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Dragons in the Vale

Of Hearts and Fire

By Tomos JacksonPublished 2 years ago Updated 12 months ago 14 min read
1
Vallis Draconis

"There weren't always dragons in the Valley.” Naythan read aloud from the diary of Gratianus Kylos, “I believe that at some point in the distant past the Great War in the East, of which little is known but both dryad and human scholars agree happened, drove from there at least one dragon to the West seeking to escape the magical chaos of the war. Although I cannot substantiate this with much evidence, I can think of no other reason to find this creature so far from the place of its making.

However, of its existence there can be no doubt. The Orochai army under Arahan that had been repulsed by Cassius Marius in the year 90 PC Atlani Calendar, was reported to have passed through this area by the locals, who, fearing for their lives, prayed for deliverance. Seemingly answering their prayers, a mighty dragon arose from his mountainous home and wiped out the Orochai host. First seen as a deliverer the people rejoiced, but soon their cries of joy became screams of horror. Now awakened by the Orochai horde's approach the dragon ventured out and began to attack the local towns, taking residence away, never to be seen again.

So it was that the Cultus Draconis was formed, a group of zealots formed around the worship of the beast, sacrificing victims from among unbelievers to the god in return for its protection.

I hope to investigate this cult further and obtain a greater understanding of its significance before making my appeal to the royal court in Civallis to fix the situation. Though while I feel confident that royal forces could wipe out the cult, it seems unlikely that it could repel or defeat the subsequent dragon attacks when the beast fails to receive its regular meals. However, it is abhorrent to me and my conscience to stand by and allow for this state of affairs to continue without doing something to remedy the situation.

May the light of the Eagle illuminate my mind, strengthen my will and guide my passions.

Gratianus Kylos"

Naythan put the diary down. "That was the final entry. it appears that his investigation ended poorly."

Naythan and his companions sat in darkness around a small campfire which they had set up on a small plateau that hung from the side of one of the mountains that lined the valley beneath them. Within that valley lay the main road that led from the capital city of Campestria, Civallis, to the less urbanized Western half of the land, winding its way through the mountains to the sea. The night was cool and comfortable but clouds overhead largely hid the moon and stars from view, casting the land in a deep darkness.

The Campestrian plateau

"Aye, that was my conclusion too," Galdorin said, "Arahan had stolen the property of my clan, and fled South, far from our reach to escape our wrath. Finding out where he had fallen from this writer's work we decided that the likelihood that the dragon had stolen our peoples heirloom from him was enough to warrant investigation."

"What is this heirloom of yours Galdorin?" Fyra asked, her red eyes catching the campfire light and the shadow's of her dark hair falling over her smooth tanned features common among the dryadales. Naythan had to shudder a little. She appeared alien to him in the daylight, but in a curiously beautiful way. In the darkness and firelight, it seemed far more predatory. It was no wonder that the tales of Vampires had arisen around stories of her people before their arrival in the West.

Galdorin on the other hand seemed unperturbed by her. Naythan wondered if there was anything that would elicit fear from the Nanir, a short but powerfully built humanoid, who looked as though he could hurl boulders at least his own size with ease, his knotted muscles on thick arms looked larger than anything Naythan had seen on a human before, and a barrel chest seemed just about contained within his travelling tunic.

"The artifact we seek is one of the gems that is said to have been handed to our ancestors to guard. The word we have for them would translate to your tongue roughly as 'Heart of the World', and they are said to be what keeps this world from being torn apart."

Naythan leaned forward, he had always had an interest in learning, and learning Naniren history from one of them was a honor rarely bestowed upon even the most dedicated human scholars. Even Fyra, who's interests were more in line with the arcane and sciences, seemed interested.

Galdorin continued "These hearts formed as the center around which our clans were formed. There have never been more or less clans than there were hearts. Their keepers became our leaders and our cities, deep beneath the earth, were designed to keep them safe from the other species, that seemed determined to dominate the surface. Our purpose is to safeguard these gems and so without a gem to safeguard we are a lost people. Sometimes this causes a clan to scatter in confusion, other times it has been the cause of destructive wars that have ravaged all before them until the gem was reclaimed. In our case, thankfully for my own people and those who would stand between us and the gem, our king is a wise Nanir and so he ordered a skilled jeweler to make a false gem in secrecy. Such a thing would be widely seen as sacrilege if it was discovered, but for as long as it is not, our people remain as one, until those of us who were sent to retrieve the gem could do so."

"So upon this quest lies not only the honour of my college, but also the fate of an entire clan of Naniren?" Fyra asked, her tone measured in thought.

Galdorin scowled, "Just so lady Fyra, though it seems that the honour of your college is tarnished already, it is your own honour you reclaim on this quest."

Fyra's gaze grew cold and she sat up straighter, "The events surround the theft of this gem while in the college were of great concern to my superiors. The delicate and complicated nature of how the theft took place meant that they could not aid in its recovery openly. Do not speak so harshly in matters of which you know little."

"I know much on the matter of honour," Galdorin grunted, "far more it seems than the College."

Fyra rose swiftly, like a cat, and for a moment Naythan feared she would strike out at the Nanir, and instinctively readied his Negation magic, Galdorin didn't budge, barely taking the trouble to raise his gaze to her new height. "Perhaps of honour you know much Nanir," Fyra said, her words seeming to freeze the very air in front of them, "but of intelligence, subtlety and restraint you know almost nothing it seems!"

With that Fyra turned to the surrounding trees stormed away from the fire. Naythan hesitated for a moment, and then with an apologetic smile to Galdorin, who continued to poke at the fire uncaring, rose and hurried after Fyra.

After brushing through the trees surrounding their small camp, Naythan found Fyra on the edge of the treeline, looking down from the plateau on which their camp had been set, into the valley and the road which led from Civallis to the Vallis Draconis. Staring down onto the road, Fyra stood, arms crossed, her single long braid hanging over her shoulder.

Naythan quietly approached. Before he made it to her side she spoke, "If I'd wanted you with me I would have asked for you."

Naythan stopped, unsure. Should he leave her alone, he wasn't sure there was anything he could say to make things better? She could be terrifying even when not in a bad mood, and though he'd only known her a short time, he was sure that this was a bad time.

But damn it, he was her partner, not her lackey. Saying a quick silent prayer, Naythan steeled his courage and forced himself to continue to her side.

"Perhaps I had not been clear enough for you cleric. Go away." the icy chill in her tone belied the fiery fury of a few moments ago.

Swallowing, and trying to keep an even tone and face Naythan retorted, "I am not your servant. We're partners remember?"

She turned to him, her red eyes hard and cold, yet seeming to retain a fire behind them. It was all Naythan could do to hold the gaze and keep from squirming, but, to his surprise, he managed it. After a moment, Fyra turned back to the valley beneath them. Naythan had to stop himself from letting out a breath of relief.

"You think we are equals?" Fyra asked.

"Isn't that what socii are." Naythan asked carefully, "Partners, that are supposed to work together in the common interest of the nation."

Fyra smiled coldly, "Did you ever consider why you, a mediocre cleric at best, both in the use of the blade and Negation magic, were paired with the College's most promising student?"

"Perhaps I'm being punished?" Naythan muttered under his breath, his nervousness giving way to irritation at her arrogance.

"Excuse me?" Fyra asked turning to give him an inquisitive look.

Naythan blinked. He hadn't thought he'd spoken loud enough for her to hear him. Clearing his throat he tried to cover himself, "What I meant to say was that, I'd thought perhaps my superiors were trying to discipline me. They told me it was for experience, but when I learned I was pairing up with you I figured they were punishing me for not investing as much in my training as they thought I should. Perhaps they thought to frighten me into learning faster?"

Fyra, gave a small snort, "Perhaps you are not as simple as I thought."

Naythan restrained a breath. Looks like he narrowly dodged that one.

Fyra continued, "Maybe that was the intention of your masters, but the real reason is that my masters wanted me to be as unshackled as possible, for that is what this partnership is really about." she spat the word out as if it were poison, "A means too keep magic users in line by attaching them to a cleric to negate their skills with that vile trickery you employ."

Naythan stirred at this unprovoked tirade, but thought better of responding to an angry powerful sorceress, instead choosing to move the subject onward "Forget about us," He said with a dismissive wave of his hand, "can we talk about what happened back there?" he said gesturing back towards the camp. "You know that the Galdorin was right don't you? The Heart of the World was entrusted in the care of the College and it was taken from under their very noses. Should they not have taken more responsibility?"

"Under the noses of the clerics as well." Fyra retorted.

Naythan held his hands out placatively, "Whatever, surely it is the duty of both orders to see it returned is it not? They should have agreed to help."

"I doubt someone like you would understand the gravity of the situation."

"Try me."

Fyra was silent a moment. "Do you know how hard it is to steal from the College?" Fyra finally began.

"Very. To my knowledge it has never happened before." Naythan answered

"Exactly! Yet this time a small group of country cultists break in and steal a precious gem, one that belonged to a race more powerful than any other in the world while it was still in our care. You think these... amateurs... just walked into the college?"

Naythan considered for a moment. "So how did they do it then? Does the College know?"

Fyra looked at him, "The masters hardly talk about the politics of the College to a students." Fyra answered, "But," she continued with a reluctant sigh, "I suspect that the thieves could not have broken into the College without help from the inside."

"Help from within the College!" Naythan blurted out.

Fyra shushed him furiously, "We don't know how good Naniren hearing is, and this is just supposition!"

Naythan lowered his voice, "I'm sorry yes but, are you saying that somebody inside the College helped the thieves? Why?"

"Maybe not the College itself, but if not then someone high up the city's upper echelons. As to why. Have you considered that the Cult may not be as fringe as it appears?"

"You believe that some in the city believe the dragon is a god as well? That's ridiculous!"

"I can't say for sure who believes what, but consider that a dragon is newly awoken within the kingdom, our forces are hard pressed to keep the borders secure as it is. We don't have the manpower to take on a dragon and defend against our enemies. So they settle on a policy of appeasing the dragon."

"That's insane!" Naythan said furiously, "The Naniren will slaughter everyone in their path to get that gem, including us and the city of Civallis!"

"They don't know what the Heart of the World is." Fyra replied, "we've only just been told now, and besides, even if they knew what we now know, its the choice between certain destruction from the dragon, or possible destruction by the Naniren. I know which I would choose."

Naythan stopped to consider this for a moment. Then a thought occurred to him. "Why are we here? Surely a task with so much riding on it would be entrusted to skilled socii?"

Fyra gave him an angry, determined look, the fire once behind her eyes coming to the fore, "You think that we are not up for this task?" her words were low, but bubbling with determined fury.

"Honestly? No." Naythan responded, "Surely there are more qualified hunters among the clerics and the Sorcerer's College? I get the need for secrecy if their is an insider, but surely there is a need for success as well?"

Fyra said nothing but looked away, the first hint of uncertainty, creeping into her face.

Naythan was confused by this reaction, but then realization struck him, "They didn't send you did they? They didn't send US?"

Fyra said nothing.

Naythan stared at her for a moment, the implications of his situation slowly dawning on him like ice slowly freezing through his veins. He eventually managed to form a thought into words, "Its... its ok. Its just the same mission. Its just that... We're on our own."

Again Fyra said nothing.

"The mission is just the same isn't it Fyra?" Naythan said, the fear again beginning to rise, reaching his voice.

"I'm not here for the gem. I'm here for the dragon."

Naythan blinked once. Then started laughing, "Oh that's funny Fyra, you really had me going there for a while! And there I was thinking you didn't have a sense of humour, haha, a warped sense of humour mind you but still, you got one, haha."

"I'm not joking."

Naythan's laughter immediately collapsed, "WHAT!" he nearly screamed. "Your going to try and kill a DRAGON!"

"Yes."

"Oh Lord God above have mercy on us!" Naythan cried spinning around and pacing on the edge of the plateau overlooking the valley. "I can't... this is just..." Naythan couldn't get his words straight.

"I can do this cleric!" Fyra insisted.

"DO THIS!" Naythan cried, no longer trying to keep his voice down in his ever mounting terror, "Kill a dragon! Are you crazy?"

"I'm powerful." Fyra responded, the calm determined fire still alight within her eyes.

Naythan just stared at her a moment, trying to comprehend what was happening.

Then he snapped.

Reaching for his sword he drew it out "You crazy arrogant bitch I'm..."

He saw it a moment before it hit him, bracing himself he drew on his Negation magic, but too slowly. The shockwave of Fyra's power blew him off his feet into the air and slamming to the earth with a hard thud, any air still in his lungs after being blasted with the wave was knocked out by the impact and Naythan lay there gasping his sword flying out of his hands and out of reach.

Advancing at a rapid but steady pace, Fyra approached him, this time there was no mistake, there were flames where her red eyes had been and flames dancing at the edge of her finger tips. Naythan crawled backwards as fast as he could reaching for his sword. He tried to block her with Negation, but it served only to slightly dim the flames. Eventually she stood over him, like a demon burning in the fires of Hell ready to end him.

Instead she just spoke, her voice crackling like the flames that danced across her frame, not even singing the robes she wore, "I can do this! If you wish to leave then do so, but never try to stop me ever again!"

With that the flames vanished from around her and she stalked off back towards the camp.

Naythan lay there a moment.

Then he spoke, not shouting but loud enough to be heard. "You stupid, selfish, arrogant little girl!"

Fyra stopped in her tracks, but Naythan didn't care anymore, his anger was catching up to his fear and he'd had enough, "I can't go back! Don't you understand? I can't go back! If I go back leaving a sorceress loose in the land I would lose everything! You hear me!"

Naythan rose to his feet and strode towards her, she remained still, her back towards him, facing the treeline towards the camp. "I can't go back now!" Naythan continued, "My family left me with the clerics, the order is all I have, as much as I despise them at times, as much as they resent me, they are all I have left!"

He stood behind her now, standing tall over her, looking down, but she continued to look towards the treeline, "You can afford to leave the College, you can go back to your ivory towers and family, you have a life after this! I. Do. Not! You understand me you little twat! I either have to walk into the den of a dragon or onto the streets of Civallis! Those are the choices YOU have left me!"

Fyra's head dipped a little.

After a moment of still silence, she lifted her head, and without turning around, she said simply. "I can do this. Goodnight cleric"

And walked away back towards the camp.

Naythan stared after her until she was out of sight. And then he continued to stare after she'd vanished into the trees.

It was some time before he awoke from his stupor. His limbs were stiff and his body ached from the blast Fyra had given him, but he finally started trudging towards camp, winding his way through the shadows under the trees until he saw the firelight. Upon seeing it he turned away and made directly for his tent. He was sick of fire.

Just as Naythan moved the flap of his tent aside he heard the sound of Galdorin clear his throat behind him.

With a sigh he turned, "What is it Gald..." and he froze.

Galdorin stood behind him, holding out Naythan's sword, which seemed pathetically tall and thin in the Nanir's thick hands. The sword he had forgotten on the edge of the plateau where he and Fyra had been speaking.

Slowly, Naythan reached out and grasped the hilt offered him, "thank you." he said uncertainly. He tried to gently lift the sword from Galdorin's hand, but the creature held firm to the sharp edge. Naythan tried again, a little harder. It didn't budge. Galdorin gazed at him intently.

"What?" He asked finally.

"If we don't come back with the gem." Galdorin replied calmly, but firmly, "I'll be sure to lead our armies right through Civallis on our way to retrieve it ourselves."

Naythan swallowed, and nodded. Galdorin released the blade and held up his hand. Not a mark.

"Goodnight human. Sleep well." With that, the Nanir strode off towards his bedroll.

The nightmares that raged through Naythan's mind that night would haunt him for the rest of his life.

Young Adult
1

About the Creator

Tomos Jackson

Stories have always been a source of inspiration. I aim to reproduce that in my own writing. Developing ideas of one's potential by reading it in the lives of others can be a powerful force to encourage bettering ourselves in the real world

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