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Valley of Ashes

by Frem-J 4 months ago in Fantasy
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Dragon Haus

There weren’t always Dragons in the Valley.

Their penchant for Fleshtrade over drug trafficking meant they normally occupied the areas of the city where law enforcement was minimal, if any bothered to patrol at all. Most officers were on the gang lord’s payroll anyway. The Dragon King paying the city’s authorities to turn a blind eye to the activities of flesh trafficking that built the gang lord's underground empire.

So it was quite a surprise to Petrik Graves to find himself thrown down an alleyway in the centre of the Valley by a group of Dragon thugs. He picked himself up off the damp rubble, peeling a soggy piece of gods-only-knows-what off his finely tailored jacket.

“Zayn”, he said, inclining his head in greeting to the leader of the pack, straightening his jacket. “Surprised to see you in these parts…”, he scanned the others in the group, unimpressed, “...and with the likes of this mob, no less”, referring to the grimy, muscular, winged males that stood behind Zayn. Dragons of the Lower House. The hired muscle.

Zayn, the impeccably-dressed, striking, silver-haired male Petrik had addressed snarled. His own, larger wings flared slightly at the jibe, but he quickly masked his anger and gave Petrik a saccharine smile. “Now, now, Petrik, no need to insult the lads”, Zayn replied, “and whilst I normally enjoy playing with you, I don’t have the time today...and I am here on more serious business.”

Petrik’s sneer fell as Zayn’s voice turned hard and he gave Petrik a small, tight, sad smile.

“Serious...”, Petrik glanced again at the four dragon-shifter bodyguards that scowled back at him, “...but not official business, then?” he mused, noting the civilian clothes the males wore. Nothing too fashionable, nothing too worn, either, just…bland. Forgettable. They didn’t want to be noticed. Petrik didn’t bother pointing out that regardless of his security’s fashion sense, Zayn himself was one of the most recognisable figures in the Valley.

“I am masked”, Zayn commented, reading Petrik’s thoughts. “Only you can recognise me. You, and my friends here, of course”. Zayn indicating toward his entourage. That got Petrik’s attention. Zayn, the Dragon Prince, who normally strutted around the Valley, splashing gold and blood money in copious amounts, not caring who knew how that money was made, whooing whoever took his fancy at the time… Zayn who thrived off being the centre of attention everywhere he stepped his gold-tipped oxfords…Did not want to be recognised. Did not want anyone witnessing this meeting. Petrik cursed. “Ok, Princeling, you have my attention.” Petrik hated to admit it but he was intrigued enough to ask for more details. “What kind of business would the Dragon Prince want with a lowly fae like myself?”

Zayn snorted, “Lowly indeed. You’re about as lowly as I am an alley cat, Rik”. Petrik’s eyes narrowed at the moniker. He hadn’t been called that since he was a boy. Since they had all been in college. Before their legacies had developed and their families had called upon them to take their places in House business. Before the drugs and gang warfare...

"As I said,” Zayn continued, interrupting Petrik’s memories, “This is serious business. And whilst you and I may not see eye to eye on a number of things these days-” “-Like flesh-trade and kidnapping you mean?” Petrik cut in. Zayn paused, holding his breath, as if wanting to say something, then thought better of it and let out a sigh instead.

“Think of me what you will, Rik, but I am here to ask for your help, not gripe about petty differences”.

Petty diff-,” Petrik's brow raised in astonishment. “-Gods, Zayn, I’d hate to think what you consider a serious crime then if you regard what your kind do as petty.” Petrik shook his head in disgust. “What do you want, Zayn. And what makes you think I’d help you with whatever it is, anyway?”

Zayn stepped forward, his brow furrowing into a sombre expression. His amber eyes glowed faintly. “You no doubt heard about Aesira…”

A statement. Every fae in the Valley had heard about Aesyra. Petrik’s eyes softened at hearing the dragon princess’s name and he nodded sadly. “Zayn, I...I am truly sorry for your loss. Aesyra was…the best of all of us.”

The little dragon-shifter, despite her father’s tyranny, had befriended all fae-kind in the Valley, regardless of which gang they belonged to. And they had all loved her in return. House business was not conducted in front of the dragon princess, some out of fear of her father, others out of respect, but mostly, Petrik surmised, was out of some secret longing to preserve the innocence of youth, that Aesyra reminded them of better, happier times. Naive to the warring Houses and the true nature of gang life in the Valley.

Not that any of that mattered now. Just seven nights ago, Aesira, Zayn’s sister, the young dragon princess, had been found brutally murdered in the barren outskirts of the city. Dismembered. Her body drained of magic, even her tiny wings, still gossamer-like, too weak to fly, had been torn to shreds.

The brutality of the murder had sent a shockwave through the Valley. Every gang lord offering their condolences to the Dragon Lord, swearing aid to find the one guilty of such an horrific offence. The Dragon Lord’s despair was so whole, that his roar could be heard across the Valley as he raged and wept upon hearing the news, reducing the police department and surrounding buildings into ash as the police commissioner refused to let him see the remains of his daughter, the extent of the brutality.

No one had claimed ownership of the attack. No leads as to which fae or demon had dared commit such a heinous crime, especially againts the House of Dragons. And as for the Dragon Lord himself, no one had heard from or glimpsed the great shifter since the news. Even the dragon’s trade had ceased operating.

Petrik brought his attention back into focus. “What is it you think I can help you with, Prince?”

Zayn’s eyes narrowed, glowing like coals. His voice was low and rough as he said, “I want you to kill the Dragon Lord,” the dragon-fae’s wings flared again as rage and sorrow crept over his beautiful face. “I want you to kill my father. For murdering my sister.”

~ ~ ~


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