Fantastic World Ch. 13byLady_Blackhawk©
"My love, I'm doing my best to please you, but you seem distracted and unwelcome of my efforts. Has something captured your thoughts and held them prisoner away from me?" Ethilathain boldly asked as he loomed above her.
Callia's eyes snapped open and locked with his. She sighed deeply. "Forgive me, my lord. The visions of Amakiir and Tathlyn are haunting my mind. I fear I've not killed him as I thought had and he's found a way to deceive us yet again."
He settled to her side and stroked his hand down her body quite possessively. If Amakiir were present, then he would see that the dragon protected what was his. "You are mine, my sweetness. I will allow no harm to come of you. The wizard is a fool to knowingly tangle with the Lord of all Dragons. All his magic will have no hope of saving him from me."
A shiver coursed through her, "But you don't know him as I do."
"I know you better than you know yourself. I understand your fears, my sweet. He's nothing but a bully who feeds off those fears. He may be powerful, but not as much as I. I have only known defeat at the hands of one archwizard and your ex-lover is not he. I'd know if that archwizard resurfaced." Ethilathain confessed as he looked deep in Callia's eyes. "There is much I should tell you, though. Much you need to know."
She cocked an eyebrow and snuggled up to him. He felt like a blazing oven. Heat soaked into her skin, warming her to the core. "Yes, you said you'd tell me all about Sapphyria. Talk to me, my love. Tell me of your long history."
"I have known thousands of years, for my kind are immortal. I came into being when this world was young. There have been hundreds of years when I have simply slumbered, when I was tired of dealing with the world around me and the squabbles of its inhabitants. I feared no one, but many feared the existence of my kind. Many of the dragons of this world were hunted ruthlessly. That was the case with my first mate. Her kind was one of the most gentle of all dragons. There were never very many of her kind. Each of them had a soothing voice. Ashaedrianna had been cerulean in color, a vibrant blue with striations of gold and black upon her delicate scales. Many referred to her kind as a Serenade Dragon, but to her fellow dragons, her kind was called the Enchanted Dragon. Each and every one of her kind was killed for the sport of it. I tried to protect her, but she could not deny the siren song of a young maiden in love. The duty of her kind was to croon love songs before a couple in love. A trap was set for her and she fell into it blindly. A young woman was placed in an open field, crying to the moon and stars of her one true love. Ashaedrianna went to her and began to sing her song. She couldn't resist it and it is in those moments that her kind was most vulnerable. The hunters lay in wait for her and captured her. They killed her without remorse, simply because they feared that a dragon was too close to their women, children and livestock." He let out a soft sigh. "I laid waste to that village after her death. I burned it to the ground, consumed all their livestock and killed every man, woman and child. I know now that was wrong, but back then, rage ruled me."
"Was she your first mate?" Callia asked, her hands softly stroking his back.
He nodded almost absent-mindedly. They had been together for a few hundred years, yet their union only produced two offspring. Those children had taken after her, both Enchanted Dragons. As soon as they matured enough, they abandoned the lair they grew up in and sought ones of their own. But their nature was too seductive for them to deny. Ethilathain had mourned their passing as had Ashaedrianna. It was after that she flew further and further away from their lair in search of young maidens in love. It was then she met her doom. His guilt was almost too much to bear.
It had led him to being a loner, hiding away from the world and sleeping for several hundred years.
"Tragedy happens, my Lord, and there isn't anything we can do to prevent it. Don't blame yourself for her death. She was merely following her heart, following what made her happy." Callia surmised, soothing him with her soft tone, "As I think back on the events that led to Jazrin's death, I see the signs I missed. It was almost like he was trying to tell me something in very subtle ways. I never wanted Jaz to die, and I'm not sure I'd wish the way he died on anyone. I just have to let it go. As do you."
"Let it go, eh? I'm working on that," his smile warmed her. "You wish to know of Sapphyria."
"What happened with her that caused such reaction from you at the sight of that statue that looked like her? Remember what I told after that happened? A voice told me that the enchantment on the room picked up your unresolved feelings for Sapphyria. Tell me, please."
A haunted look settled within his eyes and gazed deeply her into hers. He nodded and embraced her within his arms. "In my arrogance, I made mistakes that I dismissed as nothing important. But it was everything to her. After the loss of Ashaedrianna, I became reclusive and selfish. I was still plagued by rage. We shared a lair, but I demanded on having my own horde, my own caverns. I wasn't like that with Ashaedrianna. We shared everything. We had one clutch of eggs, only two offspring that took after her. Sapphyria became very bitter. She accused me of not loving her enough, but the truth was I didn't love her at all. Once our children had left us, things came to a head. We fought a great battle in the sky above our mountain lair. It attracted all manners of creatures and beings. Giants, rival dragons, wizards, treasure seekers were only a few. Our battle lasted for what felt like an eternity. We were both unwilling to give in or surrender. She wounded me in ways no one else ever had and I her. It wasn't all physical wounds. I struck the last blow. It was meant as a killing blow, but I couldn't go through with it all the way. Something deep inside me stopped me. So I wounded her greatly and let her retreat. As far as I know, she's still out there somewhere. It took me a long time to come to terms with my anger and bitterness, to exorcise the helpless I felt over Ashaedrianna."
"But you've never forgiven yourself for Sapphyria. How long has it been?" Callia asked, concern welling in her blue eyes.
"Thousands of years. I can't really say just how many." Ethilathain rolled off the bed to his feet and walked over to the mantle. He fixed his gaze upon the crackling fire that burned within the grate. Callia followed him, walking up behind him. She wrapped her arms around his torso and laid her head upon his chest.
"Free your soul of your guilt. Let it go, my Lord."
He sighed, "I have tried for a long time to do just that. Perhaps it is now the time to let go of the pains of the past." He drew her with him back to the bed, pulling her down with him. He enfolded her within his arms, cradling her to his bigger body.
"Tell me of Myanth."
A fond smile settled on his lips, "Myanth. I miss her more than words can express. She was special. She fought my destructive nature step by bloody step. She wouldn't allow me to give in the anger that plagued me."
"How long after Sapphyria did you bond with Myanth?"
"A very long, long time. I stole her from another dragon's lair. She was a golden dragon, a very young one at that. I had originally went there to steal the horde, but when I saw her, something deep inside spoke to me. I took her away and raised her until she became an adult. I never figured to fall in love with her, but I did. Now when I look back at it on it, I can honestly say that I fell in love with her from the moment I saw her. She stayed with me, and we forged a life. I gave her everything I had. And I was at my happiest. We were together the longest. And then, the archwizard came and killed her. He imprisoned me and I waited a thousand years to be released. I waited for you. You came along when I needed you the most."
Tears slipped down her cheeks at his heartfelt confession. She knew he loved her. He didn't have to say the words. She hugged him tighter, burying her face in the crook of his neck. She needed this moment, needed the silent confirmation that everything would work out in the end.
She felt a peace she hadn't known in a while. It filled her completely, settling upon her skin like armor. Her doubts melted in his warm embrace, dissipating into nothingness. And she knew it would all work out in the end.
Ethilathain, Wariik, Kerethial and Lahaela followed Callia back into the tower where the portrait room was located. She was ready to descend into the subterranean vault that housed the treasure. A treasure guarded by a guardian, as well. It made her curious to what the archwizard had come up with for this final test. All but one of his other guardians had all been tough to deal with. The thought of the manipulative dryad burned her whereas the trolls set her rage off. And the beholder had been just plain annoying.
She gathered the keys into her hand and placed then within the depressions along the framework. The blackened void rippled and expanded from floor to ceiling. A doorway opened and Callia stepped through, followed closely by her companions. A shiver raced through her to her very core as sub-artic temperatures assailed her. She sucked in a breath. Her lungs burned from the cold. Before her was a frozen plain stretching out as far as the eye could see.
Callia pulled a cloak from her pack and wrapped it around her. She watched as the others did the same. She cocked her eyebrow at Ethilathain, who had reverted to his natural form. "Do you know anything of this place?"
He shook his head. "Alas, I do not. Climb onto my back and find a safe place to sit. I believe flying will be our safest bet."
Callia made her way up first followed by Lahaela, Kerethial and Wariik. She noticed how Kerethial sat behind Lahaela, cuddling up to her, his arms locked around the pretty female almost possessively. Wariik cocked an eyebrow at Callia as he moved in behind her. "Shall we?"
She nodded in acceptance and felt his arms around her waist. A rush of warmth ran through her, bringing a feeling of malleability to her body that wasn't there before. She scooted back into his embrace, snuggling into the heat that engulfed her. It became a soothing balm against the cold.
They all held on for dear life as the dragon began to flap his wings and launch himself into the air. He cruised close to the ground, every once and a while taking them higher into the air for a good view of the cold landscape.
It seemed that hours ticked by with more of the same scenery passing beneath them. Ethilathain landed on the other side of a wide ice choked river. He knew they'd have to find the vault soon or risk exposure to the elements. He looked back at Callia and Wariik, who sat snuggled together with their cloaks wrapped around themselves. The two elves were also huddled together, shivering with a blanket wrapped around their slender bodies.
"We need to find shelter and warmth," Callia called to Ethilathain as the wind picked up and buffeted them with an icy blast of frigid air.
"There hasn't seemed to be any trees or wood for a fire. I've been keeping my eyes out for either." Wariik spoke up, his teeth chattering. A harsh shiver wracked his body causing the valiant warrior to nearly curl in a ball to find warmth.
"Ethani, have them cuddle up to you and I shall see what I can do as far as providing some heat."
Callia nodded, relaying Ethi's message. Lahaela sat before her, positioning herself between Callia's legs while Kerethial wedged himself between the Lahaela's thighs. She wound a couple blankets around them, hoping their combined body heat would help them warm up. Then Ethi twisted his head around and opened his massive maw. Callia could see the strange blue light at the back of his throat as he channeled his normal fire breath into a blast of soothing warm air that wafted over their skin. The pleasant heat settled onto her skin and fanned out to reach her fingers and toes. She reveled in the feeling of not being cold for once.
"Stay cuddled together as you are and I shall try to find us some shelter. I have a sneaking suspicion we still have a way to go before we find the archwizard's vault. Only one as evil as he was would come up with such a wretched place to hide his treasure."
Ethilathain lifted off the ground, easily taking flight. He soared into the sky, scanning the barren wasteland for any sign of shelter or of the archwizard's vault. Every once in a while, he would send a puff of warm air wafting back to the huddled foursome, and though he knew it depleted his energy level he simply couldn't allow them to freeze.
The desolate plain soon turned into low rocky foothills. He dived down, soaring close enough to look for possible shelter. It pleased him to locate a crevice wide enough for a human or an elf to pass through. Landing nearby, he waited for Callia and the others to climb down from his back before he transformed and moved ahead to explore the crack in the rock face.
Once inside, it widened into a narrow tunnel that stretched out as long as his wingspan during flight. He made his way down the passage, stepping through an archway of deep blue crystal, finally entering a crystalline cavern. It was also deep blue, glittering brilliantly from a strange white light that came from above. A muscle ticked in his cheek at how familiar this place seemed. He knew he had to be on the alert for anything.
Mentally he called for Callia to follow, and waited until she and the others caught up with him. He took point as he moved fully into the large natural room, cautiously scanning for any signs of movement. When he was sure there were no dangers, he proceeded ahead with Callia dogging his steps. She reached out to touch his hair, drawing his attention. Then she motioned to her temple. He gave a brief nod before speaking in her mind.
"What troubles you, my love?"
"This place. I've had a bad feeling since the start." she mentally projected back to him.
"I've felt it too. I would normally allow you to take point, but this time I must insist you don't. Stay behind me where I can protect you."
She nodded, stopping to allow their three companions to walk before her as she took the rear flank. A niggling voice persisted deep within her, warning her to keep a close eye out for any danger. She hoped it wasn't a trick to lure her in again by that bastard, Amakiir. He'd already caused her enough grief with Jaz'rin's death. The dark elf hadn't deserved the brutal manner in which he died. Yet it was a bold testament to just how deranged her ex-lover really was.
In subtle ways he continued to torment her. Somehow she knew wherever he was he was enjoying this. And somehow she knew she hadn't killed him after all. But she vowed the next time they met, she would. It was the only way out from under the yoke of suffering he'd placed upon her. With his death, she would finally be free.
The group of intrepid adventurers wound their way through the crystalline labyrinth, encountering all shapes and sizes of rooms made of the multi-colored crystal. And at long last when they came to the final cavern, which opened back up to the barren plain, Ethilathain turned back to Callia and bellowed a great warning as a creature he recognized all too well blocked his way.
He immediately transformed into his natural form, launching himself at the sapphire scaled dragon that stood in his way. The two great beasts slammed together and hurtled into the sky. Callia immediately summoned her sword, clutching it with both hands. She was ready for whatever came at her. She warily eyed the three companions Ethilathain had left her with, watching for any move that would betray their motives. But they simply moved to the opening to watch to two dragons battling in the sky.
In her heart, Callia knew the azure colored dragon could only be Ethilathain's jilted lover, Sapphyria. Was she the final guardian and where was the vault? Stepping out of the cavern, she scanned the frozen landscape, spying a tower made of the same black stones the ruin they'd found the portrait room in. That had to be where the treasure was. She dashed across the barren plain, disregarding the bone numbing cold that lingered here. She had to get the treasure. It was all that mattered. It and Ethilathain's safety. Nothing else mattered to her. She noticed her companions were fast on her heels, even Wariik in his full plate armor.
She halted at the blackened double doors, allowing them to catch up with her. "This is it," she simply stated as she glanced skyward, watching the obsidian and azure dragons bombard each other with all they had. Ethilathain's fire breath engulfed Sapphyria. She shook it off and retaliated with a blast of lightning. Ethi jerked as it skittered over his scales, and launched a tail-slapping, wing-buffeting, claw raking full assault on her before reopening his massive maw once more to deliver a sonic wave of thunderous energy straight at her chest.
The strength of his attack sent her careening across the sky, but Ethilathain wouldn't allow her time to recover. He charged at her, racing on wings that turned into fire. He slammed into her and grappled her with his mighty claws, sinking them in deep. He soon went for her throat, hitting her with a concentrated spray of fire followed up by a secondary sonic blast.
Her colossal form shuddered. She attempted to fight back, but went limp within his crushing grasp. He let her go, and watched as she crashed to the icy plain below. Ethilathain followed her down, prepared to roast her where she lay bleeding. But she transformed into the guise of the human female she'd often taken when they'd needed to go into one of the Aezaerian cities without revealing her true nature. She stepped forth, moving toward the one she'd had once loved more than anything. Yet she was ever watchful as she noticed another female racing at them. Sapphyria watched as the sword-toting elf came to a halt next to Ethilathain's great form.
"Somehow I knew if you were freed from your prison that you would come. I had hoped for the opportunity to see vengeance done, but you have beaten me once again," Sapphyria spoke up, her voice trembling as she bled heavily from many gaping wounds. Parts of her exposed skin was seared and blackened. "I only ask that you grant me a proper death. One that only you can, my Great Lord."
Ethilathain turned himself back into the form of the elf Callia had come to know so well. His eyes focused on Sapphyria for a few long moments, watching her begin to fidget and squirm. "Killing you is not what I had in mind. Your death will solve nothing. I wronged you all those countless millennia ago. I have come to terms with it and so must you."
"I cannot, my Lord. You must kill me. It is the only way to release me from this hell." Sapphyria transformed again, her voice taking on a guttural tone. "You give me no choice. Kill me now or I'll be forced to slay your new mate. Only one of us will walk out of here alive."
Ethilathain knew the game she was playing by threatening Callia. He knew if she attacked his lady, he'd be forced to retaliate against her, thus killing her as she asked. "You couldn't slay my Ethani if you tried," he shot back, staying in the elven form. He reached out and grasped hold of Callia's hand. "You've grown weak, Sapphyria. The dragon I knew would never beg for death. The dragon I knew would have shown some backbone and would've put up a real fight. You're utterly pathetic and unworthy of a good death."
Sapphyria bared her teeth and slapped at him with her tail. He tumbled out of the way and immediately transformed again, launching himself into the sky. Sapphyria followed, her great maw opening. A stream of putrid green acid shot forth, striking Callia full force. She let out a howl of pain and tried to shake it off as it seared her flesh. She charged at the dragon now hovering above the ground and swung her sword wildly, slamming it against the azure scaled dragon's underbelly. Blood and ichor spewed forth as the blade sliced through several scales. Sapphyria let out a bellow and flapped her wings frantically, gaining altitude over the wild-eyed elf.