The Dragons Descend
The Dragons Descend
Potato stalks had just begun to sprout from the cold, cultivated land. The last freeze of winter had just passed, and the farm was beginning to see the green of the hardy crop. Tanned hands, caked with the brown earth, worked tirelessly around these crops, removing the little green stubs of weeds and tiny rocks from the ground so that the potato could grow freely. The hands were rough from wear over years of work, but were small enough to belong to a child.
The owner of these hands was a young girl, running on her nineteenth year, with beautiful dark red hair and glistening emerald eyes. Her body was small, but her face was well-rounded, she had not felt deep hunger for a very long time. Though the girl's frame was small, a closer inspection showed strong arms, muscles hiding beneath a thin layer of skin. The girl wore ragged clothes, but she did not seem to mind her dirty appearance. A fine layer of dirt covered her and reminded her of where she belonged, here on the farm.
The girl stopped weeding and picking rocks for a moment to stand up and stretch. The sun was just beginning its first descent into the horizon, which meant it would be dark soon. The girl had been farming for nearly the whole day, which was tedious, but had to get done, otherwise the potatoes would not grow as quickly as they did. The girl searched the horizon, looking for signs of life.
In the nation of Ermith, the girl lived in a small village just east of the capital city. The village was called Iona, and was the main source of potato for the capital. Potatoes did not require a lot to grow, so Iona was the perfect place for the farms. The girl lived with her father in a small hut on the furthest hill from the center of the village and had been tending to the potato farm ever since she could hold a sickle. Closer to the center of the village was a large pit where everyone would gather on the first day of every new month and dance by a bonfire that lit up even the most distant clouds with a brilliant light. At the memory of the last dance, the girl began to blush. She was already at the age where the boys would start asking for her hand, but none of them could convince her or her father.
The redheaded girl shook her head to clear her thoughts and scanned the horizon again. Off in the distance, she could make out a lone figure, making quick work to reach the village. After a few moments, the girl finally recognized the figure as a man on top of a horse, galloping at top speed towards the village. A smile graced her dirt-caked lips as the girl rushed to put the farm tools away in an effort to meet the man galloping towards her on his horse.
“Father!” The girl called out when he finally reached her in the village. As soon as the man stepped down from his horse, he was greeted by the girl throwing herself around his neck in a tight embrace. “Welcome home,” the girl said gleefully, truly happy to have her father back safely. She had heard about the dangers of the road, how beasts were becoming more daring and attacking travelers in large numbers. It was no longer safe to travel on these roads anymore.
“It's good to be home, sweetie,” the girl's father replied in a deep, hoarse voice, as if he had not had water in a long time. He wrapped his huge arms around the girl, squeezing tightly before letting her down. Unlike the other men in the village, he was cleanly shaven with black hair dotted with gray. His rounded face matched that of the girl's, and their eyes were also the same color of emerald green. He wore leather clothing, not suited for work in the field, but more for protection on the road in case he ran across beasts or bandits. The leather was torn slightly in places, but he was not bleeding anywhere. “I'm afraid we don't have time right now to catch up. Follow me, quickly,” he spoke with urgency in his voice, and grabbed the reins of his horse to lead it back to their home.
“Daddy, what's going on? Is there trouble? You weren't being followed by any men or beasts?” The girl asked, shocked by her father's words and his tone. He did not say anything to her until they were inside the hut. Inside sat two beds of hay and cotton, one of which had not been made properly that morning. At the end of the cleaner bed sat an old chest, which the man threw open and began digging in. The girl was honestly surprised, she had expected him to notice the unmade bed and berate her for not doing all of her chores properly. But no such lecture came, instead her father simply dug through the chest, searching
“It is not a man or beast that is following me, nor is it a demon or spirit,” the man finally answered, finding what he was looking for. A long something wrapped in a white cloth. The girl's father turned to her and placed his hand on her shoulder. “Silvia, my daughter, you must listen to me. Take this, but do not remove the cloth. It is a very special sword, but you must not touch it. Do you hear me? You. Must. Not. Touch. It.” There was such stern force in the man's voice that the girl, Silvia, cringed and nodded. She would not touch the sword. “Good girl. Take it, and take my horse. Go to the capital city, the horse knows the way. When you arrive there, ask to see a man called Gaiden, he is an old friend of mine. Give him this sword, and tell him that my nightmares have returned.” Silvia's father handed her the sword, and she took it.
“What about the farm? I haven't finished putting away all the tools yet,” Silvia spoke, trying her best to stall for time. Any time at all so her father could explain to her what was going on. But he shook his head at her. Compelled by familial impulse, Silvia held back her desire to throw a tantrum and instead gripped her father in a fierce embrace.
“That doesn't matter anymore, Silvia. What matters is that you get to safety. Quickly.” Silvia's father scooted the girl out of the hut, despite her protests to know what was going on. He picked the girl up and sat her on the horse, putting the reins into her hands.
“Wait, what about you? Aren't you coming?” Silvia asked quietly, her voice and her arms shaking, too frightened to hear the response. Her father did not respond, only slapped the horse's rear and shouted. The horse nearly reared back, but it seemed to sense something was amiss, and did not, much to the relief of its passenger. The horse took off, leaving taking Silvia despite the fit she was so close to throwing, leaving her father behind in the village.
Silvia watched the village fade into the distance on her horse. Her gaze was only affected when something big began to move in the distance. One of the mountains was rising, moving up. At least Silvia thought it was a mountain at first, but when it lifted its head, she knew that it was no mountain.
It was a dragon.
Even from this distance, Silvia could see the dragon open its enormous maw, where a great fire was beginning to grow, deep within the great mountain's belly.
“No...” Silvia's soft voice was drowned out by the horse's hooves, grinding into the dirt road. She could only watch as a great fire sprung from the enormous dragon's belly and engulfed her home, her village, whole. “No...FATHER, NO!” Tears flooded from the girl's eyes as she watched, helpless, as her home was destroyed in an instant. The stories of dragons from all the old stories and legends that Silvia had thought were myths ended up to be true. The dragons were once defeated, but now they had returned, marking the beginning of a Second Dragon War.
The Blood of Dragons
The Blood of Dragons
The great nation took up all of the continent of Ermith, and so the nation was also called Ermith. The borders of the land stretched from the Bell Ocean to the Western Ocean, which surrounded the land on all sides. Iona was a small dot on the map of the great continent, close to the capital, which took up a sizable part of the map. The capital has always been named after the reigning King of Ermith, and his castle sat at the very center of the city. King Sigmund IV was a kind ruler, though some saw him as being too kind to those within the city's walls. There is a certain point where a generous King becomes a foolish one, and the line between foolish and dead is not always crystal clear.
Silvia approached the high stone walls of the capital city next to her horse. She had dismounted not too far away from the city, allowing the horse to rest from carrying her and running for so long. The sun had long since descended into the horizon, allowing the bright double moons to take its place and offer a pale blue light to illuminate the sky. The stars and constellations were also burning brightly this night, but Silvia did not look up, her head was hung low as she slowly stumbled into the city.
A single man wearing polished steel and a helm with a red plumage approached Silvia. He was a Knight of the King's Court, probably the overseer of the gates, which were closed for the night. Silvia didn't seem to care, she walked straight up to the gates, still looking at her feet, and stopped. The knight tried to address her several times, asking what she was doing at this time of night and what business she had in the city.
Silvia finally raised her head when she realized that the guards were not going to just open the door to a silent stranger and forced herself to speak. “I need to see a man called Gaiden. Please let me in.”
“Gaiden? He's the Captain of the Royal Guard. For what do you need to speak with him?” One of the other guards who was listening in asked. The knight waved his hand, dismissing the guard with a stern look.
“Gaiden is off duty now, probably sleeping and does not wish to be disturbed. I'm sorry, miss, but even if we could let you in, we can't allow you to see Gaiden,” the knight spoke quietly. There was something off about this girl, this child, but the knight couldn't quite figure it out. She seemed to be carrying something on her back, wrapped in cloth. “Is that a sword you are carrying?”
Silvia paused, wondering if she should lie. It was probably better not to, but Silvia was tired of the questions, so she grabbed the cloth a little tighter. “I can only talk to Gaiden. Please.”
The knight was at a loss. He sighed and ruffled the feathers on his helm, thinking of what should be done about this strange girl. He had to make a decision, so he signaled for the guards to open the gate. “Take her to command,” the knight ordered, “I don't want her roaming the city this late at night. I expect you all to be proper gentlemen, understand?”
The gate was raised and Silvia was allowed entry. Her horse was taken from her, but she would not let go of the cloth she carried, so the guards let her be. One of them escorted her through the dimly-lit city. Silvia kept her head down, only looking at the cobblestone road as the guard took her to a large wooden hut some distance away from the main road. Only when she was inside the hut did Silvia look around. It was warm, and the candles were bright enough to illuminate the room in an orange glow. Three long tables sat in the hut, it was a fairly large building, where a few off-duty guards were gathered around, playing cards or taking a nap. A ladder in one of the corners led down to the lower level, Silvia didn't bother guessing where that led, she was being put at one of the tables, away from the other guards who were giving her odd looks.
“Orders from Knight-Commander Rivel,” the guard told the others, “don't touch the girl, she's only here to see Gaiden.” With those words, the guards all sighed disappointingly, and returned to whatever it was they were doing before. Silvia didn't want to guess what they might have been thinking. The guard that has escorted her left for his post, and Silvia was left alone again. But unlike before, there was no dragon to come and ruin the city.
The candles burned down, the light becoming dimmer as the night dragged on, with Silvia still sitting at the table. Before long, the door to the guard's hut opened again and a great wall of a man entered through it. He wore a brown leather jacket over a white shirt. On the back of the jacket was the insignia of the Royal Guard, a white snake crushing a black bird in a fierce grip. He had messy brown hair and deep, blue eyes and a strong jawline. A thin sword was sheathed in brown wood by his side. The knight he entered with for some reason seemed shadowed by the man whom he brought.
The towering figure, who could only be the Captain of the Royal Guard, Gaiden, took the seat directly across from Silvia. He folded his hands together and sat, observing her for a moment. “My name is Gaiden,” the man said, his voice exuding control. He did not speak unkindly, but there was a certain force to his words. “I am the Captain of the Royal Guard under direct control of King Sigmund. I understand that you wish to speak with me. I am here, so speak.”
So this was Gaiden. Silvia was not sure what she had expected, but it certainly was not a man so huge! He was even bigger than her father, and not even a little bit of fat or extra skin could be seen on this bear of a man. To top it off, he was cleanly shaven and sat in an upright position, almost declaring to the world his ranking. Silvia knew only that the Royal Guard had the same rights and privileges as a Baron, and the Captain had a ranking even higher than that, Lord.
Silvia cast her gaze aside, suddenly not feeling well as she mustered up what courage she had left to speak with someone she only knew through her father. “M-my name is Silvia. My D- my father...told me to come here and tell you something. That...his nightmares have returned.” Gaiden did not react immediately to what Silvia told him, but his brow did furrow at her name.
“Silvia...I know that name. Are you Hans' daughter?” Gaiden inquired, stroking his chin as he examined her. She nodded her head in confirmation, Hans was her father's name. “I see it wasn't just a doting father, you really are as beautiful as Hans claimed.” Silvia felt a little blush run across her face at those words. She knew her father thought she was pretty, and constantly heard it from the other villagers, but always just thought they were only saying that to make her feel good about herself.
“His nightmares have returned, though?” Gaiden phrased his sentence as a question, but did not wait for an answer. Still stroking his chin in thought, he continued: “That spells trouble. I assume he sent you here to me in order to protect you. Which means he is either on his way, or...”
“Daddy won't be coming,” Silvia answered the unasked question, keeping her head down and clenching her small hands into tiny fists. “A dragon appeared from the mountains...and destroyed the village with a great fire.”
“I see,” Gaiden sighed, crossing his arms over his chest. He gave Silvia pause, as he did not want to disturb her thoughts just yet. She had obviously just been through quite the ordeal. The best option right now would be to find her a place to sleep through the night in safety. But the object wrapped in cloth she held drew his attention. “Might I see that, Silvia?” Gaiden requested kindly, pointing to the sword that she still held.
Silvia did not seem much harm in handing over the sword to the man. She was safe now, and her father would likely have wanted her to hand it over to Gaiden. Slowly and carefully, Silvia retrieved the sword from her back and placed it on the wood table, allowing Gaiden to touch it. Gaiden unwrapped the cloth, and Silvia could not resist at least watching to see what lay under all those layers of fabric.
Revealed beneath the fabric lay the sword, sheathed in a dark mahogany wood. The sheath itself held many intricate designs on it that, upon closer inspection, turned out to be the full body of a dragon, belching flames out towards the hilt of the weapon contained within. The hilt itself was made of golden steel, the guard of the sword curved backward slightly and the grip was wrapped in a thick rubber that allowed an easy and firm grip. There was a single, teardrop-shaped ruby resting in the pommel of the sword, and it gleamed ominously at the two observers.
Gaiden grasped the hilt of the sword and held it up. He did not unsheathe the blade. From only looking at the blade, he could tell that it was carefully made, and a very old sword. He could not, however, determine its importance or origins. If Hans was carrying this, then it must be important.
“Do you know what this is, Silvia?” Gaiden inquired. It was unlikely, but if Silvia knew what the sword was, that might help him understand why it was so important. But she shook her head, of course Hans would not tell her about the sword. She appeared to have not known about the sword at all until today, when her father told her to run from the village. Gaiden set the sheathed sword back on the table carefully.
Gaiden was about to speak again, but the presence of another disturbed his concentration and he turned to see who was near. A young man had approached the table and stood behind Gaiden. He seemed to be solely focused on Gaiden, and saluted the Captain of the Guard upon being noticed. “Captain, might I ask why you are up here? It's supposed to be your time off now, is it not? And who is this?”
“Something rose up,” Gaiden answered, “and I was needed. This is Silvia Reshe, the daughter of a friend of mine. Silvia, might I introduce you to Archer, my former student. He is a member of the Royal Guard as well, next in line for the Captain position, if I have any say in it.”
Silvia looked at Archer up and down, taking in his appearance. He had flaming red hair, not unlike her own, but it wasn't just his hair that was red. He wore a combat suit that was almost entirely red and held a long spear-like weapon on his back. He brushed back some of his wild hair and smiled at Silvia, who quickly looked down in embarrassment. He was really handsome, and young. Maybe only a year or two older than she was, if that. When she looked back up again, she was able to give him a slight smile, though it was still weighted by her earlier experiences.
“What is this sword? The sheath is beautiful,” Archer pointed out, his eyes seemingly entranced by the sword on the table. Without thinking, Silvia reached out to take the sword back, forgetting her father's hasty instructions for just a moment. When she realized what she was doing, she stopped, her finger just barely touching the hilt of the sword. Too late, the sword's pommel began to glow a deep red and a low roar sounded from the blade, similar to the roar of that dragon's. Silvia's face paled for an instant before turning bright red as her body began to heat up at astounding rates.
A sudden, sharp pain ran through Silvia's fingers and down her spine, and in an instant she was on the ground, screaming and writhing in pain. The two members of the Guard were alerted by her sudden change, but could only stand back and watch as she transformed in front of them, the heat she emitted was much too great for them to approach her. Silvia's skin began to shimmer and change, shifting as it grew layers and layers of hardened nail, scales colored a deep green. Her hair grew even more wild, as if lit by fire, and her ears sharpened and lengthened greatly. Two horns grew from the top of her head, curving slightly before jutting out to either side. Her fingers and nails became indistinguishable, turning into sharp claws, but the overall shape unchanging. Her legs and feet changed the most, turning to hard scale and her toes merging to form three sharp talons.
The transformation wasn't over yet, but the heat coming from Silvia's changing body was lessening. At the end of the transformation, Silvia had grown a long, pointed tail and two thick, leathery wings, like a bat's. The pain of the transformation seemed to have knocked Silvia unconscious, but before Gaiden or Archer could approach her, Silvia began to lift herself up off the ground.
Silvia's head turned up, even her eyes turned into red slits, and she growled up at the two members of the Guard. Without a second warning, the awakened dragonling leaped at Gaiden, sharp claws flashing as he did a quick roll away from the danger. Gaiden glanced over at Archer, who stood there aghast at Silvia. He certainly wasn't expecting a little girl to suddenly transform into a dragon, that was for sure. Gaiden wasn't expecting it either.
“Archer, get everyone here to safety! It is much too dangerous to fight here!” Gaiden barked orders at the cadet, who listened and quickly sprang to action. The other guards, who were not quite as useful in combat as the members of the Royal Guard, were herded out of the guardhouse as Gaiden held off the enraged half-dragon. He drew his sword and, under his breath, apologized to Hans. He was going to have to get a little rough with his daughter.
Archer returned soon after the last of the off-duty guards were taken outside, and took his naginata in hand. He wanted to help Gaiden from the beginning, but the safety of the guards came first. An order from Gaiden was absolute, and his loyalty to his captain would never be poisoned by personal ideals. Archer rushed forward, quickly getting behind Silvia and raising his weapon, finding that the customized spear felt a little heavier than usual. Before he could get a strike off, which could have given them a huge advantage, Silvia took notice of him and spun around, beating her wings powerfully at him, sending him flying against the opposite wall.
“Archer, watch out!” Gaiden shouted, dealing with his own injuries on a bent knee. He couldn't move his left leg, it was probably broken. Silvia's brute strength was surprising, considering how small she was. But he should have never underestimated the strength of a dragon's blood.
The half-dragon beat her wings again, lifting herself into the air as a sharp intake of breath sounded through the air. In a single motion forward, the dragon spewed forth a torrent of fire that consumed the whole area in front of her, including Archer, and setting the guardhouse aflame. Smoke began to rise quickly, making this an even more dangerous fight.
Before Gaiden could ascertain Archer's safety, however, his shadow leaped to action, attaching itself to the back of the half-dragon. A hand appeared from the shadow, merged together with Silvia, and plunged the curved blade of a dagger into a soft spot near Silvia's shoulders, where the scales were not protecting her. The dragon roared in pain, thrashing back and forth, attempting to catch her assailant, but the shadow disentangled from the half-dragon quickly and formed onto the ground. From the shadow appeared a woman, wearing nothing but a full-body set of black leather, complete with a mask that hid all except for cold, black eyes.
Gaiden felt the pain from his leg suddenly vanish, and saw a mixture of light particles surrounding his leg. Another woman had appeared next to him, holding a brown staff over his broken leg, which was no longer broken. “Right on schedule, you two have impeccable timing,” Gaiden said, relieved. The woman who had healed him smiled appreciatively, glad she had made it in time. The other woman said nothing, only remained still before disappearing into the shadows again, getting ready for another attack.
“Where is Archer?” the healing woman asked, “I sense he is still here, but cannot see him.”
“He is surrounded by fire right now, do you know his condition?” Gaiden pointed to the area where Archer was before Silvia had breathed her fire at him. He hadn't seen any trace of Archer yet, but he had a feeling he was still alive. And as if to answer their questions, some of the flame that was left over started to converge onto a single point that came streaking towards the awakened dragonling.
Archer jumped through and with the fire, tackling Silvia with his naginata, stabbing her without hesitation this time, but he only hit her steel-like scales. Even his flame-imbued blade could not pierce them, but the force behind his attack stunned her. Archer quickly spun himself in midair and dealt a heavy kick to the girl's side, throwing her across the large room until she hit the opposing wall.
Archer brushed off the fire, his face invigorated and his body seemingly unaffected by the flames. He gazed down at his hand before grinning and twirling his weapon through the air, readying himself for the next attack. More or less, he appeared fit and ready for more combat. Gaiden himself stood again and readied himself. He was caught off guard and without any armor, but now his guard was full up and he was ready. Even without armor, he would become an impenetrable wall.
But as they were expecting Silvia to fly at them again, they were kept waiting until the dust from the hit due to Archer's attack settled. There, lying on the wood floor, was Silvia, her body outstretched in a defeated position. Next to her head lay a small orb that glowed a dim orange color. It appeared that she knocked herself out somehow, and her body was slowly reverting to her humanoid form.
Gaiden slowly and carefully approached Silvia's body, keeping his guard up as he got closer to her. But she did not rise up to strike him nor bathe him in flames. She lay still, breathing, but otherwise unconscious. Gaiden knelt down at her side, quickly covering her body with his leather jacket. Her transformation had burned away any clothes she might have been wearing, and her scales had protected most of her body from view, but now those scales were retreating back into her skin, leaving behind untouched flesh, as her wounds had already healed.
Gaiden looked back at those whom had gathered. Each one of them was a member of the Royal Guard. Gaiden was their Captain. Archer was his former student and a vital part of their vanguard. Leilah, the woman hidden in the shadows, revealed herself only when she was sure the threat had passed. Aurelia, the last woman, was their healer and the only magic-user on the Royal Guard. He was impressed with them all, as always.
“Men, report what just happened here to the King. Archer is in charge while I take Silvia here to the castle doctors,” Gaiden ordered, keeping his gaze mostly on Archer as he said this. He picked Silvia up off the floor and held her carefully, so he would not wake her accidentally. Even after all that, she was still beautiful. “Go now, I will join you shortly.”
The Witch and The Dragon
The Witch and The Dragon
She's a menace to our kind. Look at her, lying there appearing to be a human. The king is not pleased. Voices disturbed Silvia's unconscious mind, but she payed them no heed. Her world was black now, her body resting in a deep sleep. She could hear the voices clearly, but could not understand most of what the voices were saying. The people of the city want blood, so why must we heal her...?
King's orders. She's such a pretty girl, shame that she's a dragon half-breed.
Abomination is what she is. We should kill her now and get it over with already. The execution order won't take long to come.
Enough. We've been given our jobs, so lets do them.
Why should we? I say we cut her throat now.
And get yourself and the rest of us executed? Leave the killing to the executioner. She'll get what she deserves soon enough.
Silvia's unconscious took her into a deeper slumber then, and all traces of those voices left. Instead, she began to dream. She dreamed of a field of cultivated land that stretched on for miles upon miles. There was no end to the massive farm land, and only a single, wooden hut standing atop a hill to care for the land. In front of her eyes, Silvia saw the days and seasons fly past, the seeds planted in the ground slowly growing tall into wheat, potatoes, and cotton. As the last of the crops grew, a darkness fell over the land in the form of clouds, and lightning struck down upon the fields. The high voltage sparked a fire in the field that grew and grew until it took up th whole of the farmland, consuming everything in it's path. Even the hut was not spared from the fire.
Silvia woke with a shock, lifting her body to a sitting position. Humid air clung to her naked body, cold sweat chilling her brow as Silvia closed her eyes again. She was blinded by darkness, save for a faint orange glow in the distance. Below her she felt hard stone, and a thin paper blanket had been spread on top of her body.
Where? Silvia thought to herself, opening her eyes and squinting to try and see past the barrier of darkness. From what she could tell, she was indoors, and by the faint glow of orange, there was a candle nearby. It illuminated enough of the area for her to see breaks in the darkness like long cylinders stretching from the floor to the ceiling.
Silvia struggled to move her body, she was sore in every place imaginable and it was difficult for her to stand. She held the thin cloth to her chest, which was barely long enough to cover her, and stumbled closer to the light. She reached out and touched one of the dark cylinders, only then realizing that is was a metal bar. Multiple similar bars sat beside it, Silvia counted fourteen of them. After a moment's pause, Silvia knew she was in a dungeon of some sort. A prison.
The young woman stood there for a minute, naked and confused. Why had she been brought here, of all places, and who had found her? The last thing she could remember was entering the city limits. Had she fallen? Passed out on the street from trauma?
Tears began to well up in her eyes as Silvia recalled what had happened in Iona. The village must have been completely flattened, much like the field of potatoes in her dream. Her father could not have escaped that, Silvia was lucky he gave her his horse in order to flee. But why did he not join her. The liquid from her eyes cam rushing, stinging her senses and bringing a hiccuping sob to her throat. It would be several hours before she regained her sense of self.
The passage of time was not kind to Silvia. Slowly did it pass, and with nothing to occupy her, Silvia could only sleep and dream of the same nightmare over and over again. When it felt as though seven days had passed by, Silvia heard the ringing of metal and a clatter of steel as the door to her cage screeched open. Silvia covered her body with the cloth, trying to protect herself from what was coming in, but the dark figure that opened her cell did not enter. It merely set down something that scraped against the rock floor slightly, then closed the cell door again. Silvia heard the keys again and her door was locked, the figure leaving as quickly as it came. Silvia's eyes had long since grown accustomed to the darkness, but she could not see what it was the figure left, so she slowly stood and approached it.
The first of her senses to understand what she saw made her stomach rumble noisily in the empty chamber. She could smell it, despite how bland it must have been. Food. To Silvia, it felt as though she had not eaten in a month, and when she touched it, she devoured it. Bread and soup broth. The bread was stale and hard, and nearly broke Silvia's teeth, but she didn't care. The soup was mostly water that had been used to boil something. Chicken? Pork? One of those, but it didn't matter. When she was finished, Silvia let out a satisfied sigh of relief. Her hunger had been somewhat sated, for now, but there was no telling how long she would go without any more food.
Silence again fell in Silvia's private little dungeon area. Feeling slightly refreshed and distracted, Silvia took this opportunity to examine her body. She felt mostly normal, though there was an abnormal heat in her chest that seemed to be keeping her whole body warm. The air was cold, but Silvia did not seem to be affected by it, despite her major lack of clothing. Silvia inspected her fingernails as well, and discovered that they had grown slightly, signifying the passage of time. For whatever reason, she had been in this cell for a long time, and it seemed that no one had any intentions of explaining why.
Unable to recall her memories, Silvia once again drifted off into sleep. This time, instead of dreaming of a wasteland, Silvia dreamed of stale bread and watered-down soup.
The days passed by without any sign of the figure from before. After every instance where Silvia slept and woke, she searched the area for any hint that the figure had been by. Silvia's hunger was growing again, becoming more and more ferocious. Do all prisoners get this treatment? One meal per week? That's how it felt to Silvia, and her temper was beginning to heat up. Her dreams became more and more violent as the days went by until one night when she saw herself in a completely different form. She had wings, claws, horns, and a tail and instead of lightning setting fire to the crops, it was her. She breathed fire from her mouth to rain down upon the fields of green and brown until it was only black.
Silvia was startled out of her sleep for what seemed to be the hundredth time, only this one was followed by a breakdown of her normal bodily functions. Embarrassed, Silvia abandoned her soiled cloth and stone bed and sat herself in the corner of her dungeon, pressing her legs against her chest in an effort to hide herself from herself.
She didn't want to think about it, but that latest dream haunted even her waking memory. What was that, even? She wondered. Why had she turned into a...a dragon, of all things? A half-dragon at that, she could still see that she still had a human form. She had grown a tail and horns, scales covered most parts of her body, but the rest of it was human skin. And that fire, she had breathed actual fire. Silvia told herself again and again that it was only a dream, but somehow she felt as though it was more than just that.
Her mind in turmoil, Silvia could not hear the light footsteps in the hall beyond the dungeon cell. It was only when she heard a gentle click of metal on the metal cylinders that Silvia awoke from her daydream. Someone stood outside the cell, its form obscured by the dim lighting, but Silvia could tell that the person was very small. A thin outline of the person's arm came into view as a hand with thin fingers waved over the front of the cell. A small click followed by the thunk of something falling to the ground reverberated through the dungeon air as the cell door slowly creaked open.
“Silvia,” a voice called, obviously female. The person at the now-open entrance to Silvia's cell knew her name and was calling for her. “That is your name, correct?” The woman's voice was quiet, but it was also cold. Silvia could feel no emotion from this person's voice. Whether or not the woman actually had emotions was still to be discovered, but Silvia felt that she should not simply ignore her presence.
“Y-yes,” Silvia croaked, her voice harsh and gritty after having not used it in so long. She hadn't thought of talking to herself to keep her muscles working. Talking for the first time in who knows how long was both painful and maddening. She could feel her head spin as she attempted to speak again, but could not muster the strength.
“Do not speak, I know it pains you,” the woman spoke softer this time, but her voice still held that coldness. That unrelenting chill that forced Silvia to obey, though keeping Silvia quiet was not a very hard issue at the present moment.
The woman stepped forward into the cell, closer to where Silvia was. She stretched out her hand in front of her and began to hum a soft note. At least, Silvia thought it was the woman's voice humming at first, but she was quickly corrected when a small, white light began to appear in the woman's hand. The light seemed to vibrate along with the humming, that was the humming's source. The small orb of light grew brighter and brighter very slowly, allowing Silvia's eyes to adjust to it in a gentle manner, until it was bright enough to illuminate most of the woman's body.
She was a beautiful woman with dark black eyes and had skin pale as the moon. She wore a perfectly simple black dress that covered up the entirety of her small chest as well as just barely keeping her feet from view. But the most amazing part about the woman was her hair. It was a black that could only match the night sky, and it was braided and wrapped around the woman's neck three times, like a scarf, before it fell and the tip rested just before touching the ground. This woman had been growing her hair out since the day she was born, it seemed.
“Silvia,” the woman spoke, her tiny lips moving in perfect unison with her voice. “You may call me Auza. I have come to you for a Divination. That is, I wish to look at your soul. Doing this will allow me to see your past and the place of your origin. You will also experience these things during the Divination. However, I need one thing before we begin: your permission.” The woman, Auza, stopped for a moment to collect herself. “I will warn you, Divination is not an easy thing to experience. You would be experiencing all of your past in a very short amount of time, and the trauma might disable you. But if you wish to continue living, I strongly recommend this.”
Silvia still could not speak properly, and she had nothing to say in the first place. This was all so much information. She wasn't ready for all of this, not to mention she was still embarrassed about her current condition. Silvia tried to concentrate, to put some effort into thought, but could not muster the strength to do so. In the end, she only ended up sagging her shoulders and nodding towards Auza. If there was anything Silvia knew, it was that she wanted her memories of what happened to her back, and why she was having such terrible dreams. If this woman could show her her past...
“My last warning, Divination is a very intense experience. Some witches call it Soul Touching because of how intimate it is. My only advice is to...relax.” Auza spoke this last part very slowly and deliberately, as if wishing for Silvia to obey her. Silvia found herself drifting, falling asleep as her muscles, which had been in knots, slowly untangled themselves and Silvia could finally experience a true sleep.
While her mind was blank for a period of time, Silvia felt another presence beside her. Her mind shivered, and Silvia could feel every single nerve in her body tingle as she was enveloped by the presence. It was a pleasant feeling similar to the feeling of dipping into a pool of warm water, completely naked. It was comfort, something Silvia had not felt for a long time.
As Silvia grew in her comfort, her mind's eye found a sort of magical presence nearby. The magic formed a sort of screen, and Silvia could see herself in it. Or at least, a four-year-old version of her. She was holding onto a hoe-shaped carved stick that her father had made for her. With it, she was beating at some grass, doing her best to try and cut it. Silvia could help but smile at herself. Even at four years old, she still had the same, beautiful red hair that really set her apart from others.
Year by year, Silvia watched herself grow, seeing all the lies she had told, all the mistakes she made, and all the times she disobeyed her father. Each one made her feel more and more guilty as time went on. She kept thinking to herself that she should have listened to her father more. She should have obeyed him more. She should have been more grateful to him. But it was too late now, already the memory of her home being burned to the ground arose to the screen. Her trip into the capital was uneventful, but the real disaster started when Silvia touched that sword. Silvia's mind screamed in horror as she turned into the half-dragon beast she had seen in her nightmare. Her mind screamed and screamed and screamed until she was suddenly silenced by the other presence.
The screen shut off and Silvia's consciousness floated in the space of her mind. She could still feel the other presence, but instead of comfort, Silvia felt fear. A dreadful fear that shook her whole body and almost drew blood out of her old wounds. Slowly she felt her consciousness surface as she was brought out of the nightmare. Slowly, she felt herself return, only to quickly fall asleep again into an exhausted, dreamless sleep.
The Last Respite
The Last Respite
For what seemed like the first time in years, Silvia had a dreamless night. Her mind was resting from the great trauma she had suffered, but even when her consciousness began to rise once again, that trauma did not return. She felt something soft and heavy lying on top of her body, and her underside was protected by a warm, dry surface. Her neck felt the most comfort of having spent days lying flat on her back, now her head had support. Silvia, for once, did not want to move from her position, but she was slowly waking up.
When Silvia finally came to, she realized why she felt so comfortable. She had been moved from her dark and murky dungeon into a much brighter room. She was sitting in an enormous bed made of very soft material. Cotton, perhaps, or maybe even silk. Silvia slowly removed the white blankets covering her, quickly becoming aware that she was no longer naked. She now wore a very light, silky nightdress which was almost completely white, save for the pink hems around the thin shoulder straps and the bottom of the skirt. Silvia also felt abnormally clean, considering she had spent the majority of the past few days in an old, dusty dungeon.
Someone had bathed her and cleaned her without her even realizing it. Her hair felt like silk again, just running her hand through the red locks made Silvia feel happy. She stole a look at her finger and toe nails and saw that they had been freshly clipped as well. Silvia was even wearing clothes for once. Ever single part of her that could have been cleaned had been, and Silvia had no idea who to thank for it.
Silvia moved the covers aside and pushed herself to the edge of the bed, pleased to find fluffy pink slippers waiting for her to slip her feet into. The bed was surrounded by a translucent silk that prevented Silvia from seeing beyond it, but it was a simple matter to brush the curtains aside and step into the room in her comfy slippers. Silvia quickly adjusted her nightdress so that it reached past her thighs. Someone either matched her size or this dress was recently tailored specifically for her.
The room Silvia was in smelt of multiple mixed fragrances, one that Silvia recognized as lavender. It was a pleasant smell, and the room Silvia stood in was incredibly pleasing to her eyes. A simple white dresser, or dressers, as there were multiples of them, sat on the far end of the room which Silvia faced. There were multiple objects sitting atop these dressers, most of which Silvia could not identify. A desk sat in another corner of the room with a great mirror sitting on top of it. Curious, Silvia drew closer to the mirror to see her reflection.
It was as if she was looking at a completely different person. The Silvia from before was a little worse for wear, what with all the dirt covering her skin and her hair a jumbled mess. This Silvia looked like the pampered princess in a fairytale. She never knew how flawless her skin was, or how beautiful her emerald eyes were in conjunction with her blazing red hair that felt and looked like silk. Silvia held up her arm and tensed the muscle, pleased to find that it had not deteriorated much in the time she was in the dungeon. The muscles in her body, though not completely obvious, were thick and strong, as a farmer girl should have. Silvia put her fingers to her lips, the pale pink slightly distracting. She hadn't known the true color of her lips until now, they were usually covered in so much dirt.
Feeling like she was reborn into a beauty, Silvia pulled herself away from the mirror with difficulty, grinning from ear to ear. She saw a door to the room and tried it, but the thing was locked and wouldn't budge an inch. So she was still in a cage, but at least it was a comfortable one. After trying to open the door a second time, Silvia turned herself around, resigned to her fate. One more thing in the room caught her attention, and Silvia went right for it. A large cabinet, mostly pink and yellow, stood near the other side of her oversized bed. She opened the doors and beheld a wide arrangement of different dresses, all of which were individually beautiful. Silvia felt the urge to try each one of them on, and since she didn't have anything else to do, that's what Silvia did.
The first was a gold, one-piece dress. There were no shoulder straps or sleeves, so the only thing keeping it on was how tight it was, particularly around her chest. The gold also glittered in the light, but the color scheme didn't really go well with Silvia's eyes and hair, so she quickly decided the dress was not for her, regardless of how well it fit. Taking the dress off proved to be more difficult than putting it on, but soon enough Silvia had another one ready to look at. This time it was a reddish-brown blouse and skirt that matched much better than the gold. But the top only covered Silvia's chest and left a wide gap for her stomach, and the skirt was incredibly short as well. Silvia put this one back as well.
Silvia soon discovered that many dresses in the cabinet were not suited for her, despite all of them fitting her perfectly. None of them felt right to her, and she was determined to find at least one dress that did. After the pink dress with the tight top and the huge skirt that stretched out like an umbrella, Silvia stood in front of the cabinet naked, staring at the last dress available. She hadn't been entirely convinced by it at first, but there was nothing left to try on, so she grabbed it anyway.
It felt as though she was putting on a glove that was tailored specifically for her hand. Not to tight or too loose, with just enough space to breathe. The base green color that matched her eyes dominated the dress, with a gentle mix of black that looped and weaved, outlines of flowers among the green silk. The dress itself was sleeveless with a V-shaped collar that showed off her flawless skin without revealing too much of her bosom. The dress tightened slightly around her stomach area, but loosened and grew outward as the bottom of the dress fluttered outward, just inches from touching her legs.
“This is what I like,” Silvia spoke to herself with a smile, eying herself in the mirror with approval. She found a little pink comb on the desk and picked it up, brushing her hair in such a way that it fell in front of her. She couldn't replicate Auza's scarf of hair, but she could cover up the skin of her chest with what she had. She brushed aside her bangs and looked at herself in the mirror for a long time, really seeing her own beauty for the first time.
Silvia was about to step away when she heard the door click and open, it was unlocked now. Though it entered yet another girl with black hair, though hers was much shorter than Auza's had been. This girl's hair only reached her shoulders, and her blue eyes prevented Silvia from thinking it was Auza from that point on. The girl wore a mostly black dress that was mixed with white. She was also taller than Silvia by a few inches, and her demeanor seemed much more mature than Silvia. The woman was probably much older than Silvia, or at least she was raised to be that way. Silvia couldn't guess which from just looking at the woman, but Silvia did know that she wasn't the only contender for the title of beautiful now.
“Oh, you're awake,” the girl spoke, as if surprised Silvia was out of her bed. Her voice was soft and seemed to sing pleasantly with every word. “And I see you've found the wardrobe. You made quite the mess.” the girl looked about the room, giggling as she spoke. Silvia followed her gaze and discovered that she had not put any of the dresses back, only scattered them about as they had not been the dress she had been looking for.
The woman returned her attention to Silvia, examining the bird in her cage. “So I take it that's the dress you like? Good, I was worried that you wouldn't like any of them. Oh, my name's Imca, by the way. I already know who you are, Silvia. It's nice to actually meet you conscious,” Imca greeted with a smile and a slight curtsy.
“Hello,” Silvia spoke, and she was surprised to discover that her voice was no longer quite as weak as it had been in the dungeon. It was far from her normal tone, but that would come back with time. “Were you the one who did all this to me? For me?”
“Hm?” Imca cocked her head to the side a little, then laughed and shook her head, “oh no, I didn't do any of this. The maids cleaned you up and made you some clothes. Whatever you didn't like we would give to one of the clothiers in Jesu City or in our city to sell. As for the room, this is one of the guest rooms. Since you just woke up, I'm sure you have questions. Ask away.” Imca smiled a little, the corners of her lips curving upwards as she crossed her arms over her chest. She didn't appear wholly comfortable around Silvia just yet, the two had only just met. Not to mention Imca knew all about what happened between Silvia and the Royal Guard.
“Um...” Silvia started, swallowing a lump that had suddenly appeared in her throat. She wasn't exactly sure who this Imca person was, and she didn't seem inclined to tell Silvia either. In any case, Silvia did have quite a few questions, mostly pertaining to her own situation. What was to be done with her? She could not remember what had happened in her dungeon cell, or at least she could only remember bits and pieces. She strained herself, thinking too hard, and ended up pressing her fingers against her temples, trying to stay her aching headache. At the same time, she felt a cramp in her stomach, which did not make the painful experience any more relieving.
“Don't hurt yourself,” Imca said brusquely, raising an eyebrow at Silvia. She didn't move to help, but there wasn't much she could do in the first place. When Silvia's headache subsided, she found that she did not recall any more of her memories than she previously had.
Exasperated and all the more aware of her aching hunger, Silvia glanced to Imca with a sheepish look, “I'm a little hungry, actually. Is there any was we could get something to eat?”
Imca visibly frowned at this, turning her head away a little. “Well, it's past breakfast already. The maids won't start preparing the next meal for another hour or so...but I suppose we could go to the kitchens and take a look around.” Imca furrowed her brows at Silvia, “when was the last time you had anything to eat? The guards did feed you, yes?”
“Yeah, they came in once,” Silvia confirmed, feeling a bit clueless. “It feels like so long ago though. How long-”
“Wait.” Imca stopped Silvia, lowering her arms and pointing a finger to the floor. “They fed you once? Is that true?”
“As far as I can remember, yeah,” Silvia answered hesitantly, as if she was afraid of Imca's sudden change in tone. Imca's expression didn't look forced, she actually looked angry now. “How long was I down there, anyway?”
“A whole month. A whole. Goddamned. Month. And they only fed you ONCE?!” Imca breathed in deeply, her chest puffing out a little bit. “GUARDS! Get in here, NOW.” At her order, the door behind them opened and a soldier wearing a full suit of steel stumbled in and saluted. His entire appearance, even his face, was hidden from view by the suit. Judging from the size of him though, he appeared to be one of the older soldiers who were used to the heat and the weight of the armor. Though he still had stumbled to respond to Imca's call, which told Silvia that Imca was a more important person than she had thought.
“Yes ma'am.” The guard presented himself in front of Imca with a respectable formality. He kept himself upright, at attention, even when Imca addressed him harshly.
“Who was in charge of maintaining Silvia's health during her imprisonment?”
“That would be Sir Lars. I believe he was recently promoted from Cadet to Knight due to his exemplary prowess in the recent skirmishes against the dragon menace.”
“I don't care why he was promoted. What I care about is why he chose to only feed Silvia once during her imprisonment.”
“Sir Lars has a full, detailed schedule of maintenance performed for every day and records logs every day of him fulfilling his responsibilities. Maintenance includes, I believe, food, water, and regular cleaning of prisoners and their cells.”
“Silvia was a filthy mess when she got out of the dungeon.”
“Sir Lars has logs, ma'am. I have not seen them for this one's case.”
“I understand.” Imca sighed heavily, brushing her hands through her long hair. “I apologize for being angry, it was not directed at you.”
“It is no problem, ma'am. I am here to serve you.”
“Then will you do me another service? I want you to tell the maids to cook a big lunch for Silvia. She hasn't eaten in practically a month. Also, I want you to fetch Sir Lars. Tell him to bring his logs and his best poker face.” The guard saluted the whole while that Imca was giving him orders, and when she finished, he did not say a word, but immediately set off to perform the tasks given him. Silvia was impressed by the amount of respect and loyalty Imca commanded.
“That was kind of cool,” Silvia spoke up, but softly. It was enough to attract Imca's attention as well as her confusion. “You have your own personal bodyguard. I just think that's kind of cool.”
“Bodyguard?” Imca laughed a little bit. “I suppose that's right, but I would more think of him as a regular guard, because he doesn't just serve me, he serves my father, and in turn, myself.”
“Your father must be a very important man,” Silvia commented with a smile, to which Imca laughed even more.
“Yes, I suppose he is,” Imca hummed in response, her eyes glittering with mischief. She fell silent, and the two of them were left standing together, waiting for the guard to return. It did not take very long, and when the guard did return, he brought with him another man who also wore a full set of armor, sans the helmet. His head left open to the elements, all the world could see his hairless scalp and piercing blue eyes. He was much more rugged than Silvia expected him to be, with numerous scars decorating his visage. One such scar went right through his left ear, or what was left of it.
“You called for me, Mi'lady?” The man inquired, bowing deeply with his chin pressed against his neck. It looked like a very painful position.
“Sir Lars, I have a few questions that I need you to answer,” Imca spoke, her voice adopting a very strong, but not forceful, tone. “You did bring your prisoner logs, as Lord Gilmore here instructed you?” All these different names and titles were beginning to get confusing. Silvia wasn't entirely sure of the hierarchy of power here, but it appeared that Imca ruled higher than both a Knight and a Lord. And all these titles reminded Silvia of the hierarchy of power within the King's realm.
“Wait, are we in the castle?” Silvia asked suddenly, before Sir Lars had a chance to respond to Imca's inquiry. The two men and Imca glanced over at her with blank expressions, though Gilmore's face was hidden from view. It was the Lord who spoke up to answer Silvia's own question.
“You are indeed in the King's palace,” Lord Gilmore confirmed, his metal suit making noise as he shifted his balance to give Silvia his full attention. “This is one of the many guest rooms that is offered to some of the higher-ranking officials in other cities, for example, the Lords that govern the other cities in the King's realm. You are in also in the presence of the last remaining heir to the throne. Princess Imca, if you will.”
“Maybe the last remaining heir,” Imca shot a stern look over at Lord Gilmore, “we don't know if Hansel's division was completely wiped out in that last excursion.”
“With all due respect, Mi'lady, Hansel and his encampment were surrounded and ambushed by invaders from Sar'tu. While it is true we have no way of knowing whether or not they are actually all dead, our scouts have reported no signs of life in the area. Sar'tu does not take hostages.”
“And damn them for not knowing how much blue blood is worth. I've lost too many brothers to that vile nation,” Imca spat, inventing more than just a few new curses as she murmured quietly to herself in anger.
A shift in the air alerted Silvia and Imca to the presence of another being. It was a familiar presence for both, though the metal men that stood with them had no idea of the approaching presence. Before Imca could alert the guards, the air grew even thicker, and then tore open as if it were being pushed apart like the curtains of Silvia's bed. Out of the rift came many different colors of energy, as well as the body of a woman with long, black hair and eyes.
Auza walked through the rift and out into the open. There was the hand of another being that reached out to touch her shoulder lightly before the portal faded out of existence. Silvia couldn't see who the other being was, and wasn't sure if it was even a human. The hand had been so pale, almost like the color of the moon.
“Silvia,” Auza spoke, her cold voice not any warmer since they last met. “And Imca. Never mind your questions, girl, they can wait.” Auza had stopped Imca from speaking before the girl could even give the hint that she wanted to say something. It amazed Silvia that the witch could hold power over the princess. Where did Auza place in the King's hierarchy to be able to get away with that? “All of you, come with me. A dragon has come to the capital, and the mages here will not be able to hold it off. Quickly now.”
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