I stand, rising like a reed defying the wind.
The ovate arena beneath my feet is smooth and red. It is made of glass, melted together from tons upon tons of black sand, and then tempered by the flames of Dragons.
I turn on my heel, glaring at the beasts perched in the distance. They sit on gray stone columns, silhouetted against the dark sky.
The Dragons of Wynmaar snake their necks and rattle their spines. Wings of red, blue, yellow, orange, black, white fill the air like a thousand sails. Instead of catching the wind, they fling the air like invisible tides across the sky. The very atmosphere quakes with the hum of fury and fire.
I remove my weapon from its scabbard. The silver-bright pentium blade curves like a claw. My hands are scarred, the marks worming across my brown skin like the tracks water droplets leave on windows.
Sweat beads on my brow. My heart seems to pump something other than blood, a liquid that ignites with a cold fire in my arteries and lungs, and freezes my vision into a crystalline lens of focus.
Across the arena from me, a door opens in the seamless glass, sliding, and then shattering over a dark body that thrashes and writhes in the wreckage. The monster trumpets like an earthquake, violent but somehow pure.
The monster struggles free of the ruined glass door, and the Dragons roar as their champion shows himself. It seems to be made of obsidian and clouds, sewn together with silver stitches and molded into a draconic form. Massive shoulders hump as it takes a stance. Its diamond head swings back and forth on the end of a graceful neck, blue eyes like torches of hell. Its open mouth is not filled with teeth, but ivory plates that chink together like scissor blades, if scissor blades could slice stone. Hooked spines run from the horns at the back of its head, all the way to the end of its whip-tail.
“Liiro Korre, itai e Scerix.” I curse under my breath, biting my lip.
And then it charges. Crashing, pounding, crushing, inevitably the Scerix charges. Despite the shards of crimson glass spraying from its scales, it is unmarred.
I toe the glass with my bare feet, and then I charge as well, thrusting my weapon back into its baldric so I can run faster. Sour sweat breaks out on my brow.
The Scerix burns the distance like a trail of ignited gunpowder. It is a hurricane contained in a form no larger than a hay barn, glowing with life and energy.
I reach deep inside myself, delving into the stygian caverns of my being. In the darkness, there is a candle, a symbol of the power contained within this fragile shell called a body.
The Scerix lowers its head. It means to ram me, to trample my body and crush my bones like a man crushes nutshells.
I grab the candle. It burns, but the power it symbolizes is suddenly flowing through my veins right alongside my lifeblood, almost as if a second being inhabits this shell with me.
It seems the Scerix will smush me outright, but I am armed with more than flesh and blood. I rip my sword from the baldric and scream, “Khelorre!” It is a war cry, calling destruction upon my enemies. My right arm whips back and I throw the curved blade with all I have. It flies straight and true, uplifted by the streams of compressed air I weave.
The massive obsidian body of the beast grinds to a stop, a trail of gore oozing from the wound on its head. Lifeless.
I fall to my knees, eyes closed. The Dragons’ hum grows louder. It ascends, from angry to furious.
I hear as they hiss and curse, and I hear the crackling as they spit tongues of flame in my direction. I hear as they begin to descend on me from all directions. Gust of air hit me like clubs, like the armored tails of my captors.
And then a voice separates itself from the din. “You’re coming with me, filth.” Constricting talons scoop me from the arena floor, ripping my shirt and gashing my chest.
I let myself go limp as gravity flips. My ears pop and the wind picks up. I keep my eyes closed throughout the short flight, conserving my energy. The only sounds are the fwoomp of air from the Dragon’s wings, and the offbeat staccato of his double heartbeat.
For a brief moment the wingbeats echo, and then I’m flung down to a hard stone floor. My carrier swoops off into silence.
I open my eyes and stand, rising much as I did in the arena. Everything is made of pure black stone, accented with strips of rose-colored metal that twist and web across the walls and pillars. There is no left wall. It’s open to the sky, framing an apocalyptic vista of volcanic vents, golden magma, and billowing smoke. Dozens of firebreathers wing their way across the ashy sky. The chamber is huge, larger enough to house hundreds of Dragons, but it holds only one. One the color of the cuts on my chest. One I should know.
The beast before me is gargantuan, twice as long as the other, and three times as large. He lounges idly before me with his tail curled around his talons, appearing as obsequious as a scaly rug.
Rindar is no rug.
He unfurls himself, sounding like a million quilt rasping on parchment, and his wings stretch wide, millennia mapped out in their tattered folds and creases. In this case, age is power, and Rindar has no shortage of years.
His gaze bears down on me, twin vats of blood that swirl and churn, and his voice rolls like a thunderclap. “What am I to do with you Teerimite? How am I to solve this quandary?” He speaks Pyrdian, not my best language. “No answer? I expect more from you Tayo.” The great beast shakes his head. “You kill my champions but will not fight for me—what holds you back? You could be a leader, a great man. One whom others would look up to.” Here the Dragon’s voice takes on an impassioned quality. “Fight for me. Fight for what you believe. This cycle you have trapped yourself in is a prison of your own making. A cage for a lesser man.”
I lift my head and harden my jaw. I slowly exhale, focusing on the pain where the flesh on my ribs has been rent. Pain is good. Pain is clarity.
Rindar snakes his massive head ever closer. “Tayo, say the word and you are a leader, a general. Or refuse and die. You cannot live like this any longer, I will not allow it! Here the road forks, and here you must decide.”
He is inches away now, ashy breath cool upon my face as he whispers. “Make your choice.”
“Go chase your tail.” I spit, rolling the foreign words in my mouth like bitter seeds.
Rindar’s hawkish features seem to soften, though it’s hard to tell. He turns his head away, but then rears up to his full height. “I gave you everything. And I have continued to show mercy!” His talons slam down cracking the stone floor and his wings flare wide. “I shall not bear this pain!”
I explode to my feet and jump left, because I can see a light in Rindar’s eyes that makes my stomach twist.
And sure enough the Dragon’s jaw part to make way for a torrent of white hot flames. The shock waves throws me off my feet again, and I scramble. Rindar wheels on me, eyes as bright as rubies. “I restrain myself from using magic. Why do I hold myself back? You deserve death!” He cries.
I leap behind a pillar as another river of fire erupts from Rindar’s lungs. “You cannot kill me because you know that I am right.” I yell, “Deep in your twisted conscience you can feel that you are wrong, and it pains you. Stop betraying yourself!”
I sense that Rindar is not idle, and sprint from my cover just in time. The column explodes into dozens of shards the size of couches as Rindar strikes it with his tail.
“Ita nan cris rind!” I am the first. Rindar screams, reverting to Teerimite. It is my native language, and his as well. “Ita nan cris teiyas!” I am the last.
He lowers his head and the broken pieces of the pillar fly at me as I frantically dodge.
“Ita nan cris nephrit eo nirphrit!” I am fate and destiny. “Eo pat finteyo dom!” And you are nothing.
And for just a moment everything pauses. I breath heavily. “If I am nothing, then nothing is everything. The blood of Pyrdia is on your head, you murdered hundreds while they surrendered! Until you repent, we are enemies.”
Rindar roars, a bugle of pain and fury, impossibly loud in the echoey chamber. "They deserved death."
I can feel consciousness leaving me as Rindar’s magic quenches it. My senses vanish into the void of sleep.
Author's Note: this is the final version I will be putting out for this part of the story. I am getting right on Pt. 2, as there is a handy new prompt that goes right in hand with my plot. (Good luck trying to guess which prompt. Wink, wink.) If you read this and I already have Pt. 2 out, go read that, this one will make better sense. (bad storytelling, I know, but I can't help myself, writing fantasy has me excited)
Critique away! This is both a new style, and my first time trying a series, so I'm sure I'm making plenty of mistakes. :)