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Dragon's Lament

Book I: The Alliance

Chapter 4 Part 1- Darkest Days

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Chapter 4 Part 1 of Dragon's Lament

The Gryffon fell on the ground with a hard ‘thud’. Drake let out a long breath. He had done it. He’d finally slayed the Gryffon. Vladimir was next.

Vaughn flew over and landed on Drake’s shoulder. “Good going oh fellow, oh boy.”

Drake sheathed his sword. He was much taller now. He had grown a lot over the last four years. Now at 16, he was more calm and calculating. He was ready to take down Vladimir.

Vaughn fluttered nearby. “What are we going to do now? What’s the next thing our great king is going to….”

“I’m no king!” Drake shouted, but Vaughn wasn’t affected.

“But you are or will be someday.”

“No! I don’t deserve it.” Drake sighed. “Not until I kill Vladimir.”

Vaughn rolled his eyes. “Well technically- you would have to defeat him in battle anyway to win back the crown.”

Trumpets belted their sounds. Drake smirked. “Vladimir.”

“Wait! Now don’t do anything too rash-” But it was too late. Drake was already running back towards Glyn. He was finally ready to face Vladimir.

~

Drake was disappointed to find three of Vladimir’s lowly henchmen in their grey cloaks and some even lower ranking bannermen in red that couldn’t even fight. He sighed in utter disappointment and leaned against the bakery. It was the same bakery from two years before. But this time Drake was in the alleyway that Leon came out from. Drake could understand why Leon chose this alley. He could see everything that happen in the city square, but no one could see him. Drake could now understand Leon’s techniques of stealth now and knew how his brain worked.

Drake sighed. Vaughn caught up to Drake out of breath. “Good… well at least… you won’t be killed today.”

Drake narrowed his eyes. “Be quiet.” Drake turned his attention to the square. One of the bannermen was speaking quite loudly.

“By order of our great Lord Vladimir- every male over the age of fourteen will join his army in the battle against Celestin.” Drake frowned. Kaius would not turn fourteen for a few months from now. Drake let out a sigh of relief. Last time Kaius attempted to bring a sword against his person, he’d tripped and sliced his arm open. His father spoke more to him that day than he had in years.

~

Drake bowed to Leon. “Thank you master.”

Leon nodded. “You finally nicked me.” He showed his hand- a trickle of blood cascaded down his forefinger and continued down his arm. “Congratulations. Be here at dawn tomorrow. Continue your waterfall training.”

“Yes master.”

Leon left and Drake walked into the trees. Drake was tired and hungry. He was going to camp out tonight and catch fish in the stream for dinner. His stomach growled. He’d need to catch the fish before dusk.
“Prepare yourself Drake!”

Drake turned around to see Kaius run toward him carrying a long sword- too long and too heavy for his size. Kaius ran down the dirt path unperturbed to anything around him including the hole in the ground. Kaius’ foot got caught in the hole, but the momentum caused the rest of his body to continue forward. Drake cringed when he heard the crack of Kaius’ ankle. He ran over the moment he realized Kaius was about to fall on the longsword.

Kaius tried to turn his body in midair to no avail. His arm holding the long sword crossed across his body and his right arm landed on the long sword slicing the skin open. Kaius screamed for a moment before passing out at the sight of his own blood.

Drake knelt to Kaius’ side and pulled the thread, needle, and alcohol from his cloak. He hadn’t drunk a drop of alcohol due to Leon’s intense tutelage or possibly is intense drinking habits or even his fathers, but he carried some with him anyway. He was always getting cut up from the sharp end of Leon’s blade. He knew hold to sew his own cuts and alcohol was a great disinfectant. Drake tore Kaius’ cloak into strips and started to work.

Kaius laid over Drake’s shoulder. Drake carried him through town getting sideways glances from the villagers. The villagers blamed his father for losing the war and further scrutinized Drake for not rebelling further against Vladimir’s rule. Their home still stood due to the rebuild from Vladimir. It was now more of a prison than a home with Vladimir’s guards standing outside. They did not pay attention to Drake or Kaius, the guards were only there for their father. Why Vladimir left any of them alive was beyond anyone’s understanding, but no one questioned it any more as it was now commonplace.

Drake carried Kaius inside their home. Drake hoped that he would not run into his father, but Drake was not very lucky. As Drake was about to turn down the corridor to Kaius’ room, their father was leaving their mothers chair. Drake could smell the stench of alcohol before he even saw his father. Drake cursed his luck under his breath.

“Kaius? Is that you?” His father leaned on the doorway. His hair was long and matted. His clothes were torn and ragged. He hadn’t bathed in days.

Drake sighed. Could he not tell from their silhouettes? Drake was much taller than Kaius. However, Drake knew the answer to his own question- he could not. Not anymore. Their father was oblivious to everything now. “No father. It’s Drake.”

His father coughed and took another swig from the bottle. “Drake? Well where’s your brother?”

Drake took a deep breath. “He had a bit of an accident. But he’s good now. I bandaged him up and I’m just going to take him to his room-”

Their father backhanded Drake across the face. Drake stayed standing, but his face was now turned away. Drake felt the heat of his fathers slap on his cheek and the pumping of the tiny blood vessels beneath his skin. Drake dared not speak.

His father grabbed him by his collar and said in a threateningly low tone. “Listen here boy. Take your brother to his room now and return here immediately.”

Drake slowly nodded. “Yes sir.”

“Do not disobey me boy!” he spat.

Drake was lucky that night for when he returned. His father had drunk himself into a stupor and he never once mentioned the incident. Kaius was far too embarrassed to mention it either. Drake now knew he was walking on eggshells with his father. He did not know why his parents seemed to care about Kaius more than him, but he dared not question his father.

~

Vaughn glanced at Drake from the side. “You do realize that this means that you will have to fight in the war too?”

Drake paused for a moment and then continued walking. “I am aware. I intend to go. Vladimir will be there after all.”

Vaughn scratched his chin. “Well… I guess… that’s definitely probable.”

Drake stopped. “If Vladimir isn’t there, than Marcus or Ace will be there. I’ll be able to at the very least put a dent into his forces.”

Vaughn flew in front of Drake’s face. “If Vladimir isn’t there… than that means all of his special guard will be there!” He gulped.

Drake smirked. “And Vladimir will be defenseless in his stronghold.”

Vaughn knew where Drake’s trail of thoughts was going. “How are you going to skip going to the war?”

“I’m not.” Drake smirked. “I’m going to war.”

Vaughn shook his head. “But I thought-”

Drake stretched his arms behind his head. “I’ll make it looked like I’ve been killed. As the battle moves along further north, I’m going to head southeast to Vladimir’s stronghold.”

Vaughn thought for a moment. “That might actually be a good idea. You’ll be able to pinpoint Vladimir’s location doing that.”

“Exactly.”

~

The next day all of the recruits were supposed to show up in town square. Each name would be called off. If they did not show, then they would be charged for treason and killed. Drake woke early for breakfast and found Kaius already awake.

“I wish I could go!” Kaius whined. “I’ve been learning a lot! Really!”

Drake took a bite of his bread and a swig of water. “Really? From who?”

Kaius jumped up and down in his seat. “From Vlad-”

“Don’t mention that name!” Drake yelled.

“I wasn’t going to say Vladimir...” Kaius cast his eyes downward and wiggled in his seat. “Brother- why do you hate him so much?”

“Because he took our mother!” Drake scoffed.

“But wasn’t mother-”

Drake glared at Kaius. “Don’t you dare defend that monster!”

Kaius gulped. “Of-f course not-t.”

Before their mother was wed to their father and became Queen of Glyn, she was a commoner. There were rumors circulating about that she was Vladimir’s former lover, but there was no proof.

Drake stood up from the table. “I’m leaving.”

“Good luck brother!” Kaius cheered.

Drake just put up his hand. He didn’t intend to come back here- not without taking Vladimir’s head.

Vaughn was never very far from Drake, but he usually avoided any run ins with Kaius. His ears were sensitive to Kaius’ whining. As soon as Drake stepped outside the back door, Vaughn was by his side. Drake preferred the back exit as the guards would usually not be there. There was usually only one, but he was not always at the post. He was usually at the pub nearby flirting and getting drunk. The backyard was covered in shrubbery enough to almost walkthrough the area like a maze. It was quiet and hidden enough that Drake could come and go without being noticed even if his father and the Guards could care less where he was.

“I heard that in there,” Vaughn said.

Drake gave him a sideways glance and shrugged. “Of course you did.” He headed through the tall shrubbery toward the gate

“There may be some truth to the rumors, you know.” Vaughn said gently.

Drake shook his head. “No.” Vladimir could not be his biological father. He would not believe that for one second.

“Kaius has Vladimir’s eyes,” Vaughn reminded him.

Drake paused and turned to Vaughn. “You’re right, but my parents have always been over protective of Kaius. Why would my father be so defensive over an illegitimate heir?”

Vaughn shrugged his shoulders. Their mother’s eyes were brown and so were there fathers. Drake had never met any of his relatives- they had already passed on. Any of them that were left were killed the night Vladimir took over Glyn. There was no way of knowing if any of them had green eyes and he wasn’t in a position to ask either of his parents.

Drake continued walking and turned a corner. Just ahead at the end of the walkway, leaning on the exit gate- was Leon.

“You don’t look so surprised to see me,” said Leon.

Drake shrugged. “I predicted you would be here.”

“As you should. I’m not about to lose my pupil to Vladimir.” He shook a pointed finger at him.
Drake bowed his head.

Leon put his hand on top of Drake’s head. “Don’t do anything unusually stupid. Go to war and come back. Lay low. I have things still to teach you.”

Drake said nothing and Leon sighed. He shook Drake’s hair. “Good luck kid. You’re going to need it.”
With that, Leon walked away.

As Leon walked into the distance, Drake smirked. There was no way he would lay low. He’d been doing that for long enough. It was time to see how strong he had become.

The city square was full of crying mothers and scared kids, but each person over the age of fifteen showed up- save for Leon. Not that Drake was worried about Leon- he could take care of himself. Anyone who went after him, would be seeking an untimely death.

Drake leaned against the bakery. Vaughn hid nearby. He wasn’t one to show himself in town. He was quick, so that anyone who would be watching would have to be watching very carefully to even see him. Most people would just see a flash of light and think some light got caught in their eyes. Faeries weren’t very common to see. Most would be dead immediately as the person who they were there for was usually in battle and usually on the brink of death when they appeared. Many men and women would tell tales of faeries that saved them from death, but nearly no one had one hanging around. If they did, it was in secret.

Each person was called off in alphabetical order. Drake’s last name was Rinehart, so it was some time before they called him, but they did nonetheless.

“Drake Rinehart,” the bannerman called.

A veil of silence swept over the town square. Drake took a deep breath and walked casually over to the guard in blue who’d called his name.

“A local celebrity. A coward like your father, I take it.” Drake said nothing. The guard would get his just desserts in time.

“And a pretty little sword too. I hope you can swing it,” the bannerman sneered. “Looks like we got a winner today boys! You’ll be with Kaldron over there.” He pointed to the six foot tall burly man in a long grey cloak fit to his size. “He’s at the front lines, so you’ll be lucky to come back alive.” Drake kept his mouth shut, but all he could think was that he was stuck with another one of Vladimir’s weak underlings. Anyone in the top guard was dressed in a black cloak. Grey was second tier. The guys in armor surrounding Glyn were third tier. Lastly, there were the ones in blue. The pompous guy in front of him was probably weaker than he was before he trained with Leon. It was unlikely that he even held a sword.

The sword Drake now held was a Scimitar- a short backsword with a curved blade. The blade broadens toward the sharp point. Its homeland was the Caldor kingdom to the west- past the gates of Yore. Drake received it from Leon as a gift over a year ago when he had completed his spike training. It was a small price compared to the agony it cost him to earn it. What made this particular sword special was that it held a hidden Lyutharian stone in the hilt. It was unusual for a person to hold this kind of sword in the Eastern Kingdoms because only Caldor had the technology and innovation for that kind of sword making. And not many in the Eastern Kingdoms even knew how to use the blade which is why Leon gave Drake this particular sword. The tactics he taught Drake would be unfamiliar to even the most skilled swordsman save for the very best and none of Vladimir’s top guard even held a Scimitar as their main weapon. It gave Drake the tactical advantage for both defense and offense.

As Drake walked over to the scattered group of people standing near Kaldron, he noticed an unfortunate familiar face in the crowd next to his group. It was Cameron. His blonde hair and alabaster freckled skin stood out against the dark hair crowd. He was the son of his father’s right hand who died in battle when his mother was taken. He was very angry with Drake for not immediately rising up against Vladimir’s undertaking. He mocked Drake every chance he got. Drake’s mother was still alive, but Cameron’s father would never return.

“Well look who it is!” Cameron called out to Drake. “It’s our very own prince of Glyn. I guess not prince anymore, eh?”

Kaldron looked at Drake briefly before turning his attention away. Drake said nothing. He knew Cameron wasn’t very well trained and would probably fall first in the war against Celestin.

“Why so silent deserter?” asked Cameron as he stepped closer to Drake. “Are you going to go cry to your mommy?” He was in Drake’s face now. Drake could see that his eyes weren’t only blue, there was a bit of brown in the center. Drake was getting annoyed of Cameron’s behavior. “Oh wait you can’t! Can you? You’re father was a coward! I bet you’re a coward just like your father!”

Drake punched him across the face- hard. It was hard enough to feel the bone crack under his knuckles. Hard enough to send him flying across the city square right smack into the lowly bannerman.

The bannerman fell face first off of his pedestal. The scene was quite comical to the observers as the boys face landed on the bannerman’s behind. The whole city square was laughing. All Drake did was smirk, but he quick switched to a aloof facade as the bannerman leapt to his feet.

He pointed to Cameron who’d tumbled into him and yelled with a beet red face. “How dare you! You man-child! You-you imbecile! You will be at the frontlines too!”

“But-but sir-” he pleaded.

“Butt is why you’re going to the frontline! Now go!”

Cameron lowered his head in shame and took his place next to Drake.

The tall burly guard Kaldron took a step near Drake and whispered to Drake. “I know what you did boy. I won’t be protecting you when the time comes.”

“I’m not the one that needs protecting.” Drake pushed the knife against the tall man's main artery in his leg.

“Indeed,” said Kaldron. He stepped away and Drake tucked his knife back into his sleeve.

“Why are you all still snickering? If I see one more of you laughing- you’ll be at the front line too!”

The laughter died down and Drake smirked. This was going to be fun.

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