In The Dragon's Backbone (A Tale from Zeyr)
In case you're confused, the date in the index is when I first wrote the short by that title. I'm not writing the story entirely in chronological order, largely because this is easier for me to handle mentally.
4/10/2012: Setting the Scene
4/10/2012: The Dragon Unleashed
Setting the Scene
It’s been almost two thousand years since the founding of the Reapers of Zeyr, since the first appearance of Lementil and the advent of Necromancy. It has been seven hundred years since the discovery of the Ancient Kingdom and the disappearance of the last of the Reapers of Zeyr. It has been fifty years since the return of Kamaril and the crowning of Susquon as the Golden King. It has been ten years since the survivors of the devastation of Aria became part of the Dragonfriends.
The region of the Dragon’s Backbone Mountains, on the continent of Lionden, is currently divided amongst several factions. Controlling the actual mountains are the Dragons and Dragonfriends. To the north of the mountains is the Ruby Swamp, controlled by the enigmatic Arthyria. Immediately south of Ryama is Thundervolt Valley, where General Ironbutt is amassing an army to conquer Rokugo Heights, their eastern neighbor. East of Rokugo Heights is the lone volcano, and home of the renegade dragon, where a colony of elves has created a mining community. Further east from there is the Shrine of Seals, the northern most point in the mercenary city of Agavi. To the east of Agavi, and the easternmost part of the region that is involved in this record, is the mysterious Forest of Robynod, where it is rumored that a necromancer is king. To the south of Robynod is the Shorelands, ruled by the Pirates of the Infinite Squid. Across the Southern Sea is the continent of Lyrmath, which while not officially part of the region of the Dragon’s Backbone Mountains, is involved in this record. Their queen is the infamous Odyne.
Claire Fenster is a newly hired mercenary working for Townmaster Cyrus of Agavi. Her lineage is unclear, but the legend handed down in her family is that she is descended from both Delmar, the first reaper of Zeyr, as well as the legendary Ghoul of the Mountainlands, Mortimer Drago. In any case, it is around her actions that this record is centered, for she and her allies were the pivotal factor in the Wars of the Dragon’s Backbone.
And it all starts with a delivery…
The Dragon Unleashed
It was not the ideal battlefield, true, but this was their battlefield all the same. Claire had spent a few days trying to unravel the mystery of the Mining Camp, and it all led to this man. This armor-clad man who sat within the cone of the once-lively volcano. This armor-clad man who had allegedly imprisoned a dragon. Something didn’t sit right with Claire, however, as to how she had discovered this man – there had been a tall, lanky, pale Elf in the camp that looked all too confident that Claire would be able to defeat this man… but this was not the time for that.
The armor-clad man looked up from where he was sitting and saw the challenger. His face broke into a predatory grin. “I see you’ve come.” He said, his tenor voice rumbling as though it were the mountain itself. “You’ve done well to come this far, child. But I must stop you now.”
Claire held her rod with both hands, ready to strike. “Who’s stopping whom? I came here to stop you from turning a dragon upon innocent people! I’m here to stop you from ruining innocent lives!”
The man in armor laughed, coming close to Claire. His sword hung by his side, forgotten. “Child, if you knew the full story, you would understand that I am not threatening them, but warning them!”
Claire struck quickly. “I don’t care what you call it! You’ve been trying to get rid of them from day one! These elves are merely trying to earn their living like any other honest creature would! You have been standing in the way of that!” She struck as she spoke, and all the armored man could do was to block her blows.
He snarled at her. “Child, you speak of things that you do not understand! Have I ever once harmed one of the elves? Have I ever said that I would be the one to unleash Charek upon them? I cannot even restrain you with magic, let alone a dragon such as Charek!” He blocked blow after blow with his arms, and Claire wondered how long she would be able to keep up the attack before she wore out.
Claire leaped back as the armored man tried to swat her away. “You’re not half bad, old man! But you’re too slow to keep up with me!” She was starting to enjoy the battle.
The armored man, it seemed, gladly took up the role of old master. “And you might be fast, young whippersnapper, but you are a hundred years too young to break the Symphony Armor!”
The battle continued on for a few moments, both combatants enjoying the battle, the cause of their conflict forgotten, both merely enjoying the contest itself.
That was, until the mountain shook violently. Claire looked at her temporary sparring partner with worry. “If you were not the one who was going to unleash Charek, then who?”
The armored man, however, had already leapt down from the rim of the cone, and was already sliding towards the base of the mountain. “I will delay Charek! Get the elves away from here!”
Claire nodded and started on her way down the mountain’s face, headed for the mining camp.
A tall, lanky elf is nothing unusual. A tall, lanky, pale elf on the other hand, will stick out like a sore thumb. Gren, however, was confident that his secret would now be safe with the death of Carsali… and the attack of Charek upon the elven camp would be the perfect way to disguise his escape, assuming Charek completely destroyed the camp before anyone was awake enough to sound the alarm.
So, naturally, when Claire practically flew into town and started sounding the alarm herself, Gren figured that something had gone wrong. Why hadn’t Carsali and Claire killed each other? He ran quickly to the alarm tower, where Claire was furiously pounding against the gong.
Elves from all across the camp were starting to flee in panic, afraid that Charek was coming to burn them all for… for one reason or another. Yet even after a few minutes, Charek still did not appear. Gren reached out and poked Charek’s mind with his own. Slave! Why are you delaying?
Claire looked down and smiled as she saw the elves fleeing to safety… all save for one. Gren, the tall, lanky, pale elf that had told her how Carsali was threatening to unleash Charek upon the elves if they did not leave. Yet, Claire could hear what Gren was saying – could hear what Gren did not realize he was saying aloud.
“You stupid dragon! Just eat him! Can you not digest armor?”
It was at that moment that Claire realized that she had been played for a fool. Without a second thought, she leaped off of the alarm tower, her rod lined up perfectly with Gren’s skull.
The blow to Gren’s skull, though not enough to slay him, did weaken his control over Charek enough for the dragon to break free. He felt the dragon slip from his control as he fell to the ground in a daze. Claire staggered to her feet. She had expected Gren to crumple to a heap underneath her, she had expected the false elf to be felled by the gravity-empowered strike she had dealt. She had never tried fighting a snow demon before, and their skulls, apparently, were much sturdier than that of a human or an elf. Even as she was picking herself up from the rebounded force of her own blow, so too did Gren.
He raised his arm, and his appearance fuzzed around. Claire could barely look at him as it happened, her eyes were protesting the strange information that they were receiving. As though reality were resolving itself, Claire finally saw with her own eyes just what a snow demon looked like.
With a feral grin, she struck at the knee of her foe, hoping to knock him off-balance long enough to incapacitate him. She kept up a ferocious assault as elves fled from the camp. Blow after blow after blow, and the strain from her previous battle was starting to catch up to her. Soon she had to slow down, and that was all Gren needed to start his counterattacks. A slash to the leg. A claw to the shoulder. Talons to the chest. Claire was able to deflect some blows, but others got through.
She heard it long before she saw it. A roar from the mine entrance. She could feel Charek approaching fast. But would the dragon bring reinforcements for her, or for Gren? Or would the dragon fly further onward to the east? Both questions were answered as the armored man dropped on top of Gren, from off of the back of Charek. Claire could only watch as the armored man ended the snow demon’s pitiful existence with a few slashes of his sword. Charek landed nearby with a heavy thwumph.
The armored man took off his helmet and exhaled. “I was afraid that we would be too late. How badly are you injured?”
Claire inspected herself. “I’ve got some gashes and bruises, and he got my leg pretty badly. My armor took the worst of it, thankfully, but now it’s just scrap.” She gingerly tested her leg. It screamed in protest when she tried to stand on it. “How do I look?”
The armored man looked at her… and then looked away fairly quickly. “Well, offhand I would say you need new clothes.”
Claire looked at him in puzzlement, but then realized what he was hinting at. She blushed as she smiled. “Aww, you don’t have to look away. I suppose I will need a new outfit though; this one feels a little too breezy to keep me warm anymore.”
The three of them laughed. Occasionally an elf would stop fleeing and stay to watch Charek fail to go on a rampage, but most continued on in sheer panic due to the proximity of a dragon.
She turned to Charek. “What will you do now?”
Charek growled. “I do not know. The elves desire to mine the volcano for diamonds, yet I was banished there by the dragons of Ryama. If they will allow it, I will be their protector.”
“And if they don’t?” Claire asked.
Charek showed off his teeth. “Oh, I’m sure I’ll be able to convince them to pay rent one way or another.”
Claire punched him playfully. “You’re evil, you know.”
Charek blew some flames into the sky. “Why do you think I was banished from Ryama in the first place?”
Claire sighed. “Well, my leg doesn’t want to carry any weight, so maybe it is broken.” She leaned on her rod as she stood up. “Charek, would you do me a favor?”
“You freed me from that foul creature’s enslavement, I suppose I should do something for you in return.”
She struggled to climb upon the dragon’s back. “Would you please carry me back to Agavi? I don’t think I would be able to walk by myself.”
Charek snorted. “I will – but just this once. No dragon should ever be a beast of burden, and I have already carried one useless lump today.”
The armored man bristled at the jab. “I am not useless!”
“Then why don’t you help me onto Charek’s back?” Claire asked innocently. “I really don’t think I can climb up by myself.”
“Considering I wouldn’t have been able to get close to Gren without your help, it’s the least I can do. I suppose it would be too much to ask for a lift to Agavi as well?”
Claire and Charek looked at each other, both knowing what the other was thinking. Charek grinned again, showing his teeth. “Sure, Carsali, I’ll carry you to Agavi.”
Last edited by Pokota; April 10th, 2012 at 11:59 pm.
Reason: Whatever. I'll just append stuff to this post until I hit the character limit.