picked it back up with his bare hands and he felt the dragon wriggle within the egg. Was it struggling?
“Aren’t you beautiful,” He whispered, “So beautiful.”
Arajuan was unsure why he said this, nor did it matter, to his pleasure, he heard shells smashing around him and cries of wyrmlings hit his ears. The men were succeeding and fragrant dragon blood wafted over the cliff. The smell of blood always filled him with intense happiness.
Arajuan’s pleasure faded when Socrates own sight invaded his mind. Rork was heading back to the nest with a glowing fury. He panicked, but why, he never panics. The egg in his hand pulsed, emotion surging from it. This egg was the source of his panic, the wyrmling inside wanted him to hide it. For now he would comply.
Arajuan ‘looked’ at the egg and he focused an illusion around it. The egg vanished or at least it would look like it did. He felt compelled to hide the egg, the dragon inside commanded it. He had to do this before Rork got there without Gori knowing he did not destroy everything. Arajuan heard Socrates and motioned to the bird. The raven flew toward him. He was not an average bird; he could see what others were unable. The egg would be visible to him.
Hide this egg. Arajuan thought.
Socrates transformed into a young boy with coal black hair and empty dark eyes. He took
the invisible egg from Arajuan and ran to hide it. The general then yelled to his men.
“Rork is on his way and he smells our swords stained with his children’s blood. Ready your weapons.” He shouted.
His right hand swung out and a spear appeared from the mist that swirled around him. Arajuan grasped it and stood in front of his men. With bravado he faced the charging dragon.
Rork, a large red dragon with fearsome horns and massive wings, was flying in a swooping motion toward the nest. His nostrils flared with rage as he saw the dead wyrmlings and strewn egg shells. The men stood ready with their swords but Arajuan got a sense of impending hopelessness. It was as if foresight gripped him, Rork felt stronger than when they last fought and Arajuan had not won his last battle with Rork. The red dragon roared out spewing flames and swooped down on the army.
Arajuan lifted his spear but did not attack with it; he focused his will through the weapon. A pitch-black emptiness came from the spear and knocked Rork back. The attack landed square in the dragon’s chest. Arajuan jeered at his success.
“Enjoy the taste of my Shadow Blast!” Arajuan cackled.
The men cheered as the dragon stumbled off his course. Rork gaped open his mouth as he landed on the ledge flashing his teeth. They mounted a brave charge at him with their weapons. Rork rounded on the men, grabbing one in his maw swallowing him whole.
“Get back! You cannot just charge a dragon with steel. Do not forget the plan!” Arajuan shouted.
Arajuan let go of the spear and it vanished. This ends now, he thought, he wanted Rork dead. With his left hand, he drew his sword from its sheath and he went toward the beast. The dragon’s eyes flared in response and flew into the air. Arajuan did not hesitate as he slashed with his blade sending dark crescent-shaped flames toward Rork hitting the left wing.
“Coward!” Arajuan declared, “Come back and meet your fate.”
Arajuan dodged the dragon’s lava breath by becoming vapour and reappearing in mid-air. He laughed. It was obvious Rork was too angry for conversation this brought him great pleasure. He had yet to seriously injure the dragon, but he was not ready to cast Dark Wave. It would be too much power in a cornered area. The last thing he needed was to consume his men, or the hidden egg.
Arajuan flew level with Rork. The battle needed to end, maybe it was dragon-fear, but that foreboding sense overcame him once more. He would not be killing any dragons today he had to try, at least put up a good fight. The Emperor Gori was not someone Arajuan took light, and he was always watching.
Arajuan sheathed his sword and blasted Rork with wind, his hands in front of him. He let out a menacing laugh as the dragon flew back, knocked from its position above him. His crimson eyes flared with pleasure. Arajuan renewed his hope of murder and sent a beam of violet energy straight to the dragon’s heart. He had never consumed a dragon soul before but he would try.
Rork dodged the attack and changed tactic. He went after the soldiers. Arajuan held his right hand out in front of him. He focused and summoned bows and enchanted arrows.
Summoning objects were never the Death Knight’s strong suit; he felt worn from the effort.
“Take the weapons and defend yourselves. Show me your worth as my men! Odcięte lowry żadne ogoni!”
“Odcięte lowry żadne ogoni!” they rallied.
Arajuan gained strength from their cheers as they took the weapons he called up and shot. The arrows would sting like electric pinpricks to Rork but the distraction gave him the advantage. He had time to communicate with the half-elf-guards now while blasting the dragon with blood spikes. The dragon would not know the difference between the poisonous deadly spikes and the average arrow he hoped.
Tsuke and Tuk, I have a mission for you, Arajuan thought out
Yes, milord, Tsuke replied.
Go to Lenagard and become servants of the queen named Esmir. Do this by telling Tarnink that his brother asks this of him.
Milord you betrayed your ‘brother’ by returning to Gori. Why should he trust us? Tuk answered.
I doubt he will. Just go. Mika Tsuki will send any surviving offspring to the elves. You need to protect the wyrmling with your lives. Guard her, she is now my light, and I will watch in her shadow understood?
Yes, Sir! He ‘heard’ them say.
The dragon returned his attention to Arajuan. He snarled in a justified rage, the body of
another man flung from his foaming maw. Arajuan formed his mouth into an ‘o’ shape and pushed out a blast of wind. This blew the flames Rork directed at him right back. This is what he warned his men about, the undying wrath of a nesting dragon. Arajuan knew he underestimated Rork.
Arajuan needed to get the soldiers to lower ground. He supervised as they tried to take the path but just as they did, Rork turned his sights back on to them and away from Arajuan. He had to decide, kill Rork while his back was to him leaving no chance for the wyrmling, or sacrifice his men allowing Socrates to hide the egg. The truth, Arajuan knew he could not kill this dragon. He was not strong enough and there was the matter of the egg.
Without its parents, the egg might not survive. Arajuan worried his men might all die today; his choice was no easy matter. He would kill Rork another day, but the egg might need him to survive. No, Arajuan had a third option. He created a mist to surround the surviving warriors obscuring the view of the dragon.
“Run!” he shouted, “I will join soon.”
The men heeded the order. There was only a handful left of the large troop of soldiers. Arajuan realised now just how much he underestimated Rork. He laughed, a sardonic laugh, at his failing before turning to where the egg was hidden. He would try one more time to kill it and so doing that warmth inside him he so despised. Success meant he could attempt to slay Rork, save his honor, and the mission.
Arajuan vanished into a vapor and drifted toward where Socrates placed the egg. There it sat in a small crevice. He reformed and reached his bare right hand out to touch its silky grey surface. The egg pulsed like a heart. Magic surged from within it. What did this mean? He gazed in blind wonderment why was the dragon inside still alive. Death Touch, a permanent curse placed on his right hand, killed all he touched. She should be dead. He removed his hand and his gloves reappeared that is when he noticed a small crack.
“Oh no, this isn’t good,” he muttered.
Arajuan had merged with her, the wyrmling’s mind called to his and he knew. He had triggered her hatching. The wyrmling hatching early was not the issue. He feared that if she hatched now and saw Arajuan she might mistake him for her father. He had to flee. Well, there was something good about this. He gave a triumphant smirk. Now he had more power than before, the magic of a time dragon, nothing would stand in his way.