Book I: The Alliance
Chapter 4 Part 2- Stubborn Child
Chapter 4 Part 2 of Dragon's Lament
The soldiers lined up across the meadow. The new recruits wore their regular clothes and were armored only with used and rusted swords and shields. Drake was one of the few that held his own sword. A few others did as well, but they were from families familiar with war experience.
Although Cameron was lightly trained for battle, he’d never actually been in war. It was obvious from the sweat glistening on his forehead, the shaking of his hands, and the trembling of his boots.
Drake smirked. “Are you scared Cameron?”
“N-no,” Cameron stuttered.
“Are you sure?” Drake enjoyed picking on him. The tables were turned. Drake knew the moment battle began- Cameron would run for the hills.
Cameron nodded shakily.
The air was intense. There was something sinister in the wind. The stories of Celestin were more mythical than that of the Gryffon. The stories said that the city was in the clouds and that they relied heavily on magik more than Yore itself. They also had more experiments and some were not so ethical.
If you ate a Lyutharian stone, there was near a 100% chance that you would die. The 0.001% chance that you survived was realized in Celestin from their human experiments. If you were to survive, then you would have power like one of the Royal bloodline. You could do magik without the use of any stone. All you would need were the words of the ancients to use the magik within your own tainted bloodstream. There weren’t many who tried this experiment alone, but there were some. Anyone who survived became a force to be reckoned with. These were the sorcerer’s of the last Great War when an army was built using Lyutharian soldiers in the North. Those who survived created Celestin and they made a treaty with the other nations so that magik would never be fought over again and they would be free to experiment without Yore’s or anyone else’s interference. With Vladimir’s uprising, there would be more bloodshed and magik used than ever before.
Drake could not imagine what would creep out of the woods surrounding Celestin and he wouldn’t be there to find out past the very first outcries of war. Vladimir’s army was strong, but was it strong enough to take on the monsters lining Celestin? Drake did not know and wasn’t willing to wait to find out.
A roar echoed from the forest. The battle had begun. Drake withdrew his sword a split second before the others. He was ready.
The trees ahead rattled. Birds and animals ran from the forest. Another roar echoed across the plains.
“Prepare yourselves men!” Kaldron called.
Not a second later, a monstrous 15-foot spider burst through the trees. Cameron dropped his sword and ran to the east, as did many of the new recruits. Drake held his ground and noticed the glowing red Lyutharian stone on top of the spider’s head.
Drake concentrated and his blade glowed blue.
He lifted his sword over his head. “Beorht Heawan!” A bright blue electric light darted down through the hill creating a crevice in ground until it met the spider. It split it into two- sending pieces of spider flesh flying to the east and west. The rest of the spider evaporated into nothing- including the ruby Lyutharian stone.
Drake thought it was strange. Lyutharian stones were hardy. An electric strike shouldn’t even be able to nick it.
Unbeknownst to Drake, he caught the eye of an enemy hidden in a black cloak among the trees.
It wasn’t long before there were other oversized creatures and insects exiting the forest and Drake wasn’t the only one who knew how to use a sword with an imbedded Lyutharian stone.
Kaldron’s large frame did not hinder him at all. He was just as quick on his feet as Drake. He did not know electric spells or even fire spells. However, as Drake observed Kaldron while he slew various creatures, he noticed that Kaldron’s long sword was used more like a hammer than a sword. Its weight was heavier than a typical long sword. Kaldron used it to smash creatures right smack into the ground. He wasn’t slicing or dicing anything. He was knocking them over and using force to destroy his enemies.
It wasn’t long before the army advanced into the forest. The grey cloaks were stronger than Drake ever gave them credit for. Most of them were able to use lower elemental spells- fire, ice, water, and earth. Their advancement into the forest was inevitable.
Drake was slaying creatures as he went eastward into the forest- away from Celestin. There were more creatures for him to kill as he was away from the concentrated force of the army, but he needed a perfect opportunity to fake his death for escape. It took awhile, but it came slithering eventually.
He heard the hissing sound before he saw it- like a whisper in the wind. The viper stood 20 feet tall- taller than some of the trees with a Lyutharian stone embedded in its forehead. Drake smirked. This was the time and the place. If he faked his death here, he would be out of the way for anyone to notice him. It was perfect. Even though the snake was large, it was still weak. It was going to take some work for anyone to believe him, but he could do it. He darted eastward, so that he would be hopefully alone when he was able to fake dying. He took every precaution. He leapt over the gnarly roots and heard the snake chasing him slithering along the forest floor. As Drake neared the edge of the Celestin forest, he slowed down.
The viper took no time knocking him over. As Drake fell to the ground, he took a sip of sleeping death potion and quickly put it back in his cloak. The viper veered its head back and snapped. Its fore-fangs sunk into Drake, but on his side away from his beating heart just like Drake intended. At the same time, Drake swung his sword sending a lighting bolt through the snake. Drake fell to the ground with a ‘thud’. The sleeping death potion was quickly taking over. It wasn’t long before Drake went out cold.
The sleeping death potion was an interesting kind of magik. It sent the body to a state of acute alertness, but would create a comatose state with no pulse. The brain would still work, but the body was completely out of commission. This particular potion was brewed with Gryffon tails, so it could cure poison in addition to creating a fake death. Drake secretly swiped this brew from one of Leon’s many, many books.
Drake could hear the continuing of battle and the terrible creatures of the forest. The sounds would stay in Drake’s nightmare for the rest of his life. There were creatures that almost would’ve eaten him and a few that licked his face, but upon hearing the sounds of their brethren being destroyed, they slithered off to the battle.
A few wayward soldiers past him and check his pulse. Assuming he was dead, they looted his belongings- except his sword. They would have taken it as well and then pawned it off in the nearest town. Except it wouldn’t let anyone near it except for Drake. Leon placed a spell on it when he gave it to Drake, so that an enemy would never be able to use his own sword against him.
The sword was still by his side precisely twelve hours after he’d taken the potion. No amount of training could’ve prepared Drake for the gut wrenching feeling when he awoke. His veins alit like fire licked down his spine. The adrenaline pulsed through his body. All he wanted to do was take flight or murder the nearest creature, but the three moons were nearly right above his head in the darkened sky and he needed to sprint off to Vladimir’s stronghold with much haste.
Drake’s clothes were still intact, but his rations and other tools were gone. He kept the potion in a secret pocket he’d kept in his cloak along with a second small knife, so he had those two along with his sword. He stood and pulled his sword out of the ground and then he ran southeast.
It was imperative that he’d escape as far away from the north as possible otherwise he would be drawn into the war again. Drake imagined the shocked looks of the soldiers who had checked his pulse. He chuckled quietly. He cut through the forest- avoiding the clearing when they had first arrived. He was much further eastward than that. The bright moons lit his way. The blue moon Isirius was the brightest on this night- coloring the forest in various blue shades and tints.
It was only then in the dark blue night that Vaughn caught up to him.
“Goodness gracious, it’s about time!” Vaughn huffed.
Drake frowned. “It took a moment to find the trigger.”
“I would say so.”
Drake heard a crackling noise and running water on the west wind. He stopped and hid behind a tree.
“Sh.” Vaughn nodded.
Drake crept steadily toward the sound. He kept his footsteps silent. He slowly approached the lake. Across it was a lit fire. Cameron lay soundly asleep near it. Cameron had deserted the battle and now he was out in the open and exposed. Drake had to get away from the area. The fire would attract unpleasant company- soldiers and Celestin monsters. However, Drake knew he needed rations and money for the journey ahead of him.
Cameron was the easiest target. He would be dead soon for being so careless and exposed. Drake thought for a moment about saving him, but it was too much of a risk. Cameron would be a liability. Drake would have to give up his mother, his family, and his small town just for Cameron. Drake didn’t see the worth in saving a bully.
Drake glanced at Vaughn. He had his arms crossed and his pointed nose tilted high in the air. He already knew what Drake was up to and wanted no part in it.
Drake found it was easy to pickpocket the sleeping fool. Cameron snored and slept like the dead. Drake grabbed the money from Cameron’s pocket and the rations that lay near his feet. He was there for less than a minute and didn’t linger.
Drake crept away quickly and quietly from the snoring fool. He kept near the main road to see if there was any soldier’s nearby- there was. Drake couldn’t hear them talking, but he heard them head straight for Cameron. Vladimir wasn’t kind to deserters. Vaughn glared at Drake, but Drake already knew what he’d say. This wasn’t the time or the place to have a lengthy discussion about his moral compass and the consequences. Vaughn had his reasons for being so haughty- after all it was his life on the line.
The duo continued their quick pace throughout the night and on past dawn. The sun was already high in the sky before Drake had even thought of his further travels. He was going to need a break before he headed to Vladimir’s stronghold and he also needed to keep low during the day to keep his identity secret. Drake knew of only one place that encompassed everything he needed- Discade. He’d never been there before, but he knew it was a rough area. Discade sat on the cusp of the three regions- Glyn, Celestin, and the Outlands. The Outlands were mostly desert and mountains until you went further east. Then the land grew grass once more, but it was flat- perfect for farming. That is where Vladimir’s stronghold was.
The outlands were filled with treacherous terrain and housed bandits and outlaws from the other regions. It was not an area where someone should ever travel alone. Drake was confident he could make it. He trained for years for this moment. He’d slept in the wilderness and hunted for himself. He would be fine.
The duo’s pace slowed as the day grew into evening. Vaughn had to relax on Drake’s shoulders, as his wings were getting too warm by the sun’s rays. Just as the sun was setting, Discade came into view. The land was chalky and became difficult to walk in. The city was set in the beginning edge of the Outlands. It was twilight when Drake walked into town. His clothes were torn, so he did not stand out amongst the dispersing crowds. You did not want to be out at night in this town. The people still awake moved in among the drinking crowd. The pubs doubled as the inn’s.
Vaughn flew amongst the gutters keeping his light low- hiding. Drake walked into one of the pubs. It was loud and full of rowdy drunks drinking more than their fill. He did not notice the black-cloaked figure hidden away from the loud drunkards. Discade was one of the few cities around where you could get away with not participating and playing your part in the war. Many fled to Discade to avoid the battle against Celestin. Vladimir had no hold here, but neither did any of the kingdoms. It was too chaotic to control, but it was a great place to gain information.
Drake walked up to the bar and sat on a stool. His growth spurt made him look older than he was.
The bartender was drying glasses. He gave him a once over. “What do you need?’
Drake took a breath and carefully thought of his words. He remembered listening to Leon speaking in code more than a few times. Vladimir was called the Lion when spoken about secretly. “Heading to the Lion’s den. Need a night- gone at twilight.”
The bartender’s eyes widened, then he smirked. “The Lion’s den- a surreptitious request. A pence for the night and a silver for silence.”
Drake pulled out three pieces of silver from his pilfered pouch. “For the sounds of birds and for nourishment along the way.”
The bartender nodded and took the money. He gave Drake a key with the number 3 on it. “A key and luck for the lions den. There are crows around- one crow alit with fire. Crows don’t see their tails. The lion sees all but beneath him.”
Drake took the key and nodded. He walked to the darkness on the left and found the hidden room with stairs. He walked up the stairs and at the top he casually looked around the pub through the gap in the wall- probably left open for secrecy and privacy. He was cloaked in darkness- no one could see him. A crow was indeed in their midst. The black cloak was no other than Vladimir’s henchman Marcus.
Drake found his room. It was boring, but clean as clean as you can find in Discade. There was a wooden bed with a quilted blanket covering a pillow and a nightstand- that was it. Drake crossed the room and opened the window. Vaughn flew in.
“Marcus is here,” said Drake after he closed the window.
Vaughn’s eyes widened. “His strength is fire. Isirius weakens him!” He motioned to the unusually oversized big blue moon.
Drake narrowed his eyes. “So then Marcus is weakened now.”
Vaughn knew where Drake’s thoughts were going. “Drake- don’t. You know what will happen if you do.”
Drake took a deep breath and sighed. “I know.”
Vaughn was apart of Drake’s essence and acted as his conscience. If Drake did too many dark tasks, then Vaughn would become dark as well and eventually would die- his faery light would be extinguished.
“But I should do something- anything.” Drake sat down on the edge of the bed. He leaned his chin on his fists- contemplating. “Marcus is one of the strongest- if not the strongest in Vladimir’s army. It would weaken his forces considerably if Marcus was taken out.”
Vaughn shook his head. “You can’t fight everyone Drake. No one person can. There are forces amassing in the royal city of Yore- if you want to take down everyone, then that’s your best bet.”
Drake looked out the window into the dark abyss. The stars were still shining even though darkness abounded by the masses. “If I did that then- I’d never save my mother.”
“I know.” Vaughn sighed. “Let’s get some shuteye and we can go over this in the morning when we’re better rested.”
“There’s no need.” Drake turned down the covers on the bed. “We’ll stick with the original plan. It’s my best chance at saving her.” Drake took off his boots and climbed into bed.
Vaughn smirked and bowed. “Of course.”