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Fantasy Broken Balance

A sigh escaped Ashely when she and Jura were out of Diabmoure's range. Although they still had a long way to go before making it home, Ashely grimaced. And judging how tense Jura's body was underneath her, it wouldn't be a comfortable ride. Jura slowed her pace when dusk came about. Jura finally spoke after giving her the silent treatment; her voice dripped with anger and hurt, "Yes, my muscles ache; I have a couple of cracked ribs, many flesh wounds..."

Ashely let her friend rant, letting her get all her thoughts and frustrations out. She listened silently but intently as she pulled out her storage tool. She shifted her weight and pulled out a small first-aid kit and a rope. When Jura said, "...you took too long to rescue me." Ashely quietly sucked in her breath a little, feeling slightly guilty. She tied one end of the rope around her own waist and two loops around her thighs. Then she shuffled forward to secure the other end of the rope around her friend's neck. A safety precaution, just in case.

The two would enter many fights in their line of work, and Jura often protected Ashely from attacks. So Ashely developed a way to care for her friend's injuries in the air. However, Ashley fell quite a few times in the beginning. Thus, the rope helped. When Jura finished her rant, Ashely had already begun cleaning the cuts found on her back. A few minutes of silence passed before Ashely responded, "You fought well, though. Very entertaining. I especially enjoyed it when you crushed that criminal's skull. I made quite a fortune betting on you."

She attempted to joke around, but Ashely felt it was not received well.

More moments of silence passed again. Jura gently angled the tips of her wings so that the direction they travelled changed slightly. Ashe could hear Jura's tiny hisses, "I'm sorry this happened to you, Jura," she said. "I should have known they would capture you from the beginning. That they were explicitly after you. I would not have let you go if I knew they were waiting for you."

As gently as Ashely could, she tied a few climbing knots and created sling to hold herself in. Gracefully she simply slid sideways, ducking between Jura's legs. There she was held by the rope sling she fastened and observed the cuts. Then she began cleaning and dressing them. After which, Ashely placed her hands on Jura's ribcage. "This will hurt like a hippogriff biting your paw off." She pressed inwards, feeling where her ribs had been damaged. She had recalled one of Jura's more dangerous fights left quite an injury. "Yep, two broken and 3 bruised ribs ones." She used the rope to climb back onto Jura's back. "I will wrap your chest up to support your ribcage when we land and dress your other minor cuts."

Little by little, the night sky disappeared to give way to the sun. Looking back, they could no longer see Diabmoure. "I actually estimated that you would have lasted for 6 months in the Diabmoure, thus had planned to root my influence in the Arkarma. However when I saw your fights after the first month, you began to lose your spirit. A soldier without hope is a dead one. So that left me to complete 5months of work. I managed to extract information on funding locations. Sent that to our guild to steal. Solidify a presence as a trader, but now of course, I cannot show my face there again. I managed to scout the structure of the Arkarma, figure out who the most powerful are, and research prison and guard layouts."

Ashely made her case to Jura and explained her main point, "Jura, I waited as long as possible to rescue you because I took that opportunity to cement a strategy to take down Diabmoure for good."

The silence came again, and Ashely waited for Jura's response. When none came, she decided to leave the topic for another time. Right now, they needed to camp and rest. They flew a couple more hours before a wide river came into view. Once they crossed it, they would take an indirect route back to Outcast Island. Standard guild protocol to shake off anyone following them. The sunrise was beautiful, particularly in partnership with the beach. She untied the rope and packed her first-aid kit, putting them back into her storage tool. She leaned back onto her hands and stared at the scenery ahead of them.

Ashely glanced back at Jura from the rising sun. She listened to Jura's wings flapping against the wind when the air current wasn't enough. She looks utterly wrecked. Flying on fumes. I don't know anyone with more grit and loyalty than her companion. Ashley frowned. She wondered where exactly Jura was leading them. She considered their next possible moves. Jura needs a healer; she will need to rest until we can locate one or, at the very least, buy some healing mana tools. The healing services are expensive, but I am sure the pouches of gold from Abaddon will be sufficient. They would need shelter to hide, food wouldn't be a problem, and I could always hunt with my bow and quiver.

So much to do yet little time to do it.
"Miss" Blade started to say from his position, "Your son believes you have perished. He's outside and is deeply distraught due to your state. I'm his partner."

The dragoness' head perked up. Was he? She thought his son would be somewhere else. Down south if he found out about his mission. If not... then who knows.

"Do you consent to me healing you so you shall reunite with him? I am well acquainted with the magic arts"

The dragoness nodded slightly. Honestly she had already given up. Her mate was dead at her side. She was too vulnerable due to her curse, no scales to protect her nor wings to help her move. Too beaten up to continue at a safe rate and everyone else she knew was either dead or missing. But no more. Her son was near and it seemed he needed counseling. And Valadir's partner could be a valuable ally if he wasn't talking out of his ass.

Blade then entered the cave, with his light orb following him, eventually floating above the brown dragoness. The white dragon sat beside her and began gently touching her in key areas to assess her injuries. Her reactions would give away any broken bones. With time, Blade found out she had taken damages to her left wrist, a couple broken ribs and a deep wound on one of her back legs. And the scars she had all around.

The mage chose to not heal everything in order to conserve his energy. He didn't know when he'd need to fight to it was better to be ready. He fixed the broken bones by placing his paws on the affected area, but first he'd use a spell to briefly shut off the nerves in the area. Did the same for the wounds in her face, and lastly he transferred her a little bit of energy so she could stand and walk.

She stood slowly, both because she was checking if the white dragon actually did as he said and because she had been laying there for days.

"Thank you" she said with a coarse voice due to having ran out of people to talk to a long time ago.

"Do not mention it" Blade replied modestly.

"You said my son was with you. Where's he?" She asked.

"Head left after you exit this cave"

The dragoness nodded and headed out following the instructions. It was true. He was there. Crying his soul out, but there nontheless. It hurt her soul seeing him like that. Sure, he was a grown adult by now but he was still her son.

The dragoness laid next to him and caressed his face and chin. Valadir dared to briefly open his eyes, expecting to have been Crys coming to take pity on his sorrow and then berating him to hell and back for leaving. But when he saw that it was his mother, he could hardly believe it. He thought he had died as well and was reuniting with her in the afterlife. Even then, his facial expression gave away his relief and happiness. The shock kept him crying, and this sank his head on his mother.

Blade exited the cave and sat, watchingthe two dragons happily. He caught the light orb that now was orbiting his head. Grasping it between his claws, he crushed it to reabsorb the spent energy.
Jura winced as Ashe applied pressure to her chest. The pain is bearable. It's not as if she had worse to deal with. Like the past two months.

While Jura twitched a little and generally found it uncomfortable for Ashe, her friend, to navigate herself around, she is also thankful that she is. The sooner the open wounds are treated. She has become efficient at it. While the treatment isn't as effective as on the ground due to Jura constantly moving, it still helps enough. It brings her back to the first few times Ashe attempted on-the-fly medical therapy. Jura had gotten good at catching her in the air. Hence the rope Ashe uses.

Ashe's explanation didn't change Jura's argument about why she took as long as she did to get her out, but she also understands that she has limitations. Instead of fighting her way in, negotiating is her strength. After all, the human has a background in it. It was a good plan if she had more time. At least they have more information about the city built for blood and, with no small amount of hope, will end with blood.

The sunrise is nothing short of beauty. Two months of not seeing it. It refreshed Jura's mind. Jura is exceptionally high in the sky. To Ashe, the ground would be a blur of colours and dots, but to Jura, every detail is clear to her. She started her descent when they passed the river that split the desert from the mainland. The day is here, and while she can be mistaken for a large bird of prey, she is not taking the risk. She trailed the shoreline, flying North where she knew of a village. But before she told Ashe of her plans, she spotted him. The white dragon. What surprised her was that there were another two dragons with him. Or what she thinks is a dragon. When evidently, black scaled and the other of the colour of humans skin. To add to the odd sight, wingless. But if Blade is with them, indeed, they are friendly. At least, she hoped so.

To Ashe. she said, "I found the other dragon. Blade is his name. There are also another two. Stay on your guard. When I land, we will be at their mercy. Maybe we can help each other."

When Jura was above the landed dragons, she spiralled her when down at a casual pace, making it evident that she wasn't a threat to them. She aimed to land twenty metres away from the others. As she did, she made an effort to land softly for Ashe's sake. Quick to say that Jura is relieved to fold her wings.
"Don't dismount in case we need to flee."

She stared at the dragons before cautiously approaching, slowly getting nervous. This is the first time in a long time she has seen so many dragons in one place. She did not comment until one of them approved of her presence.
The sun was beginning to rise. Ashely watched it from her position, lying down on Jura’s back. It’s glow radiated heat onto her cheeks. She allowed herself to smile a little. Our cover will not be as good in the daytime. And we still have a long way off before getting out of hostile territory too. Her smile faded, into a solemn expression.

Jura’s voice drew her from her thoughts. Her friend informed her, “I found the other dragon…”

Ashely shot up from laying down and peered over Jura’s shoulder at the ground. A she could see were blurred shapes underneath them. Another dragon. This is not a safe place for any dragon to camp. She heard Jura say the name of the dragon she escaped with, “Blade. There are two other dragons.”

Ashley sensed her friend’s muscles stiffen slightly. Strange. Is Jura…nervous? As they got closer and closer to the ground, she could make out the three figures up ahead. One was the brilliant white, with purple and green embellishments. The second black with brown socks and the third… is inured, horrendously. I was planning to use our supplies for Jura’s wounds in case her cuts reopened. But it looks like I will need to restock sooner than I had hoped.

Jura landed 20 metres away and instructed to stay on her back in case they needed to fly a swift exit. Though Ashely doubted their ability to escape if these dragons did indeed attack. Jura’s condition was better they would have a definite chance. Then again Blade does owe us one. Ashely remained silent, stomach beginning to turn by being brought in front of three other dragons. Her eyes fell onto the black and brown dragon. She frowned, He is not the largest dragon I have heard about nor nearly as impressive but…I perceive a level of power.

Ashely felt Jura stop in silence after walking a couple of steps forward.

Well, it is their move now
Blade kept watching over the two other dragons, seeing that no one tried to ambush them while they did their thing. He didn't know how long he had been on it, but his state didn't help either. Sure, he wasn't injured but he felt really hungry, exhausted and very sleepy. The meals he was given were minimal, hadn't slept all night, he'd just used a chunk of his energy in order to heal several broken bones and the rush of his escape had already worn off. He was doing everything to keep awake and alert and thus it felt like they were taking forever. Honestly, he'd love that they wrapped things up so he could stick his eyelids together for a couple hours.

Valadir slowly began to calm down. His eyes had acquired a noticeable reddish tint. He didn't dare to look at the cave, not now that he knew his father's corpse was in there. He also didn't really want to stay near it either. The sole idea of sleeping near the place where he found his dad's body and his mother at death's door felt... wrong. Macabre. At least his mom was still around. That fact conforted him somewhat, although it was painful to think his family didn't survive in one piece.

The white dragon was looking at the treeline, yawning widely, when he thought he saw something. Something blue. He rubbed his lightning blue eyes and looked again. It was... his cellmate? What was she doing there? Wasn't she supposed to be back inside? And she had company too. A human girl. He didn't recognize her given the plants around her, but there was something in her that looked familiar.

Blade oustretched his right wing and made a gesture, signaling his cellmate that it was okay to come over.

Valadir eventually stopped crying. His first instinct was to raise his head and check if there was any danger coming his way. That's when he saw Jura and the human. His first thought was that now the humans were turning his kind against him. That was the last thing he needed. The dragon was quick to escape his mother's grasp and get up.

Blade noticed the sudden moves. "Don't attack them!" He yelled on top of his lungs. "I wouldn't be here if not for her!"

"Fine..." The black dragon said really reluctantly. Even then, he refused to let his guard down.
The dragoness relaxed when Blade allowed her to walk closer.
This is better than expected.
Upon having a closer inspection of the trio, Jura can make out that the black and tanned colour dragons are having an intimate moment. She cannot distinguish why but given the circumstances, they probably haven't seen each other for a long time.

When the dark dragon sprung from his seat, looking at her, ready to tear her apart, Jura crouched, ready to pounce into the sky. Blade defended her, and she eased, but she kept him at a distance for Ashe's sake. Any step he made towards her, that's one she took back.

"Good to see you again, Blade. I thought you would go in this direction, and it's good to know that you are still alive. This is Ashe. She's the reason why we both escaped. Any thanks to me should go to her. And, who this... Fellow dragon death staring at me."
Looking closer at the other dragon further back, his gaze isn't on her.
"Actually, Ashe, I don't think he likes you. Don't blame him. You can be really pushy sometimes. Or maybe you walk funny on two legs."
Finding a little humour at the stare, though she shouldn't be, any relief is welcome. Just not at her expense.

When Jura believed it was safe, she crouched down. Till her belly is on the sand. Giving Ashe a chance to climb down from her back. Getting the extra weight off will be nice. Not that she weighed much

- - -

"Chamley, I haven't had it before. Smells like a drake knockoff of green tea. Not to discredit its pleasant fragrance."
She tilted her head and smiled when Wolnir reflected on his sleep.
"Good to know that you slept well."
She thought he would think she would have done something to help him sleep.
"No tricky spells involved, but that's not to say I didn't do anything. When I have a hard time, I spend a lot of quality time with someone who gives me comfort and much support and is dearly close to my heart. The natural outcome is peace and restoration. I believe that's what happened to you. My being here has a huge impact on you. Compare it if I wasn't. You'd be depressed, which will dictate your day. It shows me how much of an impact I have on you. That's good. At least I'm a good influence, and I'm not just saying that to make you think I'm a good friend. It clearly demonstrated itself. Besides, I'd hate to see you take any other direction."
Crystal sat next to Wolnir and leaned against him.
"I get nightmares once a blue moon. From things I did hundreds of years ago. Memories aren't something you forget. You learn to live with them. Remember that when you give me an answer."

When the pot boiled, Crystal carefully took it away from the fire and stuffed dried leaves. Waited several minutes before pouring the flavoured water into the cups.
"I would say, 'careful, it's a little hot' but, I don't think that would be a problem for someone who spits fire. Lucky bastard..."
When the dark dragon sprung up from his seat, a spike of adrenaline shot through Ashely. She noticed that even Jura was on high alert as well. She felt the dragoness crouch to fly off if needed. Ashely's eyes roamed the rest of the scene to update herself on any threats or problems that may arise. The only immediate problem seems to be that uptight dragon death staring me down.

Ashe shifted her eyes to Blade when he came to their defence. She watched him greet Jura. Then Ashe raised her eyebrow when she overheard Jura reply, "...I thought you would go in this direction..." so she was trying to find the other dragons then. Once again she forsakes her own wellbeing for a mission. Though I do suppose this is rather an important event for her.

She looked back to the dark dragon who stood further away. Quit the glaring already. Ashe blankly stared back at the dragon not backing down from the challenge.

She didn't take her eyes away from the dragon when Jura joked, "...Ashe I don't think he really likes you...you can be a bit pushy...walk funny on two legs." Ashely did a half scoff, half laugh, "Pushy no, attentive yes. As for the four legs U just insulted my whole race yet oddly I don't disagree."

Ashely carefully slid off of Jura after he friend gave her the signal it was safe to. She said to Blade, "why are you all here? It is not safe, particularly for dragons." Ashe pulled out her first aid kit once more what she waited for the whit dragon to respond. Ashe approached Jura once more and gave her another once over. Then frowned at her friend, "You tore my stitches underneath your wing."

Ashe glanced at the other injured dragon from where she stood. She jerked her head to her and asked Blade, "I can take a look at her as well after I finish on Jura. That is if Mr. Paranoid will let me. Otherwise I can provide you with the supplies."

The sooner we are all out of her the better.
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"This is our new comrade" Blade began answering his cellmate's question. "He's quite accustomed with the region and knows of a safe place in the southern mountains. I'm also relieved to see you. Could I have your name? You never talked when we were together... How are you feeling?" He then addressed the human. "It is my pleasure to meet you. My apologies for growling at you earlier"

Valadir stared at Blade as he talked. Considering the human, he thinks the white dragon has given up too much information. When he finished, his gaze was again centered on the human, watching her every move. Even if she seemed to have done those two a favor... he didn't trust her, or at least for now. The dragon saw her as a potential enemy. How could he think differently of the race that took away everything he held dear? Of the race that had killed his father and friends? That forced him to flee his home and fight for his life every day for the last year and couple of months? Given that she seemed to have helped Blade and Jura, he was willing to tolerate her presence but not much else. Time would tell if she was actually trustworthy.

"I was taking Blade south" Valadir replied to Ashe's question about the reason of their presence here. "Looking for a place to spend the day in order to move past the stronghold at night" He wasn't comfortable about sharing that amount of information, but given that Blade had already given them a bunch...

Then the human offered to do a bit of healing on his mother.
"What do you think?" He asked his remaining parent. "Do you want to?" He was given a nod in return.
"Fine..." He replied. He then spoke to the human, trying to leave his hatred aside for just a moment for the sake of his mother. "You may do your thing, but if you do anything funny you'll regret it"

He stared at the human as she worked. Jura didn't seem to be in the best shape either, given that she was also receiving some first aid. That meant his original plan would have to change. To take everyone to the mountains on his own was too risky. Two wounded dragons, one of them couldn't fly. Blade seemed to be fine. As he kept staring at Ashe, he proposed a course of action.

"What about waiting until nightfall in a safer place? I'll go south to go get backup so we can even the odds off arriving to the mountains"

Blade waited to hear the conversation out before pronouncing himself. In his opinion, the faster they get out of peril, the better.

"I-i think I heard about that one before in the meadery" He said when he was told about the kind of tea they were going to have today.
The orange dragon then heard Crystal's explanation about why he had slept so well last night. Of course, she had a deep understanding of the subject and so she was able to give him a good explanation about the cause of his pleasant sleep. He was also given some more to think about regarding his memories. That he'd probably be sacrificing a part of himself for it. Of who he was.

"I-ill give that a thought too..." He said while he caressed her a bit with care. He thought that matter would be an easy choice, but now he wasn't sure.

He gladly accepted the cup of tea.
"W-we can still feel the heat of things..." He said as he blew the steam from the cup before drinking a sip. Not bad but he had better kinds of tea before.
"My name is Jura. Solas's-"
She cut herself off before she mentioned her old title from habit.
"Just Jura. Sorry for not being a social bunny in Diabmoure. I didn't want to know you if I had to kill you."
She put it bluntly. Blade can take it as he like. When he asked how she was feeling, it struck a nerve. She isn't often asked that, but she kept are barrier up. Not that she didn't trust the white dragon. She didn't want to appear feeble.
"Tired. Other than that. Intact."

Jura tilted her head when he mentioned that the other dragon would take him South. Questioning the idea. That is where all the armies are. She doesn't know why they have gathered there.
"Why would you go South? There is nothing. It's so far. We know of a closer place where we can find rest."

Feeling more relaxed, she sat and watched Ashe labour on the wingless dragon. Also, kept an eye on Valadir. In the event, he makes a move against her friend. Jura will do everything to stop him.

Thinking of Valadir's idea, if he were to leave and come back, that would give them enough time to go to Ashe's and her heaven for a bit of rest and to gear up. She needs to be convinced there is something good, South.

- - -

Still making her point, Crystal continued with the debate, "but you can't really burn yourself. Well, I say that, but I know every dragon and drake, for that matter, have a limit. WAIT! Did you know that Armageddon's known not to have a limit. In fact, rumour has it that Eragon has skinny-dipped in a volcano. We should ask him. Not now, though... He's currently having a rough time..."
She trailed off the last sentence.
"Speaking of which, I need to see both the brothers today before we leave for camp. Want to come with me?"

She paused before she jumped too far ahead.
"Do you need to pack anything? Not that I remember you having much on you... Maybe we can steal a couple of things... Hehe. Steal the tea."

She finished her cup relatively quickly and waited for Wolnir to finish.
"You still comfortable coming with me still?"
Finishing the last stitch on Jura, Ashe pulled out a anti septic ointment from her pouch. Gently she applied it on top of the wound whilst listening to Blade answer.
When Jura responded, a nerve struck accord in her, when the dragoness almost slipped out her old title. Solas castle was a mere shell of what it once was. To the point where it can no longer distinguish friend from foe. Ashe pushed the thoughts of the castle out of her mind. Refocusing on the current situation at hand.

She heard Jura tell Blade she was "...still intact". Smirking, she saw the antiseptic had dried and collected her equipment. Intact is not the word I would describe you, Jura.

Ashe joined the conversation when Blade apologised to her. Ashe half smiled, "There is no need for you to apologise. If anything, it is I who should ask for your pardon Blade. For my identity to remain hidden, in Diabmoure, I was required to act in an insidious manner. You were protecting Jura, I ought to thank you for that."
She dipped her head down slightly, to show her gratitude.

When the dark dragon finally spoke of there purpose, it caused Ashe to frown. "South? Nothing good comes of traveling towards those mountains." Letting the discussion continue Ashe divided her attention onto the other dragon in need.

Ashe stepped forward towards the wingless dragon. Slowly at first, informing the darker one of her moves. When she passed him she stared directly in his eyes, a firm expression on her face. Annoyance rose in her at his warning and distate at her existence yet she remained composed.
She went to the opposite side of the wingless dragon so she was facing the others. This way Ashe could keep an eye on the Validor in case he decided that she had lived long enough.

Gently she observed the dragoness. First looking at her eyes and then pressing down on her body. Her ribcage was showing revealing malnourishment.

She frowned again.
Her bones feel fine but some areas are tender...Few of the deeper cuts have been half healed...ah. She glanced up at the dark dragon and Blade, suspiciously. Surely neither of them know the magical arts.
Ashe recognised the effects of healing magic when she saw it. Her homeland after all was famous for exporting and developing magical herbs and its related arts.

Ashe continued her work this time with an ear to the turn of the conversation. She dug into her pouch pulling out anti septic and numbing ointments and put it on the small cuts and joints to ease the pain.

Ashe's head perked up when the south was mentioned again. The armies had gathered there. Even in Eraylia there was support for joining in that war. For reasons unknown to me. She was about to argue against but Jura stated many of her own concerns.

Ashe stood, dusting herself off, and walked to the Validor. She pushed her annoyance down for the sake of the weak dragoness. She said to him, "When we part ways I need to give you two ointments for your friend. It will keep infection away and heal her quicker."
She did not like the idea of giving away expensive, quality medicines but...it is what it is.

Ashe thought on his idea which was logical to get back up but in the meantime they would have no defence. Like it or not, and Ashe did not like it, Validor was their only means of protection. Not that she couldnt hold her own but she was just one person. If they were to face a powerful enemy or a large group, it would be a dire situation. The weaker dragon was on the brink of death. Jura and Blade just came from Diabmoure and we're both spent. Two of them still need a professional healer. Her first aid and herbs would only do so much.

Ashe tensed her jaw, the closest place they would be safe was her and Jura's haven. She was hesitant to suggest it especially since it meant the possibility of tolerating this prick for a while longer. And also because it went against normal procedure.
Ah! Damn Lucerna Sainta!

Ashe sighed, "Jura and I know a safe place to rest and restock - Castrock Island. Though you may know it by it's common name, Outcast Island." Ashe already knew the dark dragon probably would not like the idea.
"It would be a week or two set back if you're going southward. Though it is secure and you will be in our personal care."
And if this dragon wants his friend safe he should consider it. Taking a step backwards to move forwards, so to speak.
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"Fair..." Blade muttered to himself when Jura told him the reason why she didn't say a thing during all the weeks they were locked up together. A cold reason, yet it was backed by logic.

"You don't seem intact, as you say..." Blade told Jura when she said she was feeling perfectly fine. The white dragon himself wasn't injured, mainly because he thoroughly healed his wounds after each fight. During the downtime in the cell. Yet he didn't do the same with the dragoness because he was taught to not do that sort of thing without consent.

"I welcome your words" Blade told Ashe as she insisted she was the one who should apologize instead of him. That his intentions were noble.

"Wait..." Valadir began to ask. "You two been actually in there?"

"That's correct" Blade replied.

Valadir took a moment before continuing with his questions.
"They got me in a cage and were about to jail me in Diabmoure, but i escaped at the last moment. Guess luck was on my side. Mind you, that was a handful of weeks ago... How is it in there? I've heard it's horrible..."

"You've heard correctly" Blade replied. "They kept us in small cells. Forced us to fight eachother every couple of days with minimal food for entertainment. Fortunately, Jura and me never fought eachother. I often lost track of time, yet i assume i must have been imprisoned for several months. It has felt like a lifetime"

"Sounds... a bit worse than what i've heard... I'm so sorry for both of you..."

When Valadir was told he'd be given an ointment for his mother's wounds, he didn't say a word, partially because he was shocked about what he was told about Diabmoure. He just took note of what Ashe said, looking forward to checking if the human actually meant that.

And after he suggested going south, both Jura and the human asked him what was so special about the destination he proposed. He was reminded of himself a couple months ago. Of how he didn't know about the drakes or Crystal's kind until relatively recently. Thus he tried to push his hatred for the human aside and try to explain her and Jura what awaited them. He tried to put it nicely in order to get them on his side.
"First off... your idea's shit. We don't have that kind of time.
And second... the southern mountains are actually very secure. It sounds like you haven't heard, but there's... a rather reclusive race living in them. The drakes. They look like us, only that they walk on two legs. They fortified the whole place pretty well, and if we manage to get there they'll provide you with whatever you want. A bed. Food. Healing. Armor. They are culture bound to do everything to help you, and thus if i tell them all of you are here, i have no doubt they'll come flying to get you to safety.
Oh, and one of our kin is already there too. And i have a couple contacts in there too. I can go get help and come back here by tomorrow at this time. It only took me a couple hours to get here from there..."

"I am also familiar with that place. I wouldn't have put it that way, but his description is accurate." Blade added.

While he waited the others to digest the information he gave them, Valadir sunk his head on what he was told about Diabmoure. He eventually got furious, and he wasn't sure who to be furious at. If at himself for... allowing himself to be distracted with meaningless shit. Eating. Drinking. Playing dressup. Going to get jewels. All the while people like Blade and Jura were fighting for their lives for someone else's fun. If he wasn't busy wasting time, maybe his father would still be alive. Maybe his mother wouldn't be in that condition. Or maybe he was to be mad at the drakes? After all, it looked like they are mostly interested in just picking a fight with someone and not helping his kind. Too busy playing tough. What were they doing when his kind were being slaughtered during the last year? Nothing. When he left the mountains last night, he was looking for something to work as a leverage for the drakes to finally move their asses, and sounds like he finally got it.

"T-that doesn't sound possible..." Wolnir briefly put down his cup of tea to talk. Throwing yourself to a volcano and not feeling a thing sounded silly.

The dragon hurried to finish his cup when he was asked if he was fine with going to the hospital once again and going to her friends' after.
"I-i can't promise anything about liking the camp..." He said rather shyly. "C-can i leave if i don't?"

The dragon then went to fetch his new necklace. "M-maybe we can pack a snack?"
"Shallow wounds are all they are. Nothing that rest cannot fix. That's, of course, I get any..."
As strong as Jura perceived herself to be. She is wrecked even if she denies it. Doesn't like to be called a quitter or soft, but everyone has limits. She comes close to hers.

Jura blankly stared at Valadir while he explained the Southern mountains. A race of dragons walking on two legs that will sincerely meet their needs? Jura did her best not to laugh. She genuinely cannot tell if he is being serious or not. Turned to look at Blade, who also supported his words. She didn't know what to think. It cannot be accurate. Jura refused to believe all this time, The Cursed Mountains were populated by a bunch of weird-looking creatures. However, she cannot deny that majority of her betrayed country's army, many of her old friends, are in front of those same mountains.
"You call our idea shit. Yet every word that came out of your mouth sounds like a story you made up an hour ago. To think there is a race of creatures that will give us food and rest by simply showing up. Not only that but, make them come here? Do you understand my view? If they are real, why aren't they here now, wiping my ass after I take a shit? Definitely would have been helpful during my cozy stay in the desert! How can you make such a nefarious claim?
Her pent-up fury started leaking out. A rageful snarl across her face. She stood from her seat and slammed her tail against the ground. Her voice filled with anger and anxiety.
"Everyone I loved is dead! Most of my race is dead. Here you come along, I'm sure, with a full belly of the finest dining while I've been here, killing my next meal so I can live for one more day!"
A burst of fire escaped her maw. Her blood boiled. Heart raced, and breathing quickened. She's ready to fly off. Not wanting any help. She turned around, refusing to look at their faces. It would have been easier if she died in Diabmoure.

She suddenly felt cold and light-headed. She felt something warm trickle down her lips. She touched her snout and found blood on her paw. She looked at the ground. The sand started to turn into circles. She took a step backwards, lost balance then immediately fell unconscious.

- - -

"Of course, you can leave. Don't feel bad if you don't like it. It can definitely feel a bit intrusive for newcomers because everyone will want to get to know you. Especially you... I may have told everyone what a handsome and sweet dragon you are. The little ones keep pestering me about it. Anyway, I'll put these away, and you go get ready, ok."
Crystal picked up the silverware and returned them to the kitchen net. She washed them in the large basin of cold water and then left them out too dry. Afterwards, she collected her kimono from Wolnir's room and waited at the door. She conducted a quick mental search for Valadir. Not to her surprise, she didn't find him. She just hoped he didn't leave. That dragon worries her sometimes. He's definitely capable of making interesting decisions. Don't blame him, though. He's been through a lot. Both of them have. She will do much within her power to take care of them. As for the Armageddon brothers. Well...
Those two drakes are doing my head in. How can the two of the most powerful beings get themselves into such a mess?
She plans to wake Reptar today and ask a bunch of questions. He's personally seen these infesters and needs to know all the information in his mind.
A disquieting feeling crept over Ashe when she took in her friend. Behind the mask Jura put on, Ashe could tell she was nearing her limit. Despite how infinite that limit was Ashe remarked to herself. we should have sought shelter and supplies for Jura’s rest first, before seeking Blade out. Furthermore I need to commence preparations and strategies if we are to take down Diabmoure. Give these ointments to him now and then leave. It’s not like the mountains are going anywhere.

After Validor told them of his escape from Diabmoure hunters. Without looking at the dark dragon next to her she commented, “You should be very grateful to have been granted peace from that suffering.”
Memories of Ashe’s time in Diabmoure resurfaced in her mind when the conversation turned to that God forsaken arena. She was often sat on cushions surrounded by wine, drunk and bloodthirsty fools during the gladiator sessions. There were even nobles and other people of notoriety present calling for the onslaught to commence. Ashe’s eyes flicked to Jura’s wounds recalling every fight that caused her harm.

She shook her head and brushed away her concern. She placed the ointments on the ground next to him, deciding he can keep them where he wants to. “Use them on your friend’s wounds twice a day, after they have been cleaned.” When she did look at the dark dragon, to her eyes he seemed lost…frustrated even. It is not my problem at this moment. Jura is.

Then Validor, answered their inquires about the benefits of traveling south.
She would be lying to herself to say she was not curious. However far fetched it sounded. “Drakes,” Ashe repeated. She laughed under her breath. “Dragons on two legs, now that is an insulting joke.” Ashe looked to Blade for his reaction. The white dragon affirmed everything about these drakes.

She sighed and closed her storage pouch. “Unfortunately for you we need more than a stranger’s word to rely on. The army Alliance is camped right outside those mountains, obviously not for parading about." Then it dawned on Ashe, I always suspected there was more to the Allies’ decisions. My contacts in Eraylia informed me there was a darker reason behind their involvement in the Alliance. Could it be because of these drakes? But why attack a myth no one believes? Why bother invade first. Eraylian tactics often emphasised negotiation over war. There military action were drastic last efforts or for intimidation. I need to find out more. Perhaps it would be worthwhile travelling with Validor and Blade.

She was about to speak when Jura responded in rage. She could feel her friend’s anger from where she stood. She had insulted the other two about their explanation of the southern mountains. Ashe hid her smirk at her friend’s outburst. while it is true, the description of drakes is utter bullshit coming out of their ass, I do believe they might be telling the truth. We need to take advantage of this situation. “Jura,” she called to stop her friend’s rant but to no avail. She could see her call fell on deaf ears.

That disquieting feeling she had from before came back, evolving into deeper concern. She had witnessed her friend lose her temper at times when serious military infractions occurred. But this was different. Jura was not just mad, she was …hurt. Jura had slammed her tail and breathed out fire, causing even Ashe to flinch a little. Her heart hurt when her friend mentioned her lost loved ones. Even Eraylia betrayed Jura.

But no matter what came against the dragoness, Ashe witnessed her stand her ground. If something knocked her friend down, she would refuse to give in. To Ashe, Jura was one of the strongest people she knew. This right now was merely another obstacle to preserve through.

Then the unthinkable happened. Jura collapsed. Ashe blinked, stunned. Immediately she raced over to her friend, loosening he knives in their sheaths and making ready her bow. No one would get past her. Ashe skidded, sliding to the ground beside Jura’s head. She noticed the trickle of blood from Jura’s snout. Damn it!.
She whipped open her pouch and rummaged through the materials. All the while thoughts erupted in her mind, She is going to be fine…? Jura pushed herself too hard this time. Some of her wounds may be infected, causing sepsis. Dealing with fever, exhaustion, lack of nutrition and water after Diabmoure. Shit Lucerne Saints! This is beyond my skills or medicines on hand. All I have left is one vitality potion, some bandages and stitches and a useless sugar snap sweet

Ashe looked back to her fierce companion. she is not going to make it back to Castrock! She might not make it through tonight…do not dare even to think that. Breath Ashe. Just breathe. You’ve dealt with worse. Ashe inhaled and then exhaled. control your breathing.
A calmness overtook her, hands be coming still and mind clearing. She wiped away the blood with one of the clean bandages. She checked her friends pulse. It was inconsistent but at least for the moment it was not weakening.
She kept one palm to her friends neck and the other hand laid instinctively on her blade.
She turned her eyes to Blade and Validor. Leaving no room for negotiation in her voice she demanded, “How quickly can you make it to those mountains?”
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"...I know..." Valadir muttered when he was told that he was lucky to not have suffered Diabmoure's punishment. Getting caged and being drugged for weeks was already punishment enough for him, yet that hellhole sounded way worse. Thinking about it gave him shivers.

The black dragon was too immersed in his fury-inducing thoughts to care about what the human was telling her. He noticed her leaving something in front of her and telling him something, but... he wasn't paying her any mind at all. His head was staring at the ground in front of him, with his mind elsewhere. He eventually took a deep breath after that train of thought was over, and began listening to what the human and Jura had to say about what the information he shared. He hoped that they'd agree to it since it benefits them. Each minute out here was a minute closer to death, and several of the others weren't really in a position to say no. They looked like shit. Besides, he tried to put it nicely in order to tempt them to agree.

None of them were convinced, which brought the dragon's hopes down. He was a bit shocked. First the human said that something resembling a dragon on two legs didn't sound possible and that the armies were already gathering south. Her opinions on the drakes sounded like what he would have thought if he was told about them before all of this happened. He wouldn't have believed it either. As for the armies' gathering... useful piece of information. Bad news though. That had the potential of ruining his rescue attempt given that they probably wanted to keep personnel for defense. Although, now that he thought of it, he was told a lot that the mountains were well defended with fortifications and such so... it probably wouldn't have that much of an effect.

"Then-" He was trying to tell the human to let him prove her wrong since she hadn't seen a drake yet, but he was cut short since Jura then started to voice her opinion. The only positive thing that came out of her muzzle was the fact that she also shared his hatred for the drakes' lack of action. He definitively wouldn't have the mental scars he had now if they acted when they should have. He was asked how he could lie so blatantly. The dragon frowned. Why were they so keen on throwing their lives away?

Jura seemed to stop talking for a second, and this Valadir tried to take the chance to ask her what would he gain by making all of that up, specially since they didn't know eachother. What would he gain if the rest of his race ceased to exist? Nothing good, only suffering. He opened his muzzle to ask that question, but before he could even pronounce the first letter of the phrase, the dragoness began to furiously yell at him. Her words got to Valadir since she was making it sound like he had been idle and enjoying life for the last year and couple of months while she was the one suffering, which was not true since everyone he knew was either dead or trying to kill him. And besides, he just found his dead dad. He saw how both the human and Blade tried to calm her down.

He opened his muzzle again to furiously tell her how wrong she was, but before he could say anything the dragoness colapsed. Everyone went near her to see how she was. Out cold, that's how she was. Wounded and out of medical supplies. Blade wanted to pitch in, but he was spent so he couldn't do anything to make her feel better. Since his cellmate had been so quiet during the weeks they were together, the white dragon didn't expect her to be so furious, although she had her reasons to be. As did he.

Oh, just now you are believing me?? Bitch... Valadir thought when he was asked how long he'd take to arrive at them mountains. He felt like saying that aloud, but saying it would make things harder than they were so he kept quiet and took a minute to do the math. It was a bit harder than he'd like given that he didn't know when he left exactly, but looking at the current position of the sun, it was around... ten in the morning. The dragon then made some assumptions about what time it was when he had started his trip out of the mountains, considering that the days were short now that it was winter. He did an estimate on how much he slept, and added to that the time it took him, Wolnir, Eragon and Crystal to go from that outpost on the frontier to the golden mountain when he first arrived there.

He then condensed that information in two short sentences. "Six or seven hours tops. Should be there a bit before nighfall"
"You coming?" He asked Blade.

"No" The white dragon said. "I shall stay to protect them"


Valadir considered that the best bet was to go to the golden mountain and ask there, hoping that he didn't have to resort asking Eragon or Lenera since he suspected they would have him enslaved or something in exchange for help. He briefly considered going to the frontier outpost he arrived at when he first got to the mountains along with everyone else, but given that he was just told that the armies were gathering... they probably wanted every guy they had.

Wolnir felt a bit less nervous when Crystal said that she had already told her other companions about him. That they'd be eager to meet him.
The orange dragon went up the stairs to get the necklace that Valadir had given him and put it on. As he did, he could feel his anxiety make him overthink the situation he would go through. What if he got another panic attack while he was in there? There would be humans and such in the camp as well. What if they made fun of him while he was having it? He wasn't sure if he was going to be able to be along the races that tried to kill him for more than a year straight. He took a deep breath and reminded himself that Crystal would be by his side and that the folks around there were trustworthy. After all, why would she be with them if they weren't. That they were eager to know him better given that the kitsune had already told them he was coming. Made him a bit less anxious but still nervously expectant.

Wolnir went down the stairs with the necklace around his neck and announced himself as ready.
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Late in the morning, Aster touched the base of the Golden Mountain. Followed by Slithra and Gathrea. The two drakes were second to Aster on their war trip. They were followed by one-hundred and ninety-nine drakes. Primarily consisting of ice drakes with a handful of skydrakes. Their raid was a big success, but they still felt lost. They spiked the enemies' water and wine supply, poised their food, and destroyed many of their ballistae. That was just like the Ruined Fortress. What was behind that fortress, however, is what made them lose heart.

Aster, the Clan Chief of the Ice drakes, ordered Slithra to have their war party treated and disbanded. All the drakes deserve a rest and time to recover. Gathrea, on the other hand, Aster told him to stay by his side as they both needed to go to a planned clan meeting with the other Chiefs. Gathrea, the lead scout of the war party, can accurately describe the opposition.

“I don’t like our chances against such a large force.”
Gathrea had to speak his mind.

“That’s not like you, Gathrea. Have you lost your valour?”
Aster replied with a calm and collected voice. Just as he walks, he is well put together and shows little to no emotion. A popular trait among the ice drakes.
“Besides, it’s not for you to decide whether we have a good or bad chance.”

Gathrea rolled his eyes. While Aster is superior in rank, he has no direct command over him as they are in different clans. Only for the mission does the ice drake have control. After all, they are in different clans.

Changing the subject, the sky drake said, “I’ve heard Armageddon has fallen ill. He may not be present at the meeting.”

“You’ve heard correctly. That doesn’t stop what Armageddon last ordered, does it now? You’ve been on edge lately, Gathrea. Is something on your mind? You’re usually a little more light-hearted.”

“Of course, there is. Are you not bothered by this war? Randomly sprung on us. The Guardians seeking refuge in our borders. The great nations have teamed against us, breaking our solitude. We’ve done nothing to provoke them. Well, perhaps kill a daring traveller entering the mountains or two…”

Aster sighed. It is not common knowledge that these monstrous, unseen infesters are behind the war. Not that it’s secret knowledge, it just hasn’t been publicised yet.
“There is a reason for their alliance. Almost laughable when spoken but it makes sense. Apparently, there is a great mind controlling them all. A hive almost. Implanted in them. Why it also hasn’t affected us is unknown.”

The two drakes quickly made their way to the clan meeting. As expected, the five Clan Chiefs are present. Aster makes six. Queen Lenera, the Great Huntress, is also present in Eragon’s place. All of them are seated around a stone table. Two scribes are to the side, writing down all the meeting minutes.

Lenera was the first to talk,
“You’re late.”
She stared at the two drakes, clearly in a foul mood. To upset her further will spell disaster.

Aster smiled and bowed.
“My humble apologies. No excuse for our wear about.”

“Sit down. The quicker we get this over with, the better. I have no patience for your bullshit.”
Lenera watched the two drakes take a seat to her left. She paid a little more attention to Gathrea. The four-winged sky drake has also been an interesting sight.

Lenera could not have been more bothered sitting in front of the six Clan Chiefs. She’d rather be out on the field with the other warriors and builders to prepare the Golden Mountains’ defence. Which is precisely what she would be doing if not to take her mate’s place in the meeting. Also, her protruding gut prohibits her from physically demanding activity. Her first egg is well on the way. Because of that, she had to have new silk clothing made for her.

Lenera shifted her attention to the matter at hand. To her right, starting with the closest, Kolias, Resh and Damatar. Then to her left is Aster, Centra and Scoria. Scoria is the only Chieftess. All respected and proven leaders. Of course, she has her favourites. Kolias is a good friend of hers and Eragon’s. Extremely loyal to the Armageddons. Resh and Damatar are thick-skulled and arrogant, to say the least, but they have helpful. Aster is typical for an ice drake. Cunning, a little demeaning. Centra is a bright sky drake. Lenera is fond of him. He means well. Scoria is an interesting one, however. She likes to play shy and quiet but has a fiery personality. Her scales are rare. A dark ash colour.

Lenera has reviewed the notes of the last meet. It surprises her how short the last one was. Not much was said. Only orders were given. It shows Eragon’s direct traits. Not much room for negotiation. She must be like him.
“First, we will start with our progress from the last meet. Damatar, Kolias. Have you set a narrow path for the enemy to travel?”

Kolias quickly spoke, “We have every able drake to spare. We’ve completed the foothills before the Stronghold. A direct route into the Valley of flowers. We have also set up small defensive positions and traps to buy time. As far as we know, we have been undetected, but most of that is thanks to Aster and his war party. Keeping us covered. Also, the Valley of Flowers has mostly been excavated, preserving most of our stock and crops. It is ready to be filled with blood, though it leaves a sour taste to say it.”

“Good. I trust all the warriors are armed and ready?”
Lenera turned to Resh. A leading hand in the preparations of weaponry. While each clan should have its own armies equipped. Resh, Chief of the Fire Claws, is advanced in that regard and has the gear to spare.”

Resh stared at Lenera.
“I am behind schedule. The Might Clan has taken much of our stock as and not leaving much for others.”

Kolias, who is the Chief of the Might Clan responded. “We’ve been over this. My warriors are large in number and will be at the forefront.”

“Quiet Kolias.”
Lenera silenced the large red drake.
“Scoria, Damatar, Centra. Are your warriors suited well?”

Scoria was the first to speak, “No. We only have enough for the guard and half of our legions.”

Damatar spoke next, “We are mostly covered with little help.”

And finally, Centra, “My warriors are equipped for battle, Huntress.”

Lenera nodded. She looked over to Aster and raised an eyebrow.

Aster took a second before responding, “We have ourselves covered.”

Lenera nodded.
“Good. Scoria, how are our hardware stores looking? I assume nearly empty?”

“Correct. Against the odds, we’ve made excellent progress with the creation of war machines. Doubled our charging rams and tripled the crossbows.”
Scoria is quite proud of herself. Able to achieve much within a week.

“This is good…”

Lenera took a second to take in the information. She looked over at the scribes to ensure they were doing their job. Her next question made her feel a little queasy.
“Gathrea. The number of opposing warriors?”

“My scouts and I estimated two hundred thousand. Expected that number to grow.”

The Chiefs murmured among themselves. Noises of shock and uneasiness.

Lenera was quick to shut them up.
“Shut it. Kolias. What is our number?”

“With the combination of the clans. Twenty thousand strong. A ten to one ratio.”

“By my horns, we cannot hold against such a large force!”
Resh raised his voice. Which lead to the others speaking over each other. It was only Aster and Lenera who stayed quiet. They stared at each other with a blank expressions.

Eventually, Lenera stood up and roared. Her flaming breath escaped as she shouted, “Enough!”

She looked at each one until they all retook their seats. She remained standing.
“Look at you! Screaming like a hatchling. Complaining. Have you known courage? Yes, we have less in number, but our strength is twenty times their soft hides. They are coming to our territory, which we have dominated. We know the mountains. They are coming in blind. They have no idea what we are capable of. Two hundred and three years of isolation. They have obviously forgotten our strength. Let us remind them of our flare. Remind them why we tamed the Drakken mountains. We are not alone. The Guardians will also aid us in battle. They are known to have the strongest spell casters. We are more than capable of defending our home. All you need is fire in your heart. We are drakes! Offspring of the great dragons. We will demonstrate why they fear these mountains.”

Together they travelled to the Sanatorium. Crystal mostly kept quiet. She’s thinking about their first destination. She’s forced Reptar into a deep sleep. While it isn’t an idea that will be looked lightly at. It was necessary to preserve his strength after the long battle he and herself had with the poison inside his mind. By now, he would have gained much of his power back. At least, she hoped he did. It is time to wake him up and share the information he has. From her last visit, she suspected that he knows a considerable among about the infesters but hasn’t been able to open his mind. Primarily due to a deficiency of activity in the drakes mind.

As for the other one. Eragon. He’s a more challenging case. Entrapped by the same spirit that the drakes uphold. Ironic for them to lash out at the King. Crystal has been trying to uncover why this phenomenon has passed. She has not cracked the case. Mainly due to her caution. The last thing she wants is for the draconic spirits to be further angered and come after her. While she will be able to hold her own. Especially with the assistance of Ansel. Nevertheless, a war with them is not what she needs.

Once they arrived, she headed to Reptar’s location first. Past the open landing platform, down the main corridor, threw another hallway, they made it to the door of Reptar’s healing room. A big dark wooden door with two guards. The drakes wore fine gold armour with striking red silk lining draping down from the back. Resembling their rank as a warden. The policing force. They bowed their heads to Wolnir and also to Crystal. The kitsune has gained the respect of the two drakes.

Crystal briefly described the scenario to Wolnir.
“If you remember the last time you were here, it was for Reptar. Eragon’s brother. I’ve put him to sleep to ensure his recovery, and it’s about time to wake him. You might even get to meet him. Well, I think so. He’s kinda… He is not in a very stable condition; one might call him insane. Anyway, please wait here for about ten minutes. That should be enough time. This should be fun. Wish me luck.” She smiled at Wolnir before slipping through the door. She felt a little guilty about keeping Wolnir outside, but she doesn’t want to overwhelm the slumbering drake.

The room is pitch black. A cold wall of air hit Crystal, as well as an unpleasant smell. She could only describe it as stinky, sleepy, drake smell. With the assistance of arcane mana, she lit three of the ten lanterns. To keep the room dimly lit. Once again, she could see the tall benches and shelves along the walls, All above her head height, so she could not see what was on them. It is what is in the middle that is the central attraction. A heavy stone table. The table is smooth to the touch and cold. The top of the table is padded with thin white cushioning to separate the stone and the sleeping drake lying on it. The green drake has not moved an inch since her last visit last morning. But she could already tell he was in better condition. New green scales have started growing to cover his exposed soft off-green skin. Around the table, she could see the old scales that had fallen off. Scales that have been damaged or otherwise unhealthy. She touched his tail that was hanging off the side. It is much more relaxed. His fever is gone. The tip of his tail also twitched when she made contact. He is responsive. His physical recovery is much better than she anticipated. She climbed onto a stool to see the rest of the drake. Only a thin white sheet covered his body. She paid the most attention to his head. He is malnourished. She checked his heart rate. Expectedly slow. His breathing is even. Overall she’s relieved that he has recovered this well, but it’s time for the actual test.
“Well… Here it goes.”
Crystal lifted the spell.

The drake immediately rolled over to his side and gasped for air. A soft dry cough. He felt like he had broken out of prison. He has control over his limbs again. He took a minute to rest before moving again. He loudly breathed threw his mouth. He took his time to awaken himself. He felt cold air around him. Something is covering him. It felt light. He tried to open his eyes, but they stayed shut. As if they are still asleep.
”Why can’t I upon my eyes?!”
Again he tried slowly. Little by little, light seeped into his eyes. At first, he rejected the light, but as his eyes slowly adjusted, his eyelids opened more. Eventually, he mastered his sight and what he saw scared him, but he couldn’t react. He is unable to. A small figure. Its head is surrounded by long white hair. It covered itself in red and white clothing. Behind it are furred tails. Too many for him to number, but the creature’s most striking characteristic was its large blue eyes that stared right at him. Out of fear, he couldn’t move, but there was a familiarity with the creature. Has he met it before?

It waved at him and said. “hi.”

Clearly, it meant him no harm. It hadn’t hurt him. Yet.
“Wha… What are you?” A low, raspy voice was all he could muster.

“I’m your friend. I’ve been taking care of you. Here drink this.”

The small white creature presented a cup of water. The drake took a second to recognise what it was. When he discovered its purpose, he hastily reached for it.

“Slowly Reptar. You are still waking up.”

He paused.
“Reptar… That’s my name.”
He grabbed the cup and slowly poured it down his throat. He dropped the cup, and it made a loud clang.
“Where am I?”

“You are safe Reptar. You are in the Golden Mountain. Home.”

“Impossible… I saw it get destroyed. He destroyed it. Everything burned. This is another trick. An illusion.”
Reptar became defensive and went to grab Crystal. Instead, he fell off the table and yelped in pain. Unable to move, he gave up on hope and sobbed.

Crystal felt great compassion for Reptar. She climbed down from her stool and laid a hand on his head. She embraced his mind with her own. Covering it like a blanket. Comforting him.
”You are safe Reptar Hedren. No one is going to hurt you. Whatever happened is in the past. You are free from your prison.”

Reptar’s attitude immediately lifted. He realised something.
”They could not make another voice. You must be real. I’m really safe?”

”Yes. Safe at Home.”

Reptar smiled. His lips cracked, but her couldn’t help it. It must be true. He regained hope and tried to lift himself off the ground.

“Woah. Hold on Reptar. Let me get help.”
Crystal telepathically called the guards. She said to make slow and careful movements when they entered. They did so. When they saw Reptar, they were startled. Both were amazed, cautious and a little confused. They found Repter Hedren. Armageddon is on the floor naked with Crystal next to him.

“Help him back on the table.”
The guards put their weapons down and assisted Reptar to first stand up and wrap the sheet around him before letting him sit on the table. They put a block behind him so he could rest his back against it.

Reptar tightly held the sheets around his waist and looked around. It looked like home. He started at the other two drakes in armour.
“How can this be? I saw everyone die.”

Crystal asked one of the guards to fetch some soft food and more water. Without question, the drake did so. While the other stood close and watched.

Reptar’s words worried Crystal. He kept saying that his home got destroyed, but before she pressed the subject, she asked, “How are you feeling Reptar? Cold? Hungry?”

When the kitsune questioned his state, his stomach immediately grumbled. Reptar nodded to everything.
“I’m cold and hungry.”

Crystal lifted her hand. From it, an orange ball of energy appeared. It floated next to Reptar, and he felt its warmth. Gratitude came from Reptar. He kept quiet and stared at Crystal. His mouth began to water, and he questioned his morals.

Crystal sensed Reptar’s intentions. Honestly, it amused her. What a drake would do when they are hungry. She’s not scared by the prospect. He’s hardly the first that wanted to eat her.
“Food is on the way Reptar. Be patient.”
It occurred to her that she hadn’t shared her name.
“My name is Crystal by the way. I’m a friend of your brother. Eragon.”

Reptar squinted his eyes.
“Eragon… That is familiar. Do you mean Klader?”

Crystal smiled.
“Yes, Klader Hedren.”

“Is he alive?”

Crystal almost hesitated to answer.
“He is, but he’s not feeling well himself. Do not worry about him. Focus on yourself.”

“I- I can’t. I saw him die. Stabbed through the chest. Where is my sister?”

“Reptar, please. They are not dead. They are safe as well. Just like you. Home and safe.”

Eventually, curiosity took the better of her. She desperately wanted to know what Reptar had been through.
“You had dreams Reptar. What you saw was not real.”

“It was not a dream. I saw it. The dragon… Mountain Shadow. He torched everyone. I could not stop him. Is he here?”

Crystal raced through her head to what Reptar could talking about. She had a few ideas in mind, but one, in particular, stood out. Could he have seen Valadir?

“No, he’s not. What you saw is false Reptar. Believe me. The Mountain Shadow does not exist.”

Reptar relaxed. What crystal has said must be true. Another drake is next to him, and he hasn’t woken up yet to the Hive.

Soon enough, the guard arrived with soup and a jug of water. Klader snapped his neck to the drake opening the door. He caught a glimpse of the blue and orange figure outside. Immediately Reptar became full of fear and pointed at the dragon.
“He was there! I-I saw him. He could not stop him either.”

Crystal leaned over and looked outside to see what Reptar was pointing at. Wolnir. Crystal’s curiosity grew. Indicated for Wolnir to come inside.

The guard gave Reptar a wooden slate with a bowl of soup filled with different meats and a cup of water. Reptar’s attention instantly shifted to the food. He lifted the bowl and quickly swallowed the food.
A small wave of relief swept over Ashe when Blade said he would stay. She had to hand it to the white dragon; he was dependable and generous. She gave him a grateful smile, but it disappeared when Valadir gave his comment. She still had her doubts about this whole situation. She would wait to thank Valadir until he had fulfilled his word. She watched him gather his thoughts and prepare to leave.

In the meantime, the four left should head to the nearby caves. Considering they were south of the Eraylian border, the closest village was about three-day walk northeast or two and a half day's walk northwest. That leaves plenty of distance between their group and any unwanted company.

Ashe glanced back to Jura and then to Blade. She asked the white dragon, "Assist me in taking Jura to the cave?" She stood back, giving Balde room to pick up Jura. With the white dragon's help, Ashe walked a couple of meters onto a rock formation. Turning her head around, she gathered a better view of the area. The terrain behind them south turned into desert. Valadir was heading in that direction where the southern Drakken mountain ranges were situated. North, the landscape turned from rocky into a temperate forest. Ashe estimated it was about 17 kilometres where any animals to hunt dwelled.

Ashe headed back to the cave. "Blade," she asked, "I need to make one more request. Please hold down the fort for a couple of hours. I will go into the Eraylian Yuran Woods and find food and medicinal herbs." She waited for his reply. When she entered the mouth of the cave, her eyes watered slightly.

Ah, dead dragon scent. Ashe shook her head and laid eyes on the carcass. We should bury the body or hold some ceremony. I will leave the decision to the dragon's kin.


One month earlier

A young red-haired boy hopped off a small ferry boat, calling to the ferryman, "Thanks, Gerard!" The ferryman waved his hand, shouting, "Best stay the night at the guild, boy. The storm be falling upon us within the hour."
The boy gestured back and sped off through Theresa's farm's rice and corn fields. Theresa was the solitary owner of a 250-acre farm with one niece and two nephews. He jumped the fence that marked the end of the farm, sprinting up a cliff known as Talon Low.

Thunder sounded up ahead, causing the boy to pick up his speed. He passed a wooden sign that read, "Castpoint Guild". Beyond near the cliff face stood a four-storey keep built in grey stone. The keep had two wings, east and west. A stable had been erected beside the west wing, housing many tall horses and a couple of dire wolves that slept comfortably. The redhead slowed when he entered the central courtyard, large enough to host 150 people.

There were a few figures hustling out of the rain. The redhead hurried into the main doors that led into a large hall. An enormous hearth was lit, keeping the cold and dark at bay. A bar to his left was operated by a silver-haired elf known as Myra. The boy skidded to a halt catching the attention of a lone ranger drinking and conversing with Myra. The elf laughed, her voice calming, "Kimmel, why the rush, little one?"

Kimmel puffed out, "Letter ... Guildmaster Loftwood. Code Foxtrot Behest." The ranger lifted his glass halfway to his lips when he heard the code mentioned. He paused, locking eyes with Myra. He sighed, setting down his drink, "I guess I won't be getting the rest after all."

"Mr ranger, sir," the boy asked, "Does this mean you are going on a special quest? Can I come? I ranked 201st, after all."
The ranger chuckled, taking the letter from Kimmel, "Afraid not, kid. You're still too young." He rustled the kid's hair and then gave Myra a nod. She dipped her head gracefully and called to those in the back behind the bar, "Jacquin and Rush, you're in charge." Two voices replied and Myra, satisfied with their answers, left with the ranger.

Before she left, Myra said to Kimmel, "Why don't you get some food and find a room for tonight? That storm is too dangerous to walk home."
With that, she followed the ranger to the east wing. They walked up the stairs to the top floor. Their destination was a dark room with only a few small candles to see by. The window shutter was open, allowing a cold breeze to sweep the room.
In the middle, their eyes fell upon a tall older man sharpening a broadsword. He wore a basic tunic, leather boots and a chain necklace.

The man was known as Sir Ian, the Ordermaster of the Castpoint guild. He grunted a welcome, "Myrathinda and Wran, to what do I owe this disturbance?"

Wran answered, "Ashe Loftwood has written us instructions. Code Foxtrot." The Ordermaster continued to sharpen the blade, "What is the behest?" Wran relinquished the papers to him with the contents of an in-depth plan, complete with maps, annotations of guard times and structures of Diabmoure.
Laughter flooded out of Sir Ian. He set down his sword and shook his head, "It appears our Guildmaster has chosen her next war."

Wran muttered, "Great, she has topped the list of the foolish-ow!" Myra playfully elbowed him in the side and said, "Yes, it is ambitious to attack the Akarma, but you are just as reckless. You can hardly wait to do this operation." Wran shrugged, not denying what his companion said, "Still, it won't be an easy nor straightforward task. We need to exercise caution."
Valadir wasn't given any reply after he told the human how long he'd take to get to the mountains, not that he needed one. It was rather obvious that there wasn't any other choice. And to think those two wanted to spend a week going to who knows where. What where they thinking? Sounded like they were trying to toss their lives away. Luckily the human saw some reason now that the dragoness was down. Before leaving, he put his cream colored backpack on the ground, opened it and got an elegant elven sword on a black leather sheath. Everything on pristine conditions. The dragon tossed it on the ground between him and the human. She needed it more than him. She looked rather defenseless, didn't seem like she was carrying any actual weapons. What if they got attacked? With him giving her the sword, he was trusting her to defend both the unconscious dragoness and his mother. Her and Blade.

"Here" Valadir said as he dropped it. "You need it more than me" The dragon then shouldered his backpack once again. "After i get help, i'll come back to this position. If you all had to go somwhere else for any reason, leave a signal or something so i can find you" he said just in case. He believed the place was hidden enough, but if his past experiences told him anything is that nowhere was safe. Not for long, at least. He walked up to his mother and told her "i'll be back Ma, i promise".

"Good luck" he told everyone and took to the sky, heading to the southern mountains. He spent several minutes gaining altitude, in order to keep his profile to a minimum and in order for his shadow to not be cast on the ground. Daytime flights tended to be risky, given that his black and brown colors contrasted a lot with the blue and white sky. But there was no choice and no room for waiting, every moment was crucial. Valadir spent his trip doing two things besides flying. Staring at the ground for any threats, and thinking. Thinking about what he was told about Diabmoure. About Blade and the dragoness and how they seemed to have escaped after countless days. His parents, now that he knew their fates. He was, again, furious and sorrowful.

After calming down, he began thinking about who he would ask for backup. For now he could only think of two options. Eragon, since he was the one in charge and thus the most likely to provide personnel for a rescue. Although, they weren't in good terms. The dragon feared that he'd be forced to do something he didn't want to in return. Maybe he could remind him that the drakes' duty was to help the dragons. Or maybe he could ask Crystal instead? She sure seemed like she knows a lot of people. Maybe she knows a drake or somthing who's willing to help out? He remembered she has those friends of hers. Maybe they'd help out? Honestly, he'd rather avoid asking Eragon and ask Crystal instead.

Something he'd try to remember to do was to pack some food and drinks in order to bring the others something to eat and drink. Besides the human, they looked like they didn't eat in weeks.

Blade looked at the dragon go. His heart wished him good luck since he looked like their only hope. Soon, Ashley asked him for help in order to move Jura into a safer place. A logical move, wasn't good to leave her out in the open given that she'd be exposed to both the elements and to the enemy's gaze. He did so, although with difficulty given his weakened state and also because he was doing most of the lifting. After they finished moving Jura into the cave where Valadir's father was, he took the time to put Jura in a more comfortable position. On her side, with her tail curled near her and her legs close. In that position, if one ignored the numerous wounds she had, one could think she innocently fell asleep.

"I'll do what i can" Blade said when he was appointed with holding down the cave. He secretly hoped she wouldn't be long. He honestly didn't know how'd he fare with his fading strenght and ever rising sleepiness. When he noticed Ashley's eyes were watering up, he extended his wings in order to obstruct her vision.

"Jura shall be fine."

Thus Blade was left alone with Valadir's mother, who seemed a bit nervous. His son's trip was the least of her worries since she was well aware of his flying abilities. Her main worry was causing more death around her. Her mate had already died a couple days ago. What if the others did as well due to her lack of wings?

Wolnir flew with Crystal to the sanatorium. He had been there a week or so ago so he remembered where to go. He exchanged some eye contact with the drakes that bowed before them.

"I-i remember..." Wolnir said when he was asked if he remembered Reptar's story. He remembered coming to the sanatorium a week or so ago for something similar. The dragon nodded when he was told to wait outside the drake's room, doing so by the guards.
"Good luck!" he told her as she went in.

"D-do you get bored guarding this place?" He asked them. "I like your armors, by the way..." he said shyly.

Eventually he saw the guards entering the room. Wolnir tried to have a quick peek inside but the guards obstructed the view, and he didn't want to get caught so he stopped. A bit after one of the previous guards bought what looked like hot soup and water. It reminded him that he had barely had anything for breakfast.
The orange dragon tried to have another peek inside the room, and as soon as he got pointed at he moved away. He was thinking that his curiosity made him stick his snout where it didn't belong. That he'd get told to get out.

Luckily that wasn't the case since he ended up being told to come in. A weight lifted from his back.

"Hi... H-how are you feeling?"
Close to the peak of the Golden Mountain, higher than the clouds. Where the night sky is clear, the stars twinkled their brightest lights. Where the moon gave light in the sun’s absence. Serenata crouched at the edge of the flying platform. Her yellow eyes studied the base of the mountain. While the clouds blurred most of the view, the eyes of a drake can still see perfect detail kilometres away. Torches and fires lit the first quarter of the mountain. Very few drakes to be seen. That is understandable, given the time, early in the morning. An excellent choice to travel unnoticed. The female Armageddon drake needs answers to her questions; her target is the entrance of the Crystal Caves. Before she dived down to them, she studied its surroundings. She made sure that there were no unwanted eyes that would see her approach. Not that it’s forbidden for her to enter the cave. If anything, she is the most qualified to enter. Which is precisely why she doesn’t want anyone to see. Any familiarity with the caves brings instability. That is what a regular drake sees. Serenata has realised there is much power to gain. She is the only drake alive that has earned the potential of the spirits that dwell in the caves. Pity that no one else shares the same view.

Serenata stood up and took a few steps back. She wore tight black silk clothing with a draped robe to keep most of the winter air away. She likes it up here. No one is around. Quiet and peaceful. Sadly, she cannot wait around. She looked back over the edge and jumped over it. Dived straight towards the Crystal Caves. A couple of seconds before death, her wings snapped open and caught the air. The sound that it produced can be described as thunder. She circled the rest of her descent and softly landed in front of the notorious caves.

Serenata wasted no time and headed straight in. Into a long-arched hallway that steadily went into the ground. Its walls are perfectly smooth. As if water has trickled over it for thousands of years. Like the outside, the air is cold and damp. Almost hard to breathe. However, more than what her body can feel, it’s what presses on her mind that trumps all other feelings. Like a heavy stone wanting to crush her mind and intrude into her thoughts. The further she walked, the heavier the stone became. If it were her first time, she would have fled, but she is all too well accustomed to what is happening. The spirit’s power is heavy and rampant in the caves. Serenata has strengthened her mind to resist its product.

Just as all the light has left, the hallway finally opens to a massive area. So much can be seen at once. Bioluminescent vegetation gave the spherical-shaped cave low blue ambient light. Just enough to see what is happening. From the curved ceiling, white crystal spokes threaten to fall. Droplets of water fell from them, leaving puddles of water on the ground. The walls are also lined with crystal. At certain angles, the precious minerals reflected the low light, as did the pure water on the ground. The cave also opened to a network of unexplored tunnels.

But what is in front of her made these caves famous. Surrounded by natural pillars, a large floating orb emitted a red light. The physical source of the spirit that lives here. Serenata approached it. She did not get too close to it. Instead, she stayed behind the pillars and observed the orb. She paused for a few minutes to admire its beauty.

”Why have you approached me, Serenata?”
The voice that filled her mind was masculine and calm. Though, it threatens her with its anger.

Serenata is unfazed by it. She is the only drake that does not entirely fear the spirit.
“I want answers. Why have you taken my brother as a prisoner? Have I not been faithful?”

”Of course you have, my dear. Taking the King of drakes was simply a strategic move.”

“Could you not have chosen someone else? Perhaps that other one. Wolnir. If you want Valadir so badly, take his friend.”

”Now, why would I imprison my kind?”
The red orb grew and morphed into a crimson dragon. The dragon is double her size. It slowly walked to her, becoming perfectly in view. Its glowing yellow eyes stared into Serenata. The two long horns are black with claws and spikes along its spine to match.

“Do you forget that I am a dragon as well?”
The dragon circled Serenata, studying her.
“You are my favourite Serenata, and that will never change, but I’m a little disappointed in you. You seem a little distracted.”

Serenata didn’t move. She kept her gaze straight. She felt exposed around the dragon. Such power frightens her. She feels vulnerable under his gaze. She can feel the heat emitting from his scales.
“I’m worried about my kind Great One. The other nations threaten our existence. These monsters have taken over.”

The dragon mockingly laughed.
“It is usual for your kind to be naive. You cannot see the bigger picture. That is why drakes are beneath dragons. Only servants. That is all you have ever been. It is the definition of your existence. I took Klader to give you a little motivation. Once I have Valadir, you can have your brother back. Seems like a fair trade, doesn’t it?”

Serenata refrained from lifting her voice. She wanted to yell at the dragon. What he did is wrong. She knew that the dragon knew she wanted to lash out at him, which made him enjoy this conversation even more.

“What if I can’t? What if I cannot convince Valadir to come?”

The red dragon stooped down and crouched in front of Serenata. His large eyes inspected hers. He can see the fear in her. It is strong. Her fear doesn’t only come from him. It also comes from the loss of her brother.
“You interest me, Serenata. You care for him so much, but you never talk to him. If you fail to fetch Valadir, let’s say I have a craving that hasn’t been satisfied for a long, long time.”
The dragon licked his lips.
“Once I reach my full potential, they will be incinerated. All you need to do is bring Valadir the Unbroken to me, and I will finish the rest. I will recreate the Dragon age and rule once again.”


The guarding drake chuckled. “Of course we do. This probably is the most boring thing to do. It honestly comes down to who can stand the longest. We have shifts, of course. We only stay for three hours before another pair of wardens take over. Besides, protecting the room with a wounded Armageddon is an honour.”

Crystal motioned Wolnir to sit next to her. They waited for Reptar to finish savagely eat his food and drink a couple of jugs of water who also wholly disregarded what the dragon said. A couple of minutes pass when he did so. The guard took the cutlery and handed Reptar a towel to wipe his face.

Reptar looked up and stared at Wolnir. He studied his features. An uncomfortable amount of time passed before Crystal broke the ice.
“Reptar this is Wolnir. Wolnir the is Reptar.”

“E-excuse my stare Wolnir. It’s been a long time since I’ve last seen a dragon in the flesh.”
Reptar reached out to touch Wolnir face. He stopped himself as he probably was coming across as rude.

Crystal continued, “You said you saw Wolnir?”

Reptar moved his head to Crystal at a frighteningly quick speed.
“Yes. He was at the last stance, at the volcano. He and a few other dragons came to a stop him. But he was too strong. I’ve never seen such a creature so bloodthirsty. Wherever he went. A trail of blood followed.”

Reptar looked back at Wolnir.
“Do you know the Mountain Shadow?”

Crystal whispered to Wonlir.
“He’s talking about Valadir.”
Ashe picked up the sword and pulled out the top half, exposing its blade.
It surprised her a little when she noticed it was of elvish make. She let her thanks known to Valadir, sheathing it. Then she attached it to a strap on her back so her right hand could pull it free if needed. The belt was one of two, having a spare in an emergency for a quiver. Feeling the weight of the sword satisfied Ashe. This will do nicely. At least he trusts me on some level.

With Bladde now protecting the cave, Ashe began her descent into the forest. Out of her jacket pocket, she grabbed the storage holder. A faint green light shone, and out of it came Ashely's weapons. Her quiver and bow, and two knives. The arrows and bow rested on her back, one knife on her right thigh and the other hidden in her jacket sitting on her lower back. She grimaced at the dismal amount of arrows left - only 11. The rest of her supply was on Jura's saddle, left at Diabmoure.

She sighed away those thoughts and started running. It was 40 minutes before the brunette reached the borders of the temperate forest. She slowed entering it, thankful for the shade provided by the trees. She took a moment to rest before sneaking deeper. She had to be careful to watch out for any Eraylian dispatches. To her memory, the Yuran province sent regular scouts near the borders.

Cautiously crept about, finally picking up on a deer's trail. Ashe happened on some feces droppings and scratched tree trunks. She followed the path to a lake in the middle of a clearing. Crouching behind a bush, she spotted the deer drinking in water. Silently Ashe nocked an arrow. She moved a couple of steps to her left, took a breath in, sighted and drew her bow. She relaxed the two forefingers holding the string, causing the arrow to shoot forward. In seconds, Ashe already had a second arrow nocked and ready.

The first shot hit the buck's hind leg, scaring it. It darted into the nearest coverage, but before the animal escaped the clearing, the second arrow struck it down. Ashe observed her surroundings before leaving her cover. All was safe to collect the deer. She knelt beside the creature's back, placing a knee over its neck. It was still breathing haggardly and eyes wide with fear.

She slid the knife free from her thigh and dug it into the deer's heart. The deer's body went limp, dying instantly from the stab. She tugged the knife free, putting it back. "Forgive me, young one; yours is a needed sacrifice," she whispered. She retrieved her arrows, frowning at her first shot. I have gotten rusty. The past months in Diabmoure barely allowed her to practice archery. Ashe held her second arrow, seeing the tip had broken off by the deer's ribcage. Ten left, she counted and tossed the useless shaft away.

Her next job was to carry the corpse back to the cave. Before she picked it up, she filled two empty flasks with the lake water. On her way back, she happened upon a few rodents. Eventually, Ashe emerged from the forest after an hour with three rabbits, two water flasks, firewood and one deer.
It is not nearly enough for three dragons, but it will have to do until we reach the mountains.

Ashe jogged the first half of the journey back, then slowed to a walk. Exhaustion nearly caught up on her when she reached the cave. "I have returned," she called out. Ashe moved a reasonable distance into the caves before ungracefully dumping the corpses. She set out the firewood and asked, "Blade, would you mind lighting the fire?"

She sat down, facing Jura's direction. She sighed and leaned back on a wall. The cold stone was soothing after working in the sun. She took off her quiver and bow. Then picked up one rabbit and began skinning it. She waited for Jura to wake if she did, although she doubted it.
Blade yawned as he saw Ashley's figure disappear amongst the foliage. With enough luck, nothing of significance would happen in her abscence.

As time passed, his sleepiness grew. A part of him wished to ask the brown dragoness to take over so he could nap for a bit, but his responsible and moral sides told him to remain attentive and perform his task. After all, she was faring worse than him with her wounds. Leaving the task to her was dangerous and irresponsible. Besides, he had offered himself to stay behind in order to help, why back down? That'd be dishonorful. He quickly brushed off his thoughts about quitting.

A chunk of time passed, and everything was quiet. Blade couldn't see or hear anything that was coming to kill them, at least for now. Since they'd be alone for a while and together until they arrived to the mountains, the white dragon tried to start a conversation with the dragoness. It'd also help to pass the time.

"Miss" He began to ask. "Which craft did you use to perform? Before our kin's extermination?"

The dragoness turned her head around when she realized she was being talked to. She took a deep breath, allowing herself to calm down a little. It was a rather innocent question, something you'd casually ask someone to get to know them better. "Used to be a chef. Head chef in a couple important places. You?"

"I occupied myself as a magic professor" Blade replied to the dragoness question with some pride.

The dragoness nodded. That explained how his magic was effective enough to fix her broken bones and several other wounds. Professors logically must be pretty skilled and the white dragon mustn't be the exception. Although... something didn't sound right. Why leave her with the rest of her wounds? It sounded like a dangerous choice given the current situation.

"Then why didn't you heal the rest of my wounds? You obviously know what you are doing" She said in a tone that made it sound like she was accusing him.

"You see..." Blade then started to speak in his defense. Not offended by her words nor surprised she didn't know how magic works since he always considered mages were a minority. "Each magic act you perform draws power from your body. I am lacking in sleep. My meals have been meager. My energy is low. Had i tried to heal all your wounds, one of two scenarios would have outcomed. I would have failed to heal your remaining wounds. Or i would have fallen unconscious in the process, and you'd remain alone watching me and Jura"

The dragoness then apologized.

Eventually Ashley returned with a sizeable bounty. That sight bought a smile on Blade's face.
"Welcome back" He said. "There have been no traces of hostility"

The white dragon nodded when he was asked to light the fire. He got up and inspected the available firewood. Some twigs were also available. The dragon gathered some rocks and organized them into a circle, dumping the firewood in the center and grabbing the twigs in his left paw. In his other paw, he outstretched his index and a small flame of the size of a raspberry sparked from his claw. A rather energyless spell. Setting the twigs on fire and using them to light the firewood.

The dragoness saw how Ashley started skinning one of the rabbits. It made her wish she had some equipment and ingredients at hand in order to make some rabbit stew for everyone, making for a more filling meal than eating the rabbits outright and it would rise the morale. A pot, some potatoes, carrots and cream. But alas, it couldn't happen in the current circumstances. It pissed her off. She thought about supervising the fire... but it was just getting started so there wasn't really anything to supervise there.

"May i do that instead?" The dragoness then asked the human as she was skinning the animal. "I've been a professional chef for a century and a half. Skinning all you brought should take me a couple minutes..."

"R-right..." Wolnir said when he was told how the guard duty was. Very boring but with shifts and with the honor of guarding your boss.

The dragon's question about how the drake was feeling was answered, although not verbally. Seeing the drake drinking the soup and water like he hadn't eaten anything in weeks told him enough. He was really hungry and really thirsty. He could honestly relate a lot since he felt that way often until recently.

"A-a pleasure..." He said when Crystal presented them both, after a couple minutes of feeling uncomfortable. He slowly moved his head away when Reptar tried to near his hand, given that he didn't trust him yet.

The orange dragon felt shocked when he was told about what sounded like a vision of him behaving like a bloodthirsty one dragon army. A part of him felt terrified of it, and his expression made it aparent. What if that was some sort of prophecy like what Valadir got? Did it mean that he'd turn on his friends soon?

"I-i wouldn't do s-such a thing..."

He said no with this head when he was asked if he know that a Mountain Shadow was.

"I-i see..." He whispered back to Crys as she told him that the drake was referring about Val. He immediately started to wonder if that meant Val would be turning on everyone else instead of him. Didn't sound too good of an alternative.
Reptar sighed in relief. Glad to know that Wolnir doesn’t know who the Mountain Shadow is. From what the drake could gather from his memories. They knew each other well.
“G-Good. Till the end of my strength, I hope you never find him. Only evil spouts from corrupted souls.”

Reptar did catch what Crystal whispered to the orange dragon.
So Valadir is his name.
Reptar immediately started putting the puzzle together.
So they know him, but it hasn’t passed. This is good. There is time.
The drake is deciding whether he should kill Valadir. He kept the idea to himself, evident that these two in front of him would stop him.

Reptar was offered more water from the standing guard, which he gratefully accepted. He drank it much slower compared to his speed before. He looked around. Exploring his surroundings now that he is granted a little time to think. The longer he is awake, the more he believes he isn’t trapped. He is expecting to wake up at some point in the hive. Eventually, his eyes fell upon Crystal again. He studied her features. He tilted his head, trying to figure out what she is. Not just what she is but what her affiliation is.

In return, Crystal smiled. She could tell his confusion about her and was about to speak, interrupted by Reptar.
“Are you a kitsune?”

“I am.”
She wondered if Reptar had ever seen a kitsune before.

The drake wondered how she was allowed clearance into the mountain. He questioned why she was the first face he saw. She hasn’t harmed him, but that still doesn’t make her dangerous.
He looked to the guard—a less alien face to him.
“Where is Klader?”

The guard looked to Crystal, unsure if he should speak the truth.

Crystal spoke up, “Klader is sick as well, Reptar. A lot has happened in your absence. I don’t want to overload you with information. Please take your time. You are still very weak. Perhaps you would like to see another familiar face? Lenera?”

He nodded.
“And more food. I haven’t eaten for an eternity.”

Crystal smiled at Reptar’s response. His appetite is still intact. She nodded to the guard, who left and gathered what was requested. It would be at least ten minutes before the guard would return. In the meantime, Crystal would like to know as much as she can about Reptar. Mostly about his connection with the infesters and personally. She has never met him before. She’s sure Wolnir is a little curious about him as well. There is much mystery around Reptar.
“Reptar, I don’t know much about you, and I’m eager to know more. You travel a lot?”

Reptar’s face lit up. Not many want to know about his adventures, mainly because he is discouraged from leaving the mountains. This is a rare opportunity for him. His mood shifted, and his attitude brightened.
Y-yes. I’ve…”
He cut himself off, he wants to talk a lot about what he has seen, but he doesn’t know if he can speak for long periods. He pointed at his head.

Crystal nodded and carefully extended her mind out to Reptar. She has already familiarised herself with him. She gave him time to do the same. She let him dig into her personality, her memories, and what she has experienced—blocking off all sensitive information and recent events. All the while, she connected Wolnir’s mind so he could also hear what was happening. She explained to Wolnir why they were engaging like this.
“ It is easier for Reptar to do this than to speak. He finds it hard to talk.”

Once Reptar learned a little about Crystal, his thoughts changed. He is much more open to her and is confident that she will not harm him.
” As I was saying, yes, I-I been travelling for most of my life. Before you ask why I’ve had a longer life outside the mountains, that is private information.”

” I see. I’d assume others don’t take kindly to your disappearance all the time. Given your status?”

” Correct. My brother is always trying to sway me from leaving. But I have my reasons. He knows them, and I plan to stick by them.

” You must have much knowledge about overseas.”

” Aye…”

Reptar’s voice suddenly saddened, as did his emotions.
” I had a crew. A group of like-minded people. We set out on long adventures together. Our last adventure cost all of their lives. If it were not for my wings, I would have suffered the same fate as my brothers and sisters in mind. Maybe it was better that I died with them.”

” I’m deeply sorry for your loss, Reptar, but I disagree with your statement. It is vital that you are alive. However, I’m curious to know about the trouble you encountered. What happened?”

Reptar took his time to speak. It is a sensitive topic for him.
” We were on our way back home. We were sailing on the Great Western Sea. We came up onto an island not too far from the Drakken shores. We have never stopped here before. Of course, there is always a danger of coming across wild and hostile creatures, which we deal with well. We are all armed and ready to fight at a moment’s notice. Being the only drake, I scouted the island first before the crew touched the shore. I didn’t see anything that could cause us harm, so we entered the island and stayed the night. Whilst we were asleep, they struck us. Vile, monstrous creatures. Nothing we have ever seen before. They were strong and immense in number. Quickly, we were overpowered and taken into the hive. At this time, I was drifting in and out of consciousness. Assumed that I had been poisoned. I’m not sure how long they kept me. Days, weeks, months. But the torture is unparallel to anything I’ve experienced. Their psychological powers are great and quickly broke my mind. I was utterly defenceless. It was at this time I saw visions of the Mountain Shadow. A Great dragon who stood above an army. With a swipe of his tail, he defeated the army. His breath scorned the land. Leaving no life. Wings that created hurricanes. Worst of all, blood in his teeth. I saw everyone die… Over and over again through my head. I thought it was real… I also saw another vision. A battle. What looked like the Golden Mountain. It was hard to tell. A battle raged across it. Fire, water and blood everywhere. When the defenders seemed they were about to lose, a Great dragon appeared and saved them. Wiping out the attackers with his fiery breath. Unlike the one I saw before, this one had brown along its chest and legs. I also saw the same dragon atop a grand white castle. Much smaller but the same dragon.
They must have slipped somehow. I was able to find myself. I woke from my sleep. How do I put this…”

He stopped using words. He opened his memories to Crystal and Wolnir. Through the eyes of Reptar, they saw what he saw. They felt and smelt what he did and what he was thinking at the time. It is a peculiar and exciting experience for Crystal. She saw how drakes view their surroundings. She is surprised at how very different it is compared to her. His hearing isn’t as good as hers. Nor does his vision work as well at night, but his eyes make out much more detail than hers. He can see the imperfections and bumps in what she sees as a smooth surface. A testament to any airborne creature whose far sight is much greater than any without wings. Not only can his eyes see more detail, but there are many other sensations she cannot understand. He can taste the air with his tongue. It is like he has a second nose in his mouth. What is more bizarre to her is his ability to detect heat. While she cannot understand the sense, she gets the idea. He can make out his surroundings by seeing the temperature of every surface around him.

Reptar woke up with a jolt, he immediately felt his aching body, but he couldn’t move. Something is in his mouth. It felt slimy and tasted acidic. It forced him to breathe through his nose. A searing headache came over him. Confused and anxious.
Where am I? What is this down my throat? Wait, the cave!”
Memories start flooding back. They were attacked.
Where is everyone else?
He tried lifting his hands, but they were bound. He took a deep breath a calmed down. He finally looked at his snout to see what was in his mouth. It looked like a tube made of purple flesh. He could see it twitch every so often. A tentacle of some sought. It went up and attached to a large brown convulsing sac. It was covered in slime. So was the tentacle. It disgusted him. He wanted to gag but could feel the tentacle deep in his throat. It rotated slightly every so often, making a very uncomfortable feeling. He looked around, trying to make out other objects. The room he’s in has next to no light. The only way he can see is with infrared sense. Making out heat signatures of his surroundings. He can see unnaturally warm walls. He cannot detect a heat source other than the walls themselves. The area he is in doesn’t seem very big. Like a cave of some sought. But he needed to get whatever was in him out.
Maybe I can try biting it.
Reptar clamped down on the tentacle, and his teeth sunk into it. A warm liquid passed down his face. He bit down harder, trying to break it. Eventually, he was successful; now, he was free to move his head. He tried convulsing with his throat. Trying to get the remains of the tentacle out, but it wouldn’t budge. He looked at his arm to see why he couldn’t move it. A bind on his limbs, made from the same purplish slime flesh. They wrapped around his arms and connected to the wall. He tried wiggling his way out, but the more he wiggled, the tighter they got. He closed his eyes.
1, 2, 3!
With all his strength. He pulled against the bondages, and much to his surprise, his right arm broke free.
He grabbed the bleeding tentacle and pulled it out of his mouth. He kept pulling and pulling until two metres of it came from his mouth. Followed by a lot of brown sludge and bile. He coughed it all out and inspected the tentacle on the floor. He saw it had an opening at the tip. He looked back up and saw the other side he bit off that was still attached to the brown sac. A brown sludge dripped from it.
Was it feeding me?
The thought passed quickly. He inspected his other arm, freeing it with his claws to break the bondage. Next, he studied the rest of his body. More of these long purple limbs held his body up against the wall. But his wings are laid flat behind him and are covered in odd, wet silk. Slowly but surely, he freed his torso, tail, legs and carefully his wings. He slowly moved his arms up and down. He was regaining his movement. He went to take a step forward, only to fall under his weakened legs. He placed his hands on the floor and found them sticky.
What is this slime everywhere?
Finding strength in his legs, he stood up, arched his back, and stretched his wings. He looked around to find an exit. He’s in a tunnel. He dragged himself through it. The tunnel went on forever. Eventually, he found something interesting against a wall. While he couldn’t see with his eyes. He could make out an elvish figure. He walked up to it and leaned against the wall. He sniffed the figure and then flicked his tongue out. A familiar scent.
“Farryn!” His voice croaked.
Reptar pulled the tentacle from her throat and ripped her body from the wall. Her body fell limp into his arms.
“Farryn, wake up.”
Her body was completely unresponsive.
“I’ll get you out of here.”
He picked her up and carried her on his shoulder, covering her decaying body under his wing.
It’s a good thing elves are light.

He doesn’t know where is going. His only hope is that there is a way to escape. He kept a lookout out if he came across anyone from his crew. So far, no one else. While he walked his way through the tunnel, Farryn spoke.
“Reptar… I-Is that your loud f-feet?”

Reptar immediately dropped his knee and laid his elvish friend on the floor.
“Farryn. Yes. You’re alive.”
Relief swept over the drake.

“W-what is that disgusting taste? Did you kiss me? I-I knew you liked me...”
Farryn moved in an attempt to get up, but Reptar stopped her. He’s glad to know that Farryn hasn’t lost her exciting personality.

“That's disgusting Farryn. Save your strength Farryn. I will carry you.”
Reptar picked her up again in his arms and carried them forward.

“Wh-where are we? Where is everyone else?”
Farryn’s voice is weak and strained.

“I don’t know. But I will find a way out.”
Just as he said that, he immediately stopped he looked behind him. He thought he heard something. He paused to see if he could listen to it again. A shriek and crackle emanated from where he walked. Not wanting to find out what it was, he continued forward at a much faster pace. The shrieking got closer and closer, and he still could not find an exit. Reptar became highly anxious and worried. Whatever is chasing him. He cannot outrun it. He will have to stand his ground.

He turned around to face whatever was lurking behind him. It got closer and closer. Reptar put on a snarl and started to give a low growl. Finally, the creature came into view and stopped. He still cannot see with his eyes. He can make out its shape. It is many times bigger than himself. It didn’t have any legs. Instead slithered across the ground. The front of it is raised from the ground like a torso and what appears to be many arms. He can make out small details of its face. Only enough to tell its mouth is circular and large.

The creature darted towards him at a frightening speed. Reptar deeply inhaled, and with a roar, a stream of fire filled the tunnel. The beast stopped and shrieked and squirmed on the ground. The walls and floor also became ablaze. Reptar took a few steps back for Farryn’s safety. A minute passed, and the fire died down. What was left is what he could only assume are the ashes of the creatures. Its surface temperature dramatically increased. On top of that, it’s stopped moving.

“W-what was that?”
Farryn asked.

“I don’t know. It’s dead now.”

More shrieks and crackling started down the tunnel. Reptar away from it. The tunnel did not split or otherwise change its direction. He can only assume he is on his way out. Or he was going deeper. The shrieking slowly got louder, but alas, he sees the light. Faint but visible. He doubled his efforts. Finally, reaching the end of the tunnel. Sun in the sky. The crashing of the waves and the salt in the air. He made it to the beach. He jogged to the water. Searching for the rowboats. None to be seen. He searched the water for their ship. He cannot see it.

He looked at the sky. It’s the morning. The sun is in the east. That’s the way he needs to travel. He looked back to see if the creatures had crawled out of the cave. He can’t see them but they will be on top of him any moment. He ran down the coastline, hoping to find any hope of escaping the island. He cannot find any.

“Reptar… Leave me here. Fly away.”

Reptar harshly rebuked her words. He does not want it to come to this.
He continued running down the beach line. He looked behind him and saw that the creatures have emerged and were now after him.

“Please Reptar, save yourself. Go tell everyone not to come here.”
Farryn started to wriggle out of his arms, but he held her tight, refusing to let her go. He wasn’t about to sentence her to death with those creatures.

Fyrran raised her hand. A sudden power came upon Reptar’s arms and legs. It slowed him down and forced him to drop the elf.
“Farryn. Stop it. You and your damned spells. We are getting out of here.”
Reptar panicked and went to pick of the elf again.

“Leave me Reptar.”
Farryn slowly sat up.
“Here, take this.”

She a ring off her finger and gave to it Reptar.
“Do not lose it. It contains all the information I gathered about Abaddon and my memories.”

Reptar looked between her and the charging creatures. Their cries and shrieking got louder and louder. The drake is not capable of crying. Tears cannot flow from his eyes. All of his emotions and sadness are layered into his anger. He slammed his tail on the ground and roared.

Farryn chuckled.
“For a big tough guy. You have the softest heart out of all of us. Go on. Do it.”
She closed her eyes and waited for her fall.

Reptar fell on both his knees and whimpered. He braced Farryn’s body against his chest and placed is hand around her head. He closed his eyes. With one smooth stroke. He snapped her neck. Her body immediately went limb. He looked back up and saw the creatures were nearly upon him. He got a good look at them this time. They have bone-plating all over them. They had no evident face. Instead, a circular mouth with many teeth. They resembled worms. They used their many arms to assist them in slithering across the sand.

Reptar only had one thought. Revenge. The drake stood up and pointed at the creatures. They have been marked for death. He quickly jumped in the air and flew east.

Crystal retracted from his mind. She exhaled her breathe she was holding in. She touched her face and felt a tear on her cheek. She opened her eyes and saw Reptar looking back at her. Revenge filled his eyes. Crystal can feel the anger radiating from him.

”Reptar. Do you remember when you arrived at the island?”

”October 2nd, year 628”

”That was five years ago…”

Reptar’s eyes widened.
“I was on that island for five years!”

Crystal started puzzling the pieces together. It was a year and a few months since the attack on dragons. Before than, tensions between the dragons and other races were rising. From what she gathered from Reptar’s memories of the missing boat. Evidence shows that is was his crew that brought the infesters here.

”Reptar. The infesters. Or Abaddon is on the mainland. I think whoever was on that ship brought them here.”

”You saying that they could be alive?”

”Maybe, but also infected. Abaddon uses these tiny creatures that are in people’s minds to control them.”

Crystal said in bluntly. There really isn’t any other way to say it.
”If they are alive. They are not the same people you know.”

”I’ll prove wrong. Farryn was fine.”

”Farryn was a spellcaster. Perhaps she figured a way to stop it. Where is that ring she gave you?”

Reptar opened his mouth. He took the ring that he stored around his tooth.
”What do you plan to do with it?”

”Find out what she knows about Abaddon.”

Reptar stared at the ring, not wanting to give it to the kitsune. But, what he gathered from Crystal from exploring her mind before is that she is a powerful spellcaster. She would make more use of the information then he will.
”Fine. Only take what you need. Do not touch anything else.”

Crystal nodded and grabbed the ring and carefully put it in her pocket. Just as she did. Lenera came through the door. All eyes went to her.

“Reptar! You’re awake.”
Lenera rushed over to him and hugged him.
“You idiot. This is exactly why we tell you not to leave.”

“I miss you too Lenera.”
Reptar weakly hugged her back. It wasn’t long before he motioned her to pull away.

Lenera quickly acknowledged Wolnir and Crystal.
“Brightscaled its a surprise to see you here.”

Then she turned to Crystal, “anything important happen?”

“He has explaining to us why he was found as he was. It ties in with the infesters. Who are actually named Abaddon.”

“Is that so.”
Lenera looked at Reptar and marvelled at him who is happily downing on another bowl of soup given by the guard.
“So he had an encounter with them?”

“Yes. Better yet. We might have a way to defeat them.”

“Is that so… What about Valadir?”

“I don’t know. I need more information first. I haven’t told him what is happening here yet. Would you care to tell him about the attack and who is behind it?”

Lenera rolled her eyes.
“Yes. I also want to speak to Reptar alone. Can you all please leave quickly. I’ve had a shit morning.”

Crystal climbed down from the stool she was sitting on.

“Let’s go, Wolnir. My work here is done.”

Crystal left the room. The cool winter air hit her again. She was about to head over to where Eragon is but is stumped to see Sabato and Elijah coming towards her from the direction she is headed.
“Elijah, Sabato. What are you doing here?”

Sabato spoke, “I brought Elijah along to see if he could figure out what is happening with Eragon.”

Crystal blankly stared at the two of them. Knowing exactly what Elijah is about to say.

Elijah said, “A typical game of cat and mouse. I’ve dealt with this a few times with other spirits. We must gather at camp and ready ourselves for a little bit of mana warfare. We also need Valadir. It revolves around him.”
The old, wise kitsune said it so casually. Sometimes Crystal forgets that he is half spirit himself.

Elijah than acknowledged Wolnir
“Good morning Wolnir. We haven’t met yet. My name is Elijah.”

Crystal than said to the dragon, “That’s my boss by the way. Leader of the Guardians. So you know. Act cool.”
“All is well then,” Ashe replied to Blade upon his report. “No complications where I roamed either.” She remarked to herself, Eraylian border security has declined since the past 5years. A bitter resentment welled up inside of her at that thought. Eraylia, she’s being brought to her knees. Ashe calmed herself, maintaining. cool demeanour. She could hear Jura’s comment on the matter. We left that place…who cares…good riddance…it no longer concerns us…it was them who cut us off…so on and so forth

She gave a half smile to Blade, when he started on the fire. She offered, “After we eat, I’ll take the first watch while you all rest.” Glancing at Jura, still motionless. She was half way finished with preparing the first rabbit when the wingless dragon approached her. Ashely gestured to a place next to her when the dragoness offered her services. “Please by all means,” she replied, “You’re skill would be appreciated.” She pushed the animal corpses to her peer and provided the chef with her second blade.

Her two blades where twin clip knives. A curved handle, the blades following the bend before widening in the middle finished with a clipped point. It was a hybrid style between Elvish and Eraylia tactics.

Ashe continued on her rabbit flaying the skin off at the legs. Her eyes brushed over the dragoness’s figure pausing at her lack of wings. She stopped staring before it was made obvious. “A professional chef for over a century. You must have some humorous stories indeed to share.” Ashely commented. The mere thought of well prepped food made her stomach rumble.

Finishing on the rabbit, she cleaned her knife. “May I ask for your name?”
Ashe sheathed her knife. Then stretching out her legs she leaned back once more on the wall, listen to the wingless dragon’s answers.


3 days earlier

Myra was walking up to the top floor, when an annoyed voice called her name. She turned to look over her shoulder. At the bottom of the stairs was a lanky, skinny man wearing a red tunic. “Oh Nil, weren’t you supervising the front desk?”
“Dash has it. I wanted you to have these,” he explained showing three files in his hand. He climbed up the stairs an handed them over, “It’s the last reports from the intelligence branch since three weeks ago. There’s a copy for the Guildmaster as well. Do you know when she and Jura will be back?”

Myra hummed, “Within the next month lest she sends a message delaying her return.”

The elvin woman opened one file, flicking through it’s pages. There were annotations of discrepancies marked throughout the dictation. “Are these from our scouts in Eraylia?” She closed the file and thanked him, “You can go now. Good work.” He dipped his head and turned to leave. The white haired elf moved to the top of the stairs and turned left.

The air was brisk despite the hot sun outside. There was hardly any noise on the top floor except for a the head butler and a few trusted maids going about their business. Golden, green and brown decorations dressed the stone walls marking the beginning of the harvest festival. It was a week long celebration and marked almost three weeks since their last mission from the Guildmaster. The adventurer branch under Sir Ian along with Wran were undertaking thievery at the expense of the Akarma.

Myra walked through a series of corridors until two heavy wooden doors were before here. She unlocked the doors, revealing a large study room. The room was lit by from sunlight seeping through the window which was opened to air out the room. The back wall and wall to the right were covered by an impressive collection of books, scrolls and texts of old. On the wall to her left, a painting hung over a hearth along with other various historic and weapon treasures. A large brown fur rug was sprawled over the wooden floor, providing extra warmth during the harsh winter.

There was a smaller door tucked away from eyes behind a bookshelf that led to a sleeping quarter. Myra walked to the end of the room where a desk was erected, neat piles of documents set up, candles, quills and ink, and a few odd items to match. Gracefully, she set down a couple of letters and files.

She then went to close the window shutters but instead stood there gazing at the view. Her eyes glazed over the cliff, Talon’s Low. The cliff was dress with a green forest, before the edge cut off showing off the coast of a smaller piece of land called El’s Island.

Myra’s hand moved to her chest where she played with a plain, gold ring attached to a leather cord. She sighed out loud thinking of memories past. She was interrupted by a gravely calm voice, “You know if you wanted a handsome view all you had to do was turn around.”

Myra swivelled on one foot to see Wran, the grisly ranger leaning on the doorframe. She laughed cheerfully, “Someone certainly thinks highly of himself.” She gestured outside the window with her head, “I was just thinking about the elves on El’s Island. Do you think they will come this time to celebrate this year?”While Myra had spoken Wran closed the distance between them. He leaned against the window frame and stared at the outside world. For a response, he merely shrugged his shoulders.

The two stood in silence, enjoying the other’s presence, staring at the view. Myra was about a head taller than Wran, a characteristic tied to her elvin lineage. He glanced over to his peer, and noticed her fiddling with the ring she alway wore. A sadness dwelt in him as memories resurfaced to his mind. She was a graceful woman, polite and positive. A faint smile appeared on the ranger when he looked back at the forest. Despite her beautiful exterior she had one of the worst tempers he had ever come across in his life. It wasn’t an explosive temper but an icy and piercing anger.

The silver haired elf broke the silence first, “How was the operation?”

“We lost 3 members, Mertugh was one of them.”

Myra nodded. Mertugh was one of the wardens for the adventurer branch. “He will be grieved and sorely missed. He was one who openly carried hope in his heart.” She looked Wran up and down, “You should get some rest. No doubt you will be off by nightfall.” He dipped his head and grunted his agreement. The two walked out of the study and Myra locked the doors once more.

“Sir Ian sent me ahead to scout and have you ready the treasury accounts. The company will be back with the loot by tomorrow’s end if everything goes smoothly.” Wran informed the elf.

“It will be done.” Myra led the way to a quiet, and small sleeping quarter on the same level. She opened the door and ushered Wran through it. He sat on the bed sinking into the mattress whilst Myra pulled out a drawer beside the bed. She took a candle from the drawer’s contents and lit it. It was specifically designed to be a natural remedy to aid sleep. It’s scent of lavender and fern filled the room slowly, calling calm to the air.

The elf watched the ranger shed his boots, cloak and belts. He grunted, “Wake me in two hours.” Myra bobbed her head, “I’ll have your horse and supplies ready when I do.” She stood beside his as he laid down. He rolled onto his side, his back turned from Myra, only to face a bouquet of dried golden grass, green vine leaves and brown flowers. He rolled his eyes and frowned at the decorations. An ill content overcame him during such festive times. Myra nudged him gently when she pulled a cotton blanket over him. “Stop it,” she said.

“Stop what?” his grumpy voice questioned.

“That dreary attitude of yours.” She got up and closed the curtains. Her voice was delicate and she continued, “The festivals and celebrations mean to the people here. It is a time of gratitude and joy.”

Wran closed his eyes and remarked, “It’s an excuse to mask the harsh reality of what is. Life doesn’t deserve gratitude - it only takes…”

“shhh,” Myra hushed as she took it her hanker-chief. Gently she wiped away dirt on his face, “Let me know if the candle works for your insomnia.” Wran listened Myra’s footsteps move towards the door, saying nothing. He heard the creak of the hinges, but before it the latch closed, the footsteps paused.
Myra had lingered a title longer. She said, “For the record, I was hoping to have an escort to the harvest dinner at week’s end. You and the company better be back before the last day, lest I should attend alone.”

He only grunted a reply, rather unenthusiastically. After Myra left, the door shut after her, the ghost of a smile appeared on Wran‘s face. Then he let himself drift into a deep sleep.
Reptar eventually began to show his unfamiliarity with Crystal's race with his body language and question towards her, something that Wolnir picked up on. He couldn't really judge since himself only knew about their existence around two weeks ago. Relating with the drake a bit since they seemed to have something in common. Their recent discovery of something misterious.

The dragon saw how Crystal eyed something outside the room when she was asked where his brother was. He turned his head to see what it was, turning out to be some eye contact with one of the guards. He quickly looked away from there since it seemed like there was some comunication between the two. In any case, the drake's question about the whereabouts of Eragon also raised his curiosity. Last time he remembered accompanying the kitsune to the sanatorium in order to treat Reptar, Eragon had assisted too and had privately confessed him that he was feeling worried about it. And about another bunch of things. Him not coming to see his brother was odd given his worry. Maybe he was busy? Being a king in times like these did sound like a ton of work. Maybe he'd come around later after finishing some stuff up? At least Lenera was coming, another known face for the drake to see.

When someone was dispatched to get more food for the drake, Wolnir asked if he could have some bread.

"I-i see..." Wolnir communicated when he was told they'd be talking this way from now own for the patient's sake.

"I-i've got a friend who'd you want to meet. He also loves to travel around..." He told Reptar. He thought that him and Val could share some stories about what they'd seen. Information about places one of them visited but not the other. Share their opinions about places they both knew. Maybe they'd have some friendly fights about their different opinions. One thinking the place was nice while the other thinks it's a shithole. Although... now that he thought of it, maybe it wouldn't go so well due to his vision about Val killing everyone left and right. Well, he already proposed the idea. Oh well.

"W-why is it that they don't want you to leave?" He asked. "D-due to the isolation thing going?" Or maybe it was because of their general mistrust and ignorance about the other races, thing he remembered hearing about before.

Then the drake started telling his story. The dragon feeling the same feelings the drake felt in the moment the events took place, both the feelings and the events had a lot of details. They felt vivid, like he was actually experiencing the events himself in the flesh.

The story's information was crucial, but the dragon didn't analyze the information fully since the tale made him cry for three main reasons. He was reminded about how his human friends steadily distanced themselves from him. How they alienated him, not wanting to have anything to do with him. How his presence eventually wasn't tolerated in his workplace and was thus fired. Another reason was how real those feelings felt, which derived in the final reason. He knew how those feelings felt all too well. The ones about leaving your friends and loved ones behind since he was forced to do so during his escape. Not being able to see his family again and, like the drake, not fully knowing if they were well or not. Seeing his friends die while they survived together. Seeing them wounded. Some asking to be left behind in order to not be a burden to the rest.

It felt like the story rubbed some salt on that emotional wound.

The dragon lifted his head when Lenera came around, his reddish eyes looking at her when he was told his prescence was a suprise. Around that time he was given his bread, which he ate.
"I-i wanted to s-see how he was d-doing..."
It took him a while to notice her bloated abdomen. Was she pregnant? It seemed that, after all, trying times such as these didn't stop that sort of thing from happening. Maybe it did the contrary.

Wolnir walked out of the room along Crystal, too immersed in his emotional wounds to wish the drake a happy recovery. They quickly came across the kitsune's boss and their partner. The fact one of them was the boss made the dragon feel... pressured.



Blade and Ashley exchanged smiles when they reported to eachother. No dangers spotted on either end. Good. The dragon wanted to believe that meant they were in a safe spot.
"That is a relief to hear"

Shortly after their exchange, Ashley proposed a course of action. She would guard the place and let the others have some rest.
"That's very kind of you" Blade said gratefully and with a smile. He honestly didn't know how long he could remain awake. "You are to be aware of a fact. If you find yourself in a position where you are to awaken me for our sustained survival, know that the guards and several of my cell companions have pointed out that my slumber is not easily interrupted"

The dragoness was handed a twinblade and allowed to perform her task. Whether she liked it or not, she considered that for the forseeable future she was part of a team. The human, Blade and Jura were her companions now, and she considered the situation didn't allow for slackers. Everyone was to pitch in to ensure their survival, and given her physical state she'd help by doing what she did best.

The brown dragoness inspected the blade she was given. Not something she was used to handle. Strange and llamative. She cut off the head of the first rabbit, little meat and the organs were normally not desired. Afterwards, she performed a couple light cuts on the animal's skin in order to test the blade. It's sharpness and handling. If she was on one of her workplaces, there would be no need for that. Someone else would take care of procuring and maintaining the knives.

Once sure of the knife's behavior, she continued skinning the animal in a neat and swift fashion. Taking just a couple of moves to do so.
"This blade you've given me is quite different from that i normally use" she told the human.
Soon she finished with the rabbits and moved to the deer.
"I have" The dragoness told the human, answering her question about there being some amusing stories in her line of work after all that time. "Perhaps in more appropriate occasion i'll tell you some of them"
The human then asked her for her name. Since they'd be together for a while, she considered it appropriate for them to know themselves by name.
"I'm Rega. You?"
Even if the question wasn't directed at himself, Blade also introduced himself politely to the dragoness.
She finished with the deer swiftly and with precision. Evident that she has done that kind of thing a thousand times over. Seeing all the possible dishes she could create with the animals. but unable to create them, annoyed her deeply.
"If i had the necessary things... I'd probably make rabbit stew with cream, carrots and potatoes, deer liver paté and deer pastries. But there's no pots, herbs or vegetables, so you three'll have to do with bits on a stick", she told Blade and Ashley. "I'll go get the sticks. Small branches. Won't be long"
She then left for around five minutes, collecting branches from the trees and returning to the camp to sharpen them up.

While the dragoness took care of the food, Blade surveyed the area. Scanning it with his mind. Still nothing. Maybe the stray animals on the distance but nothing significant. He then decided to take a look on Jura, see how she was doing. But not by going inside the cave, she was still in there. The dragon extended his mind's reach, tendrils connecting to Jura's. See her mind's activity. Percieving a scene. A dream she was having. A big garden, with colorful plants all around. A lot of people. It was a ceremony, with Jura being the center of attention. She was feeling very happy and really pride of herself. A ceremonial sword touching her shoulders and her taking a vow. She was being promoted to general. The first dragoness that accomplished such a task, hence her pride and happiness. She felt accomplished, her effort recognized. Blade could relate with Jura's dream. He remembered his feelings when he graduated the mage's school back when he was a youngling in the North Twin Islands. A ceremony had taken place as well to commemorate his efforts, as well as his classmates'. For completing the first step of the process that made him the dragon he's today. Happy that his parents agreed to pay for his initial studies and fondly remembering his friends and the teacher he appretiated the most in his entire mage carreer. The ethics and morals teacher. A mage who really believed in the teachings he preached. That magic was to be used responsibly, that it was dangerous and not to be treated as a toy. As a way to better the lives of those around you and as a shield against the dark. Even during his many years in the Elemental Islands, where he went shortly after graduating from the Twin islands, jumping from a specialty to the other. Even after acquiring the great magic knowledge he now possessed, he has never forgotten that mage and his teachings. Holding them close ever since.

Jura's dream changed. No longer a happy ceremony, but a reminder of how those she befriended and served ended up betraying her and casting her aside like a broken tool. A reflection of how she currently felt. Furious, hurt and betrayed. And she wasn't really dreaming. She was close to waking up.

Blade disconnected from her mind. She shouldn't suspect a thing. The dragon went to fetch one of the flasks Ashley bought, drinking half of the water inside and ready to offer Jura the rest.
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”There are several reasons my brother discourages me from leaving. Partly because of our isolation, so yes, you are right, Wolnir. Also, I’m next in line, and I’m an Armageddon. Only three of us exist. There is a deeper reason. But I will not share with strangers.” Speaking to Wolnir, Reptar explained why his absence creates an uproar between the brothers. At least he explained what he is comfortable sharing. He didn’t find the kitsune and dragon untrustworthy, rather the opposite. But some truths should be kept hidden for a later date.

“Don’t be shy, Wol. Think of Elijah as a friend. He’s just a little older. Maybe a lot older. I don’t know how old he is. He refuses to tell me.” Crystal comforted Wolnir. Her words, however, turned over to Elijah and she gave him a friendly stare. She’s always disappointed that he will not disclose his age to anyone. His reasoning of course is that she would see him much differently if she knew.

Elijah smiled back.
“Where are you heading now?” Elijah’s voice is calm and levelled. As if he has everything under control amid the mess of war and pressure.

“Wolnir and I were going to check up on Eragon, but you bet me to it. Now we’re off to camp. What about yourself?” Crystal asked, curious now as to what they were up to.

“We saw Lenera walk this way. We are going to inform her of our discovery. She deserves to know what is happening to her soulmate. I assume you know where she is?”

“She’s with Reptar. A little further down the hallway. The room has two guards in front. However, I would wait outside for a while. They have a lot to pull through, and I’m sure they would not want to be disturbed. It’s been a rough time for them the past few days.” Crystal cautioned Elijah and Sabato.

Elijah nodded. “Of course. We will wait however long it takes them.”

“Oh, and another thing. If you go in, don’t look at Reptar funny. He’s a little… A little off in the head. He’s had contact with the Infesters.”

“Wait, what?” Sabato looked at Crystal, confused and intrigued by her statement. Now he wants to look at Reptar.

“I’ll explain later. Anyway, Wolnir and I should get going.” Crystal started to walk off. In a chirpy mood now.

Elijah spoke to Wolnir again. “It’s good to meet you Wolnir. I’m sure we will have a good talk over some tea in the near future. Might I add that you have fabulous scales and beautiful wings. You should be proud of them. But until next time.” He bowed to the dragon and moved along with Sabato.


A big smile across Jura’s lips. Her dedication, time and blood have finally paid off. Over and over, she has proven her worth. Battles, sieges, patrols, policing, commanding. She’s done it all. Very few have achieved such a wide range of titles, especially at her age. She turned thirty-nine a few days prior. She is a young achiever and excels at what she does. Many had their eyes on her. Seeing her grow into the hardened adult she is now. She has somewhat become an idol. It’s a big day for her. Not only is she being celebrated, but it is also the start of a three-day-long festival. The Sun and Moon show. A celebration at the beginning of summer to celebrate the wealth and harvest of the previous season.

Jura flew above clouds. Her sapphire wings blended well with the sky. She wore fine iron amour. She was decorated with many patterns. Laced and lined with gold and silver. She spent many hours the day before polishing it until it was hard to look at with all the light that reflected off it. She brought no weapons with her. She didn’t need them.

Jura also took special care of her appearance. Going as for as brushing down her teeth and cleaning every scale on her body. Assistance was required for places she couldn’t reach. Hours went into her hygiene, but she didn’t regret it. All eyes are going to be on her.

The castle finally lay under her. Eraylia. She always thought how funny it was that the capital had the same name as the country. Whoever named it probably wasn’t very creative. With her exceptional eyes, she can see how decorated the courtyard is. It’s a large courtyard. Able to accommodate six hundred people with ease. Extensive stone walls around it continue around the Keep. It is square-shaped. The frontmost stone wall contains six towers and an iron gate in the middle. Four guards on each building. They were armed with bows and swords. The courtyard however, is where the excitement is. A stage set just in front of the inner gate of the Keep has been established. Upon the stage is King Duncan Eze Astero with his family and a few other noble families with some other officials who were bothered to attend her ceremony. All of which she can name. To the sides of the stage that extend straight down to the front gate are rows of soldiers. Each clad in iron amour and holding spears upwards in uniform. In front of the soldiers is a line of knights adored in armour. However, they are not matching. Each had a unique set. The village and town dwellers behind past the soldiers to the outskirts of the courtyard.

She lingered in the air for a while. It gave her a little satisfaction that they were waiting for her. She took a moment- like always- to appreciate the sky. The ability to fly. It gave her much joy to know that she could travel where ever she wanted. Be boundless from the ground. She always feels free and undefeatable in the sky. What made it so special is how few will ever know how it feels.

Guess it’s time to make an entrance.
She looped around, and nose-dived to the courtyard. Seconds before she crashed into the ground. She snapped her wings open and caught the air. Breaking her fall just in time before she hit the blue stone floor. She landed softy on her hind legs. She fell to her front paws and folded her wings. Cheering from the townspeople was like a roar. The guards stood motionless as routine, besides the ones she landed next to, who flinched at her sudden appearance. She looked forward where the King is seated on the opposite side of the yard. She held her head high. Chest proud. Her movements were delicate.

She made her down the centre towards the King. She kept her head straight, but from the corner of her eyes, she saw her parents among the crowd. Her father with green scales and her mother in blue; they are easily recognisable. It made her all the happier to see them here. As she walked down, some of the knights congratulated her and gave her nods of approval. Many of them she knew and fought by them. The King rose from his seat, sword in hand and stepped forward. When she reached him, she seated herself on the ground and looked at him. He had a muscular build. A square head with a great brown beard and deep brown eyes to suit. He adorned himself with royal colours. Blue, gold and silver. Her blue eyes met his.

The crowd quietened and waited for the King to speak.

A deep and strong voice, he spoke,
“Would all the knights please come forward.”

They did so and created a semi-circle around Jura.

“This warrior has been called upon to receive the knighthood and is ready to receive the task of General over Eraylia’s greater army. Through her courage, fearlessness and wisdom, she has proven herself worthy of such titles. Through her great feats, she has been known as ‘The Flying Arrow of Eraylia’, ‘The Sky Hunter of the night’ and ‘The fire of Justice’.

“Jura Sckether do you understand your undertaking when you put yourself under the helm of the brothers who serve side by side- The Knights of Eraylia?”

Jura responded, “I do.”

“Do you swear that you will protect your country and its people? Even under the threat of death?”

“I swear.”

“Do you swear that you will uphold Eraylia’s values and her interests?”

“I swear.”

“And do you swear in the face of death and the next death after that you will never betray yourself or your brothers and sisters in order to preserve your life?”

“I swear!”
Jura roared her final answer

King Duncan smiled. “Good.”

He raised his sword. Jura took off her helm and bowed her head. He touched her shoulders and her head with the edge of his sword.

“Jura Sckether, it is my honour to knight you in the name of my family and Eraylia. In the colours of blue and silver. Not only will you be acknowledged by Knight but also General. May the wind stay strong under your wings. Arise Jura Sckether and be recognised. The first ever dragon recorded to be Knighted!”

She stood up and turned around. She found the other knights bowing at her claws. The crowd went into a roar and cheered her on. She focused on her parents as they looked at her back. The pride they all felt for her. She has done much for her father’s name. Jura couldn’t contain her excitement any longer. She roared into the sky, and a fire erupted from her jaws.

What a load of bullshit.
Jura woke from her dream. Feeling crawled back into her body. The cold stiffness in her joint and limbs. A headache, to add. The disappointment she feels now. Shame and betrayal she has been through. It’s a wonder that she has kept going for this long. Her conscious made pictures of her once friends with blood on their hands. Her blood.

Jura slowly opened her eyes and lifted her head. She looked around to see where she was. A dark room with a light at the end of it. She could make out silhouettes in front of the light. One she recognised as Ashe, her human friend and the other took an interesting appearance. It took her a few seconds to understand what had happened.

Must of blacked out.

Jura slowly stood up, a bit wobbly from her weakness. She yawned and flexed her wings. It occurred to her that she is in the cave she landed next to. She sniffed the air. A horrible smell lingered around her. As if something has been decaying for days. She looked forward to the mouth of the cave. The light attracting her attention. Two silhouettes broke the piercing light. One she instantly reconighsed as her human frined Ashe and the other. The wingless dragon she has seen but hasn't met. Jura stared at the dragon for a few seconds. Maybe she knows her from somewhere.

The smell got to her again and she looked for its source. It didn't take very long to find it. A lifeless dragon next to her. She stared at it disgusted. Its flesh half torn off. Dried blood all over. Before she gagged, she turned away and weakly made her way over to the others.
Did they put me next to that because they thought I was dead? Surely they are more observant than that.
"How long have I been out for? And who is that over there?" Referring to the dead dragon. Her voice is croaky and quiet.
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Blade thanked Ashe for taking the first watch, she joked, "I am only doing it for my self-interest. You look like you would fall asleep on guard." She turned her head to the cave entrance. She said whilst looking out, "I will alert you should the need arise; until then, have peace of mind." The night had resigned to the sun. while ago, the day getting warmer. Ashe felt the cold breeze on her cheeks. She welcomed it to clear out the stench of rotting flesh.

As the dragoness cut away at the animals with great culinary skill, she answered Ashe's questions. She chuckled when the chef said she was not used to the twin blades for preparing dinner. The image was quite amusing, as was the reverse situation. Imagine chef knives in combat.

She turned her attention to the brown dragon, enjoying the unexpected company. However, she was slightly disappointed when the dragoness would not share her stories. She replied, "Well then, hearing your stories only adds to reasons for getting out of here safely." Even if there wasn't a story to pass the time, the dragoness did reveal her name.

"Rega," Ashe repeated as if to test it out.
Blade introduced himself next; Ashe took note of his manners. His etiquette is above standard. He must come from a noble background or have a high education level. Then it was her turn to go, "I am Ashely, though you can just call me Ashe."

There was a short silence before Ashe heard Rega rant. She seemed frustrated with the lack of ingredients. When the chef described a hearty stew, her stomach rumbled again. Rega left to collect the sticks, leaving her to imagine that delicious rabbit stew. Now that I think about it, Castrock's Harvest Feast is in three days. Guess Jura, and I will miss the festival this time.

Ashe glanced at her friend for the 6th time that morning. Rega came back with her collection. The white dragon seemed preoccupied, walking outside the cave. Ashe took this chance to rest her eyes before taking the first watch. The fire's crackle and the scent of roasted meat accompanied her senses.

Her mind wandered, reflecting on the events past. Barely escaping Diabmoure, stealing from the Akarma and now Valadir presented us with an opportunity to visit the Southern Drakken Mountains. All I wanted was to get back to Castrock, but now...

During her hunt, a dread had resurfaced. A suspicion she had been attempting to push away for some time now. At first, all she wanted to do was return to Castrock, but now her instincts are telling her to go South. All the questions I have been ignoring about Eraylia, my family, and the tensions rising in the continent. The answers may be in those mountains. Ashe sighed inwardly. Jura would never go for what I am thinking. We cut out ties with Eraylia. I abandoned my duty to that nation for the freedom we found. Yet why do I find my loyalties divided?

The smell of the rotting dragon seemed to be getting closer. She ignored it, keeping her eyes closed until a familiar voice called her from her sleep.
She looked up at her companion, a smile breaking over her features. "Well, good afternoon, sleeping beauty," Ashe teased. "You've been out for half the day."

Ashe leaned forward to see past Jura's figure at the dead dragon she was referring to. She leaned back against the wall observing Jura. The dragoness's body seemed weak from exhaustion. Her throat sounded dry, and she passed the water flask to her. "Drink this." Fortunately, nothing else posed as severe at the moment.
She lowered her voice when she answered Jura's second question. "I never asked. Knowing their name makes no difference to me, nor change their fate of death."

She gestured to sit next to her. "How are you feeling? Anywhere in pain that I need to note?" Ashe's nose twitched, under attack by the dead smell that rubbed off on Jura. The brunette was in glad tidings with her friend finally awake, even if Jura might be in a sour mood. Ashe added, returning to her usual candid tone, "You need to bathe. Thankfully, I have the privilege of guarding everyone tonight; thus, I can avoid your smelly ass."
She jerked her head towards the fire, where the brown dragon worked on the food. "Her name is Rega; she is our chef for the night. Blade is outside. Valadir left to get help after you collapsed."

She lowered her voice again so only Jura could hear. She kept a neutral expression and appearance to avert attention. She said,
"Jura, it is wise to visit the Southern Drakken Mountain. I have mulled it over in my mind. We will restock weapons, food, water, and medicinal supplies and get a new saddle. Riding bare on your scales cost me another pair of pants and cut my legs. We can create networks with the leaders and gain contracts for our guild. You could meet more of your kind and even find the reason for the attack against the dragon species. Now I am not saying I fully agree with the fantasy of drakes, but what could we lose by going there other than wasting a bit of time?" She paused and let her friend take in her words. She left out her other reason for wanting - to look into the Allied Army's existence. Then Ashe offered, "If you still do not wish to go, we will head back to Castrock. It is up to you."
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