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SKIN AND SCALES WILL BE KIN

A beginning that leads toward an end.

By Isaac Haldeman Published 3 months ago Updated 3 months ago 19 min read
1
a DALL-E 2 attempt

“Ordered lifespans keep ancient wisdom beyond the reach of mortals, an axiom not readily accepted, even for the near-century-old mortal scribbling down this entry. Before my end, I should like to learn the actual name of The Remaker. The name of the man he once was and why he strives to unshackle The Preventer of Life. What spell must he be under, and why is the blood of all of Miterra’s children necessary for this?

When we strike purchase to thwart him, I hope to be granted the answers to my questions.”

—Yetu Suncut-From tattered notes.

The cult of The Remaker rises in Far West Miterra and has been stealing the youths of all peoples, fostering alliances amongst even pitted enemies. The cult's reach extends as far as the forgotten reaches of East Miterra and beyond, where obscured communities have formed. A region where mixed-blooded tribes and exiles can live in relative peace. A place where even Endrall, the forfeit dragon king, hides as a flightless fugitive.

A nomadic tribe is plundered while half the adults are away on a hunt. Most of the children are taken, and all the elders are killed. Greer, a tracker whose daughter's among the taken, is dubbed the leader of a pack of fathers bonded by the need to rescue their children or to shed blood for bloodshed. Greer calls on Endrall and his power of flight to help them get ahead of the caravan, which they do, and set up an ambush point.

Their prey has sprung the trap. Fates will be met.

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Sheer Bank Pass - The ambush point

Two shafts arc through dense fog as Greer notches his third, pulls back, and aims, awaiting needed satisfaction. Lume's precious face is in his mind. His every action begs precision. Center mass of the driver of the lead wagon and through the neck of the surviving alpha amongst the marauders, his arrows meet their marks with the sounds of agony. Bowbine and Gracket, Southmen twins, fell massive trees across the road, one crushing the steeds of the lead wagon, halting the caravan. Four fathers and two uncles against the fifteen child-seizing thralls, who would soon learn of the rage that waits in the shadow of unconditional love.

"Keep the wagons moving, you slags! Archers, pick your targets!" An orc with a pierced right thigh orders, trying to maintain the already weakened morale of the dispatch. "This damned fog! Where are they?" A frightened archer asks the others. Steep hemming embankments on this section of the road, mixed with Ebbon's thick fog, give full advantage to the attackers.

The pack holds for Greer to let loose his third arrow before they engage, delaying their enemy's accurate bearings. Tactics he learned as a boy from stories told by an elder in his tribe that had been a conscript in The last Ocrian wars. Greer was never the fighter, yet always the student.

"Still only orcs and men? The Blight has yet to convert others to their cause.", Bréf, a dark elf, whispers to Greer as he aims at a horseman at the rear. Outsiders to the cult named it the 'Blight' warranted by the look of a sick harvest that hung on its worshipers. Their eyes were yellowed, skin patchy with white scabs, and the damp stench of rot was their ora.

"The younglings are salvation! To Hallendash Pass. This world will be reborn!" the harsh voice from the dying driver wails before Greer sinks his next-to-last arrow into his chest. Greer's counterparts fill gaps in the orcin armor with more arrows, adding four more kills.

"Salvation?" Greer whispers to himself through gritted teeth.

"You hear, brother?" Bréf asks, "These fools will attempt to cross The Mood."

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In the air between an enemy outpost and the ambush point- Minutes before Greer engages.

As exhilarating as it is for Endrall to be airborne again, it will come at a cost. The Drake Realm has increasingly been sending agents into every region of Miterra to find him, and their resolve has not waned over the past year. Hopefully, he has at least a day before his past comes back to haunt him, but news travels fast about the lost king of the dragons.

He located an enemy encampment on the other side of The Mood, but that fight can wait until after the children are safe. His cramping, atrophied muscles beckon him to land and rest, but he can't. The cotton-like fog is in view a mile away; he is close to being able to aid in the ambush.

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Sheer Bank Pass - The ambush point

"Salvation?" Greer whispers to himself through gritted teeth.

"You hear, brother?" Bréf asks, "These fools will attempt to cross The Mood, and they must have a rallying point there. If we don't stop them before they get there, we may never..." Bréf stops himself.

Greer's last arrow cracks into a bowman as he shouts, "They don't leave the valley!" The attackers charge down onto the remaining enemies. Gracket and Bowbine wielding axes the weight of half a man, smash into the mounted soldiers, breaking what's left of their ranks. "Back to the rotting fucking pit!" Gracket screams as he grabs a horse by its neck with one hand and swings with the other, knocking its rider from its back. The blow snapped the rider's wrists and collarbone before he hit the ground.

Bowbine crouches as he nears a horse wraps his massive arms around it, lifts both horse and rider off the ground, and then tosses them aside. The rider flails underneath his steed, and Bobine quits him with a swift stomp to his head. "Back into the soil for you!" Hot tears stream down his cheeks, disappearing into his thick beard. Southmen, are already taller than any race of man, but these twins descend from Or'grutt, The Runt of the Giants, making them eye to eye with a horse and as dense as black oak.

Ruke, a Thelon blood orc, ducks under arrows as he streaks toward the thigh-pierced orc. "You want our daughter?!" He screams as he faints to the left, then rolls to the right. The orc shifting his weight from his wounded leg, is too slow to defend. As Ruke stands, he lunges, thrusting his blade clean through the other. Maintaining forward momentum, he slams his shoulder into his foe, pulling the sword out as the orc is shoved backward and to the ground. Ruke screams as he turns to the next. Crying children can now be heard as Ruke get closer to the wagons. "Santhi! Hear Obah's voice! We are here for you!" He yells.

An unseen force flushes the fog from the area, clearing everyone's view. The rear wagon bursts open, and what comes out grips everyone's attention. "A devourer?! We can't topple it with this light of a group!" Luke calls.

"Where be its spellbinder?! Nature requires they've one. Find it!" Ebbon, an old but surprisingly spry alchemist barks. "We'll have to dispatch it if we're to live." The devourer is an untamable beast with skin as thick as Apellian chainmail and weighs as much as a cavern troll. One of these beasts can dismantle the ranks of any kingdom's army alone, but it can't be wielded safely without a spell and its caster nearby.

"Check the rear wagon!" Greer commands.

"Ahhg! It's empty!" Ruke reports.

The devourer hones in on Gracket and charges toward him, who in turn runs directly toward the beast. A rush of wind and the snapping of treetops is followed by the massive hind legs of a burnt red dragon that crush the devourer to the ground; then, as quick as he lands, Endrall bursts up and away, with the beast in tow.

"The dragon is back for us!?" Bowbine cries out with a laugh, "I's prepared to pin a letter back'ome to Gracket's misses!"

"Y'flat rock can't even read!" Gracket counters as he throws his ax at a bowman that manages to lodge an arrow into his wrist before the ax strikes home. "Ah! Damn'd Blight!"

"Your pet looked wounded, Greer!" Bréf says to Greer as he ducks under a weak attack from one of the horsemen. He scrambles up the horse and, getting behind the rider, grabs him, then throws himself and the rider off, twisting as he does. He lands on top of the man, pulls the man's dagger, and kills him with it. Then, the wet, fleshy, popping thud of the devourer's nearly rent-in-two body lands on the horse Bréf was just on, killing it instantly.

"Let En'drall hear you call him that!" Greer snaps with a dark grin.

"Will he stay and fight?" Gracket asks.

Greer looked up into the sky. "He's going to see The Arrid Queen. His being here now was our luck. Look on! Stop them from moving that tree!"

Orcs, famously calm in bedlam, manage to keep the middle wagon moving and shove a tree enough to let it pass by. It continues out of the trap's effectiveness, forcing choices. "I'm after it, Greer. Search the other for the babes!" Bréf whistles and his horse appears at the bank's edge and slides down to him. As he heads after the wagon, he yells, "They won't escape the valley!"

Ebbon tosses a handful of seeds at two men guarding the rear of the remaining wagon. The seeds scatter at their feet and then burst open, instantly releasing vines that constrict the men, causing them to fall. The vines continue to bind tighter until the sounds of bones breaking can be heard. The Southmen open up the back of the lead wagon, moments away from reuniting with their children, whose cries are louder now.

A lighting storm erupts above them. The air is charged with static; something powerful must have entered the region.

Greer shifts focus to the three remaining orcs, calling to them in Orcian, "Cal'uh hüne multch!" (Be our food.). The new alpha of the orcs immediately turns toward Greer in response, "Cal'uh hüne egara!" (Be our release.). Greer unsheathes his grandfather's sword, Fel'Bulk, a namesake known only to a shammed tribe of mix-bloods and the survived of those smote by it.

“Emb kalich orcah bô e soulec!” (I smell orc blood in you.), the alpha taunts.

“Emb kalich wowindo es soulas.” (I smell none in any of you.) Greer responds as he squares off with them, as the rest of Greer's compatriots finish dispatching any remaining threats.

The betas realize their plight, turn toward the alpha, call out a spell, and slit their throats. The alpha repeats their words as their blades are still in motion, and their knees begin to buckle. The faintest shadows seep into his body from theirs, causing him to grow in stature and density. Looking into Greer's eyes, he calmly says, "Egar emb, orakin." (release me, brother) as he readies his black steel blade.

“Sone maggi balm sem Orcin!”( The same magic that enslaved our ancestors.). 'The adulterate Orcai accepts poisons for remedy. We must reconnect to Miterra." Words from a dying grandmother come back as he readies to grant this distant cousin his longing. He is the last barrier between Greer and his daughter.

He sees her face. Feels her small hands in his. He hears her peaceful breathing as she sleeps. Smells her. He can feel her infinitely heavy weightlessness shivering in his arms as he carries her back in from the evening visit to the cold river before sleep. Her trust in her father invokes the clarion call to be what she needs him to be. Guilt snaps him back to the moment. His heart, flush with pure love and the most profound hatred, tilts him toward his opponent. They both swing their terrible blades…

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In the air - Moments after dropping the devourer.

Endrall, exhausted from the flight and lifting that beast below, is in no condition to be confronted by who he sees crossing the jagged horizon. News travels fast, and it sounded an alarm to his past. This encounter can only have a violent end, and escape isn't possible. Even from this distance, he can see that Ornak's at full strength and has outgrown him in wingspan and bulk. It's as if he's seeing Ornak's father back from his grave. Endrall can decern Ornak's assurance of victory, but pride is often a trickster sent by the Origin to test mortals. Their mother always told them this when they were young, overzealous drakelings, and he has witnessed enough life to know it is true.

"Brother." Ornak whispers inside Endrall's head. "The disgraced king that never should have been king. Human steed and the shame of our mother's bloodline. How I look forward to standing atop your charred hide." Ornak shoots higher in the sky, inviting Endrall with a jolting lift of his long, sharp face. Ornak's presence has charged the air within miles of him; static chain reactions go off around them. Endrall embracing the moment, rises to face his younger brother.

"I am disgraced, yet here you are, stooge to a lunatic who seeks to pour death on all, including himself. The Remaker is as deceived as his followers. His alliances are built on betrayal, and their belief demands they come for even our children. The Preventer of Life was caged by every realm together, including our ancestors. . Would you have your way only if your son or daughter must die?" As he matches his younger brother's elevation, Endrall seeks the mental edge. They both hang like storm fronts drifting toward each other.

"What do I care of the wars between slaves and ants? I came for my birthright."

"I renounced the crown and my birthright with mother's death. It is yours to defend, not mine."

Endrall can now see his's brothers eye. The once adoring eyes of a younger drakeling have been replaced by calloused ambition.

"It is not how I will rule."

"Just as your father. He never believed he had..."

"A just crown!" Ornak ends the conversation, his veins begging to show in bright pulses through his white scale. Clouds develop around him, making a dense mantel; only the beating light can be seen.

Endrall darts even higher to where the air is thin and energy-depriving. His hotter blood will be one of his few advantages here. He has too little energy to be the aggressor, so he must be perfect in every action. Bright as a frozen bolt of lightning, charged to the brim, Ornak emerges on a direct course for Endrall. "May the Origin be on my side," Endrall says.

Endrall has been in many battles, some of which were part of being the next in line to the throne of the drake realm. He survived the Crown's Test defeating foes that are superior to Ornak's current state; however, he is not the dragon he once was. Endrall dives toward his younger brother like a dark peregrine to a church dove. Ornak opens his massive jowls, huffing out braided lightning that can be seen and heard from the horizon. Endrall veers enough to be acquainted with his brother's breath but not kissed by it. He darts past, clipping Ornak's wing with the tip of his bladed tail, then curves back up to the higher elevation. A hole forms in Ornaks's wing where he is stuck, causing a struggle for maintained altitude. Ornak must hold his breath for these overcharged attacks causing less maneuverability and less energy efficiency. Endrall, a tactician, will exploit all weaknesses.

"Is the realm so unstable that you must return with my skull to rule? My reign was still insecure after I snatched the life from Volexus and stood atop Aldon The Vast. It is the curse of all kings to feel unworthy of the crown. Go home and lead, I beg you. Otherwise, I will cast you down like a falling star.

"Quiet!" Ornak heaves a greater tangle of barbed energy as he slowly climbs toward his brother. The blast is wild and unintelligent. Endrall sees that his brother's emotions are fanned out for all the Miterra to witness. Pitty wraps its fingers around his throat as he remembers their mother's face Ornak's father died. "I wanted you to be king," Endrall says inside Ornak's mind. The next charge is telegraphed and sloppy. Endrall barrel rolls and quickly gets behind Ornak. As his younger brother turns to find him, he sticks inside his blind spot.

"Face me!" Ornak roars, whipping his head around, blindly blasting pure searing energy into the open air. Endrall has no choice but to end this. He folds his wings in, drops down onto his brother's back, and with unencumbered might, punches his hind legs with talons out and tears two massive holes in his brother's wings. As he attempts to fly off his back, Ornak wraps his tail around Endralls body. Ornak twists around and bites at the base of his neck. Endrall, nearly passed out from the bite, folds his wings, initiating their fall from the heavens. Blood trails in ribbons above them as they descend. Ornak still flashes like a signal tower.

"Let go! We'll both die!"

Ornak clutches his teeth deeper and blasts Endrall with a burst that explodes his mouth wide open, knocking himself out. Endrall howling in pain, grabs his brother, puncturing him as he does, then thrashes his wings frantically. "Wake up; we're too heavy!" Endrall spots a body of water, banks toward it, drops his brother over it and continues rapidly descending. Ornak starts to wake just before he hits the water. Endrall can only hope he survived the fall as he hears the splash. His wings give out completely, and he crashlands into the forest.

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Woods road-During the Ornak's storm.

Bréf catches up to the carriage and jumps onto the back. An arrow glances off the top, just missing him as he pops his head up. The bowman scrambles to reload, but he's too slow and receives Bréf's feet in his chest and face. He careens off the wagon to be trampled by the horses and then crushed by the wheels. The driver grabs Bréf and attempts to shove him off the wagon, but Bréf uses the driver against himself, tossing him off the side of the wagon; he hits the rocky embankment with a smack. Bréf pulls the reigns halting the horses, drops to the ground, and goes to the carriage's rear.

As he opens the rear hatch, he is pitched back onto his back by a burst of light and wind. Through dazed eyes, Brèf sees a cloaked figure climbing from the carriage; the spellbinder, he thinks. The flashes of lightning above help him come back to, and he rolls away, flips onto his feet, and pulls his long blade. The spellbinder whispers something as he writes glowing markings in the air with his fingers. The markings turn into a dark purple orb that jets toward Bréf, who puffs his chest and lets the sphere hit him. The orb bounces off of him, dissipating into the air. He can see the spellbinder's face now, a human female who shows no signs of the Blight, "Your tricks won't work on me, foul hound!" Bréf tells her as he lunges toward her.

She pivots and swings a metal rod that smacks him on the side of the head, causing him to slam into the side of the carriage. He can hear a child whimpering now. The woman starts to walk toward Bréf when a tremendous splash impact is heard nearby that spooks the horses, causing them to take off. She looks down at Bréf and says, "You won't stop them this way, elf. Already they have an outpost nearby and more advanced fighters to ensure they get what they must from this land. You must be taken into the hive to where the source is."

Another crash is heard but not as close as the first. She takes note of the direction it came from.

"Why do you have no signs of their sickness?" Bréf asks. "Why were you with our children?"

She waits a moment before answering as if she is studying him, "I made a pact with one of their bishops to help with their raids by offering my devourer. In turn, I'd be granted access into the hive to try and find Saana, my daughter who was taken two months ago." She tells him.

"You think they are keeping them alive?" he asks.

"I know the ritual they plan to conduct, and it requires many more children of every kind of sentient being on Miterra. Including dragons, trolls, and the korbinsauls, every kind. Their forces have not grown enough to breach those realms. Thus, there is still time."

"What now, then?" Bréf asks as he gets to his feet. "I will go after the carriage. Will you try and stop me?"

"Tell no one of this encounter." She demands.

"You have my word." At that, he whistles, his horse appears as before, and he is up and away.

"Remember, the outpost is close by!" She heads off in the direction of the second crash.

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A treelined clearing - Hours after Endrall's crash landing.

Endrall managed to avoid broken bones in the fall, but his wings are currently useless. He is limping toward the lake he dropped his brother in when he hears a horse neigh from within the woodline. Rain clouds are rolling in as the sun graces the horizon with its deep orange light. He enters the woods and sees the carriage tipped over and the horses are standing, scratching the ground. "No," he says.

He makes it to the carriage and peers inside. Nothing. The rain has started to come down now in large cold drops. His ears pick up her breathing now, the solitary breathing of a child. He speaks to her with his mind, "Child, come out from there. I am your father's friend. We are as close as kin. Come under my wings; I will keep you warm and dry."

Lume was invisible to the untrained eye. She has camouflaged herself as her father had taught her. She stared up at this massive dragon and slowly walked toward him. "You are Baba's friend?" She asks with the sweetest little voice.

"Yes. You are from the Seeker tribe, and your name is Lume. Your Baba is Greer. Your uncle is Bélk. Your mother..."

"You knew my mother?" she interrupts.

"I did. She was a marvel. She loved you dearly. Now let's get you out of the rain. Your Baba is on his way to us, but we may have to wait until the morning." He tells her as he smooths a spot on the ground for her and makes an enclosure with its wings and tail. He scoops up a bit of dead wood and puffs out a small for her to stay warm. He desperately craves sleep and food but keeps watch as the little girl curls up to sleep.

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Far West Miterra-10 Years earlier

Thanks for the excellent reason to write. I will stick with this one and see how far I can go with it.

IH

Fantasy
1

About the Creator

Isaac Haldeman

NYC

I try and try.

I enjoy stories and attempting to tell them.

I’m a rich father before I am a poor artist.

@isaachaldeman

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