Dragon Wars (SDW Novelization Revision)

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Dragon Wars (SDW Novelization Revision)

Post by Zerifachias on Thu Jul 24, 2014 8:54 pm


Lord Hansel Reshe of Iona,

It is my great honor to congratulate you on the birth of your child and your rise to Lord of Iona. I am grieved to hear of the loss of your wife, but I hear that your daughter shares much of her traits. I would be pleased to welcome you in mine own home in the Capital should you ever decide to come. Your daughter's name was decided by her mother, if I remember correctly. Silvia is a beautiful name, and I am certain that she will be a beauty worthy of such.

Much has happened since you left the Royal Guard and left for your humble village. As Knight-Commander, I have had my hands full with the newer recruits. I admit, you are sorely missed for your leadership if not for your humor. I am sure you remember the times when you and I were still young, fighting side by side in the King's armies. The Furious Lancer and the Immovable Mountain, together you and I were unbreakable.

But I'm sure you've had your fill of war. I admit, even I am tired of continuously fighting, but someone must train these recruits, and if not you, then the task falls to me. I promised you that I would train them in the use of every weapon and every shield. The King of Ermith shall have the finest soldiers in battle. I cannot inspire men as you did, but I can train them, and teach obedience and loyalty.

You are not the only one with a new daughter, my friend. I am sure you have heard that King Charles's queen has given him a daughter of his own. I believe she was born just a fortnight after your Silvia. They call the girl Imca, after the queen's late grandmother. Her hair is black as night, and her eyes are such a strong violet that when they catch the light they shine like amethysts. She takes after her father, his blood flows strong in her, I can see it even in her young face.

The Capital is not far from Iona. I do hope that you will visit as soon as you and your daughter are able. My duties prevent me from being too far from His Grace, and I am certain that the King would much like Imca to have a playmate as well.

Your loyal friend,
Knight-Commander Gaiden Chronir


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Chapter One

Post by Zerifachias on Thu Jul 24, 2014 9:00 pm

The air burned as the bright sun beat down upon the fields of brown and green. Life grew from the earth in the form of long, green stalks that sprouted from the tilled land. The dirt had been prepared carefully, pricked of stones or unwanted growth until the land was fertile. Brown hands, caked with dirt, worked tirelessly around the tender stalks, picking away carefully to remove these annoyances.

Silvia Reshe knew that her chores were not done until all of the stones had been swept away from the fields, and all the weeds pulled from the ground by their roots. Her hands never seemed to tire of the work, despite how long she had spent out in the fields. From dawn until dusk, it was up to her to make sure that her family's crops did not go untended. The summer had been cruel to them, sparing very little rain for their crops, and Silvia would not allow all the hard work of keeping the plant's thirst quenched be thwarted by weeds and stone.

Silvia worked quietly, but the world did not allow her silence, and she did not desire it. Once every few minutes, she would have to stand and chase away crows that threatened the crops growing from the soil. She was dressed in short breeches and one of her father's old shirts. Work in the field was dirty work, and she did not wish to spoil the few dresses that she owned. She might have been mistaken for a boy, if not for her slimmer figure and her beauty. Hair the color of an overripe tomato sprouted from her head in small locks, reaching down to brush lightly against her shoulders. The dark red gave a stark contrast to her darkened skin, which shone as a bright hazelnut beneath the glare of the sun.

The young woman brushed sweat from her brow, taking a moment to roll her head across her shoulders. Her neck cracked with the sound of stiff bones rolling in their joints. Bright emeralds took the place of her eyes, and those orbs shone as brightly as the sun, reveling in the sight of the deep blue in the sky. Far above her, Silvia thought she could see the faint shadow of a bird crossing the skies, it's wings not needing to beat through the air to maintain its flight.

“I wonder if it's hot up there, so close to the sun,” Silvia wondered aloud, her throat a little dry from working out in the fields for so long. Her voice flowed like milk in the village's tavern, or so the maid-boys told her. Seven years past her first decade, Silvia was no stranger to the advances of men. She had but few friends who did not want to bed her, and for that she was grateful. She was the envy of the other girls in the village, she knew, even though she had grown up with all of them. Silvia still believed herself good friends with them, especially with sweet Lana, whose own beauty rivaled Silvia's. But Silvia was the daughter to the Lord that ruled here, and Lana was the bastard girl to one of the tavern wenches. She was a sweet girl, but no one could seem to overlook her birth.

“Their feathers protect them from the heat of the sun,” a deep voice spoke near to Silvia. “Though it is not quite so heavy up there as it is here.” The man that had spoken to her had only just arrived in the village, and he tipped his steel cap to Silvia as she turned to him. The cap was covered in a thick, wet hide, to protect the steel from burning up. The rest of the man was clothed in boiled leather, red and gold with a purple raven stitched into his chest. His horse, a tall gray, snorted in her direction. The horse also bore the gold and purple sigil across its rump. The raven was the sigil of the King, this was a man of the Royal Guard, or perhaps some envoy.

“Good day to you, My Lady,” the man spoke again, swinging his left leg over the horse as he dismounted. Silvia herself stood, brushing off her breeches of the dirt and stone. She was in no shape to be greeting a man sent by the king, but the man did not seem to pay any heed to her condition. He retrieved a small roll of paper from one of the saddlebags and approached her with two long strides.

The man, despite having dismounted, still towered high over Silvia's head. She was not tall, not even for a woman, so this man seemed like a giant to her, as most men did. Two heads taller and three wider, this man could easily crush her with a single hand, if he so desired. Instead, he merely tipped his helm again and spoke. “I have been sent to deliver orders to the Lord Hansel of Iona. If My Lady would be so kind as to take me to him with all haste, I might have a bit of silver for her as a reward.” The man smiled, lines appearing around his shaggy, yet clean, beard. Up close, Silvia could see that he was an older man, not much older than her father. His brown beard and deep set eyes gave him a brusque look, but he was clean, which was not common among most soldiers in the King's service. The man flicked his hand up, a small bit of silver catching Silvia's eye as it spun in the air, where he caught it.

Silvia smiled, this man didn't know that Lord Hansel was her father, which meant this must have been his first time visiting the village, Iona. “I have no want for silver, but I can take you to my lord father all the same, if it pleases you.” Silvia curtsied slightly, and her smile grew a bit wider when she saw the soldier's eyebrows quirk upward ever so slightly.

“Truly? I am in luck then. It is an honor to meet you, My Lady, I have heard much about you from Lord Hansel. You are as beautiful as he says.” Before Silvia could object, the man took her hand and gently kissed it, his beard brushing up against her fingers as he did. “You have your mother's eyes, though I am sure you have heard that many times before.”

“I didn't know my mother, good Ser,” Silvia said apologetically. She looked to the side a moment, contemplating the stalks in the ground. “And father doesn't speak of her often. What I've heard about her I heard from the other villagers.”

“I know, but don't fret young Silvia, you far surpassed her beauty.”

“I'm covered in dirt, milord,” Silvia giggled all the same, this man was as bad a flirt as the stableboy, Wicker.

“Does it make a difference whether a maid is covered in dirt or silks? Beauty shines where it pleases.” The man straightened his back and cleared his throat. “I forget myself, My Lady. I am called Gaiden, Knight-Commander and Captain of the King's Royal Guard. Your father Hansel and I both served in the King's service for a time, when our rival nation Sar'tu was beating at our borders.”

“I'll bring you to him,” Silvia promised eagerly. She hadn't known that little bit about her father before. Anyone willing to tell her more about her father, or her mother, was welcome in her eyes. “Right this way, Ser Gaiden, and careful that your horse does not trod on the potatoes, or I'll have you down in the dirt with me come the morrow.”

Gaiden laughed as she took his arm and began guiding him towards the little wooden cabin that she and her father lived. “I'll be sure to keep that in mind,” he said, deep brown eyes glinting with humor as he and Silvia made their way across the fields.

Lord Hansel had seen the two coming and waited outside the wood home to greet his daughter and Ser Gaiden. Before greeting his old friend, however, he took Silvia to his side and embraced her warmly. The dirt from Silvia's face and hands left small marks over his green leather tunic, the Iona's white boar sigil stitched to his own chest. Lord Hansel was as tall as Gaiden, but only have as thick, and Gaiden's thickness came only from his bones and muscles, which were plainly evident even through the boiled leather. Lord Hansel's once-gold hair had begun to lighten and turn gray, and his eyes held ancient secrets behind the blue. His face was as wrinkled as Gaiden's, but his beard was a deal mightier than the Knight-Commander's.

“Father, is it true you served in the king's army before?” Silvia asked quickly, before Hansel could brush his daughter away. He raised a thick eyebrow and glanced up at Gaiden.

“Lord Gaiden, what have you been telling my daughter? Surely you must let me keep some secrets, yes?” Silvia's father was a slow-to-anger man, and had always been gentle with Silvia. His voice was rougher than hers, but he had a certain quality about his tone that made Silvia want to listen to every word he spoke.

“You should tell Silvia some of our war stories, it might interest her to know,” Gaiden suggested, offering his hand to Silvia's father. Lord Hansel stepped forward and grasped it in a firm grip, a broad smile crossing both of their faces as they met each other.

“Silvia, dear, why don't you go inside and wash up? Don't worry about your chores today, we have a guest.” Hansel gave his commands, and Silvia was quick and glad to obey. No chores meant that she had the whole evening to herself. No doubt Gaiden and her father would want some time alone and Lord Hansel would send her away. Silvia walked inside the cabin at a brisk pace, headed straight for the washroom at very back of the cabin.

Silvia enjoyed herself in the heated water. The tub that she and her father used was small, but tall. It was once tall enough for Silvia to risk drowning herself just a few months past. Only recently could she fill it up completely, which was more satisfying than her first taste of wine a year ago. Scrubbing all of the dirt and grime from her skin took time and a hard brush, leaving her skin red and raw by the end of it, but when she was done, her skin glowed just as brightly as her eyes. She dried and dressed herself in a plain white sundress with a purple rose bud attached to the strap just above her left breast. She parted her hair across her shoulders and allowed what was left to fall freely. She strapped on a pair of sandals for her feet and browsed through her meager collection of jewelry. Her father never got her any jewels, so what she had were left from her mother.

Silvia decided against the jewelry. Sometimes a sundress went better without anything but itself. So that's how she went back to her father and Lord Gaiden. She found them in the dining area, a larger room with some of her father's old weapons hanging on the walls, as well as the white boar coat of arms. The two lords sat at the table, which was large enough to sit four, though they only owned two chairs. Silvia stood nearby and curtsied to the two men when they took notice of her.

“Now there is a beauty if I've ever seen one,” Gaiden spoke first, a large grin crossing his visage as he extended a hand to her. Silvia drew closer, wanting to be nearer to her father, but Gaiden swept her off her feet and embraced her suddenly. Silvia laughed and tried to push away, but the old bear was as strong as one and didn't let go so easily. Up close like this, Silvia could smell the horse Gaiden had ridden on, and the fact that he had not bathed in at least three days.

Lord Hansel answered Silvia's unasked question for her. “Lord Gaiden here pressed his horse hard to reach here in the time that he did. Lass, you remember how long it takes to get to the Capital from Iona, don't you?”

“Abour four days, isn't that right?” Silvia answered, unsure of her answer. Hanself only nodded and smiled at her, to which she grinned back at him, white teeth showing beneath pale pink lips. Silvia always put importance on keeping herself clean. Unless she was out working in the farm, of course. “Does Lord Gaiden require our bath?”

“It would be refreshing, but I intend to leave once I am done here,” the old bear responded, allowing Silvia to scamper away from his grip at last.

“Stay the night, at least,” Hansel pressured, putting his hands together as he leaned on the wooden table. “It's been a good half a year since we last saw each other, and this is the first time you and Silvia have met. Stay the night, I insist.”

“Alright, alright,” Gaiden conceded with a hearty laugh, “I'll stay the night. But remember it is your own fault I have not seen the young lady before today.”

“Fair enough. Silvia, dear, leave Lord Gaiden and I to speak together. Make yourself busy, but make sure you're back before dark.” And there it was, Silvia's lord father wanted his privacy with an old friend, which meant Silvia was free to roam. She thanked her father and curtsied to Lord Gaiden again before skipping towards the door, closing it shut behind her.

The young woman inhaled deeply, taking in the fresh air and the smells with it. Mulch and manure, with the distant but clear scent of smoke in the air. The village was bound to be full of things to keep her busy, just as her father wanted of her. She stepped down from the cabin deck and landed herself on the gravel path that led away from her family's little farm and towards the center of the village. She could see the whole village from where she stood, the little huts of wood that were strong enough to withstand both rain and snow.

In the heart of the village, a great ring of stones and blackened dirt lay barren. If not for their great fields of potatoes, Iona was known for great feasts that took place around this ring of stones. It was a firekeep, and it kept large bonfires in place, so that the flames would not leap out to scorch the homes of the villagers. It was a rare occasion that Iona would begin stacking massive logs of wood on the firekeep, usually only during a wedding or a traditional celebration. It was also the site of funerals, and the dead would be cast upon a great pyre and sent off to the stars with all of his or her ancestors. In Silvia's lifetime, that funeral pyre had only been lit twice.

Surrounding the firekeep, leaving a spaceous gap between them, were a variety of differently styled huts. One of them had an open window, where a baker would put out fresh bread for the village folk. They would leave coins on his sill in exchange, with only the baker's cat to supervise them. Despite that, there were still some younger children who thought that they could get away with snatching bread once in awhile, and they were quickly taught a harsh lesson by that cat.

Silvia saw that cat now, prowling the gravel path of the village, it's orange fur shining in the bright sun. It took no notice of her until she got closer. It sat on it's hindquarters and stared at Silvia as she passed the cat. It mewled at Silvia when her back was turned to it, and jumped out of sight. That was the smartest animal in the village, Silvia had no doubt.

The village was not quite as noisy as Silvia expected it to be. There were a few villagers walking from here to there, and those that took notice of Silvia gave the young girl a wave. It appeared that most of the villagers would be in the local tavern, which was a special favorite in Iona. Silvia headed straight towards that building, which was the largest one inside the village, save for her family's manor. Silvia remained aware of the large mountain in the distance, which loomed over the tavern and would cast a shadow over it once the sun began to set. The lone mountain was seen as a sort of landmark for travelers heading to Iona. The village itself was not difficult to miss, due to it's size, but that great mountain made Iona one of the most conspicuous villages in Ermith.

Upon opening the door to the tavern, Silvia was greeted with a rush of warm air, soaked in mead and noise. Silvia stepped over the threshold taking in a deep breath of the foul air. It stunk, but it was a good stink. It smelled of labor under the sun and the grime and dirt of the potato fields sticking to skin. The tavern was only half full now, most of whom were men, but there were women here as well. The owner of the hut was a woman, an older widow the townsfolk called Widow Mary. She'd feed you as quick as she'd throw you out, depending on how you spoke to her.

“Good noon to you, Silvia!” Widow Mary was the first to notice the young girl at the steps. Silvia stepped up to the wooden landing and smiled towards the tavern keeper. It was the second largest building in Iona, but even then it was a small place. Instead of individual chairs, the men sat at long tables on benches, side by side. Everyone in Iona knew everyone else, so this type of fellowship did not usually cause problems.

“Hello Mary,” Silvia spoke courteously, smiling as she did. “Might I know where Lana is?” Lana was the daughter to one of the tavern girls, but her mother had died the night Lana was born, so Widow Mary took the girl into her home. Lana was often around the tavern, helping her foster mother keep up with her work.

“She's upstairs, probably still sleeping. Be a dear and bring her down here for me, will you?” Widow Mary spoke with a heavy voice, sounding more male than female. She was a large woman and well endowed, with curls of black hair that twisted on her head in a great bush. Her skin was a darkened bronze, and every step she took made her whole body shake, and sometimes the tavern with her. Still, she was a kind woman, and still healthy and active despite her age.

“Of course, ma'am,” Silvia accepted her mission, though not begrudgingly. Widow Mary would not require Lana right away, and Silvia had only come to visit her friend. Widow Mary said she would find Lana upstairs, and so Silvia went, passing by closed doors on the way through the upper hall. She heard strange, erotic noises coming from one closed door and couldn't help but giggle. Tavern whores were about as common in Iona as any other village or city, but Iona probably had the hairiest.

Silvia stopped at the last door and pressed her ear to the wood. She could hear the faint sound of snoring coming through. Lana was still sleeping, it seemed. Silvia knocked on the door twice, very lightly, before opening the door. “Lana?” Silvia whispered into the room, unable to see through the darkness inside. Lana had pulled the shutters on her window closed, and the air in the room was stifling hot as a result. Silvia left the door open and crossed the room, very carefully stepping over discarded clothes, to release the shutters and let both the light and the air in. The air outside was not much cooler, but opening the window served to let the air flow through.

Lana had always been a heavy sleeper, unable to wake no matter how loudly she snored. Silvia giggled again when Lana let out a snort loud enough for the couple down the hall to hear. The light from outside helped illuminate the room a little better, showing Lana on her small bed and her clothes scattered about the tiny room. She was naked on top of the sheets, her buttocks facing straight up and the rest of her body sprawled across the mattress of hay and cotton. As the light inched its way closer to Lana's eyes, the girl started to squirm. It took Silvia to sit on her bed and slap one of Lana's exposed cheeks for the girl to wake up.

“Hey gorgeous,” Silvia giggled when Lana yelped, twisting her body around so forcefully that she rolled off of the bed and onto the floor. Silvia leaned over the side and grinned at her friend. Lana was a small girl, much thinner than Silvia was, but she was much more flexible than Silvia. Lana stared up at Silvia, then scratched her chest below her breasts and pushed herself to her feet.

“Hey yourself,” Lana murmured, her eyes glancing over Silvia. She didn't seem to care about her nakedness, but did not judge Silvia for her dress. Lana was one of the few friends that Silvia had who wasn't envious of her. She too, was a beauty, though of a different sort. Silvia had an exotic look to her, with dark and creamy skin, bright red hair and emeralds for eyes. Lana was the opposite, white as the moon with golden hair and shocking blue eyes. She could stare men into submission, or weave them around her finger. Silvia supposed that the talents ran in the family.

“Do you always sleep naked?” Silvia asked, raising a thin red eyebrow towards her friend. They were only a year apart, with Lana being the older girl, but they had been friends since a very young age.

“Only when it gets hot like this,” Lana answered easily, lying back down on her bed and spilling her arms over the sides. Lana kept her eyes on Silvia, those blue orbs wanting something from her. Silently, Lana gestured Silvia to come closer with her finger, as if wanting to tell her some secret. When Silvia dropped her head down, Lana grabbed her by the arms and flipped both of them over, so that Lana straddled Silvia by the waist. Pinned and unable to move, Silvia could only laugh at herself for being so easily tricked.

“One of these days I'll catch you before you flip me,” Silvia promised, grinning up at Lana, who only smiled.

“You always do make that promise,” Lana started, wrapping one of her fingers in Silvia's red hair. She never broke eye contact. Lana trailed her finger down Silvia's cheek to her chin, flicking her finger up with a smile. “I'm starting to think you actually enjoy this. I didn't know you had it in you, Silvia.”

“Knock off, Lana,” Silvia retorted, pushing the other girl off of her, “and get some clothes on. Your mother wants you.”

“My mother always wants me, Silvia, you know that,” Lana reminded, jumping off the bed anyway. She collected her clothes that were strewn about her bed and put them in a neat pile in the corner of her room. Then she started trying to find clean clothes to wear, starting with her smallclothes. As Lana was getting dressed, Silvia decided to tell her friend of the visitor her father had. Lana listened quietly as Silvia explained what Lord Gaiden had said about himself and her father.

“I'm not all that surprised, Silvia,” Lana responded easily, shrugging her shoulders. “Lord Hansel is an old man, you have to remember. He's more than twice your own age, so that means he had to be doing something while you didn't exist. And think about it for a second; Your father is a very big man. It would be a surprise for him not to be involved in some war.”

“I suppose you're right about that,” Silvia offered, watching for a moment as Lana struggled to get her lace straps on correctly. Lana wore a cheap, purple dress made mostly of cotton, but she draped a clear, blue lace scarf over her neck. Clothiers sometimes had what they made enchanted, and Lana wore the scarf to keep herself cool in the summer heat.

“Of course I'm right, who do you think I am, anyway?” Lana grinned, showing off her own set of imperfect, but white, teeth.

“I think you're a pretty girl who has her head floating in the clouds,” Silvia answered with a grin of her own. “You do look pretty in that dress.”

“Well thank you. I'm also fond of your simplicity.”

“What's that supposed to mean?”

“It means you're a simple girl with a simple beauty who wears simple things. Now if only your hair and eyes were like mine, then you'd truly be simple in every way.”

“I'm just a simple farmer girl, is what you mean.”

“What I mean is that you are drop dead gorgeous, Silvia, and you don't even have to try to be beautiful. That's why so many of the other girls hate you so.”

“They don't hate me, not truly.”

“No, but it doesn't take much for envy to become hate. Listen to me,” Lana said, grasping Silvia by her shoulders and pressing their foreheads together. “One day something is going to happen, and your world is gonna flip upside down. Women will envy or even hate you, men will do anything they can to get in your smallclothes. They will cheat and lie and steal from you because you are beautiful. Not to mention you're the lord's daughter. By rights, Iona is passed onto you when your father becomes unfit to govern. And when that happens, you will never hear the end of suitors coming to your door until you choose one to marry.”

“The lordship doesn't have to pass to me,” Silvia told Lana, but the girl shook her head to stop her.

“I know, it is the King that decides who governs the smallfolk. He could very well have a replacement for Lord Hansel set up already should anything happen to him, gods forbid. But that isn't like to happen. You said it yourself, remember? Lord Hansel was in the King's service before you were born. The King probably intends for the lordship to pass through to you, and then to your children.”

“How can you know all this?” Silvia asked in a hushed whisper. She didn't like the talk of something happening to her father, but Lana was right, eventually Lord Hansel would die, leaving her all alone.

“Because I know how the world works. You still have a lot of growing up to do, you and me both. Just remember that when you're in trouble and don't know what to do next, I'll be here for you. Always.” Lana's promise was sweeter than sugar. Silvia smiled lightly, her heart all aflutter.


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Chapter Two

Post by Zerifachias on Mon Jul 28, 2014 8:32 pm

The night was late, darkness heavy in the air. The moon was black and the stars were not enough to illuminate the world on which they shone. With that darkness came eerie silence, the entire village of Iona asleep in their beds. When the monstrous rock behind the tavern began to shift and rumble, the earth responded with a quake of its own. Slowly, the village woke in the dead of the night, as did the mountain. Candlelight soon lit the village in a soft, orange glow as rock and gravel shook loose from the mountain, tumbling down its sides. A much larger rock soon unhinged itself from the mountain, and tumbled down to the village to crush many of the buildings below. The tavern was the first to go, and other smaller huts soon followed in the wake of dust and rock. Splinters of shattered wood flew from the crash site, and a shrill scream filled the night air.

Stone broke through the crust of the mountain as it began to rise, pillars holding up the great mountain as dirt and sand cascaded down its sides. Not truly stone, but a layer of gray iron scales that shimmered brightly even in the dim light of the night sky. As the stone beast rose, giant lengths unfurled from the sides of the mountain to become great wings that completely blotted out the sky from view. From the northern side of the rock, a great long length of stone unraveled, dirt and rock cracking and falling from the length. At the very end, two stone scales parted to reveal a pale yellow slit on a field of black. Stone spies jutted out from the top of the head, and the maw parted to reveal jagged spires and flesh-like stone that coiled back deeper into the pit as a small earthquake filled the air.

The roar was terrifying. The beast, awakened, sounded a deep, earth-shattering bellow that pierced the night and erased any of the tiny screams that might have come from the village. One stone foot lifted, and where it fell, stone and wood gave way, shattering under the great weight of the stone dragon. By this time, the whole village had awoken, and many began to flee from the sight of the beast. All manner of possessions forgotten, the air filled with screams and the dragon's roar.

In Lord Hansel's manor, Silvia stood by the open window of her tiny room, screaming in grief and terror as the dragon laid waste to Iona. The tavern was the first building to be crushed, and Silvia has seen it happen. Lana, the only true friend Silvia had, would have had no way of getting away in time. Silvia's blood boiled at the sight of the dragon, but her fear and grief overshadowed her anger and she became frozen in her fear, unable to flee, unable to do anything but cry out in terror.

Her father soon found her and wrapped his arms around her, but still Silvia would not move. It took all of Hansel's strength to lift Silvia off the ground and carry her away. When she finally came back to her senses, she was already on the saddled horse, heavy bags hanging off the sides of the great beast and weighing it down. Silvia was no stranger to horses, this horse in particular. This was her father's horse, which was able to carry heavy loads, but not two people.

“Father, what do you mean to do?” Silvia asked, half in fear, half in grief. Already tears began to well up in her eyes. She knew her fear would show through those emerald orbs, but she could only see a calm acceptance in her father's own. When he did not reply, the tears began to flow freely. “You can't meant to stay here, you'll die.” When her father still did not reply, Silvia despaired. It was too late to hope for Gaiden to return to help them, he had left just two nights prior. He would be halfway to the Capital by now.

“You must go south, to the capital,” Hansel spoke forcefully, but not unkindly. It would be the last few words his daughter would hear, and it would be best to choose them carefully. “Go to Lord Gaiden, tell him what you saw. Tell him that I am dead. If not Gaiden, then tell the King. He must know.”

“I will,” Silvia sniffed after hesitating. She reached out with her hand to touch her father's bearded cheek. The face she saw the most felt like a stranger's to her now. Silvia reached for her father, but only found strands of hair, of a memory she could never forget. He already knew he would die, and he would play the part to the end, that was what Silvia's father was like. “I love you, father,” Silvia sobbed, not bothering with vain attempts to quell her tears.

Hansel's eyes softened and became sad, “You have always been a good daughter, Silvia. You've grown into a beautiful woman before I had a chance to rest. Know this, no matter what, I have always loved you, and always will, no matter who you become, you are my daughter.” Hansel turned back from Silvia, stepping away from the horse. “If you can, find the witch named Auza. She is both powerful and an old friend. She will help you if you ask her. And take this with you, but never touch it.” From behind his person, Silvia's father drew forth a long object that looked vaguely like a sword wrapped in a white cloth. When she touched the cloth, her blood boiled all the hotter, but her grief was still strong enough to quell the rage bubbling inside her.

“Give that to Lord Gaiden, he will know what it means. Go now, before the dragon sees.” Hansel slapped the horse on its rump, making the mare hitch up and speed off, away from the small manor, away from the village, towards the Capital, south south-west. Not once did Silvia look back, keeping the village and the terrible dragon behind her as the roar filled the air again. For a brief second, Silvia's heart stopped as the world around her grew darker, beneath the shadow of the dragon's mighty wings. But in the next instant, she was free, and her horse sped through the night.

Silvia did not stop or slow her horse until the sun had risen high into the air, and she put many leagues between herself and the village. Here in the plains, finding shade was difficult, but soon a large willow tree appeared, hanging over a pond. A stream that came down from the north kept the pool supplied with fresh water, so Silvia led her horse to the mouth of the stream. The horse and Silvia both ducked their heads to drink from the stream, recognizing that stale water was never safe.

She sat at the pond with her legs crossed and her eyes on her own reflection. Silvia had no time to dress or wash, so she only wore a nightgown of a deep purple silk. It was not good for riding, and she could already feel saddle sores developing on her thighs. Silvia breathed deeply, pushing herself up off the ground and taking the horse by the reins. With a tug, the horse begrudgingly followed Silvia's lead on their journey south. The Capital was still two days away, a lot of ground to cover and very little time to do so. The dragon might want to take a short flight to the city after destroying Iona. Silvia might arrive at the Capital only to be turned away because there was a dragon hatching eggs there. The thought made her shiver and pick up her pace.

Two days of travel wore on her. Bright red hair turned dark as the dust and dirt from the road collected on her. On one occasion, Silvia had fallen asleep in the saddle and soon fell out. She was lucky enough not to break anything, but she had landed in some creature's leavings. The brown smear on her face would not help her look pretty, but it certainly gave her the look of being travel-weary. Her purple nightgown turned black and developed a rip at the end of it, where it had caught on the saddle. Silvia considered tearing it in half and wrapping the silk around her waist and chest, so that it might preserve her for a little while longer. Instead, she trudged on on foot, determined not to waste time that could be spent pressing on.

The Capital city came into sight by midday on the fourth day, and by then Silvia and the horse were both tired, and very hungry. The saddlebags that Silvia's father, Hansel, managed to get together had enough food to last for a short while, but Silvia's progress had not been fast, and she found as she got more and more weary, the hungrier she became. She ran out of food on the third day in the morning, and the plains provided as many sources of edible food as it did poisonous.

The city was surrounded by walls of broken stone thirty feet high. These walls hid the entirety of the city from view, but only obscured about half of the castle that sat in the very center of the city. Silvia could see the towers clearly, spiraling high into the air to pierce the heavens. Even from her distance, Silvia could see the reddish hue of cooked clay that made the castle.  On the western side  of the city, there was an old forest of mostly hickory, a very strong kind of wood. Most of the buildings and the castle portcullises and gates would be made of that wood.

There were three ways to enter the city. The first and easiest path was to take the Mercantile Road, which led out of the city to the south-east, where it converged with other roads that traveling merchants frequented. In honor of that, the gate there was called the Merchant's Gate. The gate on the western side lead into the hickory forest, and was not a very popular way to enter, but it provided the city with a very quick and easy way to find wood. In addition to that, whatever the city could not buy in terms of food, the people were allowed to hunt in the forest if they had the proper permissions.

The gate that Silvia intended to enter through was the North Gate, which was less popular to the merchants, but more or less used for citizens who wished to visit the cities and villages north of the capital. It was also the gate that the folk of Iona used to stay in touch with the Capital. The gate was shaped no differently than any of the others, but only one guard stood at the watch, with the wooden bars lowered. The heat would be cooking the guard in his mail and leather, no doubt he would be feeling sour about having guard duty at the gate, of all places. Silvia would need to tread carefully here.

When Silvia approached the gate, the guard made no obvious clue that he noticed her, but his eyes remained on the horse she led to the gate instead. He rubbed his nose and sniffed, beads of sweat forming on his brow beneath the heat of the sun. He was cleanly shaven, more fitting for the hotter temperatures of summer, but his black hair pocked out from a steel cap, covered in damp sheepskin, though the skin was likely dry by now.

“That's a strong horse you got,” the guard pointed out, gesturing with a bare hand at the horse.

“He's not for sale, unfortunately,” Silvia replied nervously, keeping her eyes glued to the guard. He only grunted and shrugged at her.  Her horse wasn't for sale, not yet at least. Silvia may end up having to sell the horse for new clothes and a hot meal at this rate, if she couldn't find Gaiden before nightfall. “May I enter the city?” Silvia asked tentatively, trying to make her eyes bigger. She found that most men could be charmed by her emerald eyes, but with all the grime on her face, it wasn't likely that she would be very charming.

“No.” The guard's curt reply was like a slap in the face. Silvia hesitated for a moment, suddenly at a loss. Her blood was heating up thanks to the sun, and would soon start to come to a boil. She didn't know if grief or despair would overshadow her anger this time. Ever since that dragon awoke, Silvia had to deal with an uncontrollable rage inside of her that only grew. “City's closed, thanks to some goddamned flying beasts roaming about.”

“That's actually why I'm here-”

“King doesn't want any useless mouths. Sorry kid.” The guard shoved a finger up his nose. Seeing that made Silvia nearly walk away in disgust, but she persevered and pressed her case. Would the guard know who Gaiden was? It seemed likely, seeing as he was the Knight-Commander and Captain of the Royal Guard. But the guard probably would not believe that Gaiden knew her. It was worth a shot.

“I need to see Gai-er, Lord Gaiden. My father was Lord Hansel Reshe of Iona, they were close friends. Can you take me to him, or at least let me in to find him?”

“Hansel? Never heard of 'im.” The guard furrowed his thick eyebrows at Silvia, looking her over head to toe for a moment. “Tell you what though, my shift'll be over in two hours or so. I'll let ya in if you come back by then if you do me some bed favors. Hell, I'll carry you on my back to Gaiden if you let me fuck you now. I'm a man with simple needs, wench. Favor for a favor, that's how the world works, nothing comes free.”

Were all guards this disgusting? Silvia would have slapped the guard if she did not fear the sword he carried at his waist. She gave a disgusted sound and backed off, refusing to speak another word to the guard before she lost her temper. She jumped into her saddle and turned her horse aside, kicking it to put it at a quick trot to the south-east gate. Maybe she would have better chances at the Merchant's Gate.

Before she could approach the guards, she already saw another person at the front of the gate with a very large and muscular horse at his side. His face was young, but the look in those red eyes of his told of years of experience. This was someone who knew everything there was to know about the city. He wore a white cloth hat over flaming red hair, not too much darker than her own. He could have been her sister, but his other features spoke otherwise. His jaw was strong and thick, and red stubble had formed over his pointed chin. He was at least a head taller than Silvia, and she could clearly see the lines of his muscles despite the red leather that he wore. Across the side of his horse, Silvia spotted a strange weapon. It looked to be a spear, but held a long, curved blade on both ends of the black shaft, small rubies encrusted into the blades.

He was speaking with the guards when Silvia approached, but he stopped as soon as she got within hearing distance and waited patiently for her to approach. The guards shifted their attention to her, but Silvia kept her eyes on the man with the red hair. She knew what she looked like, but she hoped that this man could see through all of that. For just an instant, Silvia flicked her eyes back to where she came from, from the North Gate, then back to the man. His ruby eyes met her emeralds, and he gave her the slightest of smiles.

“Who might you be, girl?” one of the guards asked, when no one had spoken. He had an impatient look about him, a mostly brown face thanks to his bead and mustache, but where there was not hair, there were wrinkles of pale skin. The other guard appeared as young as the red man, though he shared the older guard's brown hair and large nose.

“Sister, it's been so long,” the man spoke, ignoring the guard for a moment as he reached out to touch Silvia's shoulder. Before she could object, and she wouldn't anyway, he had embraced her warmly, though quickly releasing her. “How long has I been, six? Seven years?”

“Seven,” Silvia answere with a small smile of her own, “a lot has happened.”

“I would have you tell me all of it once we are safely inside,” the red man said, nodding at the guards. They paused for a moment, then stepped aside to allow entry into the city. Here, the gate was raised, unlike the North Gate. They must have intended to allow the red man through regardless of the city being closed, which told Silvia that the red man was a little more than he seemed to be. He put a hand on the small of her back and led her through the gate, onto a road of cobblestone and gravel.

Silvia took in her first breath sharply, her eyes widening at the sight of the city. Her culture shock didn't last very long, though she was still in awe of the multitude of buildings by the time they were clear of the gates. Citizens looked on at the red man with waves, but did not seem to notice the dirty girl at his side. Around them, the buildings were made mostly of the red brick hat came from cooking clay, though all of them had wooden doors and roofs. Some of the homes were smaller, but there were a few that were twice the size that also had stands outside the buildings with signs hanging.

Merchant's Gate led into the Merchant's District. This seemed an obvious connection to Silvia when the red man explained it to her. The merchants were given the larger buildings to store their wares and would bring them out every morning to get ready for the day's sales. Some of the merchants were putting their gear back inside their homes, though the day was only just past midday. The others shouted their wares at passersby, trying to net as many sales as they could. The main bulk of the road led through the thickest of the merchants, with a couple side alleys that led to the homes. The red man guided Silvia through the main road, heading west.

“I want to show you the city, this is your first time here, right?” The red man had said, smiling brightly at her. “My name is Archer, by the way. Archer Red. Might I ask to know My Lady's name?”

“Silvia Reshe,” she said, “just call me Silvia. My father was Lord of Iona, but Iona isn't a place anymore.” There was a sadness in her voice that the red man caught onto easily. He did not breach the topic again, and instead filled her ears with the sounds of merchants and his own laughter, bright and full of warmth.

Archer Red led Silvia through the city, pointing out that at the end of every district, there was an inn and a stable. Silvia left her horse in the trust of the innkeep at the corner of the Merchant's District and the Lumber District. When she explained that she did not have any coin, the innkeep turned sour, but Archer opened his own purse and handed the man coin on her behalf. She was still giving him apologies and thanks by the time the two had left the Lumber District, which was home to the wood cutters and masons and blacksmiths. There were two forges in the city, which surprised Silvia until Archer explained that the owners were kin and shared the jobs and payments. At one of the forges, Archer entrusted the sword on his hip to the forgemaster, but not his other strange weapon.

“It's made from a type of steel that does not dull,” Archer explained when Silvia asked about it. “I keep it well-oiled, that is easy enough, and the shaft is made from a metal that bends stiffly, but almost never breaks. I find that I'm very aggressive when I attack, so I always end up snapping spears in half. But it doesn't require maintenance like a normal sword does.”

The Merchant's District was the richest of the three districts in the Capital, while the Lumber District was the poorest. But “poorest” here did not mean poor, Silvia soon found out. The citizens who lived in the Lumber District were no worse off than those in her village. A roof, a furnace, and enough food to feel more than comfortable. The buildings there had homes with wooden shutters in place of the more expensive glass windows that the Merchant's District had.

Archer took Silvia on a full circuit around the city, looping back to where Silvia had left her horse. Archer had also paid a room for her to stay in for the night, she would not want for a bath or food while she was there, the owner was a good person despite being a bit of a gold digger, he had told her. The time they took to circle the city had turned the sun on it's first descent into the horizon, there would still be two hours of daylight left in the day, but Silvia was tired enough to retire there.

Supper was a combination of roasted boar and a vegetable soup poured into a thick potato skin. At the first look into the broth, Silvia could see chunks of carrots and onion and pepper, and felt her mouth water at the sight. The meal was as good as it looked, and more so for a girl who hadn't eaten anything for nearly two days. The inn was quiet, save for a few of those who only wanted to drink here. The city being closed was heavily affecting the inns, or so it seemed. When Silvia asked the innkeep, he only said that the king had ordered the gates to be closed to all those except his knights.

“Does that mean Archer Red is a knight?” Silvia asked, slightly disturbed that he wouldn't tell her such. The innkeep appraised her for a moment, she had come here under the pretext of being his sister, but she knew the innkeep didn't believe the farce in the first place.

“He's not just a knight, girl, he's a Knight of the Royal Guard. Cadet to Lord Gaiden and heir to the lordship of Jesu City. He came to the Capital as a ward to Gaiden, and was dubbed to knighthood just two months past.” The man rubbed his black mustache with a hand, “Do excuse me, mi'lady, the other patrons seem to be getting a little rowdy.”

It was true enough, there was a lot of shouting around the bar table, incoherent insults being thrown back and forth by two larger men, both of them wearing mighty beards and leather shirts. Before long, even with the innkeep's interventions, the two got into a brawl, fists and mugs of ale flying through the tavern. A table was overturned and the innkeep sat with his neck in an odd position. Not dead, but clean unconscious. Silvia took that as a signal to retire to her rented room.

Some of the tavern women, maids they were called, prepared a bath for her and a spare change of clothes to wear. The innkeep had a daughter about Silvia's age, or did until last year, when illness took her under the guise of a common cold. The water prepared for her was hot, steaming by the time Silvia had torn off the ruined nightgown she used to love. She gave it to one of the maids to have it salvaged for whatever could be gotten off it.

Naked and shivering despite the heat, Silvia lifted herself up and slid into the wooden tub set up for her. The water burned at her skin, but in a way that made her sigh gratefully. She allowed herself to come to a boil before taking up the brush and scrubbed herself until her skin was a raw red. She wanted to rid herself of all the dirt and grease from the past four days, maybe it would help rid herself of the awful memories as well.

Unfortunately, the memory of her broken village did not go away, but Silvia did feel much cleaner by the end of it. Her hair had regained it's dark red sheen. Looking at it now in the mirror, Silvia could see that the red of her hair was much darker than Archer's own flames. She paused for a minute, her fingers moving over the lines of her body, light as a feather. Her skin was smooth, very much like a woman's skin, but muscles covered most of her body, lining her whole body from her shoulders to her ankles. Her abdomen was clearly visible, her arms were thicker than most other girls, and her legs never seemed to tire. The only area that was spared of muscle was her breasts, which were small, but smooth. Silvia chewed on her lower lip, starting to feel a chill in the air.

The dress that the maids had brought her was a bit small for her, but it fit. It was a silk dress, dark blue with light, black without. The dress covered most of her chest, but left a small space to allow sight of her upper chest, just above her breasts. It was comfortable enough to sleep in, but Silvia wouldn't want to be seen with the dress on.

“City clothes, I suppose,” Silvia mused, frowning at her reflection. The difference in how people dressed in a village and the city was not that different, but here the people certainly had better excuses for wearing silk and lace.

The inn was double-layered, the bottom floor dedicated mostly to the tavern, kitchens, furnace, and the innkeep's own quarters. The high floor held many small rooms, with a bed and nightstand and candle for each. Silvia counted the doors along the hall and found eight doors, four on each side of the hall. It was an impressive number of rooms for such a small amount of space, but there was only one room being used tonight: hers. The candle in the room had been lit, but Silvia blew it out and climbed into the bed, stuffed with feathers and a layer of cotton, all wrapped in a silken bag. It was comfortable enough, and soon Silvia found her sleep.

Two hours after she had fallen asleep, she awoke again violently, a shrill scream escaping her throat. Nightmares had always plagued her as a young girl, but now she had a reason to have them. This was different from what she had expected though, instead of running from a dragon, she was the dragon. A huge beast with scales and wings and fire, laying waste to Iona. In her dream, Silvia had just killed her father when she woke, shivering and crying.

There would be no going back to sleep for Silvia tonight, so she curled up against the wall and tried to distract herself with thoughts of Gaiden, and of Archer. He was a very handsome man, almost beautiful, though she would never say that to his face. Silvia found herself wanting to know more about him. Who he was before becoming a Knight of the Royal Guard. The innkeep said he was the heir of the lord in Jesu City, but that didn't tell Silvia anything, other than that Archer was of nobility, and a Lord in his own right. She thought of his odd spear, and tried to recall what he had named it.

“Naginata, he said,” she murmured. The weapon looked more like a spear to her, but the blades on it were curved instead of pointed, perhaps that was the difference. Silvia suddenly remembered that she had a blade of her own, with her horse. Her father had told her not to touch it, but what harm would come if she snuck a quick peek at it? She wanted to see what the sword was like.

Silvia threw herself off her bed and toed her way across the floor, careful not to make too much noise. The wooden floorboards were sturdy, but sometimes they made creaking noises if she stepped on them in the wrong place. She hurried herself down and found the tavern mostly empty, save for a few wrecks that decided to fall asleep in their chairs at the bar table. The only remains of the brawl were a couple teeth strewn across the floor and a splattering of blood. Two of the maids were working hard to clean, but the blood had already dried, which made their job that much more difficult.

Silvia stole outside to the stable, and soon found her horse out of the three that were there. Her saddlebags were still attached to the saddle, and the horse itself watched her as she dug under the saddle. She didn't trust the innkeep with taking care of the sword, so she had hid it in the stable with the horse. The sword was still wrapped in the white cloth when she pulled it out.

Silvia paused for a moment, feeling her own heart beat against her chest. She was nervous, though why she could not guess. Her blood felt warm, but her hands shook when they tugged the cloth away from the sword. Slowly, Silvia pulled, watching with careful eyes not to touch the sword itself. The very tip of the hilt came into view soon, the very end of it curved like a fang, and bone-white. The tooth was wrapped in a black cloth wire, to allow for an easy grip. There was no guard, no pommel, and the scabbard that the blade hid under was as black as the wire. The sheath did not appear to be made of wood, but of some other material that looked vaguely like scales. Dark, black scales overlapping each other to protect what seemed to be a tooth. It suddenly dawned on Silvia what this sword might be.

“This isn't a sword,” Silvia gasped, the pieces coming together in her mind, “this is a fang. A dragon's fang!” Silvia heard her voice echo and the horse beside her snort. Startled, she dropped the sword on the dirt, still clutching the cloth that she had used to hold it. Silvia looked around the stable, but saw no one lurking anywhere. She was suddenly afraid that someone might find her here, clutching onto a sword that looked extremely old and valuable. There was really only one sword in the world that was made from a dragon's fang, but why did her father have it?

“What was it called, again?” Silvia thought long and hard, trying to remember all the stories she had been told as a child. The children's stories had all called the sword Dragonslayer, but that wasn't the sword's actual name. It had another name, in the dragon's own tongue, but the name was lost to her. Maybe the name of the sword is written on the blade. Silvia hesitated for a moment, reaching out with the cloth in her hand to grab the hilt of the sword, but stopped herself. She had come this far already, there was no need to hold back anymore. Silvia dropped the cloth next to her and took the hilt into her hands.

And nothing happened. Silvia paused for a moment, to make sure that nothing was going to jump out of the sword and curse her eternal soul. When that didn't happen, she pulled the sword out of the sheath, revealing the bone-white blade beneath the scale scabbard. The sword curved down the length, the length of the curve sharpened to a fine edge. This was a weapon that had killed a thousand dragons during the first rebellion of mankind. The dragons were their rulers for a long period of time, but when they became oppressors, mankind's views of their dragon overlords changed, and a war broke out between the two. The war was so fierce, it even involved the gods, or so the books had said. Dragonslayer was made from one of the older dragons, still breathing when they ripped his fangs out. It took three fangs the size of a grown man to make this thin bone blade, all of which had been melted down to mix together. The sheath was made from the old dragon's scales as well, the only thing in the world hard enough to hold the blade.

Silvia searched the bone for any sort of carvings, but found none. She accidentally touched the edge of the blade, a light brush with the tip of her finger, but even that broke her skin and started to bleed. Her blood dripped onto the blade, and something awoke inside her. It happened all at once, her blood instantly began to boil, and she felt something hot ride from her stomach and burn her throat and lungs. Unable to cry out in pain or call for help, Silvia fell to the ground, choking on the fire in her throat and burning from her very own blood. Her spine snapped twice in quick succession, and she felt the lower half of her body become heavy. An intense pain soon followed around her shoulders as her skin and flesh began to rip apart, blood dripping down her back as the dress she was wearing was torn into ribbons, then set ablaze by the intense heat of her body. The horses nearby sounded their own alarms of fright. Even her own horse began to buckle and tried to get away from her.

Silvia lost consciousness, but her body did not stop changing. Her skin began to darken, turning the same shade of dark red as her hair before splitting and overlapping. Her scales grew in from her feet first, and her foot snapped and curved, losing the five toes to be replaced with two long, black talons in the front, and one sharply curved talon at her heel. The red scaled traveled up from there, covering her muscled legs completely, and by some good grace, her private parts were covered with the scarlet scales to make it seem like they were not there at all. The red scales traveled up further, covering the sides of her stomach but leaving the front of her body alone. Instead, black scales covered her stomach from just below her navel to above her breasts. From her backside, her spine grew to a lengthy proportion, a thick tail shooting out from her end. The tip of the tail was much like a dagger, coated in a strange oil and set to a fine point. From her back, just behind her shoulder blades, dark, leathery wings fanned out, stretching until they were twice the size of her own body, which did not fit in within the confines of the stable. Instead of folding back in, however, the wings crushed the wood and pushed it aside, as if it were heavier than stone. Silvia's emerald eyes turned red, and her pupils turn into black slits. Even her face, beautiful as it was, was not spared by the growth of scales. From the sides of her head grey horns, terrible black hooks that resembled minotaur horns.

Her transformation completed by the time the first human entered the stable to see what the horses where screeching about. When the innkeep saw Silvia, it was already too late. She had heard his footsteps from the moment he came out of his bed. She smelled him as soon as he stepped outside. And now her dangerous red eyes were locked with his fearful ones. In an instant, Silvia launched herself at the man, who had no chance to turn and flee. She slashed at him with clawed hands, prying apart his chest and snapping his ribs as if they were made of paper. She ducked her head down into his chest and bit into his still beating heart, but not for long. He died soon after, leaving Silvia to feast on his heart.

The meat was tough and bitter, bitter enough to wake Silvia from her unconsciousness. She soon realized that she was no longer in control of her own body, something else had taken over for her. The fire that roared in her stomach twisted and flared, but no longer gave her pain. Her throat soon cooled and became familiar with the burning, and her lungs felt more powerful than ever. She saw through eyes that viewed the world in a crisp and clean veil, a film covering her eyes to protect them from the elements, which gave the world a slightly reddish hue. The thing controlling her body had finally removed the innkeep's heart from his chest and began to devour it more viciously, her teeth sharpened into fangs with her transformation.

Silvia couldn't scream, despite how terrified she was of her own self. She was panicking, unable to stop herself from eating the poor man's heart or even so much as cry. Silvia tucked herself away in her own consciousness, as far into the depths of her mind as she could go. There was no stopping the dragon that raged inside of her, there was no way.

When the heart was gone, devoured whole by the dragon, she reached her head back and roared, her voice piercing the night sky. Wings beat at the air, lifting the dragon to her feet with ease. The horses continued to screech in fear, unable to leave the stable thanks to being tied down in their stables. The dragon made quick work of the three, silencing them with claw and fang.

Silvia felt her stomach turn as fire suddenly leaped to her throat and out her mouth. Fangs parted to release a sickly green flame that caught on the wood and hay within the stable. The wood building was set ablaze within seconds. It became a torch in the night, signaling for others to stay away. The city was beginning to awaken, the closer buildings quickly emptying at the sound of Silvia's roar.

Silvia stayed within the stable, the heat of the fire a comfort to her. When another man entered the stable, Silvia rose from her consciousness to see who it was. She did not shrink back again, only kept herself frozen where she was. The man's red hair and double-bladed weapon told her exactly who it was. Archer had come, and not alone. Outside, she could smell the presence of others through the smoke and fire.

“Silvia, is that really you?” Archer seemed lost as he stared at her transformed body. She wanted to reply, to form the words in her own throat, but it was no use, she could not speak. Her blood boiling, it was all she could do to stay conscious. “I knew there was something strange about you, I could see it. But I never imagined this...”

The dragon would not wait any longer for Archer to speak, she lunged at him with wings beating hard, claws and fangs bared at him. Archer nimbly stepped aside and clocked her horn with the flat end of his blade, making her head spin as pain shot through the horn and into her head. Growling, Silvia wrenched her head to the side, then threw herself at Archer, aiming to stab him with her horn. Again, he stepped to the side and jumped out of range of her claws. He was nothing if not fast. And he seemed wholly unaffected by the fire that surrounded them. A ring had appeared in the stable, blocking the exit. Silvia could walk through the fire without hurting herself, but the same could not be said for Archer, who was only human.

“Silvia! I know this isn't you!” Archer called through the roaring fires. Silvia's heart skipped a beat at his voice, but her dragon roared in his face. “You have to snap yourself out of this, before the whole city burns down!”

“I can't!” Silvia wanted to shout, crying within her mind. You have to kill me to stop me, please.

“I'm not going to kill you!” Archer shouted defiantly, though he did not let go of his weapon. Instead, he pointed it at her and charged. The point of his blade rammed into her black scales and stopped there, screeching from the impact. “Maybe I should have said I can't,” Archer gave her a weak smile, and ducked down when the dragon swiped at his head. He swept her legs from under her with a quick kick, but she never fell. Her wings beat once, and that was all it took to keep her from falling to the ground. She reached down and plucked Archer up from the ground, crushing him in her monstrous grip. With another powerful beat of her winds, they flew together, through the fire and through the closed wooden door of the stable, turning it into splinters. Outside, the night air was tainted with the taste of smoke and blood, and the moon had turned red in the sky, making the night dark.

The lunar eclipse would not last for long, and while the moon burned red, Silvia's blood boiled within her, increasing her dragon's rage. Silvia never wanted this, but once she was out in the open air, with wings working with the wind to bring her to the sky, she felt an odd sense of freedom. The smoke from the fires blocked out a part of the sky, but the view was still beautiful. She almost forgot that Archer was still struggling against her, and her forgetfulness seemed to have affected the dragon instincts as well.

Archer managed to climb onto her back and grab one of her wings. By the time the dragon began to react, he had grabbed the other one and pinned both against her back. “You can't fly without these!” He declared with no visible fear of the thirty feet of empty space between them and the ground. Together they plummeted out of the sky, wrestling with each other. One of Silvia's wings tore free of Archer's grip, but one wing could only slow their descent.

They crashed into the ground, sending smoke and dirt into the air with the force of the impact. Silvia felt the ground crack beneath her, her scales had absorbed the entire impact, but Archer did not come off as freely as she did. His leg had twisted under her body before hitting the ground, and now it was bent in multiple places, each of them the wrong one. He did not cry out, but his face squeezed with the pain he was surely feeling. He could no longer stand at this point. Silvia grabbed him by the front of his mail, picking him up with ease, then snarled in his face. Her hot breath washed over his face, turning it red. Even without fire, her breath could still burn skin and flesh alike.

“Don't do this, Silvia,” Archer gasped, pulling futilely at her scaled wrist and claws. His fingers slipped off her wrist every time he tried to get a firm grip on her. Grabbing a reptile was no easy task, and Silvia's scales were harder than steel, but just as smooth as a snake's. “I know you can stop this. Only you can. The only thing that can break through dragon scales is in your mouth.” Her fangs? Was that what Archer was referring to? It had to be, they were the only things sharp enough.

Without thinking, Silvia reached down with her mouth and bit into her arm as hard as she could. Her fangs busted through the scales with surprising easy, parting or crushing them to draw blood. Writhing in pain, she released her arm and Archer at the same time, who began to crawl away as quickly as his shattered leg could take him. As the dragon inside her raged in pain, Silvia finally realized what she had done. She didn't know how, but she had gained control over her part of her body for that single instant.

Silvia rushed forward within her mind, bringing herself to the forefront of her consciousness and immediately strained every muscle she knew how to use in an attempt to wrestle back control of her body. Fire leaped up through her throat to quell her rebellion, but she sucked in her breath and held it down. For an instant, she was afraid the fire was going to explode within her, but her efforts paid off and set the fire back into her stomach. The dragon within her hesitated, the consciousness of raw instinct unable to clearly think of a plan.

With control of her body, Silvia shot her gaze over to Archer, who froze where he sat, watching her with nervous, but not fearful, eyes. To him, she managed to wrestle out a few words from her mouth, “I'm sorry, thank you.” Her sounds were affected by her sharp fangs and her tongue, which had somehow gotten thinner, and longer. With that said, she brought up her arm and bit into it again, wincing from the pain. She bit her other arm. She bit into her tail. Anywhere she could reach, she bit, until the pain began to merge and her body was sore and bleeding. But it wasn't enough, her fangs were not long enough to do the job. But there was a fang long enough, and it was nearby. Covered in bite marks, she ran into the stable.

She found it behind a burning pile of logs. With no time to lament the burning horses, she took the blade up into her hands and pointed it at her stomach, black scales glistening in the night. Silvia shut her eyes, and shoved the sword through her fire.


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Chapter Three

Post by Zerifachias on Wed Jul 30, 2014 9:42 pm

“She's a menace to our kind. Look at her, the scales might be gone but she is still a demon. The king is not pleased.” Voices disturbed Silvia's unconscious mind, but she paid them no heed. Her world was black and cool, her body resting in a deep, unbreakable sleep. She could hear the voices clearly, but could not understand the words. “The people of the city want blood, so why must we heal her?”

“King's orders. She's such a pretty girl too, shame she is what she is.”

“Abomination is what she is. We should kill her now and get it over with already. The king will order the execution soon anyway.”

“Enough, we've been given our jobs. Let's just do them and be done with it. The sooner this thing is out of my sight, the better, I say.”

“Why should we heal her? I say we cut her throat now. It would be so easy.”

“And get yourself and the rest of us executed? Leave the execution to the executioner, she'll get what she deserves soon.”

The voices died away after that, and Silvia's unconscious took her deeper into her coma. As her mind faded, memories of the past came forward. She remembered herself as a young child, sitting on her father's lap as he recited the story of the wars from the past. She remembered one night where he told her of a very old war that took place during the beginning of mankind, when Dragons had ruled over them. The story told of how humans would steal the fangs of dragons and kill them with swords made of those fangs during the first rebellion. The swords were made from many fangs off multiple dragons, but very few had been strong enough to survive piercing dragon scales, and the ones that did not break served as indestructible weapons.

The fang sword that was Silvia's fathers must have survived all these years. Thousands of years, and it was still sharp to the touch, sharp enough to draw blood from a calloused hand by barely brushing it. Silvia dreamed of the sword, of her father, and of her life before the dragon had awoken. It was a change from the horror she had been subject to these past few days.

Silvia woke with a sudden shock, her eyes snapping open just as the dragon within her appeared in front of her eyes. Her dreams had gone sour quickly, throwing the face of the dragon she turned into at her, surrounded by green fire and Archer's broken body. Silvia shivered, but never cried out in her terror. She was no longer there, and with a single look at her body, she saw that her scales had disappeared back into her skin. Her wings and tail and horns were also gone, she was back to normal. As normal as she could possibly be.

Silvia glanced down at herself and the brown pile of rags that hung over her chest and down to her thighs. She wore nothing else, and could feel the damp air chill her to the bone. She shivered again and hugged her chest tightly, sticking her hands beneath her arms to warm them. The air was damp and dark, she could hardly see anything in the dim light. On the far side of the room she sat in, a candle flickered, it's light not nearly enough to illuminate where she sat.

Silvia felt the ground beneath her, it was stone. Cold stone. A light clinking sound caught her ears and she began to search for the sound. She moved her legs and heard the sound in the air again. She reached down with her hand and felt around her leg, soon finding the source. There were manacles on her legs, attached to the wall at her back by iron chains. Shaking, Silvia struggled to her feet, finding the activity difficult. The chain was short, and only allowed her to move three feet away from the wall. By now, Silvia knew exactly where she was. The dungeons.

Silvia was confused, she had fully intended to kill herself with that fang sword. She couldn't do it with her own fangs, so she tried to use the other fang. The sword had definitely pierced her stomach, but when she felt the skin on her belly, she found no evidence of a wound. Silvia lowered her arms, and the rags that covered her fell to the ground, leaving her completely exposed to the cold. Not a shirt, but a blanket. A very thin blanket. Her captors might not have given her proper clothes, but at least they had the decency to give her something. Silvia grabbed the paper blanket and wrapped it around her body as best she could. There would be some guard coming along soon now to see if she had woken. There had to be, why else would they keep her alive?

So Silvia waited. She could not keep herself on her feet for very long, so she sat down on the cold ground and curled her legs up to her chest, so she could wrap the blanket around more of her body. She switched positions often to keep herself from cramping up, but no matter what she did, nothing quickened the pace of time. With no way to tell the hour, Silvia was lost to time. It could be day by now, or maybe it was still night. How long had she been out, anyway? A whole month could have passed without her ever being aware of it. The thought frightened her. Someone had to come by to feed her, else she would starve. Already she felt hunger gnawing at her stomach, the results of a long healing period.

Time became cruel to Silvia, the hours passing by unnoticed as she waited, with only the blanket to give her company and warmth. Still, she shivered in the cold as her eyes slowly began to adjust to the darkness. Eventually, she could see the faint outlines of metal bars that hung from the ceiling and dug into the ground. Of course she was in a cell, although with these manacles holding her close to the wall, there weren't many places for her to run off to. The little light at the far end of the room finally began to illuminate part of the room, so she would no longer stumble if she ever decided to walk a few inches from her current seat.

Silvia fell asleep again, lulled to sleep by the still flame of the candle. When she woke again, there seemed to be a small addition to her cage. Silvia could make out the object to be in a bowl shape, and raised her head to peer closer. Her neck felt stiff from sleeping with her head hung. The manacles clinked as she inched forward.

Sure enough, she could see that someone had brought her something to eat. She was barely able to reach the bowl, and she almost spilled the contents bringing it back to her. Silvia felt relieved, of course they would not have their prisoner starve to death. That would defeat the purpose of the public execution she was sure to get. For a moment, Silvia considered tossing the bowl aside and forcing herself to starve, but that thought turned out to be unnecessary as she tasted the bowl. The broth was just salty water, and Silvia swore that the tiny chunks swimming around in the bowl were rocks.

Still, it was better than nothing, and Silvia found herself drinking the foul soup anyway. If they were going to feed her poorly regardless of whether she ate or not, she would be better off eating what they gave her. Silvia began to wonder how long she could survive on bad water and rocks.

Silence fell in Silvia's private dungeon. With nothing left to do, Silvia examined her body with her hands. She searched for any traces of the dragon she had transformed into. She did not feel the fire in her stomach any longer, and the hole she had made there with the fang sword had all but disappeared. She felt for her tail, and found nothing abnormal there. She could not reach, but Silvia assumed that the place where her wings had come out had been covered by fresh skin as well. Her hair was a tangled, dirty mess, but she found no traces of her horns.

Unable to find any abnormalities, Silvia laid herself on the cold stone again and tried her best to fall asleep. It came more easily than she suspected, she was still very tired from what she suffered. Silvia dreamed, but instead of dreaming of dragons and fire, she dreamed of hot potato soup.

The days passed by without any sign of guards, nor did anyone come by and leave her a bowl of soup for her to drink. After every instance of Silvia's sleep and waking cycle, she searched her area for signs of a bowl, but it never returned. Silvia's hunger began to grow more ravenous, and she began to weaken. Her muscles complained of being underused, and she eventually took to attempting to exercise to keep some of her muscles; However, every time that she did, she became even hungrier than before, and her muscles still complained.

Silvia's dreams were consumed by the violence she had witnessed and done. A night did not pass by where Silvia did not dream of eating the innkeeper's heart. It was a cruel joke being played on her, punishing her for an atrocious act that was not in her control. Sometimes, instead of the innkeeper, it was Archer's heart that she ate. He looked down at her with a frightened look, and screamed just as the innkeeper had when he saw Silvia's transformed body. But that wasn't the worst of it, once she dreamed that it was her heart being eaten by her dragon form.

Silvia startled out of her sleep for what seemed to be the hundreth time, only this one was quickly followed by a catastrophic breakdown of her bodily functions. She sat in a puddle of water, which had cooled against the surface of the stone floor, but made the worst stink she had ever smelled. It was another second before she realized that it was hers, and the paper blanket she had been wearing was soiled beyond saving now. Too hungry to feel embarrassed or cry, Silvia bundled up the soiled blanket and attempted to push the urine away from her body, without much success. She threw the blanket as far from her as she could, the effort leaving her tired. She did not sleep again, for fear of losing control of her bladder a second time.

Silvia didn't want to think about it, but that latest dream haunted even her waking memory. When she turned into a dragon, the control that she held over her body was suddenly wrenched away from her. She remembered how hot her blood boiled, and how much that fire in her stomach hurt. Now, she could feel no fire, and she was cold down in the damn cell she sat in. All the more damp due to her accident.

She had breathed fire then, but the flames were green instead of the red she was so used to seeing in the village. Silvia wondered what that meant. Were a dragon's flames so much hotter than normal fire that it took a different color? Or was it something else about the fire that made it green? Silvia wondered, but could not figure out the right answer. Her mind distracted, Silvia jumped when the sound of metal scraping on metal filled the air around her. She reflexively curled up to conceal her naked body and peered through the darkness.

The candlelight was no longer visible, blocked by the dark silhouette of another person. The figure was small and thin, and Silvia could barely see it move. It was a child's figure, Silvia deduced from the outline. But why would a child be coming to visit her in her cell? That served no one any purpose.

“Silvia,” a voice filled the air, coming from the child's frame. It was a dark and cold voice, very much unlike a child's, and feminine as well. The figure moved her hand forward, through the bars of the cell. A small light began to collect in the palm of her hand, slowly filling the room with a pure light. The light brightened slowly, but Silvia still found herself shielding her eyes from it. Silvia felt weak, unable to keep her eyes open even in a dim light like this. Son though, the figure was illuminated, and Silvia saw an older woman, no more than five feet tall wearing a long, flowing black dress that hid everything from her shoulders to her feet from view. Her hair was the same black, and tied into a braid that she wore like a scarf around her neck. The braid wrapped twice around her neck before the tip hovered barely above the surface of the ground. The tip of her braid was pure white similar to the white orb of light she held in tiny hands. Her face was young, but dark circles under her eyes had made an impact on her, and her cold violet eyes gave her a tired look.

“That is your name, is it not?” The woman's mouth barely moved when she spoke, but her voice was firm and commanded a certain pride. Whoever this woman was, she thought highly of herself. Silvia thought it best not to ignore the woman's question.

Her mouth moved, but no sound came from Silvia's throat. She had spent a long time without talking that her tongue felt heavy and slow. She tried again, and managed to get some sound of confirmation out. The woman did not seem to react to her struggles and instead brushed the tip of her finger against the lock on the cell door. The lock snapped open without any resistance and fell to the ground. The woman pushed aside the door without touching it and stepped inside, closer to where Silvia sat. Silvia tried to speak again, but her head began to pound, the effort hurting her.

“Do not speak, I know it pains you,” the woman's voice was softer, but still held a coldness that sent a shiver through Silvia's spine. Silvia found she was compelled to obey, she wouldn't be saying another word. As the woman approached, Silvia noticed a light humming filling the air. It seemed to come from the tiny orb of light the woman held, and Silvia looked at it in wonder. Magic had always intrigued her, and now she was seeing it first-hand.

“Silvia,” the woman spoke again, pale lips barely moving, but the words expertly articulated. “I am called Auza. I have come to you for a Divination.”

Silvia felt herself wanting to ask what a Divination was, but she found that even that effort brought on pain. There did not seem to be any more need to strain herself anymore though, the woman Auza began to explain herself. “Divination is the magical art of examining a soul. I have heard much about you, but I feel that there is more to you than others might think. You are a human, but you turned into a dragon. Why is that? I intend to find out. However, I need just one thing from you before I can perform this: Your permission.

“I will warn you now, Divination is not a pleasant experience for most. You will have to go through many of the memories of your past as if you had only just experienced them. It always causes some kind of trauma, and may also disable you for a time. But if you allow me to do this, I may just be able to save not just your life, but the lives of this entire country.” Silvia straightened up at hearing this. Her accident completely left her mind, if Auza could save her life at this point, she would give her anything, even if it meant turning into a dragon again. But...Silvia had truly meant to kill herself when she shoved the fang sword through her stomach. Could she really survive through experiencing that kind of torment again?

“My final warning,” Auza's voice was but a whisper, but Silvia hung onto every word. “Divination is a very intimate experience. Some witches even take to calling it Soul Touching, because that is precisely what is happening. During this, you might feel intense pain, or pleasure, as you re-experience your memories that might not belong there.” Silvia swallowed the lump in her throat, noticing how much it hurt her to do so, and nodded her head to Auza. She would give the woman permission. Silvia might not be ready for the Divination, but at this rate, she would only continue to decline until they decided to execute her anyway.

“Very well.” Auza took another step forward and knelt down on the dirty stone floor. She took Silvia's head and pressed her own forehead against Silvia's. The touch made Silvia feel an odd warmth flow through her body, and she felt her body begin to react. Auza had promised an intense pain or pleasure, but nothing Auza said prepared Silvia for the immense euphoria she felt at that moment. Silvia cried out, even though it pained her to do so, the pleasure she felt masked that pain with ease. Just as Silvia thought she was about to pass out, the pleasure faded and was replaced with a painful longing. Slowly, her vision turned black, and she felt her consciousness slip away.

Silvia felt as though she had been dipped into a pool of warm water. The pressure embraced her,  and she floated in a state between conscious and unconscious. Soon, she began to feel memories from an age long forgotten bubble up inside of her. She saw herself, no older than six years, sitting on her father's lap while he told her stories. She couldn't hear him now, but she knew his voice. Rough and warm, a father who doted on her for as long as she could remember. He taught her how to use a sickle and how to act like a proper lady. She never had to use the latter skills, she found that a sickle was far more productive.

Even when she was young, her red hair was kept in beautiful form, and that alone set her apart from the other girls in the village. They boys sometimes made fun of her for it, but after she beat them all in a wrestling competition, they stopped messing with her. It would not be until she turned sixteen that the boys began to call on her with offers of marriage. Silvia remembered the look on each boy's face as she turned him down.

Year by year, Silvia watched herself grow, seeing all the lies she had told, and the mistakes she made, and all the times she disobeyed her father. Each instance made Silvia feel more guilty. Guilty that she had not respected or loved her father enough, and now she would never again feel his embrace or hear him whisper comforts in her ear. She kept thining to herself that she should have listened 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 played through her mind's eye. Her trip to the capital was longer and harder than she seemed to recall.

Silvia was unprepared for the next memory. Archer. The very man who let her into the capital city and gave her a place to stay the night. She had betrayed him and his trust that night. If only she had listened to her father, she would have never touched that sword, never let her blood spill onto that blade, and Silvia would never have transformed into that horrific half-dragon form.

And she would have never hurt Archer.


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Chapter Four

Post by Zerifachias on Mon Aug 04, 2014 8:41 pm

After the Divination, Silvia's state of living improved significantly. She had been moved from the dungeons to the witch's tower, with a small space for her to sleep and eat. Silvia was given free roam, but only within the tower walls. Silvia learned after moving to the tower that the witch that came to her to perform the Divination was extremely influential. Auza was the most powerful mage in Ermith as well, so the city could not be safer as long as she was here. And so long as Auza kept an eye on Silvia, there would be no threat there either.

The quarters Silvia was given, although small, was spacious enough. A small single bed sat on the wooden floor in a forgotten corner of the room. Silvia was allowed a single cabinet, which held a variety of dresses, very few of them actually fit her, but she was still expected to wear clothing now that she was no longer imprisoned in the dungeon. The stone walls were decorated with a variety of spell circles, none of which Silvia could decipher. The whole tower was covered in these spell circles, according to the guards who stood at her door. The guards were there more to prevent others from seeing her as opposed to Silvia leaving. The spell circles were there primarily for Auza's acolytes. One acolyte could use these spell circles to hold the whole tower until reinforcements could join them from outside the capital, should the castle be taken. Auza herself did not need the circles, but she was often seen removing or replacing the circles as they aged.

Auza was always accompanied by one of her acolytes whenever she visited Silvia in her small quarters. The acolytes, mostly boys with only two or three girls, stayed silent as Auza attended to Silvia. Silvia herself seemed to notice a pattern with how Auza treated the acolytes, there was only one of them Auza ever seemed to consider or even look at. The girl had hair as dark as midnight, and violet eyes that could pierce through anything, had they been made of steel. Her name was Imca, and she was around Silvia's age, she learned. One day, Auza confided that Imca had a natural gift for magic, but being the king's daughter would have that effect. The royal line's blue blood was rumored to be made of magic.

What Silvia did not understand was why Imca was a simple acolyte to Auza. By all rights, including her royal blood, Imca should be someone far more influential than an acolyte. Silvia never asked, though the question burned in her mind. Under the direction of Auza, Imca once performed the mental check on Silvia that Auza had been doing every day since the Divination. Auza was searching for signs of disability or lasting damage to Silvia's psyche. So far, they had found none, so Auza believed Silvia to be safe from harm and allowed Imca to perform the check under close supervision.

Halfway through the check, Imca stopped and gestured silently towards Auza. She had a puzzled look on her face, but Auza did not seem perturbed. Silvia's heart beat a little faster, had Imca found something wrong with her? The possibility was there, but Auza had said that Silvia was safe. For those few seconds, Silvia held in her breath, only allowing herself to breathe again when Auza confirmed that nothing was abnormal.

After the mental status check, Auza had Imca put away all the heavier equipment. The princess was much better built for heavy lifting than Auza was, but Silvia was bigger than both of them still. Or at least she was, before she had been thrown into the dungeons for a whole month and a half. When Silvia learned how long she had been in the dungeons, she could not believe it. She was only fed once during that time, a normal human would have never survived that long without food or water. When she woke in her new room for the first time, there was a steaming hot bowl of soup waiting for her. The guards who stood outside her door were friendly enough to her, and one of them said that he had never seen the witch so angry before. The other guard swore that he felt the whole castle begin to shake and attributed that to Auza's anger.

A fortnight after Silvia's quality of living changed, she felt strong enough to move around on her own. Now, with Auza and Imca in her quarters, she could not roam until they left, and Auza seemed to want something from Silvia. The witch had Imca leave the two of them be, sending the girl back to her father to give Auza's daily tidings. Auza waited for many minutes after Imca left before speaking to Silvia, instead watching the candle in the corner of the room burn down the wick.

“Silvia,” Auza started. She always began with saying Silvia's or Imca's name first, depending on which she wanted to talk to. No one could misinterpret her that way. Silvia noticed that Auza hated wasted movement, and that showed plainly with every move that Auza made. Even when she spoke, the movements of her lips were so small. “It has been two weeks since your Divination, and I have found nothing wrong with your mind or soul. You are healthy, but you are also ignorant of what I discovered.”

“What do you mean?” Silvia asked tentatively, a little worried despite Auza having said she was fine. Auza even had Imca perform the check on her today, which must have been just for show. A chance for Imca to gain experience rather than find anything strange.

“The Divination reveals memories of the past to both the Seer and the Divined,” Auza explained patiently. “However, the Divined will only see certain memories, ones that have made an impact on your life. What you saw was probably very little, due to the trauma you already suffered beforehand. As the Seer, I see many more things. I see all of your past, from the details of your birth to the moment of the Divination.” Auza stopped, glazing over Silvia with obsidian eyes.

“Details of my birth?” Silvia had always been curious about her mother. Lord Hanself, Silvia's father, had told Silvia long ago that her mother had died in childbirth. Silvia had no memories of her to speak of, and had always been curious to find out who her mother was. But with her father dead, the only people who knew her mother were Auza and possibly Lord Gaiden. “Then you know who my mother is?”

“I do. You will not like the answer.” Auza frowned, considering Silvia for a moment. When it was clear that Silvia still wanted to know, Auza allowed herself to relent. “She was a dragon. Not a half-breed, but a complete dragon. Lord Hansel is still your father. Through some wicked magic, he managed to trap the soul of a female dragon into the body of a woman. That same night, they made you. The woman whose body was taken over had her soul eaten by the dragon that was trapped within her, but even when the woman's soul died, the dragon was not released from the prison.”

“Then I was born,” Silvia finished for herself, feeling both disbelief and shock.

“No, you were hatched. Halfway through the pregnancy, something went awry and the woman shat out an egg, not unlike a dragon's egg. The dragon's soul was destroyed in the process, leaving the empty husk of your mother behind. Lord Hansel himself had to find a way to keep you warm until you were ready to come out of your shell. When you did, you looked very similar to the dragon you turned into two months ago.

“In order to preserve your life and keep your secret hidden, Lord Hansel conducted another magical experiment to seal as much of your dragon into the Drasca, the sword made from a dragon's fang. He could not seal all of it, and the seal was very fragile. All it would take is a little blood, and the other half of your soul would return in full force, and powerful draconic instincts with it.

“It is not a coincidence that you do not feel your dragon half any longer. By shoving that sword through your stomach, you managed to seal your dragon's soul back into the sword and keep your human soul somewhat intact.”

“I had meant to take my own life when I did that,” Silvia murmured, almost inaudible. Auza had a knack for hearing though, and Silvia had no secrets from the woman, she soon learned. After the Divination, Auza always seemed to know what Silvia was thinking or doing. Perhaps that was why Divination was so scary for some.

“I know,” Auza confirmed. “But our healers are very good at what they do, despite how they might feel about their patients. Allow me to warn you. Should you so much as glance at the Drasca again, your dragon soul will jump back into you and never come back out again. It was pure luck that the dragon went back into the sword to begin with. I've examined the magic on it, and it is no nearly powerful enough to hold a dragon's soul for very long.”

“What will happen to it if the seals are gone?”

“Depends. If you are nearby, the soul will find you and rejoin you. If you are not nearby, then the soul will die.”

“Let the soul die, then.” Silvia wanted nothing more to do with dragons. The sooner she became a normal human again, the better. Admittedly, she was never a normal human to begin with, but she had not known about her birth or the dragon's soul until very recently. So much time has past that the air was starting to cool as autumn approached. The last of the harvests would be taken in soon to prepare for the winter. Iona's potatoes would not be a part of that stock this year, or the next year.

Auza had different plans for Silvia though. She would not let the farmer girl return to her old life so easily. Besides, what was she to farm now? Iona's potatoes were likely either overgrown or turned to ash at this point. But Auza's voice gave Silvia's neck a chill. “I'm afraid that I cannot let that soul die. And neither can you.”

“What do you mean? Dragons are evil creatures.” Silvia didn't understand, wasn't the point of the old dragon war to get rid of all the dragons? They had been oppressors in the days of old, and nearly wiped out the whole human race during the war. So less dragons to deal with in the world meant that it would be a safer place for them.

“Some of them are. Some of them are not. You would be surprised to learn, I think, that Drasca was made from three fangs of a very old dragon who gave them up willingly.”

“What does that name mean, by the way?”

Drasca is an old word that belonged to the Dragons. Literally translated to our language, it means Fang.” Auza cleared her throat, preventing Silvia from distracting her with further questions. When Auza was ready to continue, her calm demeanor remained unchanged. “If your dragon's soul dies, then your own life will be essentially cut in half. You will die an early death, too weak to keep your body from decaying. Half a soul is not enough to keep a man alive, and you are no exception. Also, you have the opportunity to use that soul, to join it with your own once again and take control of your true body. If you do this, then you will become the key to defeating the dragons once more. Only a dragon's fang can pierce through a dragon's scales, and Drasca is the only fang left to the world. It is, by rights, your fang.”

“Can't someone like Archer or Gaiden use the sword?” Silvia asked, her pulse racing. She had not considered the possibility of using her dragon's soul in that way. It was impossible, or so she thought. Controlling the dragon within her had been next to impossible the first time anyway, and Silvia had no idea how she managed to wrestle control of her body long enough to stab herself.

“They do not have wings,” Auza said simply, her eyes never breaking contact with Silvia's. She felt compelled to keep the connection with the way Auza was looking at her. “You do. You are the only one who can reach them.”

“This is starting to sound like some kind of fantasy story,” Silvia laughed nervously. Auza was quick enough to catch Silvia before the girl could back away.

“This is no fairy-tale, Silvia. This is real. If you do not do this, you condemn the world.”

“Aren't you supposed to be the most powerful witch in the world?”

“I am a powerful mage. But I am only human. Even if I could kill a dragon, and I am not sure that I could pull something like that off, they would not simply put themselves in danger. They would go where I could not travel and wait until I die. Dragons are immortal, they will not die of old age as I will.”

“But you're still-”

“Young? No, I'm not.” Auza placed her left hand on Silvia's cheek, where she could feel the coldness of her hand seep through to her skin. She also felt a stinging cold and glanced to the hand on her face. There on Auza's ring finger sat a pale crystal ring, as white as the moon. Silvia wondered for a moment how she did not notice it earlier, but then realized that the pale white coloring of the band was very similar to Auza's skin tone. “You are young. You are able. The choice is yours, but I fear that this is no real choice that I am giving you. Forgive me.”

Silvia bit her lip and furrowed her brow. This was no choice at all. She either had to die with the rest of the world, or fight the dragon menace. If she was victorious, they would sing songs of her for centuries to come. If she decided not to or died, then no one would be left alive. It was hardly a choice. But if it was, which would Silvia had picked? If she did have the choice to fight the dragons or sit on the sidelines, if Archer was the one with wings and she was on the Royal Guard, would she still want to fight?

Silvia knew her answer, but was hesitant to speak it aloud. She held no secrets from Auza ever since the Divination, but she did not want to give the witch the answer she already knew. “I need...I want to see Ser Archer. Lord Gaiden as well. Please?” Silvia hoped that Auza would allow at least this much. If anyone were to give her good counsel she could trust, it was Gaiden. He was her father's best friend, after all. Silvia wondered if his thoughts of her had changed at all since word got out of her nature. Would he end up hating her? The thought pained her, but Silvia had to know before she could give any kind of answer to Auza's question.

“I will allow it,” Auza spoke cautiously, her eyes narrowing slightly. “But I do not know if they will come. They might, out of respect for me or of their own desires to see you. I cannot say how strong those desires are now though.”

“They haven't asked about me at all?”

“Understand that I do not have time to make conversation with the Royal Guard while dragons plague this country.”

“Right. Sorry.”

“There is no need to apologize.” Auza stepped towards the door of Silvia's little quarters. With a hand on the iron handle, she gave Silvia one last look. “I will return momentarily. Wait here.” Then the short woman disappeared in a flash of black.

The ring on Auza's finger. There was no mistaking it, it was a wedding band. Silvia couldn't imagine someone like Auza finding someone that special to her. Witches were not very fondly looked upon, as most resorted to corrupted or demon magic. Silvia found herself wanting to know more about Auza, but did her best to remove those thoughts from her mind. It was no business of hers, and there were much more pressing concerns.

Auza said that Silvia would have to rejoin her soul with her dragon half. Silvia managed to unsuspectingly seal the dragon back into the sword, but that trick wouldn't work a second time. And this time, Silvia didn't have much of a choice. The seal would break on it's own in time, whether she touched it again or not. But if Silvia intended to take the dragon form again to control it, then the seal would have to be broken again anyway. There was likely a way to ensure that the seal would break in a safe area, where Silvia's dragon could not wreck havoc in the city.

When Auza returned, she came with Archer leading the way. He broke through the door with a ferocity that frightened Silvia. When he saw her, he immediately stopped and examined her thoroughly with his eyes. His expression was unreadable, but Silvia felt a certain anxiousness, though she could not tell if that was his or hers. Auza stepped quietly to the side, shadowed by the open door where she watched.

Finally, Archer sighed and his shoulders fell. “Thanks the gods,” he breathed. He stepped closer to Silvia and grabbed her hands. “When I heard that you hadn't been fed in a month, I was worried that you had wasted away to nothing. It appears my fears were false. You are okay, My Lady?” Even after her transformation, Archer was still incredibly polite to her. She thought he would have been furious with her, or even frightened. His leg, the one that she had broken, did not seem to pain him any longer.

“O-of course. I mean, yes,” Silvia stumbled over her own words, trying to catch herself. His hands felt so warm in hers. She never used to have a problem with the cold, but her fingers felt like ice compared to Archer's. “I...Ser Archer, I-”

“Please just call me Archer,” Archer interrupted, covering her hands with his in an attemt to warm them. His kindness nearly brought Silvia to tears, but she forced herself not to cry. There would be time later for tears. “Dear Silvia, what a fate you have. I would never wish this burden upon you.”

“You know?” Silvia looked to Auza, who simply shook her head. She had told him nothing. There was one other thing about Divination that Silvia had forgotten. On the day she woke, Auza had come to check on her. The first thing Auza told her was that the Divination was secret. Auza would never speak of the Divination to anyone. But it wasn't a matter of simply keeping a secret. If Auza spoke of another's Divination to anyone except for the Divined, then Auza's own magic would seal her vocal cords, and she would never cast another spell or speak another word again. Divination was one of the old magics, bound by a very thick book of laws.

“What I know is that you are half a dragon,” Archer responded, “that in itself is a terrible fate. But you must be speaking of something else?” Archer looked back at Auza himself, but she still would not speak, so he turned back to her.

Silvia was not bound by the same laws as Auza, so she could tell Archer everything about her Divination if she wished to, without any consequences. Silvia isntead told Archer of what Auza had only recently told her. About Drasca, about her split soul, and of how she might be able to rejoin her split soul and take control over her dragon form. Archer listened quietly, his expression the picture of concentration. When Silvia finished, he smiled at her.

“I have confidence that you will be able to- No.” Archer corrected himself, straightening his back and beaming down at her. “ I know you can control your dragon,” he finished. His confidence in her was reassuring, but Silvia could not help feeling doubtful. She could not control the dragon while she was fighting Archer that night. It couldn't have even be called a fight, Silvia's power was the real thing, and her scaled were practically impenetrable. Archer was as useless as an infant against her at that time. How would she be able to control that?

“You've already done it once,” Archer explained when Silvia did not immediately respond. “You sealed that other half of you back into the sword. I saw you do it. After you passed out, I carried you right to the castle to be treated for your wounds.”

“How could you do that with your leg broken?” Silvia asked incredulously. She could not believe that Archer had carried her all that distance on a shattered leg. Archer paused for a moment, as if caught in a lie.

“Er. I might have been over-exaggerating a little. I carried you about three feet before Gaiden arrived. He carried you and me up to the castle. One of us over either shoulder.” Archer's smile turned into a grin. “That man has some serious strength.” It was clear that Archer admired Lord Gaiden a great deal. Perhaps a bit too much, Silvia began to feel uncomfortable. She had betrayed Gaiden's trust just as she did Archer's. But Archer did not seem at all affected by it. If anything, he appeared even more excited to see her.

“Then might I ask you something?” Silvia began, her voice almost too quiet to hear. She knew she didn't have anything to worry about with others overhearing them. Auza already knew everything about her, and Archer was the only other nearby, and he was the one Silvia needed to ask. “If you were in my position, what would you do?”

“Fight,” Archer answered immediately. His face turned to stone in that instant, giving him a fierce look. “I would take to the skies and rain destruction down upon the dragons. I wouldn't rest until every one of them was dead and rotting. And then I'd come back home and find some pretty girl to marry.” Archer said the last bit with a sly wink at Silvia. Embarrassed, she snatched her hands away from him and attempted to hide them. As much as she hated leaving the warmth of his hands, at the same time she could not bear it.

“And if I choose to fight, what will you do?” Silvia inquired when she thought it was safe.

“I will fight with you.

“But what about your duties?”

“Silvia, if there is a better way to fulfill my duties as part of the Royal Guard than fighting dragons, then please tell me. The duty of the Royal Guard is not to the King. We are sworn swords to the people of the King's realms. We do not guard the King, we Guard his Royal Provinces.”

“So that means-”

“Killing Dragons.”


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Chapter Five

Post by Zerifachias on Sun Aug 17, 2014 7:43 pm

The next morning, Auza came by to grab Silvia from her chambers. Silvia was under the impression that the witch was there to escort her to the safest place to assume her dragon form again, but she was mistaken in that. There was to be a trial of sorts, with the King heading it himself. Silvia for a half a second wondered what she could have possibly done to warrant a trial, but she soon remembered and grimaced. That was not a pleasant memory, and she was foolish for thinking there wouldn't be some kind of trial for her.

Hopefully Silvia had enough on her side to keep herself alive at the least. If Silvia could somehow prove that she could be useful, there might be a chance that she would go free, under the exception of being a weapon against the Dragons. Auza would be there as well, and her word was better than gold in the eyes of some. The King might not see her in that light, though, which worried Silvia.

Traveling from Auza's tower to the main part of the castle took the greater part of half an hour, due every guard under the sun wanting to know why Silvia was out in the open and not in some dark, dank, dungeon cell. Silvia had not seen the inside of the main castle, only Auza's tower, which was in itself not actually part of the huge stone building. The tower was separated from the rest of the castle, but Auza mentioned that there was an underground passage between the two that only she and the Royal Guard knew about. The tower was still within the twenty-foot castle walls, located at the northernmost part of the grounds. Before it stretched a courtyard filled with lush evergreens and silver lilies. This part of the garden was maintained by the royal family, rather than the servants, as beneath the earth lay one old Queen: Queen Hiki, who had give her life in order to prevent the world from succumbing to darkness.

In the center of the courtyard-grave, Silvia spotted an old, gray tombstone. The body of the Queen was more than likely dust now, it had been half a thousand years since her sacrifice. Despite that, the carvings on the tombstone were well-maintained, although the writing on it was a language that Silvia did not know. At the very top of the stone was a carving of a woman with her arms outstretched and holding small suns in her hands. Silvia knew the story, but she asked Auza about it all the same.

Auza glanced at the stone and Silvia for a second before deciding to answer her. “That story is old, and likely some truths have gone missing or have been warped. It has been over five-hundred years, perhaps six-hundred at this point, since Queen Hiki gave her life. I'm sure you know the story, but you probably never heard how it all began. This story actually starts much longer ago, after the Dragons had been dealt with. Magic was the strongest it had ever been during this age, and powerful mages sometimes caused a bit of chaos concerning the Elements. So much chaos, actually, that wise Sages decided to create Temples dedicated to each Element. The Temples are scattered about the continent in places where their Element is strongest. Or perhaps that Element is strongest there because of the Temples, no one really knows, and I don't care to try and determine which.

“But of the Eight Elements, there are two that reign supreme. The strongest Elements, if you will. Light and Dark. Fire, Water, Wind, Earth, Lightning, and Ice are all equal in strength and weakness, but Light and Dark are the ones that are more...how do I put this? Unstable.”

“You would call an element like Light to be unstable?” Silvia wondered. The stories she had heard spoke of Light as the infallible Element, the one most powerful Element capable of healing and purification. Dark being unstable made sense, as it was usually associated with chaos and corruption.

“Yes, I do,” Auza's eyes narrowed, as if she could hear what Silvia was thinking. “Every Element is capable of some manner of corruption, and Light is no exception. Humans see it as the purest Element because of how it can save lives, but no one talks of how it destroys them as well. They only see Darkness as being capable of that.”

“Well, the Element of Darkness is the most dangerous, isn't it? The one that is most susceptible to corruption?”

“That is a misconception based off of how many Dark Witches have been burned at the stake. You don't see Light witches being burned, until you become a victim of their greed. I am a Dark Witch myself, Silvia. It is the path I chose, the power I wield. I am not corrupted because I am stronger than those who would tempt me with whispers of power.”

“Who's temptations?”

“Demons, humans, it makes no difference. But I was telling you a story, wasn't I? These two opposites, Light and Dark, were at odds with each other. So a man who held very strong magic, Light magic, decided to separate Darkness from the rest of the Elements. He created an entire Realm for those who practiced Dark magic. This was a grave mistake. Thousands of years of being separated from the other Elements made Darkness become very, very strong. And corrupt enough to change the appearance of those who dwelt within that realm. One day, about six-hundred years ago, when Queen Hiki ruled, the Realm's inhabitants grew strong enough to break free of their prison, and they set themselves upon the world. Light, without it's opposite to balance it, also became strong. Queen Hiki was one of the strongest mages of her time, and the most crucial part of her was being attuned to the Light Element. All of the royal family is attuned to Light, but Queen Hiki had a special connection, one that the historians would say rivaled that of the man who gave Dark its own realm.

“In order to stop the corruption from destroying her people and her kingdom, Queen Hiki sacrificed herself in order to summon all of her power at once. Atop the Temple of Light, she shone a bright ray of light to engulf every inch of Dark to consume it. Her power changed the two Elements forever, merging them more powerfully than they were at the start. That is why Dark Witches can use Light magic, and Light Mages can use Dark.”

“So what does the tombstone say?”

“It is a memorial. It speaks of how noble Queen Hiki gave her life for the sake of the world. That without her, the world as we know it would have been much, much different. Or not. Legends like these are often too vague to decipher properly. Those thrice-damned historians will put anything on paper if it sounds noble.”

“Wow.” Silvia was truly amazed. She had not known the legend to that depth before, only how Queen Hiki had given her life to merge the Elements together and save the world. She had not known that the Elements were separated before, Silvia had always thought they had been like that from the start, to keep evil and corruption out of the world. But Auza here was a Dark Witch, who did not seem to be corrupted by her own magic. She obviously held the trust of the King to have her own tower and place in his court. Not to mention that Auza was married as well, though Silvia never saw any hint of the man behind the woman.

Silvia was still distracted by her thoughts when she and Auza reached the place where the trial would be held. She hardly even had time to look around at the marble walls before they entered together. The first thing inside the court room Silvia noticed was the stage set for her. A platform hovered in the very center of the room, surrounded by nothing but empty space. The distance from the platform to the nearest wall was close to thirty feet, not nearly jumping distance. And should the man or woman on the platform jump, a mile drop into darkness would welcome them.

The court was not as full as Silvia expected it to be. She expected all the nobles of the court, including the King, to be present, along with their guards and the Royal Guard, and any witnesses to the mayhem she caused on that fateful night. Instead, there were nine others, discounting Silvia and Auza. The King sat on a throne that towered above everyone in the room, making him out to be the main crane-your-neck-to-see important person. His throne was solid gold, the back and seat covered in a purple cloth, the color of the royal line. Out of the gold throne sat a carved raven on either armrest. The King himself was wearing his best house colors, purple silk and white cotton, making him appear like a giant fluffy bird himself. He was a large man, though not quite as large as Gaiden was, who stood in his own leather behind the King. The King had long brown hair and crystal blue eyes, electrified and shocking. His beard was recently trimmed, forming neat lines as it covered most of his jawline and part of his neck. His face was not free of the marks of old age, though Silvia knew he was still a young King. King Sigmund was younger than her father, and only began his rule thirteen years prior.

Behind King Sigmund stood Gaiden, at attention and reacting to nothing, though Silvia could see his eyes tracking every movement in the court. There would likely be no need for him to draw the sword from his left hip, but he was prepared regardless. To his right side stood a familiar face, Archer. His blazing red hair was groomed and brushed aside, and he wore the same red leather that Silvia had first seen him in, though they seemed to be much cleaner now. If his leg gave him trouble, he showed no signs of it.

To Gaiden's left stood someone else. The mysterious man wore black leather from head to toe, with no skin showing at all. He was tall as well, nearly as tall as Gaiden was, who stood at six feet and seven inches. This man was perhaps half a head shorter than Gaiden, but was much thinner than the mountain-man. He was more suited for quick movements, like Archer, though something told Silvia that this man's movements were much quieter and deadlier than Archer's.

It wasn't until the man shifted to the side that Silvia spotted the small bulge at his chest. Not a man, a woman. Silvia was surprised, she had not seen the woman's breasts until she moved, her black leather made her blend in with herself incredibly well. And she was very tall for a woman. Silvia was tall for a woman as well, at five feet and eight inches, while Auza was a bit short around five feet. Auza's hair made up for what she lacked in height though, the thick and very long rope would make her taller than anyone in the room.

To the left side of the court room sat two idle men who wore long blue robes that covered everything except for their heads and necks, though Silvia saw that they had hoods as well. These were likely Mages from Order of Magi. There was an empty spot between them, likely reserved for Auza. Despite her short stature, Auza seemed to dwarf these two mages. The two of them shifted uncomfortably when she sat down between them. Auza chose not to notice them, it seemed. Silvia made note to do the same.

On the opposite side of the room from the mages sat three much older members of the court. Two of them were male with bears white as snow, the other was female with graying hair. The one thing these three all had in common were their wrinkled brows and the pure white robes that they wore, with gold sashes laid across their chests. History Keepers, or historians, was what they were. It was their job to keep documentation of all the things that went on in the world so that future generations could learn from them. Or avoid similar mistakes. There was bit of a controversy between the mages and historians about the actual truth in some of the undocumented histories. Silvia did not want any part of that, so she was glad that both parties were here to get the right account of what happened here.

“Silvia Reshe of Iona, step forward onto the platform so we may get started,” the King spoke, his voice echoing throughout the room. The abyss below the hovering platform made any sound echo, no matter how small the sound. Silvia did as she was bid, watching with awe as the platform moved towards her to allow her to step up. When Silvia stood on the platform, she felt a shiver run up her sides as a physical and magical wall surrounded her. There would be no jumping for her, it seemed. Silvia reached out to touch the magical barrier, but suddenly thought better of it when she felt the static charge brush against her finger.

“Silvia Reshe of Iona, you are here to stand trial for your crimes against the Crown and the people of this country,” the King started. She found his voice soothing, despite the situation. It was deep and smooth, like flowing water. “The charges against you are as follows: Murder of three men, cannibalism, deceiving a member of the Royal Guard, and destruction of property. Do you deny any of these?”

This was no rhetorical question, but Silvia was not sure if she should deny these crimes. It would be best not to, she thought, it might only worsen her situation. Auza knew everything that happened that night, and Archer saw most of it, other than the cannibalism part. “I do not.”

“Your Grace,” one of the historians suddenly hissed at Silvia, causing her to jump a little. It was the head historian who had hissed at her, it seemed. He sat in between the other two old ones and wore a ridiculous-looking white-and-gold cap. “You will refer to His Majesty as such when speaking to him, uncultured barbarian girl.”

“Timrek, enough,” King Sigmund eyed the historian carefully, dangerously. “I will hear no insults thrown in my court, do I make myself clear?”

“Yes, Your Grace. I apologize.”

“It is done.” King Sigmund nodded once, and suddenly the altercation was forgotten. Silvia made sure to correct herself the next opportunity she got. She did not want to cause more angry outbursts from the historian, Timrek, or the others. “You do not deny these crimes, Silvia Reshe of Iona. Then you must receive punishment for them. The punishment for half of these crimes is death, and that is what my people are calling for. Did you know that the citizens of my city want to watch you burn, Silvia Reshe of Iona?”

“I...I did not know that, Your Grace,” Silvia started, correcting herself like she wished to do. “But I assumed that I would not get away with what I've done.”

“That much is true,” King Sigmund confirmed with a nod of his head. He took a deep breath and brought a hand to his face, rubbing his temples. “But there are some others who want me to use you as a weapon instead. Very few, mind you, but enough to give me pause. Tell me, Silvia Reshe of Iona, what you would do with freedom, should I give it to you.”

“With freedom?” Silvia inquired, furrowing her brow a little. She was told before to answer the King's questions directly, to never branch off into a different answer. But here, Silvia was unsure of what the King meant by 'freedom.' Did he mean freedom for her to choose between being a weapon or dying, or did he mean letting her go free, which was the most unlikely of any situation.

“Auza wants me to believe that you can save our world, as Queen Hiki did five-hundred years ago. The historians tell me that you are a great threat to our country, and if you are not destroyed, then we condemn ourselves.”

“To be honest, Your Grace,” Silvia spoke slowly, watching for any signs of irritation as she spoke. She did not want him to become angry with her now, she had to avoid offensive language. “I think we are condemned regardless of my existence.”

“How can you know this?” The King watched Silvia with a knowing look. He already knew, this was a rhetorical question. Silvia paused for a moment to think. This whole trial was just for show, she realized. The historians wanted to see her die, the mages wanted to see her used as a weapon. Only the King and Auza likely knew the actual outcome of the trial, but the problem was getting to that point. The historians and mages had to be convinced one way or another, and it was up to Silvia to determine how long this day was for all of them. She took a deep breath, ready to start.

“I did horrible things that day, inhuman things, things that I would have never done if I had control over my body,” Silvia began, wincing when she heard one of the historians grunt at her. Did they honestly believe that she would willingly eat another human's heart? After remembering that, normal food never tasted the same. Everything had that same, bitter taste in her mouth, as if her sin had attached to her tongue to haunt her. “I did not know I would transform, and it was only until after all that destruction happened that I somehow gained control over my body, though I do not know how I did it. But even if I didn't transform into a half-dragon, we would still be condemned. The Dragon that destroyed Iona was huge, as big as the mountain it hid under. Rather, it was the mountain. I don't know how humans could possibly fight even one of those.”

“And there is more than one Dragon out there?”

“I do not know, Your Grace. If there isn't, we might have a chance to save ourselves, but if there is...”

“So then what difference would you make alive rather than dead, Silvia Reshe of Iona?” The King asked, and the room fell to silence. It was not just the King listening for Silvia's answer. This was the question that Silvia was waiting for. Her chance to say that she could make a difference, for the better, rather than the worst like the historians believed. Everything else would be left up to Auza to convince the historians of her abilities.

“I can transform back into a dragon and use my wings to fight them in their own territory. I can kill the Dragons with the Drasca, the sword that transformed me. If I die, you will not have wings that can reach them.” Silvia tried her best to make herself sound decisive. If she was unsure of her own capabilities, then she would never convince the historians to accept her or even allow her to try to fight the Dragons. And that was something she desired more than anything now. Iona was destroyed and her father was likely dead because of Dragons, if anyone in this court room had a reason to fight, it was Silvia. And she had the means to fight them, which was the most important part.

“Do you really think,” the lead historian spoke in a low and dangerous tone. Silvia could hear the poison in his voice. “That for one second, any of us would allow you back into that cursed form of yours? How can we know you aren't already connected with your soul? All we have is the word of a witch.”

“The word of this Witch is worth more than you fools.” The mage left to Auza stood and pointed an accusing finger at the historians, his mouth curled into a snarl. After a brief silence, Auza gave him a scolding look and he sat himself back down. The historians didn't seem too pleased, but they did not pursue the topic.

“We cannot allow this, Your Grace, it is too dangerous. Too much room for failure, and where would that leave us then?” Timrek finished, his final decision made standing. Just then, a light laughter filled the air. It came from behind the King, from the mysterious woman in her cloak of black leather. Her laughter was soft and silent at first, but as the volume grew, it became eerie. A shiver ran down Silvia's spine as the laughter filled the room, echoing endlessly down the pit.

When the laughter finally stopped, the woman covered her mouth for a second in order to collect herself. When she spoke, her voice was like icy blade penetrating the silence. “I apologize, but I just find this to be hilarious. You historians, have you not been listening to a word that has been said? You would give this poor, innocent girl the punishment of death and not even one on the battlefield where she wants to be? That's simply cruel.

“Is it not obvious what is going on here? This girl, this Silvia Reshe of Iona character is the warrior we need to end this war once and for all. And you mean to tell me that you would sacrifice our only hope on the basis of her being a half-dragon? You complete and utter fools! That is precisely what makes her strong! The last time I checked, we humans do not have wings. We will never reach dragons with arrows, and our trebuchets are incredibly inaccurate.” The woman paused for a moment to catch her breath, and the head historian took that as an opportunity to speak again.

“The engineers tell us that their work on a new siege engine that uses fire is nearly complete. These new engines will surely allow us to turn the tide of this war.”

“And how long will it take to finish it? A week? A month? How long will it take to make enough to protect every side of the city? How long will it take to make enough to protect every city? Will they even kill a Dragon? Their scales are harder than any steel, and their weak points are too small and well-hidden. How could we hit a moving target in a place that is most likely to deal some kind of damage? These are all unknowns you speak of historian. We. Don't. Know.

“What we do know is that Silvia Reshe of Iona has wings. She has a sword that can pierce dragon scales. And she is willing.”

“You would base all of your hopes on a single girl?”

“All of my hopes? Do you still not see it? Silvia is our only hope, historian.”

The woman's last statement held, and the court fell to silence. She took a step back, her time speaking finished. The King was still on the edge of his seat, listening intently to what the woman had to say. When he finally moved back into his seat and closed his eyes, the whole of the court seemed to relax all at once. He was not angry. If there was something to be told about the tiny smile on his lips, he was rather pleased.

“Leilah, you have been with my Royal Guard for four years now, but never have I ever heard you speak so passionately about something,” the King spoke in a hushed tone, as if dreading to break the silence left by the mysterious woman's speech. Leilah inclined her head towards the King, but kept her silence for now. Silvia watched Leilah, and suddenly caught a flash of red from the woman's dark eyes. Leilah was making eye contact with her, and Silvia could see the deep red of her eyes.

Inhuman was her first thought. Leilah was something extraordinary, no human she knew had eyes that deep of a red. Leilah was abnormally tall for a woman, and her voice felt like ice, colder than Auza's, and much sharper. If Leilah wasn't a human, Silvia could not know what she was, but the mysterious woman was definitely not someone to be trifled with.

“I have made my decision,” King Sigmund declared. He gripped the sides of his throne and pushed himself to his feet with some effort. Silvia could see him shift towards his right side, was his left leg hurt? It seemed to be that way, though the King showed no sign of any pain. The King took a single step forward from his chair before gesturing towards Silvia. “Silvia Reshe of Iona, this is the day that you die. You will never again be Silvia Reshe of Iona. You are to assume your true form as both Man and Dragon, and step up to defend our nation of Ermith. Lady Auza, I trust that you will oversee that Silvia's transformation goes safely?”

“I will make it as safe as I possibly can,” Auza replied, “But I will need the assistance of your Royal Guard. Archer was barely able to fend Silvia off for a few minutes, but my hope is that together they will be able to withstand her power long enough for her to gain full control.”

“Of course, the Guard will assist you in any way they are able.” The King nodded to his subjects whom stood behind his person. A smile crossed Archer's face, but other than that, the Guard did not react. “Historian Timrek, I assign you with the task of finding an appropriate name for our dragon friend. One of the Old Names shall do.”

“Um, Your Grace?” Silvia spoke up, a little hesitant at first. She did not want to cause another outburst from the historians with her interruptions. “If it is all the same to you, I'd like to keep my given name, if not my father's name.”

“That is acceptable, but we shall give you one of the Old Names all the same. I would like to refer to you not as Silvia the farmer girl, but as a dragon with an Old Name. It may not mean much to you, but it will mean much to my people.”

“Do I have the right to refuse an Old Name?” Silvia inquired, looking towards the historians.

“If it is not to your liking, but you must allow us to choose one,” Timrek replied darkly. He still did not trust Silvia, and he never will, she realized. She was lucky that they were finally allowing her to do what she wanted to do. But Leilah's speech did more than just make the historians allow this. The woman inadvertently placed the hope of the world on Silvia's shoulders. If she failed them in the slightest, the historians would be there to take her rights away, and they would rile up the people with them.

“That is all, then. This court is adjourned.” The King clapped his hands together loudly, the sound echoing through the courtroom. With a brisk twist of his purple cape, King Sigmund departed, leaving the Royal Guard behind, all of whom would be accompanying Auza and Silvia. The historians also packed up their lot and left, and Auza sent the two mages off to gather supplies for the ritual. Silvia's anticipation grew by the second, her stomach all aflutter.

Archer managed to find his way to her on her little platform. He climbed onto the railing at the edge of the seats and leaped across the long chasm to land right next to Silvia, much to her surprise. He was such a brazen man to leap that kind of distance without a moment of hesitation. Silvia found it difficult to believe that anyone without wings could make that jump, but she was proved wrong when Archer cleared the pit with ease. He now stood tall over her and smiled down at her.

“It is good to know that you are safe,” Archer spoke happily, as if all his fears were now relieved. Though the platform was small, Archer kept a polite distance from Silvia at all times. Silvia held herself back from embracing him there, wishing to keep a respectable demeanor.

“I'm not quite out of the water just yet,” Silvia finally replied, after a moment of hesitation. There was still the transformation to go through, and that would be the most dangerous part yet. There was no guarantee that she could hold back the fury of her dragon soul or even take control of it quick enough to spare the Royal Guard. The three members all looked very capable of handling other humans in a fight, even if outnumbered, but Archer had difficulty with Silvia in her dragon form. He could never so much as cut her, the scales that covered her body were harder than any man-made armor.

“Perhaps not, but you are safe from the wroth of the historians, at least. Besides, I have faith that you will overcome your dragon's nature.” Archer's ever-constant faith in Silvia never seemed to fail, despite Silvia's own doubts. Then again, he was most likely remembering how she managed to gain control over her body while fighting him, though it was only for a short time. At that time, Silvia caught her other half off-guard. She held a malicious intent, which was probably the reason why the dragon had allowed her control, even though the intent was directed at her own self. Perhaps she could use that strategy to overcome her dragon's soul again.

“Unfortunately,” Auza interrupted the duo on their platform as the stone slowly moved towards the entrance to let them off. “The transformation is going to have to wait until night falls.” Auza already sent the other two mages off to prepare the ritual for them, but she did not join them herself. She seemed more intent on staying with Silvia for now, though the soon-to-be half-dragon could not guess why.

“Are the other mages going to take very long?” Silvia inquired.

“They will have everything ready within the hour,” Auza replied easily. “I have another matter to take care of before we begin and will not be back for some time. Ser Archer, I recommend taking Silvia here to Timrek. He will not enjoy her company, but perhaps her presence will make him find a name for her quickly.”

“The lead historian?”

“You, Silvia, must refer to him as Headmaster, the title he was given when he became head of the historians here in the capital.”

“How did he earn that title in the first place? There's so much I don't know about the capital, even though I grew up not five days away.”

“I can answer your questions for you,” Archer offered, gesturing towards Silvia. He split his gaze for a second to glance at Auza, but soon returned his attention to Silvia. “Lady Auza isn't the only knowledgeable one here.”

“Thank you, Ser Archer,” Auza sighed tiredly, allowing her shoulders to slack for just a second. But that brief moment of relaxing soon ended, and Auza straightened her back again. “If I do not come back two hours after the moon rises, then do not worry about the ritual. It will wait until the morrow.” Auza finished giving her instructions just as she waved her left hand through the air in a slow motion. Her fingers seemed to grip something in the air, and Silvia gasped when a large, dark blue hole opened up where Auza pulled. Within the hole was a deep, mesmerizing vortex of dark blue and purple, swirling endlessly. Auza slipped into the vortex and in a matter of seconds, she and the hole blinked out of existence.

“What in the world...” Silvia could not finish, so awestruck she was. She didn't have to finish, Archer was there to answer her unasked question.

“A portal,” Archer explained simply. “Lady Auza's magic does not allow her to make portals, but she can open ones that already exist. Lord Wallace must have some need of her.”

“Lord Wallace?” Silvia had never heard of this man before. She was surprised that Archer knew so much about Auza's magic, enough to know what was hers and what was not.

“I've never actually seen him myself. Lady Auza spoke of him once, to the King. She referred to him as her other soul, so I guess Lord Wallace is her husband. But we were talking about Headmaster Timrek, weren't we?”

“I'd like to know more about Auza, actually,” Silvia said. She was curious of the Dark Witch, of her story and her life and her magic. She seemed like such an unbreakable woman, patient, though sometimes cold. As the most powerful mage in the country, she was bound to have her own story, at the very least of how she managed to grow and make herself known. Archer, however, seemed to know less about Auza than Silvia did.

“Lady Auza has never spoken about herself to anyone. She never does, even when asked. Other than the more obvious facts, anyway. She's a Dark Witch, she's the most powerful mage in the country, and she knows the difference between a fool and an idiot, I suppose.”


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Chapter Six

Post by Zerifachias on Tue Sep 02, 2014 4:43 pm

Archer led Silvia through the castle to where the historians would be. They, like Auza, had their own section of the castle grounds to themselves. Their section was much wider than Auza’s though, and just as high. Instead of a tower, the historians were given a dome. The brick building was shaped like an igloo, with the entrance to the building jutting out of the stone, while the rest of the brick piled up in neat stacks to form the dome.

Inside the dome, the building appeared much larger than how it was outside. Silvia could not see the top of the dome, for every inch of the inside was littered with scrolls and heavy books. Wooden tables called desks sat in various corners of the building, and every book had a place on a bookshelf, except for the ones that sat out on a desk or on the wooden floor. Silvia quieted her footsteps as much as she could, as there was a gathering of children around one of the older historians that Silvia had never seen before.

“The mind learns quicker at a younger age,” Archer told Silvia when he saw her eyeing the historian. “On that, the historians and Lady Auza both agree.”

“How often does that happen?”

“That Lady Auza and the historians agree? Very little. When it does happen, no one else dares question the truth of it though.”
The children were beginning to take notice of Silvia and Archer, so the two of them hurried on deeper into the shelves to escape the disapproving glances from the older historian. Eventually, they came across a small, enclosed room, cut off from the rest of the dome. Archer deduced that this is where the lead historian would be and took the initiative to knock on the old wooden door.
Headmaster Timrek appeared on the other side of the door and eyed Archer and Silvia, his new guests. For a moment, Silvia began to think he might close the door in their faces and tell them to leave, but instead the Headmaster opened the door up a little further and took a step out. He gave Silvia a sour look and did not give any kind of effort to conceal his disdain for her. To Archer, he gave a curt nod, out of respect for his rank.

“Headmaster Timrek, we’ve come to ask you about the Old Names,” Silvia started, but she was silenced when Timrek waved a dismissing hand at her.

“I cannot have so many people in my study. You may come inside, this one must leave.” Timrek pointed his wrinkled finger at Archer. Archer paused for a moment, then smiled and shrugged.

“That’s fine. I’ll come by for you later, Silvia.” Archer accepted his fate, giving Silvia a short bow and turning his back to her and the historian. As he was leaving, Timrek pushed Silvia into the isolated chamber, which Timrek called his study.

The Headmaster's study was separate from the other parts of the dome building where the historians spent the majority of their time. Books and loose documents were piled high on every table, chair, and desk in sight. It was a surprise that any of them could locate what they were looking for, but perhaps the bigger problem was that there was no room to store any of the new material. All of the older documents and books were kept neatly on wooden shelves or in crates Even in the Headmaster's study, loose papers were scattered about his desks and chairs. Even the old straw bed in the corner was covered with open books of varying sizes.

“A cluttered desk is the sign of a true genius, my father used to tell me,” the headmaster once muttered aloud as he was escorting Silvia to his own study, not necessarily to Silvia, but rather to anyone who happened to be listening. “I've given that some thought and have determined that to be false advertising. If a cluttered desk is the sign of genius, then what would that make all of us here? No, I'd rather think that the clutter is because no one here has the time to sort these thrice-damned histories.” Silvia knew that the lead historian and Auza had difficulties with each other, but she tried not to think of Timrek as unintelligent, that was far from the truth. If anything, Silvia would consider the lead historian to be a very knowledgeable man, evidenced by his position and his age.

“So you wish to know which of the Old Names you will have?” Timrek eyes Silvia with a hint of disdain. He certainly was not happy about her presence in his study, but there was not much else for it. Timrek was told to search for an appropriate Old Name for Silvia to use, and that required the two of them to exchange words, no matter how the two felt about each other. “Do you even know what an Old Name is?”

“No, I only-“

“I thought as much. Allow me to educate you. The Old Names are words of power given to the dragons when they ruled over humans. They chose these names themselves, and each name was imbued with power, to give them an incredibly strong connection to magic. That is what history tells us, anyway. I believe that the Dragons hold much older magic connections, and that these names are simply that: Names. The Witch would have you believe that words have power, but there is no magic in the utterance. The power comes from the source, not the catalyst.”

Silvia swallowed her words before she could speak them. She did not want Timrek to have another reason to hate her. Speaking against his beliefs would be a sure-fire way of putting her on his bad side, if she wasn’t already there. Timrek eyed Silvia once more, then turned his back to her and began digging through the stacks of paper on his desk. Silvia circumvented a stack of dusty books on the floor to get a better look at the papers that the Headmaster was sifting through. She saw that the majority of the papers were covered in letters that she could not read, and others that she could. For a moment, she was confused, but realized that the letters she could not read were a whole different language from the one that she knew.

“There are very few Old Names that are available to us. I will speak the words and then I will tell you their meaning. Other than that, we know next to nothing about the Dragon Language.” Timrek soon found what he had been looking for. These incidents with the dragons had obviously intrigued him; every paper on his desk must have had something to do with dragons. The Headmaster slid a pair of sliced lenses over the bridge of his nose, making his eyes appear much larger than they were.

Volvumias,” Timrek read aloud, sparing Silvia a glance every few seconds to see if she reacted at all to the names. “It is an Old Name that means, ‘Final Sunset of Man.’ In life, this particular Dragon took great pride in her ability to freeze a man solid with her breath. She was called the ‘Last Sunset,’ because the nights from that age were as brutal as our harshest winters in this age.”

“I don’t think that one will work at all,” Silvia spoke tentatively. She was not sure why she was trying so hard not to offend the man, he would never like her. He would never tolerate her unless she died in some tragic accident. Silvia wouldn’t be surprised if he might be the one to order one of those tragic accidents, but the Headmaster did not seem at all perturbed about her decision.

“No, I suppose not. You did a great deal of damage to the city with that fire of yours. Ice is not your element, it is clear. With the theme of fire, there is the Dragon Ikmurava. His name literally translated means ‘Inferno.’ I’m sure that even you can guess what that might entail.”

“He? That is the name of a male dragon?”

Heisvuu is the name of another, female, Dragon.” The Headmaster looked at Silvia through the gap above his lenses. He was not losing his patience, but he gave off the look that he did not want Silvia in his study for longer than was necessary. “Translated to our tongue, it means ‘Goddess.’ It was meant to be a mockery of the gods that we men worshipped and revered.”

“I don’t think I want to make the clergy angry either,” Silvia responded after a short pause. Timrek gave her another patient look and she began to feel uncomfortable. She would have to pick a name soon, or else he might run out of options.

“None of these names have a good history, girl.” Silvia started almost at once when Timrek spoke. His voice was much softer, and his tone made it appear that he knew what Silvia was looking for. “None of them have a good meaning. Not towards humans.”

“Why must I choose a name, then?” Silvia asked, her shoulders slumping in defeat.

“Men must know what you are, and if the King can refer to you with one of the Old Names, then that will make it easier for all to recognize who and what you are. I will give you the tamest of the Old Names. If you do not like it, I can promise that you will never find one that you do like. Nirvu is an Old Name that was taken directly from one of our own words, ‘Nirvana.’ It is a name that means tranquility and peace, but this Dragon was a harbinger of death’s peace. Take that as you will.”   

Nirvu? I…suppose that will work.” Silvia did not like this name any more than she had the other names, but there was not much of a choice anymore. If she had to choose a name, she would make it mean something that was not similar to doom. And if she was to be a herald of death’s peace, Silvia would make sure that the Dragons were the only ones she would bring that peace to.


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Chapter Seven

Post by Zerifachias on Tue Sep 30, 2014 7:23 pm

The following morning, Silvia was awoken from her slumber by Auza herself, who had returned very late that night. The witch had a tired look about her, but she did not answer Silvia's inquiry as to why. Auza told Silvia that the time had come for her to assume her half-dragon's soul into her body. Auza told Silvia that this would be her last chance to refuse, knowing the risks involved should the worst come to pass. Silvia was not confident, but there was no other choice for her. She would rather live and fight on than die an early death.

Perhaps that was what helped Silvia keep her fears at bay. Despite her insecurities and anxiety about turning back into a dragon, Silvia had no other choice. It wasn't about being forced into the decision either, it was choosing between life and death. A choice not to be taken lightly. Silvia wondered what Lana might have chosen. Would Lana be proud of her now? Or would she feel the same fears as the others did? Silvia thought she knew Lana well enough to know that answer, but she found herself second-guessing.

Auza told Silvia to dress in clothes that she did not care to lose. Once she began to transform, the cloth would likely rip once her scales came in. Silvia wondered if she should even bother with clothes at this point. Once she transformed, she would have no need of them. The scales covered every inch of her body, anyway. But she decided to take one of the ripped, brown dresses meant for the handmaids in the castle. No one would miss it.

The trip through the castle made Silvia glad she decided to put on some form of clothing. She and Auza passed by many guards, who were mostly stationed by doors to prevent the inhabitants from leaving. They were to stay there until the transformation was complete and Auza gave word to the king of whether it was a success or failure. Silvia preferred not to strut about naked in front of the guards, most of whom were men.

Silvia's distractions got the better of her, and she nearly tripped over Auza, who had stopped suddenly. Auza ignored Silvia brushing up against her and turned to the wall. A large glyph was inscribed there with characters that Silvia could not read. Auza brushed a finger against the glyph, doing something to cause the markings to glow. The wall then disappeared into thin air, revealing a long, dark stairway that led straight down into the bowels of the earth. Auza gestured for Silvia to follow closely and took her down into the dark.

Eventually, all light in the narrow stairwell disappeared. At that point, Auza created her own light source, illuminating the area around them with a very small, white orb she held in her palm. The stairs led them deeper and deeper into the earth and seemed to have no end. Gradually, the air began to cool and grow moist. Silvia did not regret choosing to wear that shaggy handmaid's dress. It was the only source of warmth in this cold. Out of the corner of her eye, Silvia saw something reflect the light of Auza's orb. It was a small, blue crystal-like rock that glowed brightly in response to the light. It shimmered and glistened, as if reacting to the magic in the air. Silvia became curious and reached out to touch the crystal.

The instant Silvia touched the cyan blue crystal, she felt an enormous surge of energy course through her body. It was an electrifying feeling and Silvia felt pain from the sensation, jerking her hand back in response. None of this escaped Auza's notice, with her head turned towards Silvia and a small smile gracing her lips.

“That is called Liusia.” Auza informed her, gesturing to the glowing crystal with her light. The crystal shined even brighter when Auza's magic was closer to it. “It is one of the few materials in this world that is a pure source of magic. It is a very rare and valuable crystal, as I am sure you can tell. When a mage touches it, they risk becoming silenced. That is, having their ability to cast magic removed permanently. Mages with a higher density of magic power are less at risk due to their resilience. There are some who can handle the material without any adverse affects. They can create a special dust that mages can use to increase the power available to them.”

“Then why was I mostly unaffected?” Silvia asked, glancing at the crystal warily. She was not a mage, but she felt a reaction from the crystal. Why wasn't she silenced?

“I am unsure. You could have no magical talent, or a small part of your dragon soul still lives within you and protects you from magic. Dragons are immune to most forms of magic, and that would possibly explain why you are relatively unaffected by the crystal.”

Silvia left the crystal alone. She may not be seeing much of the crystal anymore, but she didn't want to risk touching it again without reason. She let Auza lead her further down the stone staircase. The deeper the two got, the more often Silvia began to see the Liusia crystals. Eventually, the walls were made of these crystals more than stone. Auza let her magic down, what seemed to be the only light source disappearing until the crystals began to glow and illuminated the world in a bright, blue tint.

Silvia felt her legs tire and ache before the stairs ended, and when they did, all thought of the trip was replaced with awe and wonder at the vast cavern that opened up in front of them. The narrow stone walls opened into miles of open space The ceiling was out of sight, and in the far distance, Silvia found her sight failing before being able to see the end. The crystals that Silvia saw before decorated the cavern in various sizes. Silvia swore that one of the crystals was as large as the dragon that destroyed Iona.

There were others already waiting for Auza and Silvia to arrive. Silvia first noticed Gaiden, a giant of a man, the Captain of the Royal Guard and Knight-Commander. He wore a tough, dark leather armor that covered most of his body. The brown of the leather matched the color of his hair. He stood guard over the area, keeping his eyes trained on Silvia when she arrived with Auza. Nearby to Gaiden was a large, harpoon-like spear dug into the stone next to him. She saw the blade and how sharp it was. Even if that blade could pierce through stone, would it be able to go through scales that were stronger than steel?

Archer and Leilah were also there, both of whom were facing another stranger that Silvia did not know. This one was a woman as well, with long raven black hair and black eyes. She wore a dark blue dress and a long wooden staff hung on her back. At the tip of the staff sat a small crystal, similar to the crystals that littered the cavern. But this one glowed a light green color, instead of the cyan blue of the Liusia. She was the first of the three to notice Silvia and took a step forward, bowing to her, the woman's black hair flowing over her shoulders like water.

“Good morning, Silvia,” the woman mused, her voice like musical tones. “I have heard much of you. I am called Aurelia, I am a servant of the temple here in the capital.”

“Nice to meet you,” Silvia offered, not entirely sure why a woman of the clergy was present here. She saw the staff and recognized the woman as a mage of some sort, but with Auza here, she did not understand the purpose of having another mage. Archer took the time to smile at Silvia, he was wearing his ordinary leather armor, just as Gaiden was. She was a bit confused at to why they wore leather as opposed to mail. Her claws and fangs would rend leather useless.

“They wear leather in anticipation of your dragon fire, Silvia,” Aurelia spoke, noticing the way Silvia looked at Archer and Gaiden. “If they wore steel mail, fire would cook them in it. While leather is less resistant to claws and fangs, it is more able to repel fire. I have enchanted the leather to further reduce the effectiveness of fire and made the leather more sturdy in places where it should be weak. Fear not for the safety of the Royal Guard, young one, for they are well protected.”

Silvia now understood why this mage was here. Enchanting services and possible healing magic. A woman of the clergy would have some proficiency in healing, and with the way Aurelia seemed so confident in the protection of the Royal Guard, Silvia felt that she was right to assume the woman held healing magic. “So where is it, then?” Silvia asked, looking around.

“Your other soul is there, Silvia,” Auza answered, leading Silvia's vision with a pointed finger. A ward had been placed over a small area, surrounding the sword and blocking vision from it. Silvia remembered that if she even saw the sword, the transformation would happen. The others were taking those words literally by blocking the sword from view. Silvia did not want to waste any time. Though she was in no hurry to change forms, there was no point in delaying the inevitable now. She stepped into the ward and found herself surrounded by a magic barrier.

“Silvia.” It was Auza who was speaking to her from outside the barrier. “Those of us gathered here will be able to kill you should you succumb to the dragon soul. That said, we do not wish death upon you. This is your last chance to change your mind.”

“Should I survive this war, would I be able to change back to my human form?” Silvia asked, gazing back with green eyes lit up by the crystal's glow.

“No,” Auza answered, shaking her head. “Magic is able to make the impossible possible with the appropriate power level, but removing a soul from a body is a complicated process. And to remove only a specific half? This may be the only magic that even gods cannot use.”

So that was it, then. There really was no turning back from this point on. She could not be a coward here, not with the fate of the world resting on her decision. The dragons were a menace that only she could deal with. That was what she thought. But then, she began to think more carefully. What if there was a way for humans to fight back? If the humans from the ancient past were able to defeat dragons, then surely they could find a way to do the same. History repeats itself, historians say. What better way to prove that then to defeat the dragons a second time?

Silvia stepped closer to the sword, glaring down at the weapon that held the other half of her soul. That's right, it was her soul, not her dragon's soul. It belonged only to her, she proved that when she managed to subjugate it just a few weeks prior. Now she would have to subjugate it again, and reclaim the rest of her soul. She would use it for a good purpose. Silvia was not going to wait any longer, she grabbed the ward and tore it away from the sword, immediately grasping the bone handle and ripping the sword from the ground. Years of farming made her muscles grow, she was stronger than other women. Even now she could see the traces of her muscles through her skin. That month of captivity made her weaker, but it was not nearly enough time to lose sixteen-year-old muscle.

Silvia could feel her soul within the weapon react to her touch. It was a hungry feeling that clawed its way up her fingers and through her arm. She watched as her skin changed, became harder, drier, made of something stronger than steel. Those red scales surged up her arm like a wave, covering her muscles in natural armor. Silvia expected her dress to be torn to shreds, but she did not expect the entire thing to go up in flames. Her body heat surged to an incredible temperature, making her dress instantly catch fire. The dress was torn away from her body by the flames as her fleshy skin turned to steeled scales, black scales overlapping one another on her torso from upper breast to navel while her face was covered in smoother scales. She could feel her vision change, becoming sharper and creating a reddish tint to the world around her. She felt the sides of her head ache behind her ears as two thick horns sprouted from her head, curving forward in front of her ears and pointing forward past her temples.

Her breast was covered in those black scales, dragons had no need of milk. Her feet were covered in red, but the form of those feet changed to create four incredibly sharp talons, her heel turning into a long, curved talon that dug into the rock with ease. Her spine shuddered and shot out of her lower rear, and Silvia knew the feeling of her tail coming out. The stinger at the very end of her tail was just as sharp as her claws or talons. Her whole body was covered in scales now, no place left vulnerable. Her back ripped open as the final part of her transformation, growing two large, leathery wings. Silvia's wingspan became three times as long as her own body length and they broke through the barrier that surrounded her with a simple push.

Silvia could feel her soul join with the other half. Never before had she felt so full, so complete, but here she was now in all her glory. Fire roared within her chest, lungs fortified a hundred times over by the strength of dragon fire. She opened her mouth and with her tongue, thinner and drier than she was used to, felt the fangs grow in her jaw as the rest of her teeth sharpened. She would wager she looked like a true monster now, but for some reason, Silvia was glad. She ought to look like a monster. She wanted people to fear her now. She wanted everyone to know how powerful she was, particularly the dragons that she would kill. And when the humans realized that Silvia was a dragon who hated dragons and loved humans, they would fight with her without fear. They would fight with her and they would be victorious.

“I can feel it,” Silvia said, her voice a little deeper and much stronger, as if carrying the weight of the world. Her breath was fire, her eyes became black slits on an expanse of yellow, and every movement she made could be felt in the earth. “This is an amazing feeling. Lady Auza, Lord Gaiden, Ser Archer, look at me. I have become that which I hate. And I am in full control.” As if to prove her point, Silvia craned her neck up and roared, blowing a cone of fire up into the cavern heights. It was so easy to spit fire.

She spread her wings again and kicked off the ground, beating down powerfully with her wings, kicking up a blast of air that made those still on the ground race to brace themselves on the ground. Even Gaiden had to steady his posture after that. Silvia took off, grinning a stupid grin as she flew up higher and higher. She wanted to see the cavern ceiling. She wanted to know it existed. And she would be the first to see it.

Silvia found her ceiling, and saw that it was covered in the crystal that Auza called Liusia. No trace of stone at all, just that one chunk of unbroken crystal. Silvia reached up with a clawed hand and touched the crystal again. She felt nothing from the crystal, but instead saw something she did not expect. She saw her reflection. She saw the dragon she had become, and hovered in place as she took herself in. Silvia was not scared of the beast she had become. She felt more than comfortable, she felt right. As if this was the form she was meant to have, and maybe it was. Fire was her mother now, a powerful beast born of the sun. Nirvu was her name now.

Nirvu folded her wings halfway and allowed herself to fall ever so gently back down to the rock floor. When she could see the Royal Guard, Nirvu allowed her wings to extend again and beat down with them, maintaining her altitude with ease. She was shocked how easy it was for her to fly. She was born with this power, but she never had true access to it until now. Flying and fire felt like second nature to her. They were second nature to her. Nirvu might be a young dragon, but she was still one of them. Nirvu decided that she would land, though her desire to continue flying tempted her without pause.

When she touched down just a few meters away from the Guard, she folded her wings tightly against her back and walked towards the others like a human. Nirvu, though her whole body was now covered in scales, noticed that she still had hair. It was not as soft as it was when she was Silvia, it was rougher and a light color, almost orange rather than the rose red it used to be. It was interesting for a dragon to have hair, but Nirvu supposed that not having every part of her human body lost was a good thing.

“Silvia, you have full control?” Archer asked, his hand hovering over his weapon. He was unsure now, even though he had been so confident in Silvia's ability to control her dragon earlier.

“Not just control,” Silvia answered, coming back to her senses. She felt different when in tune with her dragon, like she was a completely different person. But she heard no voice in her head other than her own, it was only that feeling of being different. Silvia and Nirvu shared a body and a soul, but the skies were Nirvu's domain. Silvia belonged on the ground, though she longed to take to an open sky, with no ceiling holding her back. “I can fly. I can breathe fire. All of these things, I can do without effort. It's amazing.”

“It looks amazing, I mean, you look amazing,” Archer beamed at her now, dropping his weapon as the threat of Silvia being overtaken was past. The rage of the dragon had been quelled, and now there was nothing to fear.

Even Auza was impressed, though she did not visibly show it. She merely nodded once and relaxed her shoulders a little. It was a miniscule movement, but not one that went completely unnoticed. With Silvia's improved sight, she could see small movements that would normally would go unseen. With this objective done, Auza set her mind on another goal. “Silvia,” she spoke, drawing the attention of not only the dragon-girl, but the Royal Guard and Aurelia as well. “The King informed me that, should you reclaim your dragon soul successfully, this:” Auza gestured all around her with a hand, “was to become yours. Everything that you see in this cavern belongs to you, but you are not to leave this place without permission.”

“So this is meant to be my new prison cell?” Silvia asked with a raised brow. Her eyebrow, unlike her hair, had burned off, but it would have looked much stranger to have them, she thought.

“Think of it less as a prison and more as a sanctuary. The king wants to keep you here to guard you as a not-so-well-kept secret. He wants his citizens to know that you would not be released unless necessary. When you have proven your worth and your resolve to the people, he will allow you to leave at your leisure, but not before then.”

“I suppose that is only fair,” Silvia admitted, feeling a bit sour about the situation. She was to be left alone then, with no real way to entertain herself other than flying. Which, she admitted, was a whole lot better than just sitting around.

“I must return to the king now,” Auza said, then nodded towards Gaiden. “You will come with me, Lord Gaiden. The king wants to hear the truth and believes me to be someone who would lie to him for my own game.”

“Alas, if only you could be read so easily, Lady Auza.” Gaiden gave a sigh and obliged the witch. He did not at all seem to dislike Auza, quite the contrary. He obviously respected the witch, at Auza seemed to reciprocate those feelings. A mutual respect between the Order of Magi's Archmage and the Captain of the Royal Guard could only be beneficial. If only the historians would comply with that respect, it would make a perfect kingdom. But no kingdom was without it's flaws. Silvia remembers reading about Ermith's kings, both the good and the bad. Ermith has had it share of corruption and greed, but also times of great prosperity and peace. The latter seemed to last longer than the former.

Archer and Aurelia were also leaving Silvia behind. Aurelia needed to get back to the temple and Archer was to escort her. Before they left, however, Aurelia gave a short bow towards Silvia, out of respect. Archer waited for Aurelia to step away before offering himself to Silvia. “I'll come back as soon as I can, I promise,” Archer told Silvia, a bright smile on his face. “I'm sure you want to know how to use that sword, I can teach you.”

“Thank you, Archer.” Silvia thanked him again as he left, and she was left alone in the dark. With nothing better to do, Silvia stretched out her wings again and took flight. She wanted to know every inch of this cavern before Archer came back. If this was to be her new home, she ought to know it better than any other.


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Chapter Eight

Post by Zerifachias on Mon Nov 03, 2014 8:09 pm

Nirvu's first task came quicker than she had first imagined. While the dragon menace was a current and very spontaneous event, the dragon-girl did not expect the king to be ready to send her on any kind of mission until much later, when he was more confident that she would help them rather than eat their hearts. Nirvu highly suspected that Auza had a part to play here in pulling the king's ear, but she would let it be. It was not her business to wonder about the thoughts of kings and witches.

It was Leilah who found Nirvu in her grand cavern. Or caverns, as the dragon found. This giant space actually branched off into multiple narrow tunnels that led to unknown places. Nirvu wondered if one of those places happened to be the surface. If that were the case, then she would be able to take to the skies much quicker than walking up the endless flight of stairs and through the castle. The cloaked woman did not bring her that information, but she did bring Nirvu's first mission.

“Good day, Silvia,” Leilah spoke quietly and plainly as always, her voice like a musical instrument. She seemed amused about something, but Nirvu did not want to inquire. “The King wants you and I to make a trip to Jesu City. You know where that is, yes?”

“It's south-east to the capital, nesting on the edge of the Forgotten Lake,” Nirvu confirmed, nodding her head once. Whenever she moved her head, she took notice of her horns. They were still very strange to her, and for some reason she wanted to test them out on something. Would they pierce armor like her tail and claws and fangs? She tried touching them once, but the only thing she felt was a little pressure at the base of the horns. “Second largest city in Ermith, if I remember right. Because of it's closeness to the lake, it's been named the City of Water.”

“Well, that is true, though I think it might be renamed the City of Ashes soon if we do not hurry. Dragons have been sighted around the area and the people are becoming worried. Last word from Jesu asked for assistance in any form, so the king decided that this was as good a chance as any to see you in action.”

“There's no time to waste, then.” Nirvu folded her wings tightly against her back. She liked to have her wings out to breathe. Keeping them folded put a strain on her muscles and made her extremely hot, even with the chill of the cavern. It was necessary if she wanted to climb up through those endless steps though.

Leilah tilted her head down slightly, glancing very quickly at Nirvu's form before turning her back and leading the dragon away. The two of them carved an easy path up through the castle, with very little interaction with guards. Every single guard seemed to be on edge whenever Nirvu walked passed them, but she took no notice. She was excited to see the outside world and bask in the sun's light again. It was not long before she felt those warm beams of light again, and the dragon could not resist stretching out her enormous wings to catch every bit of sunlight that she could. The guards nearby reacted visibly, two of them drawing swords while the other three took steps away from the dragon.

“Three out of five guards would rather flee from a half-dragon rather than fight,” Leilah observed, her black eyes glazing over the five guards who becalmed themselves. “Three of you had the right idea, but that does not spell well for out city's safety. If a real dragon were here, we would need guards willing to sacrifice their lives for the sake of the citizens.”

“Apologies, Ser Leilah,” one of the guards who had backed away spoke up. He gave the cloaked woman a short bow out of respect for her. It was odd how Leilah was referred to as a “ser,” but she had the same ranking as a Knight, so it was only proper for her to have that kind of title. “It is, of course, our main objective to keep citizens safe. We will be more vigilant from now on.”

“Good. See to it that Imca always has a bodyguard. We cannot afford for the king's only heir to succumb to an enemy's blade.”


Nirvu glanced back for a moment as she and Leilah left the castle grounds. Nirvu desired to take to the skies but she resisted that temptation. The last she saw of those five guards showed her that they were going to fulfill their duties to the letter, and perhaps a bit extra. Silvia saw two of the guards split off in the direction of the castle, possibly giving the young princess two bodyguards.

“Do you expect assassins to try to get to Imca, Ser Leilah?” Nirvu inquired, genuinely curious to know what the mysterious woman thought.

“You could say that. Sending the capital's only spymaster tends to lead to gaps in the royal family's protection,” Leilah responded. Her attention was not entirely on the dragon next to her, though Nirvu could not possibly guess what the woman was thinking of. If Leilah was the capital's spymaster, then she must be quite the accomplished assassin herself. Nirvu wondered why the king trusted Leilah enough to leave the protection of his heirs in her hands.

“The king does not trust me.” Leilah spoke plainly, as if she read Nirvu's mind. Leilah moved fluidly past a large wagon that was blocking the street, while Nirvu was forced to close her wings and squeeze carefully around it. When the merchant holding onto the wagon noticed the two, he blurted out an apology towards Leilah and a curse towards Nirvu before shoving his cart aside. Nirvu pretended not to notice him, she was well-aware that she would be hated by the citizens until she could prove herself to them, and she genuinely cared for humans. After receiving a few more hateful words from other bystanders, Leilah turned her head and shouted at them. She did not shout a word, it was only a noise that startled the citizens and quieted them.

“Why does he put his heirs in your protection, then?” Nirvu asked, trying to learn just a little more about the spymaster. This time, Leilah turned her masked face towards the dragon. The ghost of a smile spread across that mask, barely noticeable, even to Nirvu's eyes.

“It is more so a test of patience, Silvia. If I were to stop preventing assassins from getting into the capital, taking out Imca would be the easiest task for them. I could do it myself if I wanted. But he risked everything and put me in charge of keeping enemy assassins and spies out. His heirs have died except for Imca, yes, but those died doing their duty, outside the capital where my protection cannot reach them. Imca remains safe.”

“Are you nervous, then? Leaving Imca unguarded?”

“I am not that unprepared, little dragon.” Leilah stopped there, leaving Nirvu to fill in the empty pages as Leilah had the guards open the gate. They were to go straight down the Merchant's Road towards Jesu city. It was a week's trip on foot without stopping. Five days on horseback. Nirvu guessed she could make it in two days if she flew there. The dragons would not wait for her, that much she knew. But they could not take horses, Nirvu's appearance would frighten them too much. The only horse Leilah could use would be a well-trained warhorse, but no horse alive has ever seen a dragon before. There was nothing that could be done.

Nirvu did not bother asking Leilah if she could fly ahead. The most recent report only said that dragons were sighted nearby the Jesu area in the plains. And yet the capital only sent two individuals. Even if Nirvu was part of the two, she was unsure of whether or not she and Leilah could handle dragons alone. The capital could not send every soldier down and leave the capital unprotected, of course, but two was too few.

“Two is the perfect number,” Leilah spoke up again. Nirvu was beginning to suspect that the woman had the ability to read minds, but that could not possibly be true. “Especially considering who the capital is sending. We are not going to stop or kill the dragons. This is a reconnaissance mission.”

“What if the dragons come while we are on the way, what can we do?” Nirvu asked, almost angry that the king was being so negligent.

“We do not have a way to defend our cities from a dragon attack. Lady Auza is likely the only one who can fend off a dragon attack, though admittedly not for very long.” Leilah paused, taking a quick look around at their surroundings. There was nothing but flat plains for miles around, but the rising grass was beginning to make it impossible to see hidden traps. The capital city to their backs was shrinking with the horizon, the sun beating hard up above them. The sky was empty, save for an idle cloud here or there, giving the bright star full reign of the sky. “Right now, our hopes of protecting ourselves is on you, little dragon.”

Nirvu frowned, her scales stretching with her disagreement. Everything was on her. She was the only one who could kill a dragon. She has not even seen a dragon since the one that destroyed Iona, and it was enormous. More than just ten times her own size, the dragon that appeared was at least the size of the capital's castle, if not larger. Ten thousand tones of scale and muscle was not an easy thing to kill. Throwing them out of the sky was out of the question as well, Nirvu would have to cut through countless meters of scales and bone to remove those enormous wings.

Nirvu touched her own wings, feeling the leathery scales bend under her claws. The leather was not a weak point in the scale links. Nirvu could barely imagine trying to cut that leather with a sword. She could not picture it working. Feeling the base of her wing where it met her shoulder blades also seemed to be an impossible joint to cut. There was too much protection at the joint. Besides, it was not as if a dragon would willingly ground itself to let the humans attempt to hack it to pieces. No, the reason that dragons were so fearsome was their potential to just rain destruction down upon the masses of men.

Leilah was a silent companion on the journey south. Nirvu was appreciative of her company, but the silence sometimes took a toll on her. She desired the simple conversation that Silvia was able to have just two months prior. It was difficult to believe so much time had passed since the Iona incident, it had all flown by so quickly. Nirvu desired a human connection, and while Leilah could provide that with her silence, it was simply not enough. The dragon wished to be human again, though not for the first time and certainly not the last.

The nights were just as quiet as the days. Nirvu could make a fire,but she did not necessarily need it, and Leilah appeared to thrive in the cool night atmosphere. Not making a fire also helped keep the two concealed. They did not fear bandits, Nirvu especially, but there was a certain inclination to keep as safe as possible. It would not do for a traveling merchant or other citizen of the nation to see Nirvu in her current state. Only the capital really knew anything about the dragon-girl.

On the third day of travel, Nirvu felt strange. The air was stagnant, the wind did not blow like it had the previous days. In the distance, she could see a faint orange tinting the skies in patches. Concerned, Nirvu pointed out the abnormality to Leilah. It was near midday at this time, that color could not be from a natural cause. The dragons must have reached Jesu city.

“Go, then,” Leilah said plainly, gesturing towards the city they could not yet see. “You can get there before the sun hits the second descent. Go.” Nirvu glanced up at the sun, it was already reaching the first descent, she didn't have much time at all.

Nirvu spread her wings, her wingspan easily longer than the width of the road, and beat down powerfully. When her feet left the ground, a sense of elation rose up within her. This was the first time she could touch the skies with her wings. Anxious, Nirvu tucked her legs up and pointed her tail behind her, beating down heavily with her wings until the ground disappeared beneath her. Within a few seconds, she was soaring up above the cloud layer, Leilah no more than an insignificant speck in her sight.

She could fly away like this, if she wanted to. Nirvu knew that no one would be able to catch her if she chose to run from her duties. Not even Auza would be able to capture her. Dragons were incredibly resistant to the effects of magic, and physical attacks could never penetrate their scale armor. The only thing that could kill a dragon was another dragon.

Nirvu continued in the direction of Jesu City. She would not condemn the humans that she loved to death. Even now, with her dragon soul in such euphoria, Silvia would never allow herself to abandon her own race. For however long as she lived, Silvia knew she would always want to help her fellow humans, though her body has changed her into something less human. And from her current knowledge of dragons, she would be nearly immortal, or at least unaffected by the passage of time.

The sun had not even hit the second descent when Jesu came into view. Nirvu could see the heights of the gloried City of Water and see the smoke rising from the ground. Jesu City was one of the few cities not surrounded by a wall. Making a wall would disrupt the flow of water in the city from the Forgotten Lake and the North River to the Giant's Bay, a large body of water that opened up into the ocean. This would be the first time Nirvu or Silvia set eyes upon the city, and it was a beautiful city indeed.

The closer Nirvu got to the city, the more she was able to see of the city and its surroundings. She could see the buildings made of white stone and brick. She could see the roads were lifted off the ground in bridges across a waterway where she assumed small boats could cross. Like the capital, the buildings were very close to each other, very much unlike Iona, which had been more spread out to allow for the farms. Nirvu tried not to think of her burned home. Instead, she focused on the small outlines of flying creatures in the sky above Jesu. Those could only be dragons, but they were much too small to be adults.

Nirvu cut the damp leather strap that kept her sword, the Drasca, clipped to her body. She took the sword into her left hand and bared the claws on her right. She would strike quickly and without mercy. Up from above, Nirvu soared in a place the dragons would not think to look. What creature that ruled the sky would dare think that an enemy would appear above them? This proved to be true in the case of the small dragonlings. They were not much bigger than an elephant, and went down quickly once they lost their wings.

Nirvu struck from above, landing on the back of one of the dragons and dug her talons into the thick scales that layered the dragon's body. That made her noticed, and the dragonling roared fearsomely at her, but there was nothing the beast could do to throw Nirvu off its back. With the blade as sharp and powerful as a dragon's own jaw, Nirvu cut through the dragonling's wings where they met the shoulder of the body. Just cutting one off was enough to disturb the dragon's flight pattern. Nirvu kicked off the dragonling's back, watching as the beast fell from the sky.

“You are the first dragon to fall,” Nirvu roared down at the dragonling. “You will not be the last!” The sky erupted with Nirvu's roar, her fire spurting forth from her maw. That surely caught the attention of every stray dragon and drake in Jesu, which was exactly what Nirvu wanted. She spread her wings wide, baring them for the world to see. Her scales glittered blood red in the light of the fire in the sky and on the ground. Again she roared, but this was to empower herself. She could feel the rage coursing through her body, and she let it go free.

The dragonlings could not touch her. Nirvu was smaller than all of them, but that made her incredibly agile. She could duck and weave through the sky like a snake in the sand, evading every talon and fang that came at her. Once, three dragonlings managed to surround her and make escape much harder. But that only made Nirvu smile as she cut open their scales and pierce their hearts. If the dragons would give her the opportunity to cut through each of them so easily, she would not complain. Another dragonling attempted to breathe his fire at her, but that only helped Nirvu recover from her growing exhaustion. The heat felt good on her scales, and she could feel all of her tiredness burn away with the fire. Nirvu then returned the fire to the dragonling and learned something very interesting.

A young dragon's scales were vulnerable to fire. Or at least not completely resistant like Nirvu's were. The dragon Nirvu breathed her fire upon burned, his green scales quickly turning black as he burned beneath the intense heat of her flames. The fire did not kill the dragon, but the fall from the sky surely would. Nirvu watched as the dragonling fell, intruiged by her discovery. That was when she noticed that the skies were thinning, the remaining dragonlings touching the ground or flying away as fast as they could. It was evident to them that they could not kill Nirvu, no matter how much they tried. Her scales were too hard, her wings too powerful, her fire too hot.

She was the queen of the skies now. For a moment she hovered, basking in the light of the fires. It was a grand feeling, to know dominance over the sky. Not long ago she was only human, knowing only the dirt and the plants. Now she could soar with the clouds and taste the sun on her tongue. There was nothing else in this world that could have been more exhilarating at that moment. Even the issue of Jesu City's ruined state could not break Nirvu from her moment. No wonder the dragons never left the sky. She could hardly bear to return to the ground, but Nirvu knew that she must. There were still dragons lurking about in the streets, and maybe there were survivors. She had to look.

Nirvu touched down near the center of the city. There was a large circle of uplifted rock, the street made of cobblestone, and in the very center sat a massive fountain that spewed water high into the sky only to have it fall back into the pool. The pool was overflowing with dark water, made that way thanks to the fire and smoke and destroyed buildings in the city. The tainted water flowed down into the rivers and would travel towards the lake and eventually be dumped into the Giant's Bay. Nirvu approached the pool of water, folding her wings up against her back to keep herself warm. Though the fire around her was giving off heat, the smoke was beginning to block out the sun's head and a chill came in the air. Nirvu looked down into the pool and could not even see her own reflection. The situation this city was in was more than just bad. There would be no retaking the City of Water. Much like Iona, most of the buildings were burning or flattened completely.

“Survivors, I have to search for survivors,” Nirvu reminded herself. For a moment, she felt unsure, the human in her was frightened. Silvia could not bear to see all of this destruction, but Nirvu could. She pushed on, running down one of the side streets and deeper into the city.

Nirvu sniffed and listened and looked, searching tirelessly for any signs of life in the destroyed city. Twice she heard something move, and twice she killed the dragon that caused the sound. These dragons were tiny in comparison to the one that attacked Iona, and none of them were strong enough to fight off Nirvu. As the third dragon showed itself, the beast quickly fled from the sight of the dragon-girl. She would be unable to kill any more of them as long as she was actively searching for survivors. She almost gave up and began looking for dragons until she heard something else. It sounded as if a dog was barking, though the sound was short and quickly muffled. Nirvu's pointed ears twitched towards the source of the distraction.

A small building, almost untouched by the fire, stood not a long distance away. The source came from there, she was sure of it. Nirvu approached the building, wary that any sudden movements could cause any human or animal to bolt as soon as she showed herself. The wooden door to the building had been knocked aside by something but Nirvu still had to push it aside to get her whole body through the threshold. The inside of the building was completely trashed, splintered wood and other furniture tossed every which way. She knew the barking came from in here, the source was hiding somewhere in all of this.

One particular pile of trashed wood was piled into a corner. Nirvu stopped and listened closely, straining her ears to pick up even the slightest sound. The fire outside was muffled just enough for her to pick up someone's panting. It was hot in the building, so of course the dog would be panting to relieve itself of the heat. Nirvu started to approach the collapsed structure, but stopped and decided to speak aloud.

“Hello? Is anybody here?” Nirvu called, her voice much rougher thanks to her changed body. If she was still human, her tone would be like music. Or close to it, anyway. Either way, she didn't get any reply, so she tried again, trying to be a little more gentle. “It's okay, I'm here to help. There aren't any dragons nearby, you can come out.” Her voice was followed by silence again, though the breathing seemed to intensify. Whoever was in her was frightened beyond reasoning.

The dog barked once, loudly. The sound was followed by a loud noise of surprise and a hushed whisper. Nirvu tried not to frown, but she couldn't help herself. Whoever was in here now knew for sure that Nirvu was aware of them. But they still didn't come out. Nirvu took a deep breath and a step back. She had to find a way to gain their trust, but that was impossible with the way she looked. Words didn't seem to help either, but those were all she had.

“We both know you're in here now,” Nirvu said aloud, her eyes scanning around her for any sign of movement. There might be other survivors here, she didn't want any of them to get away, it was too dangerous outside. “Why don't you come out now? If I wanted to hurt you, don't you think I would have done it by now?”

“No! You're gonna eat us!” Finally, a reply! But that was not what she expected to hear. Why would she eat a human? Well, other than that one time in the stable where she ate another man's still-beating heart, she never had the inclination to want to eat a human. Nirvu supposed that was enough to anyone to think she might eat them.

“Us? There is more of you? How many? Please, the city is destroyed and there are dragons roaming the streets. It is not safe here, I can get you out.” Nirvu felt a rush coming, she was making progress with the human in here. It sounded like a boy's voice. A young boy, still a child. Or maybe it was a girl. Nirvu knew she once went through a phase as Silvia where her voice sounded like a boy's. It was the most embarrassing two years of her life.

“You're a dragon yourself! Go away!” Progress lost. Nirvu felt frustrated, but she forced herself to be patient. Again her body was getting in the way. But that was the price she had to pay to be able to kill a dragon. She still wasn't sure if it was worth it. Her mind told her it was worth everything she's been through, but her heart was torn. She hated being hated. She only wanted to help.

“I may look like this, but I was human once, just like you. My body changed, but my feelings haven't. If you stay here, you will only die to a real dragon or you'll starve. Believe me, starving is not fun. I've been through that once, and I would not recommend it as a lifestyle.” The boy only gave her silence. Nirvu's frown deepened until she put her lips together and gave a slight whistle. The dog behind the ruined wood structure barked a few times, but did not come out, so Nirvu whistled again.

“H-Hey!” The boy startled. Nirvu heard the dog bark again and it jumped over the barrier and plopped onto the ground, barking up at Nirvu as soon as it landed. It was a small dog, no bigger than Nirvu's forearm length. Its chocolate brown fur was bristled in an attempt to make the beast look bigger, but to no real effect. At least not on Nirvu. She allowed herself a smile and bent down to offer the dog a scaly finger. It bit her.

“It's okay little guy,” Nirvu cooed, ignoring the bite. The dog's teeth were sharp, but could not go through her scales. The dog seemed to realize this and released her finger, backing up a little and growling. “I'm not gonna hurt you. It's okay pup,” Nirvu cooed again, kneeling down in front of the dog to get as much on its level as she could. The dog seemed to relax a little bit and approached Nirvu again, sniffing her first, then barking. But not like it did before, this was a more happy bark than before. Nirvu sighed in relief, at least she could make a dog not hate her. “See? Your dog isn't scared of me. Why don't you come out?” Nirvu wasn't going to leave without bringing a survivor with her. She would take the boy by force if she had to, she only hoped it did not come to that.

To her relief, she did not have to become aggressive. The trick with the dog worked well. The boy poked his head up over the barrier. There was still fear in those blue eyes, but the redhead pushed himself over the wood and got a good footing on the ground. He looked ready to run at any moment, should Nirvu show any kind of hostility. She tried extra hard to appear welcoming, but that was a difficult thing to do. The boy, though very young, seemed extremely aware of his current state. His light-colored hair was a complete mess, and the shirt he wore had a big burn mark on it.

“Are you okay?” Nirvu asked, concerned about the burn mark. She pointed to it to show the boy what she meant. He never took his eyes off her, but he did nod his head. “Let me see it,” Nirvu said, still kneeling from having to deal with the dog. She offered both her hands with open palms, though the claws at the ends of her fingers had the opposite effect. The boy seemed even more hesitant to approach her, but he's come this far without being hurt. Slowly, the boy toed his way over to Nirvu. When he was close enough, Nirvu gave him a smile and gently took his shirt in her hands and pushed it up enough to look at the burn beneath the cloth.

The burn wasn't nearly as bad as Nirvu worried. The boy's skin was a little red from all the heat, and the burn did not seem at all serious. He only must have just brushed against some fire. Still, Nirvu did not touch it. Her body heat was very intense, touching the burn would only worsen it. “Does it hurt?” Nirvu asked, looking up into the boy's eyes. He shook his head this time, still not talking. “Good. Let's get you out of here, okay?” Nirvu let the boy replace his ruined shirt with one of the leftover shirts in the home. After he was done, Nirvu took the boy's hand with his permission and led the child out of the home, along with his dog.

Nirvu searched the sky for the sun, and found it entering the fourth descent. There was only five more descents until the day would be eclipsed by the night. She had to work quicker if she wanted to search the whole city for survivors. Nirvu glanced down at the boy and knelt beside him for a moment. “Okay, I'm gonna get you outta here as fast as I can. Hold on tight.”

“What do you mea-OH!” Nirvu unfurled her wings at that moment, the leathery scales spreading wide into their full length. Every time Nirvu saw her wings unfurl, she felt small. Her wings were enormous, more than three times her own body length wide and almost as tall as she was. The wings were smallest at the very tip and where they connected to her spine, just beneath her shoulder blades. She saw the boy's eyes grow in shock as her wings unfurled, and only hoped that he would not panic.

“Let's go.” Nirvu grabbed the boy in her arms despite his shock and let the dog jump on top of the boy's stomach. With a powerful burst of strength, Nirvu lifted herself off the ground and took to the skies. She felt the boy wrap his arms around her neck and hold on tightly. He was terrified for sure, but this was necessary. Nirvu flew away from the city, looking for a place untouched by the fire. A couple miles away from the city, she found a small outcropping of rock and headed there. The rocks covered a small entrance to a dark cave. There was no way she would have seen the entrance from the skies.

Before she put the boy in the cave, she set up a small fire to provide light for the child. The cave was not so much a cave as it was just a small hole in the ground. The fire revealed that much, and would let the boy sit and stay warm. She waved the boy down into the cave once the fire was made with her own flame.

“You'll be safe here as long as you don't go outside,” Nirvu told the boy. “I have to go back to the city to look for more survivors. I'll be back, I promise.”

“Okay.” The boy seemed scared, but the presence of his dog seemed to calm him. Nirvu was grateful the little beast was present. She left the two lone survivors in the cave and put herself back into the sky. There had to be more survivors. She would not let another Iona incident happen again. That boy couldn't be the only one left. Nirvu prayed that he wasn't.

Back in the city, the dragons had grown restless and aggressive again. She had to put two of them down before landing, reclaiming the sky as her domain again. Nirvu wondered how many dragonlings remained in the city and how many escaped. This time when she landed she went in a different direction, confident that the way she went earlier was cleared out.

The further she went down the side street, the more discouraged Nirvu became. The destruction intensified down this street with every step. It looked as though this was where all the fighting began before everyone scattered. But with every instance of destruction, she could hardly find any bodies. Nirvu thought that the city would be loaded with human bodies, but the streets were practically clean other than the blood. What the boy said earlier resurfaced in Nirvu's mind. Did the dragonlings really eat every human they saw? Nirvu shivered, though not from the chill.

“Hello?” Nirvu called out of desperation. “Is anyone alive? Please respond!” Nirvu stopped, listening carefully to the wind. Maybe her voice was strong enough to reach the ears of another survivor. “Hello?” Nirvu called again, aware that her voice might be attracting the attention of nearby dragons.

“Is someone there?!” A woman's voice sounded, and it was nearby. “Please, help me!”

“I'm coming!” Nirvu assured, running towards the source. A few of the stone houses had collapsed where the voice came from, so she began her search there. Out of the corner of her eye, a rock shifted slightly and fell, followed by a howl of pain. Nirvu ran to the rock and wrapped her arms around it. With a tight grip and a huge breath, Nirvu lifted the rock up and threw it over her shoulder and out of the way. “Are you okay?” Nirvu asked, turning her attention to the woman that lie on the ground.

“Yes, I-” The woman stopped when she saw Nirvu, her face frozen in fear. She put her arms around a small bundle at her chest, as if protecting it. It was a baby. The mother kept the bundle as much out of view as she could. “Wh-what are you?” the woman asked, horrified by Nirvu's appearance. Nirvu knew this would happen all the time, but that didn't stop it from hurting. Nirvu swallowed the lump in her throat and tried to appear gentle.

“Truthfully? I'm not sure. Somewhere in between a dragon and a human. Call me Nirvu, and I'm here to help. I know what I look like, but you must trust me. It is dangerous to stay here, there are still dragons about. Dragons that actually want to eat you, anyway.”

The mother was easier to persuade than the boy had been. Mentioning the hostile dragons seemed to put the woman in a better state of mind to trust Nirvu. That and she did rescue her from getting crushed by a rock. Something about Nirvu's actions must have convinced the woman that she didn't mean her any harm. Nirvu reached down to help the mother to her feet, but the moment the woman set a foot down, she nearly collapsed.

“Broken ankle, it looks like,” Nirvu said, eying the injury. “No, don't get up, it's okay, I can get you out of here.”

The woman stopped trying to get on her feet and watched as Nirvu's wings unfurled in front of her eyes. Nirvu swore that the mother's eyes grew to the size of dinner plates in that second. While the mother held her child in her arms, Nirvu held the woman in hers and took to the skies. Survivor number two and three were on their way to safety.

Nirvu found three other survivors on her next trip back to the city. She had hoped to find more, but three was a large number to fly out of the city. Thanks to her strength, Nirvu was able to fly all three survivors out at once. When she returned to the rock this time, she found that the mother and the boy from earlier were getting along with each other just fine. That was a relief to Nirvu, she would hate for there to be a conflict during a rescue mission. The boy's name was Roh. He witnessed his older brother getting eaten by the dragonlings first-hand, and hid himself while his brother died to protect him. Nirvu wanted so dearly to hold the boy, but she feared that close proximity to a half-dragon might not be the best. Instead, the mother could offer the boy warmth and comfort.

The mother's name was Erin. She was home alone with her child when the dragons attacked and she had not seen any sign of her husband. She feared the worst, as did Nirvu. The survival rate in the city was already so low, Nirvu was shocked so many had actually survived the attack. When Nirvu asked what the baby's name was, Erin smiled despite herself and said she was called Illia. Nirvu complimented the name before turning to the three men she had only just saved. They had treated her like the others at first. Each one of them expressed their gratitude to her for saving them.

The three of them turned out to be guards for the Grand Mayor who lived in the castle at the very backbone of the city. They were named Mar, Hora, and Oderick. They lost their weapons to dragons when they were attacked and fled the scene, unwilling to become the main course. The Grand Mayor was not well-liked within the city, not even by his own guardsmen, and they decided not to protect the immobile and fat politician. Nirvu frowned at first, these men were totally different from Archer. She knew that he would never abandon his duty, no matter what might happen to him. Maybe that was just because he was so confident in his own abilities.

Nirvu knew there were no more survivors to be found in Jesu. She could not smell or hear anything in that city, no matter where she walked to. She was able to flush out the dragonlings from the ruins of the city, but on the last return to the city, she could find nothing. Only the castle at the back of the city was left to investigate. The stone towers were utterly destroyed, the grand doors to the castle had succumbed to dragon fire, becoming naught but ashes. Even the inside of the castle was lit brightly with uncontrolled fire. Nirvu waded through the flames, her body able to ignore the lick of the fire's tongues, searching for anything that might be of use or value, or if any of the castle residents had survived. A son or daughter of the Grand Mayor would be ideal.

She could find nothing and no one. No matter which wing she searched, the ruins remained emptier than the cavern she lived in. Nirvu gave up after throwing a boulder away from a pile of burned books. She had to face it, there were only six survivors. Well, seven if she counted Roh's dog. Nirvu turned around and set her path back to the rock. The king would not be happy to hear about Jesu City's fall, but at least Nirvu was able to save a few from being eaten. “I suppose the dragons got their fill from this attack,” Nirvu murmured to herself. Jesu city was one of the most highly populated cities in Ermith, next to the capital itself. She did not know the census, but she was sure that there were at least a thousand empty homes in the city now.

“Hey! Is someone there?” Nirvu nearly jumped out of her scales when she heard a shout out of seemingly nowhere. “Oh shit, what the living hell are you supposed to be?”

“My name is Nirvu, I came here looking for survivors under the king's order,” Nirvu called out cautiously, searching the area with all her senses. She could not detect the source of the voice. It belonged to a man, that much she could determine by the deep, guttural tones.

“Oh sure you did. What you really want is to eat all the survivors. No wonder there are never any reports of dragon attacks in small villages. They send a humanoid dragon to seek and kill.”

“I assure you, sir, that is not true.” Who was this man that spoke? Nirvu was shocked that she was unable to find him. A sudden thought struck her and she tilted her head up towards the ceiling. There was a chandelier still hanging from the ceiling, though it looked ready to fall at any moment. In between the bronze she could see the form of a small man glaring down at her. “Are you stuck, sir?”

“Stuck? Me?” The man scoffed, “Watch your tongue, beast, or I'll have it cut out!” This particular man did not seem in the greatest position to make threats at the moment. Still, Nirvu could determine that this was a higher ranking individual in the city. Possibly some kind of politician or lord of the court. “I'll have you know that you are speaking to none other than Lord Yuxander Chudin! I am in charge here, and it is my order that you leave me at once!”

“Sorry Lord Chudin,” Nirvu replied, putting a hand on her scaly hip. Her tail swung across the floor, hovering just above the ground. She was still very much aware of her tail but was becoming better at keeping it off the ground. “I'm afraid I can't leave without knowing that there are no other survivors. There are none in the city, but there is one in the castle.”

“One? That means it's only me? I'm the only survivor of all this madness?” The man, Yuxander Chudin, seemed at a loss for words. His lips fumbled as they tried to form cohesive words, but no sound escaped his lips.

“That's not entirely true,” Nirvu promised, shaking her head, “There are six other humans and a dog outside the city. I'd like to take you to them. Will you let me rescue you?”

“You'll have to come up here to get me down!” The man was still objecting to Nirvu's presence, despite his current situation. Though Nirvu would have liked to see him try to get down on his own, she could not leave Lord Chudin to his own devices. He may just end up killing himself from the fall. But would anyone actually miss him? From the way he talked, Nirvu did not like the man. He was arrogant. Even when surrounded by danger, he still tried to threaten her. But he seemed to give a real reaction to hearing how many died.

“Very well.” Nirvu's wings unfurled again and beat at the ground. The man above her let out a shrill cry of despair as Nirvu flew up towards him. His grip on the chandelier was not very strong and Nirvu was able to pluck him with ease. Lord Chudin, resigned to his fate, allowed Nirvu to carry him out of the city and to the small shelter where the other refugees were holed up. When they touched ground, Lord Chudin fell to his knees and kissed the dirt, praising the gods for his safe return to the earth. Not impressed by this showing, Nirvu showed the small lord the hidden entrance to the tiny cave.

“Is everyone still here?” Nirvu asked once she entered the cave with the politician at her side. To her relief, she could see that no one had moved too much since she left. Erin now had her damaged foot wrapped in a makeshift bandage. The former guards were sharing stories with Roh, or so it appeared. They immediately stopped talking when they saw Nirvu and Lord Chudin enter. “I've scoured the entire city and the castle. The sun is entering the ninth descent, and I cannot imagine there being any other survivors. It's just you seven.”

“Only seven?” Erin was horrified at the news, though she surely would have known that not many would survive a dragon attack. “How many died today?”

“The last census done by the state counted over two thousand men, half of them soldiers,” Lord Chudin informed, his tone nothing but official. “If you count women and children, then the count rises to about four and a half thousand.”

A silence fell over the refugees. The sheer numbers lost from a single dragon attack was immense. Nirvu said nothing about it. The refugees would not like her telling them that there was no actual fully-grown dragon involved in the attack. This was all due to young dragonlings and the older drakes.

“Too bad the dragons didn't do us a favor and get rid of him.” Nirvu had not been paying very much attention to the refugees up until she heard that. Her heart sank and she felt the pressure in the cave rise. From how Lord Chudin was looking at Oderick, she would guess that guard was the one who spoke. Before Lord Chudin could speak any further, Nirvu stepped forward and hit the guard with a closed fist, easily knocking him on his back.

“You will NOT speak that way,” Nirvu growled, baring her fangs so that Oderick could see that she was angry. If decking him was not a big enough hint, anyway. “Jesu City is no more. While you are here with me, you are all equals. You are all refugees. Do you understand?”

Oderick cracked his neck and stared at Nirvu. For a moment, Nirvu feared he might refuse her and act out again. She didn't know what she would do if he did, but slowly he turned his gaze away and gave a crude nod of his head. Nirvu did not allow him to see how relieved she was. That would have the opposite effect she wanted. Even so, she was glad that Oderick would comply for now. While she was in charge of them, Nirvu would not allow any dissenting.

“Good.” Nirvu turned to the cave entrance, a sickening feeling rising up within her. With one problem taken care of, she would have to be prepared for more. Nirvu knew that, and yet that feeling never left. It only became worse and worse until she heard the roar that sounded a death knell for all humans. This roar was more fearsome than anything Nirvu could muster. The sound alone made the entire cave shake under their feet.

“Is that a dragon?” Erin asked, holding onto Illia even tighter. She had not released the baby, and now Nirvu knew there would be no tearing that babe from her mother's bosom anytime soon.

“All of you stay in here,” Nirvu spoke quietly, but with directive. She would not show them her fear. She would not show them any emotion from this point forward. Nirvu took her sword up from where she shoved it into the ground and headed towards the cave opening. “Do not leave this cave,” she ordered them. She did not say whether she would return to them or not. Nirvu knew that returning to the refugees was unlikely.


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Chapter Nine

Post by Zerifachias on Sun Nov 16, 2014 12:57 pm

The dragon was enormous. That was the first thing that Nirvu thought when she saw the beast. It's body alone was just as large as the castle in the capital. With scales as black as the night sky, the dragon was a darkness that eclipsed the sun with wings that shielded the whole sky around them. The shadow of this enormous beast felt heavier than anything Nirvu remembered. The black dragon's neck stretched upwards into the sky, becoming almost nothing in the distance. Nirvu could see giant horns sprouting from either side of it's head, each one likely twice her own size.

How in the world was she supposed to fight something like that? Already Nirvu felt her knees weaken under the weight of the task that awaited her. For the first time, Nirvu truly realized the utter futility of her mission. She turned her head towards the small opening in the cave. From there, she could see eyes watching her. The remaining citizens of Jesu were waiting for her. She feared that they would only see a failure. A frightened dragon and human cross-breed that couldn't even hope to match up against such a terrible beast as the one that hovered overhead.

Nirvu was alerted away from herself to face the nightmare above as a loud and deep voice cracked down at her like lightning. “Tivak Iss, little one, are you responsible for the deaths of my children?” Nirvu unfurled her wings and beat at the ground, rising into the air with a great effort. She could not have known the sheer size of the beast, nor the weight of it's shadow until she tried to fly closer to it. Fear grabbed her, but still she continued to rise until she matched the dragon's altitude.

“I know not what Tivak Iss means, but I am the one responsible,” Nirvu replied to the dragon, not removing her eyes from the black dragon's yellow slits. Out of the coner of her eye, she saw the dragon's horns that she thought were twice her own size. To her dismay, Nirvu saw how wrong she was. The horns were at least four times her own size. Like her own, the black dragon's horns curved inwards and pointed out towards the dragon's maw. The horns were both honed to a point, making them the perfect tool for ramming things. “Your children are responsible for the deaths of the humans in Jesu city. I could not let that go unpunished.”

The dragon gave no sign of emotion other than a great anger. The fierceness of a dragon's features was much too strong to display any emotion except anger. But still the dragon did not attack, at least not yet. Nirvu knew her own size and powerlessness compared to the black dragon, perhaps the dragon did not think her worth any trouble.

“You would side with humans.” It was not a question, but Nirvu could hear a slight bit of disappointment in the dragon's rumbling tones. Its voice was heavy on her ears and made the air quiver around her. Nirvu had to grit her teeth to stop herself from accidentally biting her tongue. “That is a shame. Tivak Oss.” Again a great shadow fell upon Nirvu as the black dragon raised an enormous claw that was several times larger than her own body above her. Nirvu pounded her wings as hard and fast as she could to get out of that shadow before it came crashing down on her head. The power of the swing caused a great force of wind to batter Nirvu as she barely escaped the sharp claws that would have cleaved her body in twine, dragon scales or no.

The force of the swing threw Nirvu off balance. It took several seconds of effort to finally right herself, and by then the dragon was already attacking again, its neck stretched out and a giant maw opened, ready to crash down upon Nirvu. At the last second before the dragon closed its maw, Nirvu shoved her fang sword up into the roof of the beast's mouth. Hot, red blood spurted out of the incision she made and fell on her, burning her scales as she tried to remove the fang from the dragon's mouth. She soon gave up hope of retrieving the sword and flew out of the dragon's open mouth. The blood from the dragon was burning too hotly for her to handle, despite her resistance to heat. She had to get the blood off before it burned right through her.

Nirvu flew towards the city, soon finding the river that led to the lake. She folded her wings against her side and dove into the water without a second thought. The splash she made upon entering nearly killed her, hitting the water at such a high speed felt like crashing into stone. But she didn't die from the crash, and the blood that she got on her soon washed off, the spots that burned her steaming from the icy water.

Nirvu popped her head up out of the water and shook it, squinting up at the brightly lit sky. The black dragon was still where she had left it in the sky and writhing. The wound she made, the burning blood that came out, was the dragon unable to resist the heat of its own blood? She could not think more about it, already the dragon was flying towards her at a speed Nirvu thought would be impossible for something so large. Without her fang, she would not be able to hurt it again, and even if she did have it, what was she supposed to do? It wasn't like the dragon would allow Nirvu to escape its mouth a second time.

Nirvu took in a deep breath and ducked her head under the water again. If she remembered correctly, the river led towards the Forgotten Lake, then to the ocean. She had to get the beast away from the refugees at the very least. Maybe Leilah would find them and lead them to safety before the dragon came back. They at least, needed to survive. Nirvu knew her own survival was minimal, and the best case scenario still saw her death further down the line.

Nirvu folded her wings tightly against her body as she swam, using her tail to speed herself up. Her powerful lungs allowed her to remain under the water for a much longer time and as long as she skimmed the bottom of the river, the black dragon would not be able to see her very easily. At least Nirvu thought until black flames beat down against the water right above her. The water quickly changed from being incredibly cold to boiling hot. Nirvu sensed something very wrong in the water around her, more than just the nearly instant temperature change. It was as if the water was getting lighter. Nirvu picked up as much speed as she could and pointed her body up, shooting up out of the water and catching herself on her wings. Right as she left, the water below her erupted in an enormous explosion of fire and smoke. The explosion blew with a strong wind that carried her all the way to the lake.

For an instant, Nirvu swung her body around to watch as the river's path changed. The original mouth of the river was blocked off now, thanks to the tons of dirt and other debris that blocked the river's flow. The water levels near the explosion radius lowered, it would be awhile before the river flowed properly again. But until that point, the Forgotten Lake would be missing its only source of water and would drain out into the ocean until it was completely dry. Nirvu felt guilty for this, as it was partly her fault this happened. But the explosion, how did that even happen?

There was no time to think on it, the black dragon was upon her again, and Nirvu had a choice. Fly away to gain more distance, or stay to fight. Her instincts told her to run as hard and fast as she could, but there was nowhere else she could go. The black dragon was faster than her, that much was clear. Nirvu was making the dragon work for its meal, but she would be inevitably eaten anyway. And without her fang, she wouldn't be able to pull the same trick a second time.

The dragon stopped before her again, hovering quite a distance away from Nirvu. “Zikzu, little one. Enough. I will give one more chance, but only because you are not worth this much trouble.” The dragon was irritated with her, that much Nirvu could tell.

“If I'm not worth this much trouble, how am I still alive?” Nirvu lashed out, grinning despite herself. If she was going to face death, she wanted to at least laugh in its face first. Whatever chance the dragon was about to give her was lost at that moment. The black dragon spoke no more, only beat it's enormous wings again and approached her at an incredible speed. Nirvu darted out of the way of the dragon's maw but nearly got impaled by the horn on it's head. In the instand before Nirvu dodged, she saw that her fang was still lodged inside the dragon's upper mouth. If she could only get it somehow, she may still have a chance at killing this dragon.

Nirvu dug her claws into the dragon's horn, hitching a ride on the giant beast. It's eyes were just as large as her own body, and were staring her down. Nirvu paused for a moment, then swung herself over the horn and primed her tail. In a swift motion, Nirvu pushed herself off the horn and stabbed her tail right into the black dragon's eye, piercing through the translucent scales that protected the eye easily. Nirvu removed her tail just as she began to feel the burning of the dragon's blood. She shook her tail violently around to remove any traces of the blood with little success. The dragon roared in pain as its own blood burned out its eye, rendering that side of the beast completely, irrevocably blind.

Nirvu had no time to feel pride in her accomplishment, the dragon would be onto any of her tricks now. She could feel the blood burning her tail still, but ignored the pain in favor of climbing onto the dragon's head. The rough scales were easy to hold onto, especially for her sharp claws. Nirvu dug deep into one of the scales above the dragon's injured eye and actually tore it off, leaving a small opening in the armor. Before she could take advantage of the opening though, the dragon finally managed to shake her off, throwing her some distance away. Nirvu thought about disappearing under the lake, but quickly abandoned that plan when she saw black fire headed straight for her.

Nirvu could not completely dodge the black flames, some of it caught her wings and burned away at the leather. Nirvu cried out in surprise and pain, not expecting her wings to hurt so much. The pain was unreal, and she could feel her body heat rise to a dangerous level that even her own resistance to heat could not completely subdue. Now she knew how the dragonlings felt when she spat fire at them.

With her wings injured so badly, Nirvu could not keep up with the speed she was putting out before. So when the dragon opened its maw again, she knew she would not get away from it. Instead of flying away from the mouth, she flew towards it, her left hand outstretched. The speed of the dragon combined with the speed of Nirvu's flight allowed the little dragon to slam into her fang, still lodged in the dragon's mouth. The fang was kicked free from the force and Nirvu was barely able to hold onto it. Blood flew from the wound again and the dragon roared. The sound easily destroyed Nirvu's eardrums. Blood leaked out of her own ears as the world went quiet around her.

While in her shock, Nirvu felt the dragon's rough tongue against her back, pushing her down its throat. Nirvu held onto her fang, but soon found herself crushed between walls of muscle. She could hardly move at all, and the saliva that leaked from pores in the walls made her body burn and slide down the dragon's throat all the quicker. Nirvu struggled less and less as she felt the energy drain from her body. The dragon just ate her, and now she was being digested. That much was clear enough when the heavy liquid around her began melting her scales.

Did dragons have no open stomach like other beasts did? As a reptile similar to snakes, this kind of made sense. Nirvu struggled again, clawing at the walls of muscle surrounding her. Her sharp claws were not enough to penetrate the stretchy mass of flesh. Nirvu stopped struggling.

What a way to end it all, Nirvu thought. It never crossed her mind that she might get die by being eaten by a dragon. So much for getting vengeance for Iona and her father. If she couldn't kill even one full-grown dragon, what hope did she have of killing all of them? Nirvu felt sad that she would be unable to apologize to Leilah, who held so much faith in her. So much hope. It was really all because of that woman that Nirvu was still alive and not under the headsman's ax. Even now, Leilah's words rang through Nirvu's head. She was humanity's only hope. That's what Leilah said.

“I'm sorry, Leilah.” For the first time since her transformation, Nirvu felt her eyes begin to water. She was surprised she was still capable of tears. Even through all of her transformation, she was still a human. Silvia lived in her just as much as Nirvu did. She thought she was supposed to be Nirvu and only Nirvu, for the king's sake. She almost forgot about her human name. That made her angry. “I'm such an idiot,” she cried, struggling against the walls of flesh that forced her further down the dragon's body.

Without much breath left, Silvia yelled, and Nirvu spewed forth a hot, green fire that quickly filled the dragon's throat. Silvia could feel the dragon react to the sudden explosion of heat and fire. Just as she thought, the dragon's fire and stomach were separate. The fleshy bits of the dragon could never stand up to the heat of a dragon's own fire. Silvia took the power of fire away from Nirvu, locking her inner dragon away as she continued the stream of fire. Silvia then clawed at the charred flesh, breaking it open easily and unleashing a flood of hot blood down on her and the dragon's throat. Some of the blood got in her right eye, making her shout in pain and slam her eye closed.

Half-blind and deaf, Silvia dug out of the dragon's throat. She could feel her heartbeat slam against her chest. The pain alone nearly made her pass out, but she continued to claw herself away. Silvia finally reached what she thought was the hard flesh of the dragon's scale leather. When she felt the flesh hit against her face and beat, she changed her mind as to what it was. She found the dragon's heart. Without a second thought, Silvia opened her mouth wide and bore her fangs and claws down into the heart. Silvia tore and tore at the flesh until it burst, covering her in burning blood. Some of it got in her mouth and burned her tongue. Silvia screamed in pain. It was an excruciating pain, but Silvia knew that pain didn't matter anymore. She just ripped the black dragon's heart apart and held part of it in her claws. It would die, just like she would.

In what Silvia thought were her last moments, her deluded mind obscured her rationale. She bit into the bits of dragon heart she held. It would be her last meal, and despite the slight bitterness to the taste, Silvia thought it was the best thing she had ever eaten. The blood was hot, the bitterness felt refreshing, and the muscle was filling.

Silvia felt ready to die. Her body was weakening, the blood burning through her scales. But something stirred within her. The desire to survive, Silvia thought. Almost begrudgingly, Silvia clawed away from the heart and soon found the wall of hard leathery scales that would lead outside. The heart-meat she ate gave her enough strength to tear through the wall with her fang sword, and soon she tumbled out of the dragon and onto the grass.

Tired and covered in blood that burned worse than any of her other wounds, Silvia crawled towards the Forgotten Lake, dumping herself into the water as soon as she reached the surface. The water washed away the blood and cooled her body. Silvia could not tell how long she spent drifting in the water. She only realized she had fallen asleep when she woke up to the moon's light shining down on her face. She had drifted to back to the shoreline where she had dumped herself. Silvia was beginning to feel some sensation from her ears again, the light rush of water that cleaned her ears of blood allowed her dragon blood to heal her a little. Her right eye still burned and was locked shut, but Silvia could feel that that too, would eventually heal.

Silvia used her remaining eye to glance around her. She found the body of the black dragon lying a mile or two away, it's huge body not seeming so large when collapsed on the ground. The dragon-girl struggled to her feet and limped over to the great beast she had downed. Somewhere along the way, she found and picked up her fang. The beast was enormous, huge compared to her, but Silvia felt larger, felt stronger just by looking at the black dragon's corpse.

“I've eaten the heart of a man and a dragon now,” Silvia murmured weakly to herself, remembering the experiences. She remembered how horrified she was after eating that poor innkeeper's heart. She didn't even remember the man's name. But Silvia gloried in eating this dragon's heart. So much so she wanted more. Before she could go searching for more pieces of the black dragon's heart, Silvia forced herself to turn away and stumble away.

“Not Nirvu,” Silvia told herself, determined not to lose herself again. “I am Silvia, not Nirvu. Nirvu is a dragon. I am a human. Silvia, not Nirvu. Silvia, not Nirvu. Silvia, not Nirvu.” Silvia kept reminding herself all the way until she reached the entrance to the small cave where she had left the refugees. To her relief, she could smell that all of them were still there. Before she could enter, the little dog that she had rescued ran out and jumped on her. Despite it's small size compared to Silvia, the dog was still able to topple her to the ground, where it proceeded to lick half her face off and bark. Silvia was glad she could hear the dog's bark again, though the sound was faint.

Silvia heard voices emerge from the small cave, but could not yet make them out. She was surrounded by the three guards and the boy. Together they lifted her and carried her into the cave, singing praises that she could hardly hear. The rest of the night might have followed like that, if Silvia did not immediately fall asleep next to the fire, the tiny dog that had so easily tackled her nestled at her breast.


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Chapter Ten

Post by Zerifachias on Thu Dec 18, 2014 3:59 pm

Silvia awoke feeling new and refreshed, the memory of the battle still fresh in her mind. It was an exhilarating battle, but also one of the most terrifying things Silvia experienced. Her mouth tasted like dried blood, has she somehow bit her tongue during the fight without noticing? She couldn't exactly tell, but she did not remember the blood in her mouth burning with the intensity of the larger dragon. That was a comforting thought, Silvia would not suffer as much as a full dragon from her own wounds.

Dirt crumbled around her scales as Silvia shifted herself and rose. The ground was warm around her, though the fire long since went out. With her first breath of the morning, she felt the chill of frost. The temperature in Ermith was slowly dropping as the solstice approached. Around her, Silvia saw the refugees bundled up in their own clothes and what rags they might have recovered from the city. There had not been enough time to search for proper supplies to protect from the cold. Only the fire kept them from freezing during the night, it seemed.

“I need everyone up and awake,” Silvia spoke with a new authority. She would take it upon herself to make sure all these people got to the safety of the capital. Silvia had only just woke herself, so she could not blame for the humans for feeling groggy. The only ones uncomplaining were the three guards, who must have been used to rising early. Silvia suspected they had not really slept at all. As all the low faces rose to look or stare at the dragon-girl, she gestured them towards the exit of the cave.

“I know you all are tired,” Silvia told them, feeling their eyes watch her every move. It was unnerving to have so much attention focused on her. “I'm tired too, but we can't stay here. Last night was cold, tonight will be colder. We need to find better shelter, does anyone have any ideas?”

“There's a small village to the north of the city,” one of the guards offered. “It's a long way away though. I'd say a two day walk in normal circumstances.”

“These aren't normal circumstances,” Silvia's eyes moved to Erin's injured ankle. That would slow them down significantly, unless Silvia were to carry her. She had strength that the soldiers did not. “It is important that we reach the village sooner rather than later.”

“I understand,” Erin said warily. “If you want to leave me then...”

“I'm not leaving anyone behind,” Silvia replied firmly. She walked closer to Erin and offered the woman her hand. “If it is okay with you, I'd like to carry you to the village on my back.”

“I understand,” Erin said again, her expression relaxing. She was truly worried that Silvia would leave her? That made Silvia nervous. Had she not made her intentions clear already? She delivered them from the city and killed a dragon for them. Why then, would any of the refugees worry about her leaving them?

Erin climbed onto Silvia's back with a little difficulty. She held onto her child, Ilia, with one hand while the other held onto Silvia's left wing. Silvia easily lifted the woman off the ground and turned towards the exit. “Hora, you said you knew the way to the village?”

“That's another thing sir, er...ma'am.” The soldier looked a little guilty now. “I don't know how to get to the village. I just know it's there.”

“There's nothing for it but to walk,” Silvia tried not to look angry about this new bit of news. Her draconic features made that difficult, but moving to the front of the party seemed to solve that issue. “If it's north, then we go north. We should stay on the road, just to be safe.” Silvia's word was her command, the refugees all except the Lord Chudin obeyed without question. The Lord was hung up over something, but what, Silvia could not say. She saw Oderick grab her fang sword gingerly, as if he was afraid to break it. She would have to thank him later, she nearly forgot about the sword.

The travel north started slowly, as the ragged group of worn-out refugees attempted to find their footing. Silvia led the group with Erin on her back, Ilia in her arms. Roh and his dog stayed right on her heels with the three guards forming up the rear. The only one out of the group was the Lord Chudin, who still remained silent, his expression nothing but dissatisfaction. Silvia ignored him, if the Lord wanted to go off on his own, he would surely end up as something's lunch. The roads were going to become more and more perilous as winter approached.

The main roads of Ermith remained clear of wild beasts. That was the case with the main roads near the center of the continent, anyway. The guard Hora spoke of beasts that would appear on roads further away from the capital. Wyverns were an uncommon sight on the plains, but up in the Aerie Mountains, there was no end to the beasts. Hora described a wyvern to look much like a dragon, only much smaller. Their scales were like rice paper compared to a full dragon's scales, and they could not breath fire as dragons could. Wyverns had no front legs either, instead they stop on stronger hind legs and kept balance with their wings. Wyverns lacked the horns of a dragon as well, they were considered a subspecies of dragon, but only that.

There would be no reason to worry about seeing wyverns on this road, Silvia knew. That didn't stop her from wanting to see one, just to see for herself. On the main road, it was more likely that they would have to deal with bandits or raptors, which were large, featherless chickens with sharp beaks and talons. Raptors made the plains their home, the open field gave them a place to run without stopping. Fast creatures, and fairly aggressive, some traveling merchants have died to these beasts in the past.

All this talk of beasts made Roh frightened though, and a look from Erin made Hora stop talking about dangerous beasts. Mar, the other guard, then spoke up for the first time in a long time with tales of the enchanted forest to the southwest. The Twilight Forest, it was called. Sar'tu nearly burned the forest down on their most recent raid, but the forest spirits put out the fires before they could cause any real damage. The magic in that area was thick in the air and very potent. So potent that it actually causes people not used to magic to hallucinate. No one has dared brave the forest long enough to go too deep within the magic, though Sar'tu nearly made the mistake of landing there once.

Silvia tuned out after Mar started talking about the desert. She wasn't interested in hearing about the magic in the silver sand. It was a story she heard countless times before, and she didn't believe any of it. The mountain range to the far west of the continent blocked the Silver Desert from view from the plains. To get to the desert, one would have to hike through the mountains or go around the southern edge. The edge of the desert and the edge of the Twilight Forest were only a day's march between.

What was so special about the desert was that the sand was not gold, like the deserts in the distant continent of Amezi. Instead, the sand was silver. This country in particular had a very close connection to magic, if the Twilight Forest or the Silver Sands were anything to go by. That magic affected the land in different ways, one of which was to change the color of sand in the desert. Silvia did not understand the significance of the different color, but according to Mar, the sands acted as a ward that kept the fabric of the world intact. Something that prevented demons from entering the world. Silvia had a hard time believing that, but then again, anything was possible when it came to magic.

As much as Silvia liked to learn about the continent's lasndscape, she had Mar quiet down while she tried to obtain directions from the other refugees. She was hoping that one of them would recognize something in the distance, but none of the refugees traveled out of the city. Silvia gave up after awhile and pointed her back in the direction they had been traveling all this time. A small cough gave her pause, though. Pause enough for the lord in their presence to speak up.

“This is the wrong way, if you are intending to take us to the Yisld village,” Lord Chudin spoke, his tone implying enough of his distaste for Silvia's leadership. After everything that he had been through, he owed Silvia his life two times over, as did the other refugees. Yet he still did not stop showing off his distaste that a monster was supposed to be his savior. “I know the way to the village. I went there on an...unfortunate miscalculation on the fault of another.”

“Spit it out, noble,” Mar snapped, his patience with politicians ran dry long before Silvia had met the man, that much was clear enough. His face was scrunched up in disgust, brown eyes glazed with an irrevocable distrust. Lord Chudin never lowered his chin or shirked back from the soldier. The noble hardly paid the man any attention at all, other than to scoff.

“Your grief is understandable,” Silvia offered cautiously. She had to be careful as to not injure any party here with her words. If she took a side, one party was sure to be angry with her. Then again, if she didn't take any side, that would only frustrate everyone involved. Silvia had to remain neutral. She chose to rescue them all, and nearly died to protect them from a dragon. Her intentions should be clear enough with just that. “I have two children, a dog, an injured mother, and three soldiers who want to skin you alive.” Silvia wanted to remind the noble of their condition, though she was certain he could see what was going on. It was still satisfying to see him glance around, particularly at the soldiers who each held the noble in obvious disdain. “We need shelter. Please lead us.”

“Yisld village is that way.” Lord Chudin pointed towards the north north-east. The road to the capital turned west, not east. To travel to the village, they would likely have to cut through the unpaved areas of the plains. Silvia remembered that Leilah was still on the road to Jesu city. While she was certain the spymaster could figure out that Silvia was alive at the very least, she still did not like leaving Leilah in the dark. “We'll reach the village before dark, if we leave now.”

“It's really that close?” Roh spoke up now, adding his childish voice to the air. He was only a foot shorter than Silvia, but Silvia couldn't help but see him as just a child. “Ser Mar said it was two days away.”

“If we follow the roads, yes.” Lord Chudin did not seem to mind the child's question. Silvia could see the muscles in his neck beginning to relax. The noble seemed a little less stressed now. Maybe there would be less conflict between him and the soldiers. “If we cut through here, we can reach the village.”

“Let's go.” Silvia spurred herself into moving again. The refugees followed her pace. If she stopped, they all stopped. If she moved on, they would follow her. Silvia couldn't wait for Lord Chudin to take the lead, the others would not follow. She would just have to gather his directions and lead. It was a strange feeling to have followers like this. Silvia admitted to herself that she enjoyed it, if only a little bit.

The sun made five descents before the village, Yisld, came into sight. The plains were known to be dangerous off the roads, especially at night, as all manner of beasts took to the unpaved parts of the plains. Silvia heard sighs of relief behind her and allowed herself a smile. They only stopped a few times to rest, but they had no waterskins, no food. Silvia felt fine, but she could hear the empty stomachs fill her ears with strange noises. Even the soldiers admitted to hunger when Silvia asked for everyone's condition. Lord Chudin remained composed for now, though Silvia was not deceived. The way he searched the ground with his eyes and tightened his lips, he was as hungry as any of the others. The child in Erin's arms cried out periodically for Erin's breast, but with the way Silvia was carrying the woman, it was difficult to handle.

“Mar, can you run ahead and warn the villagers?” Silvia asked, stopping for a moment so she could explain. When the soldier gave her a questioning look, she ignored it. “I do not want to frighten them with my appearance. Gather as many ears as you can and tell them what I have done so they do not make rash decisions.”

“Right away, ma'am.” Now that he understood, Mar headed off at a brisk pace. Silvia waited until he was past the village border before starting herself up again. That would give Mar enough time to at least warn the villagers of her approach. Silvia wasn't disappointed when she reached the village. Mar gathered a good number of the villagers near the border where she would enter. Two of the men approached her and took Erin off her back for her. Silvia and Erin were both glad for the change. An older man waited next to Mar and gazed at Silvia with an interested look.

Silvia walked to where the refugee waited beside the man. When she was close enough, Mar gestured to the elderly man. “This is Dien, the village elder. He wanted to see you with his own eyes.” The old man, Dien, was completely bald and covered in wrinkles. His skin was a light brown, probably from years of farming. He was slightly stooped and used a wooden stick to keep himself upright. He wore long white robes and a purple sash over his shoulder, just as the other men who took Erin away did. Silvia wondered if that was for tradition or religion.

“A dragon has not been seen in over a thousand years,” Dien croaked, his voice raspy with age. A slight smile formed on his lips. “I never thought I'd see one in my lifetime. This is truly a gift to one so old.”

“You're not frightened of me?” Silvia asked, very confused.

“Your fellow here explained what you've done for him and these others,” Dien explained, pausing briefly after every other word to catch his breath. His age was becoming more and more apparent with every breath he took. “If the people in this village know one thing, it is that a man is measured by what he does, not what he appears to be. In you're case, you're a woman, but the same should apply, I think.”

“Is there a problem with my gender?” Silvia wasn't sure if she should feel pleased or awkward.

“No, not at all. Many great figures in our history have been women. You remember Queen Hiki and our Lady Auza, no?” Dien seemed more than happy to answer Silvia's question. Silvia realized that this man could have stories that no historian in the capital knew. All of a sudden Silvia felt the urge to sit down with Dien and listen.

“I know of Queen Hiki and Auza, but what did Auza do for Ermith, exactly?”

“Not just Ermith, Sar'tu as well,” Dien corrected. “When Sar'tu was overrun with demons, she traveled to the continent to seek out the cause of the problem. She found it, as well as a plot to assassinate Ermith's king. Using what little influence a mage of the Order of Magi had, Lady Auza was able to save both Sar'tu from the demons and our king from those who would do him harm. As a reward when Auza returned to the Order, the king offered her to become the first magical adviser to the throne in history.”

That gave Silvia pause. She did not realize that Auza had been such an important figure in the fate of two whole nations. For some reason, she felt as though only people long dead could actually become something to admire as a hero champion. But then again, Silvia's own destiny was to become a savior of humans by killing dragons. Even if she didn't kill all of them, there would be no stopping her from impacting history.

“Are there any other women of note in history?” Silvia was interested to hear more. She should not have limited her options to just women, but that did not matter anymore. Dien gave her a tired look, he was not able to continue for now. “I apologize. I got excited.” Silvia felt sheepish.

“There is no need to apologize for wanting knowledge.”

“Uh, ma'am,” Mar grabbed Silvia's attention now, gesturing behind his back to where the refugees were being led. Silvia glanced around his shoulder and saw a slightly larger building made of wood with a straw ceiling. A tavern of sorts, Silvia guessed. The one in Iona was larger than this one, she remembered. “The villagers said they would give us something to eat and a place to rest our heads. I'd like to personally thank you on behalf of everyone else you saved from Jesu. We would have died in the city or to that dragon.”

“You should thank Lord Chudin as well, Mar,” Silvia replied, though she smiled from the gratitude the soldier gave. “He was the one who led us here.”

“We would have never gotten directions out of him without you. All of us owe you our lives. Ma'am.”

“My name is Silvia. And I would do it all again if I had to.” Silvia gestured for Mar to go and eat with the other refugees. She stayed behind for now, watching the soldier salute her and turn. Maybe this wasn't such a thankless job after all. Silvia couldn't help but keep smiling. The elderly man coughed suddenly, grabbing her attention. “Is there anything I can do for you or your people while I am here, sir?” Silvia asked. From what she could see, the village was not situated in a very active part of the country and held no kind of defenses.

“You've noticed that we are not well protected here, young woman,” Dien started. Silvia resisted the urge to agree with him out loud. “The men would object, but I would like you to evacuate as many as you can from our little village.”

“The capital can support a great many people,” Silvia assured, though she was a bit nervous about what Dien was suggesting. Moving so many people in a single group would attract attention. Bandits were not usually a problem for merchants who could afford bodyguards, but moving an entire village was different. Thankfully, that was not what Dien was suggesting. He shook his head slowly and gestured shortly with his stick.

“The elderly will stay with the men who refuse to leave. The women and children must go with you.”

“I mean no offense, Dien, but you are asking a lot. I can't protect everyone at once. I have three soldiers with me, but they have no weapons. I can give Mar my sword, but then it'll be just two people defending...how many are we talking here?”

“I realize all of that, young lady,” Dien sighed into his shriveled hands, eyes closed. He paused for a moment, long enough to make Silvia concerned he might be asleep. He raised his head again and spoke, “if what your soldier, Mar, said is true, there may be dragons on their way here. I would rather see my people safe in the capital rather than dead.”

“Will you be coming with us?” Silvia feared she already knew the answer.

“No. I will stay here with the old and the sick. We would only slow you down. Granted, you will be slowed down when you leave tomorrow, but if I were to travel with you, that would only make the trip needlessly dangerous.” Dien reached to Silvia and placed his hand on her scaly shoulder. He really was not afraid of her. His hand was quickly removed after feeling how hot Silvia's scales were, but the gesture was all that mattered. “You have a warm heart.”

“That's just my blood, actually,” Silvia corrected, glancing oddly at the old man.

“That is not what I meant, young lady.”


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Chapter Eleven

Post by Zerifachias on Sun Jan 11, 2015 2:32 pm

The villagers were kind enough to give Silvia and the refugees a place to stay for the night, but they could not linger on that hospitality alone. The very next morning, Silvia went around to each of the refugees from Jesu and woke them, getting the same response of fear from each of them. Though Silvia's actions proved her humanity, her appearance was difficult to deal with for most. The villagers were going to give them two horses and a wagon, so that the trip could be made quicker, especially for those injured or vulnerable, like Erin and her child.

As Dien said before Silvia left to join the refugees, the older men and women would stay in the village and tend to what crops they could. Though it was dangerous, they were willing to sacrifice everything to make sure that the last harvest before winter went out to the capital. Some of the men who were too stubborn to leave would protect them as much as they could. The village would make an easy target for bandits and dragons both, it was only a matter of time at this point.

Silvia managed to gather all that were willing to travel in a short amount of time. She didn't expect the villagers to be so prepared to leave, as many of them came with wrapped baskets stuffed with bread and salted meat, and several full waterskins. One of the women offered Silvia a waterskin, which she accepted graciously and tied around her shoulders. Now that she did not have to carry Erin and her child, she would be freer to move about. Unfortunately her wings were still chewed up from the fight with the dragon. A light film was starting to grow back from her wings, and that gave Silvia a little relief. Her eye was also healing, which Silvia was welcome for.

Silvia did a quick count of heads, noting that most of her caravan was women and children, with only a few men who would not leave their wives. Twenty-seven heads she counted, including the seven she had before coming into the village. Roh's dog stood by the child's side at all times, his tongue hanging out of his mouth and a goofy grin on his face. When Silvia saw that the refugees were waiting for her command, she raised her left hand and gestured forward. Her scales were shining brightly in the new day's sunlight, making Silvia positively glow as she lead her larger pack.

The village slowly shrunk on the horizon, and before the sun had even started it's last ascent, there was a problem. It first came as a baby's cry, then a much louder, deeper shout from back by the caravan. Silvia stopped the march the moment she heard the crying and began swimming past the refugees to the source. The back flaps of the caravan were already torn open, and Silvia saw the noble lord yelling at one of the women seated in the back. She seemed to be holding something very close to her chest. Erin's child was the one crying, though her mother was doing her best to quiet the babe.

“Lord Chudin, what is the meaning of this?” Silvia barked into the caravan, startling the lord and some of the children. She should not flinch, not in this situation. Silvia had to remain in control, even if it meant scaring a few innocents. The noble was not so frightened of Silvia, which she found quite odd, considering he was originally terrified of her more than anyone else initially.

“This woman has stolen from me, and refuses to give back what is mine.” Lord Chudin was practically frothing at the mouth, Silvia had never seen him so angry before. Silvia paused for a moment, keeping her eyes on the lord in case he did something unsavory.

“My lady, is what he says true?” Silvia's voice was kinder when addressing the woman Lord Chudin hovered over, though she tried to be firm and neutral.

“No ma'am! It is the opposite!” the woman declared, glaring up at Lord Chudin before pleading to Silvia. “This man is no noble, he is a snake who steals from the poor and gives only to himself.”

“I'm going to have to ask you both to step out of the caravan,” Silvia ordered, taking a step back herself. When neither of them moved, she made her voice firm. “Now.” Both complied, both nervous and angry at each other. When the two left the caravan, Silvia closed the flaps and moved the arguing couple to the front of the line. They could not lose momentum now, it would take more than just a day to reach the capital. Perhaps it would have been wiser to stop, but Silvia's decision had already been made. Let the two walk with her instead of sit in the caravan to stew. “My lady, explain yourself. What did you mean when you said Lord Chudin steals from the poor?”

“She is referring to taxes, half-breed.” Lord Chudin spoke angrily.

“I am asking the lady, Lord Chudin,” Silvia retorted in an attempt to silence the man.

“Our village has been under the thumb of Jesu for as long as it has been around. They tax us heavily because we don't live close enough to their borders. He is the man responsible for that.”

“What did you take from him, exactly?” Silvia understood the woman's outrage, but was curious to see what the fuss was over. To answer, the woman opened her hands and revealed a small, silver ring. A wedding band, or that's what it looked like. Silvia remembered seeing one on her father's hand. “A wedding ring?”

“Yes,” the woman was suddenly relieved. Perhaps she thought that Silvia's understanding of the situation meant she was clear of what she was charged. “I was forced to give it over in the last tax because I did not have any money.”

Silvia glanced at the ring again, then to Lord Chudin. It surprised her that either of these people would put up such a ridiculous fight for jewelry. Maybe they didn't quite understand their situation, but that could not be true with Lord Chudin, could it? He saw the dragon that attacked. He saw it nearly killed Silvia. All of them were in extreme danger, and Silvia could not protect them without her wings. Surely they recognized that?

“You seem to be under the wrong impression, my lady,” Silvia stated, silencing Lord Chudin with a pointed claw before he had the chance to snark. “Both of you. Ermith is being destroyed by dragons, and you are concerned with a wedding ring? Whether or not Lord Chudin was stealing from you is not my business. I couldn't tell you how much I don't care for this sort of thing. I am here to make sure that everyone reaches the capital safely. This is actually more than the king wanted me to do, he only wanted me to see to Jesu's defense, and I failed. He didn't tell me to go to every tiny village nearby and transport anyone who would come to the capital.”

“I don't understand,” the woman's relaxed appearance quickly melted away into despair. Silvia regretted that, but what other choice did she have? “I thought you were going to be an ally to the people? To save us?”

“From dragons,” Silvia corrected. “Not primped up nobles who are too close to their treasures to forget one silly ring.” Silvia could hardly believe the attitude of these people. Dragons are coming out of nowhere for reasons no one knows, and these two are worried about trinkets? Silvia sighed heavily. Would there be no end to her troubles?

“Well-spoken, little dragon.” Silvia started, not expecting such a familiar voice. She turned, and found that in her brief moment of distraction had not noticed the black silhouette appear at her side. Leilah finally found her, somehow. Silvia saw amusement shimmer in Leilah's dark eyes and imagined the woman to be smiling for a moment, though she could not tell what Leilah's expression was. The mask obscured much of her face. It did not take long for Lord Chudin and the villager woman to exclaim their surprise, they had not seen her approach either.

“Demon! Appearing out of nothing is a habit of yours I am familiar with, but stay back! I'll not have you near me!” The woman shouted, her bravado less than convincing thanks to her hasty backpedal.

“Unfortunately, I am no demon,” Leilah spoke, her voice dripping with amusement. She was enjoying this a little too much for Silvia to find any comfort.

“Calm down, she is a friend,” Silvia assured, or at least she tried to. The woman would have nothing to do with it and retreated all the way back to the caravan. Lord Chudin did not cower or run as the woman did, but he was visibly shaken, despite his attempts to hide it. Silvia glanced at the noble for a moment. He was so close to wetting himself, Silvia could smell the fear on him. She felt an urge to growl at him, just to set him off. Hard as it was to resist, Silvia shook her claw at the lord, shooing him away. He left promptly.

“You've made some friends, I see,” Leilah observed, not bothering to gesture towards Silvia's gathering of refugees. “Your wings, are you alright?”

“They don't hurt, if that's what you're asking,” Silvia dismissed the concern. She sensed it was not genuine sympathy. “I managed to kill a dragon, just don't ask me how.”

“I saw it,” Leilah confirmed. She dug into a pocket on her cloak and withdrew a hunk of white rock from it, or what looked to be rock. It was stained with red splotches and smelled familiar to Silvia. “One of it's fangs. Part of it, anyway. I'm curious to see what our smiths think of it.”

“You intend to make another sword?” Silvia wondered. It might not be such a bad idea to have more than one weapon that could pierce dragon scales. Leilah shook her head, which puzzled Silvia. “Then what?”

“What if we could make harpoons out of these?” Leilah suggested, mischief in her eyes. “We could shoot down a dragon from the sky with a well-aimed shot. One man holds the harpoon steady and fires it while a mage controls the trajectory, like an automated aiming mechanic. But we'll need to see if we can make anything out of this first.”

Silvia nodded, it seemed to be a sound plan. She was more worried about reaching the capital before the dragons found them. Once in safety, she could finally rest and heal. The king would likely send her off into the wilderness again to deal with the dragons. Silvia knew it had to be done, but she did not look forward to more dances with death. At Leilah's behest, she recounted her encounter with the dragon, how it almost killed her, and how she barely managed to kill it. Silvia remembered nearly every detail of the fight, as if it was etched into her brain. It was an odd feeling, especially since she had a small bit of amnesia when she first woke after the battle.

Leilah was their silent guide now. The spymaster was well-versed in the layout of the land, and she always seemed to know where danger was. Before they were attacked by some beast, she would drive them off the path and go a different direction, only turning them back to the capital once she said it was safe. It made the trip much slower, but Silvia never felt safer than with Leilah by her side. She was glad the woman managed to find them.

Their good fortune did not last quite all the way to the capital. During one night, while Silvia lay resting by a small campfire, she felt a light hand tap her shoulder to rouse her. She woke immediately to Leilah hovering over her. The woman tapped her shoulder ten times in succession. There were enemies about, ten or more of them. Silvia grabbed her sword, but paused a moment. She did not need a sword to kill regular beasts or humans. So she caught the attention of one of the soldiers from Jesu, Mar. To him she handed her sword, since he did not have a weapon of his own. Leilah threw the other two soldiers two of her daggers, one for each of them, then retrieved a small, and incredibly thin knife from her boot.

Silvia fled from the fire, allowing the darkness to surround her and mask her presence. She could smell the intruders now. Humans. Bandits, most likely. Silvia lost vision of the soldiers and Leilah as she sneaked through the darkness. She could tell she was getting closer, and her steps slowed as she got close enough to hear their heartbeats. They were still some distance away from the camp, and not moving. They were watching, very carefully it seemed. She could see them through the tall grass she prowled in. Thanks to her improved vision, she could see colors even in the dark. She saw only silhouettes of the bandits though, and only two of them, separate from the rest. One seemed very large and carried two weapons, axes they looked to be, in his hands. The other was much thinner, possibly a woman.

“You think they noticed?” One of the bandits whispered, a female voice.

“Nah, they're probably just paranoid. Just like you,” another answered, his voice gruff and sickly. Was he suffering? Silvia felt a twinge of remorse flow through her. She could not willingly harm a sick man, though if he was going to attack the refugees, she would have to at least incapacitate him. “They won't put up too much of a fight. Only three soldiers for the eleven of us.”

“Ten, you're not fighting Rock.” The female again. The other bandits were not far away, Silvia sensed, but none of them seemed to want to contribute to the argument. Was this their leader, then? Silvia wanted to get closer, but she feared they would sense her before it was time for them to attack. But wait, wouldn't that scare them away from the camp? Silvia readied herself to pounce.

“Like hell I'm not.” The bandit called Rock retorted. “Those soldiers look trained. What happens when all ten of you die to them, when I could cut them down myself?”

Silvia could not wait any longer. This man talked as if he was stronger than three guards, and he may well be stronger than these three in particular. They did not have proper weapons, while the bandits may have axes, swords, or spears. Before the woman could speak up again, Silvia pounced, tackling the woman to the ground and pinning her arms to the ground.

“The fuck is that!?” One of the bandits shouted.

“We're under attack!” Rock bellowed at the same time. Silvia made short work of the woman, shoving her claws down into her throat, jumping back to avoid the counterattack from Rock. She could not see the man properly, so she sucked in her breath and let out a stream of fire at the bandit. He scrambled to avoid the fire, which caught onto a bandit that was charging her. It was that man instead that took the fire and screamed in agony. The bandit dropped to the ground, green flames enveloping his body as he quickly stopped moving.

Silvia got a good look at all the bandits, and they got a good look at her. The fire illuminated them all. The female bandit grabbed at her ankles, but Silvia ignored the woman. She did not want to look at the damage she had done. The grip was weak and shaking, but the woman did not relent, even after Silvia tried to push the woman's head away with her foot. The bandit leader, Rock, stood frozen in fear of Silvia and her draconic form.

“What in the world are you?” Rock managed to question her, even through his fear. Silvia growled at him in response. He took a step back. “Of course, you only look human. The dragons have come up with some new tricks, I see. Well, I'm no fool. We're dead one way or another. What do you want of us, dragon?”

“Your lives,” Silvia answered. She kicked the woman's head away from her, finally releasing her grip from Silvia's ankles. Silvia stepped closer to Rock, and he took a step back for every step forward that Silvia took. “Your country is under attack from dragons, and you take advantage of the weak? The defenseless?”

“They're hardly defenseless.” Rock laughed, startling Silvia for a moment. “I see it now. You are not a human or a dragon are you? You're just a pet. Well, since you just killed my wife, how about becoming my pet instead?”

Silvia felt unsure on how she thought of being called a pet. She hated the idea of it, but since Rock said it, she could feel how true it was. She hesitated, then swallowed a lump in her throat. What was she to the king? Silvia wondered at that. Was she just a simple pet? Something to sic at the dragons when they come calling? That would kill her, eventually. It pained her to think that, but no matter what she did, she could not help but see the truth behind those words.

Rock noticed her hesitation. He took a step closer to Silvia, a cautious one. “I spoke unjustly. You obviously dislike being called a pet. A new offer then. In exchange for killing my wife, become part of us, your very own man among men.”

“I have a duty,” Silvia answered, baring her claws to make Rock relent. He did not. “The dragons must die, and I am the only one able to kill them.”

“I believe you,” Rock replied. He took another step forward. “But are you going to learn how to fight the dragons while being in some cage, waiting to be released into the wild when the king wills it? Join me, and I will see to your training.”

“I have a trainer, he's teaching me to use a sword.”

Rock laughed. “And so much good it's doing you! I see no sword in your hand, only claws and fangs! You don't need proper training like that. You need the savage might of barbarians! I will take you to our tribe in the desert. There you will fight beasts with your tooth and your nail. I admit, it is a sport for us barbarians, but if you live through it, you can truly become the beast that you are.”

Silvia hesitated again. She knew this was a mistake. She knew it was. But the offer was too tempting, too real for her to pass on. She could truly learn how to use her body to fight. Silvia knew she must not become Nirvu again, her soul must remain in control. But that training...it might just be the very thing that she needed to fight dragons. Rock did not speak any more, he waited patiently for her answer, but he gave her this smile, this huge, grinning smile that already claimed victory.

“I-” Silvia paused, looking back at the camp where the three soldiers and Leilah waited. Would the spymaster come after her? Or would she know that Silvia was making this decision for the safety of the country? It was a sacrifice, and a big one at that, but she would be giving her life to the nation one way or another. So which would be more useful to her? Being a warrior, or a beast?

“We will leave immediately, then.” Rock announced. He clapped his hand on Silvia's shoulder, startling her out of her stupor. “Come then, men, we have ourselves a dragon to train.” The bandits were leaving. All of them, all at once, just like that. None of them seemed to be waiting around for her either. Silvia glanced down at the woman on the ground. She stared listlessly up at her, eyes filled with darkness. That frightened Silvia. She ran to catch up with Rock and his tribe of bandits.


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A Story Continued

Post by Zerifachias on Sun Jan 11, 2015 5:54 pm

And so ends Part One of SDW. This story has finally ended it's introductory stage and now moves onto some bigger, meatier sections of story. Due to the nature of future chapters, all updates in this thread have been canceled. I will continue to write and prepare this story for publication. To those who are curious, I will not be disclosing any further chapters through any means. I wish to keep the story to myself until it has been finished.

But fear not, whether the story is published or not, I will make sure that, at the end of this journey, a set few that I will handpick will be able to read this story free of charge.


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Re: Dragon Wars (SDW Novelization Revision)

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