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Midnight's Fall

Irithne's Tale

By Kelly RobertsonPublished 7 months ago 23 min read

Dark smoke plumed from my nostrils as I soared high above the Obsidian Plains, stoked by my irritation, my worry. Once again, he’d escaped my clutches, picking at an old vexation like a wound that refused to heal, a gap in my scales that formed the moment he hatched nearly seventy years ago. Why Rithyr insisted on this endless game of cat and mouse, I did not understand, but the stakes were higher now. Fire kindled in my belly at the thought of what his recklessness might cost us this time.

Tucking my wings, I plummeted earthbound. Wind battered against my emerald scales and my pulse hammered in my chest, the sheer elation of flight greater than any other sensation. Freedom in its purest form, soaring higher and farther than any other creature in Elustasia. From the rocky cliffs of the Western Shores to the great forests in the heartlands, all the way to the volcanic plains in the northeast, we dragons held dominion over the skies for eons.

But freedom turns sour when loss is introduced. Once, our numbers ranged in the thousands, dragons spread across the continent from shore to shore. Now, we numbered less than twenty, diminished by a threat we never thought to consider: human ambition.

The blackened soil fast approaching, I unfurled my wings and glided towards the rocky hills that marked the end of our haven. Dread punched its claws into my chest and squeezed at the sight of the forest spreading west beyond those hills, mingling with a whisper of temptation that ached in my belly. Hunger? Anxiety? Perhaps both. In the moment, I could not say except that my rising anger clouded all other feeling. I could smell Rithyr’s trail clearly enough, arcing towards the boundary into human territory.

A low growl rumbled from deep inside my chest. A bitter whisper urged forth the desire to belch flames upon the trees that marked the boundary between our home and theirs, show them exactly what we dragons thought of our forced containment. But the risks far outweighed the satisfaction of rebellion. After all, we forced ourselves deeper into the Oblivion Plains partly of our own accord, a necessity born of fear and the need to survive.

Circling over the volcanic soil spread across the craggy hills of the Plains, I debated whether to plunge headlong after Rithyr or return home, abandoning him to his fate. His choice to ignore caution came as no surprise. If Rithyr was anything, it was foolish, haughty, and proud. My young brother had proven himself so time and time again. But sensing his trail, I knew abandoning him would never be an option. Each time he pushed the boundaries of tradition, of necessity, I didn’t hesitate to toe the line of his youthful arrogance, if only to extend his existence a little bit longer. Because each dragon life was precious, a vital part of our fading society, no matter how foolish.

Left with little choice, I flew on, gliding on the warm air currents that stretched from the volcanic vents flowing miles beyond our borders. Beneath me, the forest thickened and spread, satiated by the rich soil sloughed off of our mountain home. The ache in my stomach grew more demanding at the thought of prey lurking beneath the canopy, of fresh deer and elk, a bear perhaps.

But the ache quickly resolved into bitterness, another reminder of the chains that restricted our freedom. Years before, the forests extending from the Obsidian Plains far south to the Tanebrisian Highlands had served as our ancestral hunting grounds. Now, we were lucky to venture a mile outside our caves, sustaining ourselves on the voles, bats, and other gangly creatures we’d taken up residence with. But when our bellies ached for more, we hunted in shifts, sending only the most experienced hunters out to stalk the surrounding woods in the night.

No doubt Rithyr’s belly sent him on this fool’s errand, I thought bitterly, remembering my own hunger.

Weeks had passed since the last successful hunt, our time growing shorter as the humans’ desire for our hides grew ever more insatiable. The risk of losing another member made us wary despite our demanding bellies. But to the young and hotheaded like Rithyr, it made us weak.

Perhaps we are weak, our flames dwindling against the shadow of the humans’ greed. We number so few now. It’s only a matter of time before…

Rithyr’s scent grew stronger, interrupting my brooding. Without hesitation, I banked to the south and followed his trail all the way down into the forest below. Descending through a gap in the trees, I thumped down upon the dirt with a heavy thud, dust and debris rising to greet the falling branches that cracked in my wake.

Scanning the woods, I could feel my nerves fraying, a strange sensation for a dragon if truth be told, but fear is often universal, from the greatest of us to the smallest insect crawling upon the ground. It’s a sense of wariness, of something watching just behind your shoulder, a sense of being where you’re not supposed to. In that moment, I felt it all, every jump in my muscles as the trees creaked around me. Every increased beat of my heart as shadows danced in the corner of my eye. This was human territory; dragons no longer belonged.

Pushing my anxieties away as best I could, I focused on picking up Rithyr’s trail. His scent remained strong here, evidence of his passing plain as the full moon on a clear night. Whatever his mission, stealth had not been part of it, and the shattered branches and cracked trunks pointed his passage further west, deeper into danger.

Growling low, I studied his trail and felt my heart seize in my chest. Scattered around his own great prints were smaller, oblong ones.


For nearly half a century now, Hunters from all across the continent preyed upon my kin. Not for meat, nor scales, nor claws, but for our magic. Rarer than gold and more valuable than diamonds, our souls were prized across Elustasia, becoming a bounty worthy of facing the fatal fire kindled in our bellies.

Now, my brother no doubt found himself prey to that same fate, hunted for his soul just as our mother had years before. Spurred by the urgency those tracks instilled in me, I pressed on, following the trail he’d left through the forest until time demanded I take once more to the skies. As I flew, my thoughts dwelled on the cruel twist Fate had dealt us, knocking us down from predator to prey.

Nothing more than luck paired with time and place would birth the events that stoked the fires of the humans’ ambition, their greed. Centuries past, a group of human sorcerers, arrogant and proud in their youth, stumbled upon an old dragon in its final throes of death. Breathless, they watched in silent admiration, witnessing its passing and thus revealing a secret that dragons had guarded for millennia.

When a dragon dies, their soul remains for a moment shortly after death. It encapsulates the very essence of the dragon, their being, their knowledge, their magic, then flees the body seconds before death. Normally, the soul dissipates shortly after. Being creatures of pure magic, they dissolve back into the currents of magic that flow through nature, becoming one with the essence of Life itself. It’s beautiful, really. A balance that allows magic to freely flow between the living and the dead.

But what the mages found on that fateful day scribed a death warrant for all dragon-kind and rocked the foundation of natural magic across Elustasia. Our souls, once freed, could be trapped within a suitable vessel before escaping into the natural flow of magic, and thus transformed into a viable power source that could outlive empires.

Trial and error in their search for a strong enough vessel cost hundreds of dragons their lives, hunted down in the pursuit of experimentation. But the true extermination came upon finding their prize. Dug from deep within the heart of the Hemlock Mountains, the humans found an ore black as obsidian but with ten times the strength and imbued with its own arcane properties. Like a magnet, it drew magic into its core, storing it permanently where it could be summoned time and again. And with the right spell, the humans crafted a prison strong enough to house the greatest of souls: the Drekkai Stones.

With the discovery of the stones, the Reaping began. Sorcerers from every corner of Elustasia banded together with elite hunters to massacre the dragons, harvesting their souls into the Drekkai Stones. And with every dragon felled, the humans’ skills at tracking and hunting us down made it harder to evade them.

Fighting only delayed the inevitable and left the wounded and weakened dragons as easy prey for the next slew of Hunters seeking their blood-soaked prize. And so, we fled, pressing deeper into the Obsidian Plains where humans could not follow. Volcanic vents spewing poisonous gases guarded our home from below, while crumbling talus mountains made the near vertical ascent to our caves impossible for humans to tread.

But that safety did nothing for Rithyr now. Hold on, Brother. I’m coming for you.


Miles melted behind me, Rithyr’s trail leading further and further away from the safety of the Obsidian Plains. But his scent grew stronger with every passing tree, laced with fear, as did the markings of his passing. Broken or scorched branches, felled trees, the signs of panic. Where are you, Rithyr? I cast the thought into the void of night, hoping beyond hope to hear his voice return on the echo of my own, but received no answer.

Dread sank in my gut like a stone, weighing me down until my wings felt leaden and my mind fogged. With little other choice, I landed at the edge of a crystal lake and forced myself to rest. The crystal waters winked at me in the moonlight, reminding my parched tongue how long it had been since I last delighted in clear, blue water. Eagerly, I indulged, gulping down the cool water in droves while my mind raced ahead on anxious wings.

Would I find my brother dead just as we had our mother decades past? Would his fate mirror her own, trapped in some damned stone to be used like a meaningless tool? He knew the risk, though he’d been less than twenty when our mother met her demise at the hands of Hunters. I had hoped it would have instilled greater caution in him as it did in me, but Rithyr’s flight took the opposite path.

The gentle croon of midnight’s melody whispered through the clearing. Toads croaked noisily, invisible behind their cloak of reeds. The crickets below harmonized with the nightingales in the trees above while the breeze whistled through the grass and leaves. Peaceful, or perhaps it would have been at one time, but the curse of midnight, the nightmares lurking in the dark, tainted whatever serenity I might have felt beside the reflective waters. Now the breeze spoke only perilous whispers. The croaks and chirps veiled the sinister steps of demons creeping in the shadows, of Hunters and their cursed stones.

Letting smoke billow out from my nostrils, I released the tension bunching beneath my scales. A fearful mind solves little problems, my mother always warned. Worrying about shadow men in the dark wouldn’t bring Rithyr home.

Taking one last drink of the crisp waters, I forced down my fears and focused on Rithyr’s trail once more. Nose to the air, I inhaled deeply, my heart catching as my brother’s scent flooded my nostrils. He was close!

But as I breathed his scent again, fear clamped its jaws around my neck. Something smelled wrong, a faint tinge of something…different mingling with the familiar. Without delay, I sped onward, remaining grounded for fear of being spotted in the clear, moon-bright sky. Rithyr’s scent led me straight across to the other side of the lake where the forest bordered sheer, granite cliffs that eclipsed the moon from view. But I did not need the moon’s silver glow to see what awaited me.

At the foot of the cliffs where the forest met their granite foe, I found him, his massive bulk pinned to the earth by blackened chains hammered into the stones surrounding him. Great tears shredded through the fragile skin of his blue-black wings, grounding him, while eyes gazed lifelessly towards the lake’s edge.


Arching my head up towards the sky, I bellowed my grief and painted flames across the granite cliffs, scorching them blacker than the hole rent inside my chest. Ripping the chains from the dirt with my claws, I cast them aside and melted them with the heat of my rage, leaving a molten pile of iron on the lake’s serene shore. Then I curled alongside my brother’s body and squeezed my eyes shut against the torrents of sorrow that battered my soul.

Hours passed. Maybe days. Maybe minutes. Seconds. I lost all sense lying there beside Rithyr, mourning the soulless shell that had once been my kin, my own flesh and blood. Grief chained me to the dust alongside him, pulled a veil over my eyes and stopped my ears, all-consuming. I felt as a stone; heavy, crushed beneath my own weight, unable to breathe, to move, to think. Lifeless.

Just like Rithyr.

Swallowed in my mourning, I did not hear the tiny patter of footsteps approach from the woods, toddling boldly towards me. Nor did I first recognize the touch on my scales, the pinch on my tail. Its voice, distant at first, soon pierced through the veil of my sorrow as it wailed, intolerant of the lack of attention.

Slowly, I raised my head and regarded the intruder, watching it boldly thrust its finger towards my face and smile. A human child, small and draped in odd, smelly cloth that reeked of sour milk and potatoes. “Draga!” it squawked, clapping its hands gleefully as it bowled forward, slamming its hands fully against my thigh and thumped my scales.

Raised from my stupor, the tide of emotions swamped over me. Rage and fury came first, clouding my vision with red. Angrily, I bared my teeth and roared at the child, part of me delighting in the terrified and befuddled expression that spread across its pudgy face. But as my rage diminished, the last echoes of my roar bounced off the cliffs and dissipated back to silence, I watched the child’s fear morph instead into joy. Its face pinched upwards, hands thrust forward like claws, then it roared back at me, spittle flying from its gummy mouth.

Curiosity bobbed from the shadows of my emotional sea, quelling my anger. Leaning in closer, I brought my mouth inches from the human child, letting it take in the full view of my gaping maw, fire boiling at the back of my throat, before I brought my snout level with it and blew a puff of white smoke into the sky. The child giggled, then tenderly patted my nose.

So brazen, so obliviously brave. Just like Rithyr, I thought sullenly, regarding the human child in a different light.

“Silly draga,” it mumbled, then turned back towards the woods as a second voice echoed in the distance. “Mama!” it whispered gleefully, then toddled off back the way it came. “Buh-bye draga!”

“Dragon,” I corrected, though the child didn’t seem to care or really understand. “But at this rate, we won’t be here long enough for you to learn how to say it properly.”

I watched the child vanish back within the trees, then lowered my head upon the cool, rocky soil and closed my eyes, numb once more.


Grief is a vile thief. It steals all sense, all reason, and leaves little behind in its wake. After the child left, I should have fled, should have returned home with news of Rithyr’s death. But instead, I stayed, chained to his side by my sorrow, yet another part of me stolen by human hands. I knew it was only a matter of time before the Hunters found me, but I didn’t care. They’d already taken a part of my soul. Let them reap what remained.

“Ah, and they said these woods would offer little bounty,” a cool, sultry voice pierced through the daze that clouded my senses, his words swirling with power and haughty authority.

Lazily, I flicked one eye open and studied the four men that materialized from the shadows, their torches casting ghoulish shadows across the rocky ground. A single, tall figure clad in black led the pack, a witch light hovering over him to keep his hands free to casually toss the black stone between his palms. As they approached, I noticed the blue veins spidering through the rock begin to pulsate furiously.

A Drekkai Stone.

“They said the dragons were gone, wiped out, and yet here I find not one, but two in the exact same place.” The mage retrieved a pure black stone from his pocket and weighed it against its blue-veined twin. Soulless. Empty. Or at least for now. His gaze flicked down to the stone, the shadow of a smile spreading across his lips, then met my own with a sinister glee. “How many more of you are hiding in these parts, I wonder.”

“Not enough to satiate your greed, I imagine,” I growled.

“So it does speak! And here I was beginning to wonder if perhaps you were just an empty shell.” He nodded at Rithyr’s body. “Much like your friend there.”

Smoke trickled from my nostrils, fire heated up my throat. How easy it would have been to burn them all to ash in that moment, to unleash my wrath, my sorrow. I roared, letting them see the molten heat building at the back of my throat. Three of the Hunters flinched, seeking cover on the rocky landscape, and found none aside from each other. But the man in black remained unmoved, unimpressed, and grinned back at my snarling jaws, still clutching his bloody stones.

“Save the dramatics,” he laughed as my voice diminished and my aching mouth closed. “If you had any fight left in you, you’d have already tried and failed to rip me to shreds. I’ve hunted enough of your kind to know when the beast is beat and you, darling, were beaten long before I found you.”

He was right, of course. Whatever fight I had vanished years ago, stolen from me along with my own mother’s soul, replaced instead with a cold fear, a caution born of worry. They’d stolen my fire, my freedom, my fight, and now, with Rithyr gone, they’d stolen the last shred of my soul. I had nothing to lose, nothing to gain, and nothing to live or die for.

Flicking my gaze up towards the midnight sky, I bathed in the twinkling glow of a thousand, thousand stars shimmering in the blue-black sky. I heard the whisper of their tender voices, felt the tremble of Magic flowing through the ground beneath me as it rose to meet its celestial suitor, called forth from the bowels of the earth up to the furthest reaches of heaven. And in that tremendous tide of natural magic, I heard the song of my ancestors, of the dragons that came before me, summoned back into the earth as their bodies decayed but their souls lived on, merged with the flow of power rushing through every corner of the earth. I heard their lament as the current twisted and swirled around Rithyr’s lifeless husk, felt their bristling rage as they swarmed around the humans, and their desperate plea as they turned back to me, demanding recompense.

Their song bolstered me, rekindled the flames deeper in my chest. As the Hunters regained their confidence and moved in for the kill, I unleashed the unquenchable tide of fury and flame worthy of a thousand generations of dragons. I leapt upright, swatting away one of the Hunters with an effortless flick of my claws, his body careening through the air and landing hard against the granite cliffs with a sick crunch, thud. Roaring, I belched fire over the others, enraged as they expertly dodged the molten flames that melted and merged the stones between us.

Something whistled through the air past my head. I ducked left as another projectile flew by, then swerved and slapped a second Hunter with my tail. The human shouted, but before he could react, I lunged forward, his curses lost beneath the weight of my scaled foot crushing his head like an over-ripe gourd.

Pain blasted through my back, then ripped down my spine as iron claws scraped against my scales, screeching in the darkness. I swerved around, snapped my jaws at the ground where I imagined the Hunter stood. He rolled backwards, barely evading my glistening fangs, then flailed his hooked chains at my face, desperately seeking purchase to bind me down. The hook landed in the crest of my eye ridge, digging between the edges of my scales to the flesh beneath. I roared, blood trickling down into my eye, then whipped my head upright, yanking the chain and its bearer up with me. As he swung wildly, I slapped my claws together around his middle and snapped my jaws over him, splitting him in two.

Rage flowed freely with the blood trickling down my eyelid. Three Hunters dead left only the mage, but as I furiously searched the flaming shadows, I found no trace of him. Arcing my head towards the smoke-laden sky, I bellowed a roar that shook the rocks surrounding me, unleashing all of the pent-up fear, rage, and sorrow until nothing remained but the hollow emptiness of loss, loneliness. I was alone, one member of a dwindling race that once dominated the skies, now left to cower and hide in the sulfurous caves we called home.

But in that moment, I had no desire to hide, to flee back to the safety of the Obsidian Plains and wait for the humans to find some way of taking that away from us, too. I wanted to rip the flesh from the mage’s body, sink my teeth into his skull and crush the life from his soul, burn his flesh to molten slag and leave a scorched husk next to Rithyr, a memento to all dragon-kind and a warning to humans.

Unfurling my wings, I battered back the flames and smoke, then slowly lifted myself up into the sky. Keen eyes stalked over the shadows landscape, searching for one prey, one predator, one foe I would see dead that night. But by rising above the blanket of smoke into the clear, bright light of the midnight sky, I made my fatal mistake. Seeking to flush out the mage, I exposed myself, my emerald scales glinting brightly in the silver moon’s glow and gave the mage his chance.

Black tendrils whipped from the smoking shadows below me, lancing through my scales straight into the flesh beneath. My chest seized, burning hotter than a thousand fires as I felt the foul, snaking magic pierce deeper until it began to coil around my soul. Like a cat swatting a fly, it threw me down upon the ground, slamming me down in a cloud of dust and ash beside Rithyr. I tried to roar, but felt my throat constrict, tried to breathe fire but felt the spark inside me die. Writhing, I tried to wriggle free of the choking tendrils and winced as they dug in deeper, squeezing tighter and tighter.

Laughter echoed from the shadows, and out of the smoke, the mage came forth, one hand extended as he directed his magic, the other clutching tight to the blue-veined stone that pulsated madly in his grasp. My heart pounded; my anger quenched beneath the tide of my despair as I recognized where the might of his power flowed from.


“Dragons are glorious creatures. I’m not one to deny credit where it’s due. Your power is remarkable, envious for certain, and strong enough to shake the very core of the earth. But you are proud, unwilling or unable to accept the changing of the times.” His spell holding firm, the mage removed the empty Drekkai Stone from his pocket and held it aloft beside the blue-veined one. “It is not your power, your magic alone, that makes these soul-filled stones so valuable, so powerful. It is your unbridled rage, your raw fury that transforms even the most untalented sorcerer into a god. And you, my darling, will serve endlessly.”

Anguish ripped through my entire being, incinerating my insides as the stone’s magic began its wretched purpose. Like molten fire, it seared my soul from my chest, scraping me out along with it, and pulled me down into inky blackness, devouring all sense, all time, all feeling, all thought, until nothing remained but a cloying numbness that left me stranded in the dark.


Rhiddian brushed his fingers tenderly against the green-veined stone embedded in the pommel of his blackened sword, his Midnight, and let the tears fall freely down his ruddy cheek. The stone pulsated in response, trailing his touch as he reverently traced from top to bottom. Then he sighed and kissed the stone before setting the sword down gently in his lap. “Ah Irithne, look what you’ve done to me now. I’m weeping like a babe in the cradle.” He sighed, wiping a hand across his cheek to hide his sorrow. “In all the years we’ve been together, you’ve never trusted me enough to share your story until now. Thank you. You don’t know what it means to me.”

A purring sensation vibrated in the back of his skull, familiar and comforting, as the stone’s power, Irithne’s power, flooded through him, her words pouring into his mind like a gentle river’s song. He smiled giddily, shaking his head, and pointed a finger down at his sword as he laughed. “Don’t you start now. How was I supposed to know you were in there when I found you? I wasn’t exactly in the best state of mind when I pulled you from those murky waters, on account of…well, you know.”

The stone glowed once more; her response gentler as the light softened. Rhiddian smiled and touched the stone once more. “Thank you. I strive to be worthy of you.”


“Hmm?” Rhiddian looked up, suddenly noticing the disturbed yet curious face staring back at him from across the campfire. He’d forgotten he wasn’t alone. “What? Why are you looking at me like that?”

His companion, nameless because Rhiddian had forgotten it entirely already, rubbed his eyes and scratched his jaw, then wagged his finger towards him. “You’re talking to your sword again. You know that right?”

Rhiddian smiled, his grin mischievous and dark as his emerald eyes glinted in the fire’s glow. “No, no, no that would be mad, wouldn’t it? No, my friend, I’m not talking to my sword,” he said, holding Midnight up to the fire’s glow. He watched appraisingly as the flames danced and glittered across the stone’s surface, the green veins pulsating stronger, brighter. “She speaks to me, and it would be terribly rude to ignore her.”


About the Creator

Kelly Robertson

Wrangler of chaos. Creator of more. Writing whatever my heart desires, from fantasy to poetry and more!

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