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The Flames of Redemption

by Bradley Ramsey (He/Him) 4 months ago in Sci Fi / Fantasy · updated 4 months ago
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Chapter one of The D'veen Saga

Image: Cederic Vandenberghe via Unsplash

There weren't always dragons in the Valley.

The dwarves, in their endless pursuit of the things that slumbered in the womb of the world, uncovered fossilized eggs that had been lost to time, and thus, brought dragons back to the realm of D’veen.

Those first days were marked by blood and fire. It was not the first time the dwarves had disturbed things best left to eternity, and it would not be the last.

Their ambition was matched only by their stubborn disposition. Not even the loss of countless brothers and sisters at the hands of ancient beasts could deter them from their pursuit of fame, riches, and forbidden knowledge.

The last of the dragons fled to the Valley of Skar, named after one of the Aluthian Titans who fell to D’veen from their celestial forge in the stars, leaving only a shattered moon in the sky as a symbol of their failure to forge a new world.

Skar was powerful beyond measure, but the folly of the Aluthians was the assumption that power made them gods. When their hubris finally came back to haunt them, they all fell, one-by-one, like any other mortal.

It was here, in the Valley, that I first met Zeea, the last of the dragons. She showed me the true nature of her people. The dragons were not bloodthirsty spawns of darkness.

They were a majestic race. Powerful beyond measure. Wise beyond even the most adept of scholars, and capable of true emotion that betrayed their foreboding visage.

I looked down at the crackling flames in the stone hearth before me, watching as they danced about, casting my own shadow across the walls around me.

“Zeea was a friend, a daughter, a fiercely loyal companion who knew nothing but kindness,” I said, turning away from the flames.

Tied to one of my ornate banquet chairs with fraying rope was a once proud knight. Sir Reinhart Brisbane, the Living Shadow. The once feared warrior sat before me, reduced to a feeble old man by the winds of time.

He was once the blade of the dwarven King Brocknar, an assassin beyond measure, and one of the few humans permitted to know the secrets that the dwarves kept within their hollow mountains.

Now he was nothing more than wrinkled skin dangling from tired bones. A living shadow indeed.

“Please, I do not understand. I was told you were a secluded bard. A weaver of tales who shows hospitality and graciousness to weary travelers. What have I done to deserve such spite?” the knight asked.

I clenched my fists and stepped towards the living legend before me. The veins in my neck bulged outward as my blood boiled. Even after all this time, I could feel rage burn like a fire in my soul.

“Are your hands so stained with the blood of the innocent that you cannot recall the day, nor the hour, at which you snuffed out an entire race? Look in my eyes, so called assassin. Look in my eyes and tell me you do not remember her face!”

I leaned down to lock eyes with the monster before me. I expected an endless abyss from which no remorse could escape. Instead, I saw the clouded eyes of a broken mind. I could see tears forming in his eyes as his lips quivered. It was a pathetic sight, one that would have elicited sympathy in anyone else.

“You took her from me!” I screamed.

“Please sir, I just came to hear one of your famous tales. My mind is crumbling into dust. I cannot recall the faces of my family, nor the touch of my wife. Whatever I have done to you, I am truly sorry, but I am no longer the man who wronged you. I am a husk who simply desires the pleasure of one last adventure before I leave this realm.”

I stood up and pondered the knight’s request.

“You are correct, old man, I am indeed the one you seek. I am Finton Merrybrook, the greatest storyteller in all of D’veen! However, my tales are meant to delight and enrapture weary travelers. They are not meant to soothe the crumbling souls of foul men and weapons of mad kings.”

The knight broke down into tears, mumbling through sobs about how he couldn’t remember. That he was sorry. How could he apologize for sins he could not remember committing? It was of no consequence. No one found their way to my humble abode by chance. Even this broken shell of a man would serve a higher purpose.

“Cease your pathetic whimpering. I will grace you with one of my famous tales. In fact, I will offer you something even better.”

I walked over to the crackling hearth and plucked a metal sphere from the mantle. To the untrained eye, it was nothing more than a paperweight, or perhaps a polished projectile. Those who had lived as long as I, who had witnessed the rise and fall of this realm, knew it for what it was: technology from beyond the stars.

I held the orb in my hand and watched as cracks formed across its surface, moving like serpents in seemingly random directions. I spun back around to face the knight as a brilliant blue light escaped from within the cracks.

“Tell me, old man, do you recall the story of Giant’s Bane? Of the Verack Horde who came from the sky on chariots of steel? The people who beheld their forms labeled them as purveyors of dark magic, but their relics were products of science, not magic. Technology was a concept foreign to the people of this simple world. This is one of the Verack's creations, left behind after their failed invasion.”

The knight was captivated, but ultimately shook his head.

“No matter, that is not the story I have for you today. Today, you are going to remember what you did, and maybe, just maybe, find redemption for your tarnished soul.”

The surface of the sphere shattered into pieces that shot outward. Strange runes glowed on each of the metal shards as they slowly orbited a glowing ball of light in the center. It crackled and sparked as unfathomable energy coursed through it. Like a star, small enough to fit in the palm of your hand.

“It’s time to remember, Sir Reinhart Brisbane. This is your story.”

A wave of pure energy shot out from the relic in my hand, consuming both the knight and myself in a sea of blinding light before everything went dark.

Chronicle One: The Last of Her Kind

Sir Reinhart Brisbane stood over the body of his latest kill. Black blood, shimmering like oil, pooled around his feet. In front of him, the body of an ancient beast laid still and cold. Its was the length of at least three men, laid in a line from head to toe, but ultimately it was just a child. Dragons like this grew to be the size of entire strongholds.

Sir Reinhart took little guilt in killing such a young creature. The battle had been hard-fought, and if he had waited until it was full grown, not even his skills would have saved him from its might. No, it had to be snuffed out before it became a threat to the realm.

He wiped the twin daggers he held in each hand against the grass at his feet and holstered them.

“One down. One to go,” he muttered.

A sound came from behind him. Sir Reinhart spun around, gripping the handles of his blades. He felt a presence, and at the same time, a sense of familiarity. Almost as if he had done this all before.

“Show yourself!”

His eyes swept the tree line at the edge of the clearing. The wind meandered through the grass around him, sending the blades of grass swaying in its direction. Little else moved.

Sir Reinhart reached into the satchel hanging from his belt and pulled out a metal vial, covered in rust. He opened the top and let some of the pooling blood at his feet into it before closing the lid.

He clasped his hands around the device and closed his eyes.

“Verathu, mundus, ristul, karnok,” he whispered.

A purple mist escaped from within his hands, tracing a line through the air. It paused for a brief moment before darting off into the trees.

Sir Reinhart placed the vial back into his satchel and headed off into the trees, following the trail of the purple mist. The magic hung in the air like a fleeting scent, carrying him ever closer to his prey.

In the silence of his own thoughts, Sir Reinhart, known to many as the Living Shadow, always found himself thinking about his family. His wife, his son, both prisoners of the dwarven kingdom.

Many believed he was simply a ruthless killer who took pleasure in ending the lives of others, but even the most villainous of legends are rarely that simple.

What others saw as bloodlust was merely determination. The dwarven king Brocknar knew the whereabouts of Sir Reinhart’s family, and used them as an ever-elusive promise to keep the Living Shadow obedient and faithful.

Fail to fall in line, and his family would be slaughtered. Their heads would be cast at Sir Reinhart’s feet, long enough for despair to wash over him. King Brocknar would have him thrown into the deepest dungeon, left to rot in darkness. Never given the release of death that would reunite him with his wife and son.

Sir Reinhart thought often about this consequence, and it kept him focused on the task at hand. If that made him a monster, then he would gladly accept that title.

He followed the trail for another two days, setting up camp and dreaming only of his family as he slept. When the sun rose on the third day of his journey, Sir Reinhart reached the Valley of Skar.

Standing at the top of a hill, he looked down at the Valley. It was a wound on the world, one that had healed, but still showed signs of where the ancient god crashed into the world. Jagged rocks lined the center of the Valley. Sharp, protruding, like broken bones piercing through skin.

The Living Shadow made his way down the slope towards the center of the Valley. He spotted what seemed to be an abandoned watch tower in the distance. The stone tower was choked in vines, but it was the only structure in any direction. He made note of it in case he needed shelter during the battle to come.

The purple mist that led him here came to an end among the jagged stones towering all around him. This was where the last of the dragons came to hide. Many moons had passed since the slaughter of the dwarven people at the hands of these beasts.

It took some time after for him to locate these last two that fled from the mountains. All of it was leading to this moment. Vengeance for the king, but for Sir Reinhart it was just another kill.

He pulled the daggers from the holsters at his sides and surveyed the area around him. With a decisive cut, Sir Reinhart drew blood from his palm, letting the warm, crimson liquid drip from his hands and onto the ground below.

The ground shook beneath his feet. A rush of wind soared past him. The Living Shadow darted with almost inhuman speed and leapt behind one of the jagged rocks just as a storm of fire swept over the center of the Valley.

The heat scorched his skin, but the rock took the brunt of the blast. When the fires abated, Sir Reinhart rolled out from behind the rock and stood amongst the embers.

In front of him, the last dragon stood with its head down, claws digging into the soil, and teeth bared. Its forked tongue danced through the air, tasting the scent of its assailant.

This one was larger than the last. Almost full grown, with golden scales across its back and black scales along its underbelly.

“Set down your weapons and walk away. Show me mercy, and I will do the same for you, assassin.”

The dragon spoke to Sir Reinhart without moving its mouth. Its voice was warm, feminine, but also laced with power. The Living Shadow was caught off guard.

“The beast speaks?”

“I can read the stories etched upon your heart. I know you have come to kill me, that you do this to protect the ones you love, but I ask you to rethink this cause, Sir Reinhart,” the dragon said.

Sir Reinhart gripped his head, trying to pull the words from his mind. The way it spoke to him was enough to make the inside of his skull itch. He could feel the beast rummaging around inside his mind and it infuriated him.

“Enough! I will not be swayed by your pleas for mercy. We will do battle, beast, and if you wish to live, you must kill me!”

The dragon’s golden eyes showed a glint of sadness.

“So be it.”

Sir Reinhart watched as the dragon’s chest filled with air. He felt the wind rush past him as it prepared another volley of molten fire. He reached for a glass sphere dangling on his belt. Without hesitation, he threw the sphere into the dragon’s mouth. The glass shattered against its glistening fangs.

The dragon exhaled, but instead of fire, a thick smoke poured out from its jaws, blanketing the area in thick fog that Sir Reinhart could use to approach without being seen.

“A clever use of ancient magic, but it will do little to save you, assassin.”

Sir Reinhart ignored the dragon’s taunts. He danced through the thick smoke and brandished his blades as he saw the dragon’s torso come into view. All he needed was one strike. He would slip his blade between the scales and pierce the beast’s heart in a single blow.

He approached with his blade at the ready, pulling back for his strike. The dragon lifted its talon and swung its claws blindly through the smoke. Sir Reinhart ducked beneath the claws and leapt into the air.

The dragon spun around in a full circle. Its tail slammed into Sir Reinhart’s side, knocking him off course and onto the ground. Pain erupted from his ribs, no doubt broken from the impact. The dragon’s back faced him through the smoke, and Sir Reinhart saw an opportunity to gain the upper hand.

He stood to his feet and sprinted towards the dragon’s tail. With a burst of strength, he leapt once more into the air and landed on the beast’s spine. It immediately tried to shake him, but Sir Reinhart dug his blades into the soft flesh at the base of its left wing.

The dragon let loose a screech. Its wings shot downward, propelling it into the sky with Sir Reinhart riding on its back. Solid ground rushed away from them as the dragon continued its ascent higher and higher into the sky.

The air was becoming thin. The Living Shadow knew he would soon lose his grip. With his right hand still firmly gripping one of his blades, he wrenched the left blade from the dragon’s flesh and threw it towards the edge of the dragon's wingspan. It stuck into one of the thin membranes nestled between the spiderweb of bones that made up the wing's structure.

Though his blade was away from his hand, the Living Shadow was bestowed with ancient blood magic that forever bound the blades to his soul. He reached out towards the blade stuck in the dragon’s wing and called it back to him. It cut through the wing, slicing membranes and shattering hollow bones as it made its way back to him.

The dragon roared and screeched. With its left wing tattered and torn, it spiraled downward. Sir Reinhart’s blade reached his hand and he pulled out the other dagger from the dragon’s back just before it crashed into the Valley of Skar below.

Sir Reinhart was thrown from the beast’s back and tumbled onto the ground. He wasted no time in climbing to his feet. He pushed through the pain and made his way towards the beast as it lay weakened and broken.

“Please, don’t do this. I am the last of my kind,” the dragon said.

Sir Reinhart reached the dragon and knelt beside it. He could see its chest rising and falling. He knew exactly where to strike. He gripped his blade and raised it above his head.

Images flashed in his mind like strikes of lightning. Sir Reinhart saw himself killing the dragon. Saw himself reporting back to King Brocknar. Saw the faces of his family just before they were slaughtered.

He watched the king use ancient blood magic known only to the dwarves to erase the Living Shadow’s memories and cast him out as an exile, discarded like garbage when he had served his purpose.

His entire life played out before him in mere seconds. He watched himself grow old, never knowing what he had done. Never knowing what he had lost.

Sir Reinhart dropped his daggers and stood to his feet.

“What happened? What did you see?” The dragon asked.

“I do not know, but you will not die this day.”

Sir Reinhart turned and walked away. A blinding flash of light engulfed the world around him before everything went dark.

***

Sir Reinhart awoke once again, tied to the chair facing my mantle. The brilliant light from the orb in my hands faded and the shards of metal retreated onto its surface. It returned to nothing more than a nondescript metal sphere.

I smiled as I set it down on the table behind Sir Reinhart. He still had confusion painted across his face, but I saw a renewed clarity in his eyes as he surveyed his surroundings. He did not know it, but we had taken the journey together.

I was a silent observer as he relieved his past, unable to interfere directly. Even so, my influence was enough to melt even the icy heart of the Living Shadow.

“Where am I, how did I get here?” Sir Reinhart asked.

“You do not recall, but you came to me for healing. You came to me as a broken shell of a man, but now, I ask, do you remember?”

Sir Reinhart nodded. “Yes, I recall my past as the Living Shadow. I saw the error of my ways when King Brocknar ordered me to kill the last of the dragons. I turned my blades upon him, ending his reign.”

I couldn’t help but smile as I listened to a new history unfolding before me. The device had worked flawlessly.

“And your family? Where are they?” I asked.

“My wife left this realm some time ago. I’ve received letters from my son over the years, who left to explore the realm. I am old now, but I have lived a good life.”

The way he spoke, it was as if he was recalling these memories for the first time. I reached down and untied the bindings that held him to the chair. Sir Reinhart stood to his feet, still utterly bewildered.

“I do not understand. I feel torn, as if these memories are not my own. What manner of healing have you bestowed upon me? I don’t even know your name.”

I picked up the sphere from the table.

“You are in the presence of Finton Merrybrook, the greatest storyteller in all of D’veen! I am pleased to hear that your mind has been healed, but I’m afraid my services come at a dire cost.”

Cracks emerged on the surface of the sphere. Shards of metal broke off from it and shot into the old man’s body, wedging themselves in his chest, shoulders, and forehead. Blood trickled from the wounds. A glowing red orb floated in the center of the sphere. It flashed once, twice, and on the third flash Sir Reinhart Brisbane was no more.

His body collapsed into pure energy. A glowing ball of white light, guided by the metal shards that floated back into the center of the sphere I held in my hands. The red glow changed to blue as the metal exterior locked back into place.

I set the sphere down on the mantle and walked up the stone stairs to the top floor of my humble abode. During my ascent, I passed other relics that had come into my possession over the eons.

Of particular note was the sword known as Anima-Parthax. A stunning example of magic and technology working together to achieve the impossible, though its voice was silenced long ago.

I stepped outside and took a deep breath of the crisp night air. Standing at the top of this ancient watch tower, The Valley of Skar was laid out before me.

The shadow of a dragon, cast by the light of the shattered moon in the sky, soared overhead. It landed on the ground beneath me, looking upward with golden eyes.

“Zeea my darling. It is so very good to see you,” I said.

Tears poured down my face as I beheld her face for the first time in eons. She had grown into a beautiful, majestic dragon. Yet another sign that the device had served its purpose.

“Did Sir Reinhart already leave? I did not see him depart,” Zeea asked.

“Yes, he is gone now.”

“What will we do now, father?”

I looked up at the shards of the moon hanging in the sky, connected by thin lines of dust. Yet another symbol of our failures.

“We have spent far too much time telling stories, my daughter. I think it’s about time we started writing our own. The past is not written in stone. It can be changed. It will be changed.”

I looked down at the Valley where my brother Skar took his last breath and smiled.

“D’veen will rise again.”

Sci FiFantasy

About the author

Bradley Ramsey (He/Him)

Lover of dogs, gaming, and long walks on the beach. Content Marketing Manager by day, aspiring writer by night. Long time ghostwriter, finally stepping into the light. Alone, we cannot change this world, but we can create better ones.

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  • Makayla Wach4 months ago

    This is great! The emotion is so powerful, and you instantly had me hooked with the “ endless pursuit of the things that slumbered in the womb of the world” line. Well done!

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