Hello, loyal readers! I know it's been a long time coming... but, we have the next TWO chapters of The Divide 2 done, and are working on the fourth!
So, without further adieu, Gweall and I give you the next chapter of The Divide 2 :)
“Are you alright, Terrin?” Zan asked telepathically, as Terrin settled into the spot he normally sat in while riding Zan.
“Just a little nervous. I think the fall shook me up more than I realized,” he laughed nervously.
“I’m so sorry,” Zan said, obviously feeling guilty.
“Don’t be, just have to get back on the horse, right?” Terrin joked. “Even if the horse is a scaly fire-breathing reptile,” he chuckled.
“I’ll take it slow until you get used to it again,” Zan said, and took off smoothly. Terrin settled down quickly, his heartbeat slowing to normal as soon as they were soaring above the tops of the buildings to the city.
“There they are, land in front of them,” Terrin yelled over the wind that whipped his hair. Zan said nothing, but did as he was asked and landed carefully. He stayed in his dragon form, listening as Terrin made his speech. “Men and Women of the Imperial Army, you are our hero’s today!” Terrin began. Zan tried to focus on Terrin’s speech, and looked through the large crowd of hundreds of soldiers. Many eyes were on Terrin, but a few strayed to the dragon before them.
Zan was silent as Terrin continued to speak, shifting back and forth on his feet as he began to get nervous. He looked around at the sky. Terrin had asked before they left if he could stand on Zan’s head to get more height, and Zan had agreed, lifting him up far above the crowd so they all had a good view of their king. But now, as the nerves took over and he began scanning the sky to find the source of his nervousness, Terrin nearly lost his balance.
“Zan...” he hissed, looking a tad embarrassed. He got down on one knee and bent over the side of Zan’s snout to look him in the eye. “What’s wrong.”
“I-I don’t know. I’m just getting a weird feeling,” he whispered with his telepathy.
“I’ll send some patrols out, would that make you feel better?” Terrin asked.
“Yes. Thank you, my mate,” Zan said, relieved that Terrin cared. Terrin climbed down his back and whispered something to Xavier, who nodded and sent a few of the surrounding guards out to circle around the group, searching the skies for any threats. Terrin climbed back up, and resumed his speech. But even the guards didn’t soothe the sickening feeling in Zan’s gut. He shifted back and forth nervously on his feet. Look at the crowd of humans before him. Why were they looking at him? Why were they staring at him like that? He hissed as he reared up on hind legs, sending Terrin sprawling. He grabbed Zan’s snout as he fell, holding himself up with one hand.
“Zan!” he swore. Zan fell to the ground and Terrin took the chance to drop to the soft grass below. He stared up at the behemoth, who made a few grunting sounds, before opening his mouth and coughed hard, sending a spray of black liquid in front of him. It covered the first few rows of soldiers, and all of the grass in front of him, barely missing Terrin.
“Zan?” Terrin shouted, now concerned, he stood quickly. “Zan, what’s wrong love, talk to me!” he begged, putting a hand on the large beast. Zan quickly looked down at him, yellow eyes unblinking. The look was similar to the day they met, filled with fear and a hint of rage. But the difference was, the usually bright yellow eyes were laced with black veins running through them to his pupil. Without saying a word, he drew in a deep breath and bathed the ground in fire. Terrin grunted as he was tackled to the ground by a shocked Xavier.
“What the hell has come over him?” he asked, as Zan turned his fiery spray to the soldiers who had scattered in fear.
“I don’t know! His eyes are...” Terrin didn’t want to say it. If he said it, it was true.
“Sire, he’s sick. You know what we have to do,” Xavier said.
“No! He is your king and you won't!” Terrin stood. Zan roared and snapped at any soldier who got near him. All of them now wielding swords.
“Sire, don’t!” Xavier shouted, as Terrin ran up Zan’s turned back and climbed to his usual spot.
“Listen to me, damn it. Zan!” Terrin shouted. Zan reared back and roared, letting loose another spray of fire into the air. Terrin climbed higher until he was looking into Zan’s yellow- black eyes. “Stop it! You’ve already killed people!” he pointed to the crowd before him. Several soldiers lay dead on the ground, charred to only black lifeless forms. Zan stopped roaring, but his pupils remained dilated and his breathing was shallow. “Snap out of it,” Terrin said, as Zan lowered his wings back to the ground to stand on them, his breathing slowed. Terrin watched as the black lines in his eyes retreated until they were no longer visible. Zan blinked.
“Terrin?” his telepathic voice sounded weak. “My head...” he moaned and fell onto his side on the ground. Terrin climbed down and stroked his snout.
“It’s okay. It’s going to be alright, love,” he whispered. Several imperial guards stood at the ready, swords and shields bared. “Put those down goddammit, he’s your king and you will show respect!” Terrin snapped. Zan whimpered in Terrins head. “Shift out of your dragon form, love. Let me take care of you,” he said. Zan did as he was told, and before anyone could blink he sat in a bundled form on the ground. Terrin wrapped his arms around Zan’s thin body and kissed him.
“Terrin... I’m sick,” he whispered out loud.
“No you’re not you just...” Terrin searched for an excuse but knew there was none. Zan looked up at him.
“Kill me,” he said, this time not whispering. Terrin blinked.
“What?” he stood. “You’re insane.”
“You have to,” Zan stood up next to him. “Before I hurt anyone else...” he looked at the fallen soldiers. Xavier approached them, before he could say a word Zan grabbed the dagger that was strapped to his boot for emergencies. He held it to his throat. Terrin grabbed his wrist, and fought with all of his strength to keep Zan from plunging the point of the dagger into his throat, ending his life.
“Zan please, stop. You got control of it. Maybe we could find a cure,” Terrin said, struggling against Zan’s strenght. He didn’t have the full strength of a dragon in this form, but he did retain a small amount of it when he switched, not making him a weak human.
“There is no cure,” he said, black tears falling from his cheeks. “I don’t want to hurt you... please don’t let me hurt you,” he shook his head and cried. Xavier finally acted and pulled Zan’s wrist back, forcing the dagger from his hands. Terrin enveloped him in a hug quickly.
“There is a cure. If there isn’t we’ll make one, goddammit. We’ll beat this. I promise,” Terrin pleaded. Zan shook his head.
“Don’t let me hurt you,” he repeated again, looking down at the burnt, blood covered grass.
“Any luck?” Xavier asked as Terrin pulled off his gloves. He shook his head.
“None. I’ve had all of the best doctors and warlock and everyone I could possibly find look at the black substance he coughed up. None of them know what it is,” he said, dejectedly. “How is he?” Terrin looked towards their bedroom door, where Zan had been resting.
“Not good. He hasn’t really slept, and I go in to check every couple of minutes like you said, to make sure he didn’t try anything else,” Xavier mumbled. There was a silence between them. “You know he’s doing it for you. He wouldn’t know what to do with himself if he hurt you or anything you love,” Xavier said.
“I know. But if he leaves me before I’m ready, he is hurting something I love,” Terrin mumbled, shoving his gloves in his pocket. “Has he had any more episodes?” he asked.
“No... but his eyes...” Xavier swallowed. Terrin nodded and stepped into the door, comforted by the fact that Xavier cared enough to stand guard for them. Zan lay in the bed naked. The blankets only covered his waist, leaving his chest bare. Bruises from the fall a few days before had since healed, leaving him with perfect pale milky skin.
“Hello, love,” Terrin cooed, sitting down on the bed next to Zan. He pulled his head into his lap. Zan’s eyes were closed but it was obvious he wasn’t sleeping by the way he toyed with the blanket in front of him.
“Anything?” Zan asked. Terrin swallowed. The question meant he hadn’t given up hope yet. But he didn’t have good news to encourage that hope.
“No,” Terrin said, sadly. “But we will keep looking. Just have faith, lover.” Terrin kissed his head. Zan nodded. “Now, let me see your eyes,” he spoke in a soft voice, as if soothing a sick child. Zan shook his head. “Please?” He wasn’t above begging.
“You’ll be afraid of me,” Zan whispered.
“I could never,” Terrin replied sharply. “Don’t ever think that. Even today I wasn’t scared of you. I was scared for you,” Terrin said. “Now show me.” Zan did as he was told and looked up. His once clear eyes had taken on a sickly gray color, and the black veins were back. Terrin looked closely, and noticed that they pulsed ominously. “Have you had any other symptoms? If nothing else this is a good chance for us to study what this does to dragons,” Terrin said, as much as he hated the truth.
“At least my death won't be for nothing,” Zan mumbled.
“You aren’t going to die. You can’t. I’m supposed to die before you, remember? My species being so young, and all?” Terrin smiled. Zan sighed. “So?” Terrin asked, reminding Zan of the question.
“I... I keep loosing my temper. More than once I snapped at Xavier. Will you tell him I’m sorry?” Zan looked up at Terrin, concerned.
“He’s our friend, Zan. More than just a good soldier. He knows you’re sorry.”
“But tell him anyways, please?” he asked.
“Okay.” Terrin kissed his head. “I’m going to make a trip. I leave tonight. I want you to promise me that you’ll stay here and get some rest,” Terrin said.
“What? Where are you going?” Zan sat up.
“To the lava pools. I want to speak with the queen of the red dragons,” Terrin said.
“How are you going to get there?” he frowned.
“I’ll take Stormbringer, I did have a mode of transportation before you, you know,” Terrin winked with a tired smile.
“No. I’ll take you,” he got out of bed.
“No, Zan. You need your rest,” Terrin said.
“We both know rest isn’t going to fix this,” Zan said, as he pulled on the scaled breastplate that resembled his own scales so much. He kept his back to Terrin as he spoke the truth. Terrin was quiet behind him and he turned to see him collapsed on the bed, head in his hands. Zan knelt next to him on the floor.
“I can’t lose you, Zan. I can’t,” Terrin said, voice shaking. “This can’t be happening. I keep thinking I’m going to wake up, but it just keeps getting worse,” he sobbed, and hugged Zan tightly. Zan held onto him, breathing in his scent.
“We all get scared. You had every reason to be. The point is, I’m okay, and you’re okay. Lets just forget about it and move on, yeah?” Zan said, remembering their conversation from before. Terrin sniffed, and looked up.
“But how much longer are you going to be okay?”
Zan had to admit that the fresh air did him good. His mood was lighter than it had been a few hours before, resting in their room. They now soared through the night sky. Stars twinkled by the thousands above them. Terrin hugged zans neck with his legs. the dim red glow on the horizon indicated the hundreds of pools that surrounded the volcanoes zan had grown up in.
“Are you okay?” Terrin asked, snapping him out of thoughts of his upbringing.
“Yes. I’m fine, Terrin,” Zan said, slightly annoyed. Terrin had been hovering over him ever since they left the castle three hours earlier.
“Okay...” Terrin said, almost silent over the roar of the wind. “Zan...”
“Terrin, I said I’m fine!” he snapped.
“No, what’s that?” he asked, pointing down to the swamp lake below. Zan squinted his eyes.
“I-I don’t know... I can’t see well in the dark. Should I go down?” he asked.
“It looks like an earth dragon... yeah, lets see what she’s doing out in the middle of nowhere,” Terrin said. The earth dragons usually stayed in the swampy areas where the ground was relatively solid. Or in the deserts past the mountains. But it was very clear they couldn’t swim. Their black plated bodies were meant for carving through earth and stone, not paddling them through water. As Zan soared down, the screeches of the dragon could be heard.
“Is she sick?” Terrin asked.
“I don’t know....” Zan mumbled in Terrin’s head.
“Fire! Fire dragon, help me!” A voice suddenly shrieked into their heads. Unable to land, Zan simply soared in a circle above her.
“What’s wrong?” Terrin shouted down to her, as she squirmed in the slime and mud.
“Don’t worry about me, my nest! One of your kind attacked it!” she said, directing the words at Zan. “Please, Dragon. I think she was ill.” She continued to try to squirm out of the muck.
“Where’s your nest?” Terrin asked. She rolled her body to her right.
“There, just beyond the trees,” she said, using her undulating mouth piece to point towards the location. Now that they were looking, they could see the outline of smoke in the night sky, masked by the smells of the swamp and nearby fire pits. Without a word, Zan beat his wings and carried them over the trees, both searching for either the nest, or the red dragon. It wasn’t hard to find the beast, trying to squeeze her enormous body between the trees. She tossed her head and let out another spray of fire, nearly hitting Zan though she hadn’t seen him yet. Zan hovered near the trees, kicking up dust and leaves, finally drawing her attention. Terrin jumped down, sword in hand. She roared, and took a deep breath, preparing to bathe Terrin in flame. Before she could, Zan forced his large body between the trees, and threw his wing up to protect his lover. Fire spilled out around the red wing, but didn’t even singe a scale.
“Remember, my fire is useless against her,” Zan reminded Terrin.
“Where are the eggs? We don’t want her to step on them,” Terrin said, not taking his eyes off the dragon who was busy roaring up a storm.
“I don’t know... I don’t see any,” Zan answered, searching the ground beneath his feet and around them. Without warning, the dragon charged forward and snapped at Terrin. Zan swung his tail out in front of his lover, letting her bite down on the tough flesh there instead. He grunted in pain, and pulled his tail from side to side, making her look like a dog with a chew toy. She let go of the bleeding tail and roared at not having met her target. Before she could strike again, Terrin charged forward.
“Terrin!” Zan said, struggling to move in the confined space of the swamp. The dragon reared up and slammed her nose into the ground, mouth open. Terrin disappeared inside the black maw of teeth and fire. But instead of closing her jaw around the human, her body went limp. Zan waited, and nothing happened.
“Mind helping a king out?” the voice called from inside the mouth of the beast. Zan blinked and moved over to the corpse, using his nose to push open the jaw. Terrin climbed out, unharmed. His sword covered in blood. “Wasn’t so hard,” he smiled and shrugged. Zan stared at the corpse of the dragon.
“Don’t let me get that bad, Terrin. I have control now but...”
“I know,” Terrin said, swallowing hard. Neither of them looked at each other. “The nest?” Terrin asked. Zan blinked before looking around again.
“We’re standing in it. She already destroyed most of the eggs,” he said, nuzzling the shell of a black egg over to Terrin, who swallowed sadly.
“Are there any left?” he asked.
“Look around,” Zan said. They continued to search the trees and swampy plant life, coming up with three eggs.
“How big are dragon clutches usually?”
“It looks as if we lost three or four,” Zan said.
“Poor things... lets go see if we can help Momma dragon out,” Terrin said, sadly. Zan lifted them into the air, above the trees and soared back to the lake where the mother dragon lay still. “Is she...” Terrin whispered.
“I am alive,” she groaned, still not moving. “Though for how much longer I don’t know. My nest?” she asked, lifting her large head, showing her rotating jaw.
“We saved three eggs... I’m sorry about the rest,” Zan said, ashamed he couldn’t do more. She sighed and let her head fall back into the muck.
“It’s not your fault,” she spoke sadly.
“Come on, lets see if we can’t pull you out of here,” Terrin said. Zan began to lower to the ground.
“Don’t!” she shouted suddenly. The two men looked at her, confused. “It’s a sink hole. I’m not getting out of here any time soon,” she said. Terrin frowned.
“We can try,” he said. “If we can find some rope or vine or-” he was interrupted when Zan turned, leaving his tail in the dragons face.
“It’s already been bitten once tonight, one more won't kill me,” he sighed. Terrin kissed the top of his head. She bit down on his tail, making him grimace but say nothing more. He struggled against her weight as he beat his wings hard. A deep slurping sound echoed in the quiet swamp as the mud she was stuck in churned and sucked, holding onto her black plated body. She groaned, and Terrin looked down.
“Zan, stop!” he said. He did as he was told, and continued to hover in place no longer pulling. Terrin climbed up his head and sat on his snout, looking him in the eye. “She’s stuck for good, Zan. Her plates are coming apart before the mud is going to let her go...” He shook his head.
“I heard that,” she grumbled, not seemingly affected by her imminent death.
“I’m sorry we couldn’t help you.”
“I’ve lived my life. I worry for my eggs,” she said simply. “They’re only a month at most from hatching,” she said.
“We’ll take care of them, don’t worry,” Terrin said.
“We’ll what now?” Zan asked, confused. The dragon looked up.
“You would?” she questioned, seemingly having hope after accepting her fate and her children’s.
“Yes. I promise,” Terrin nodded. “You have my word as king,” Terrin said. She stared at him with no eyes, only the quiet sound of her rotating jaw and the crickets in the nearby brush.
“Thank you, King Terrin,” she said, with more thankfulness than Zan had ever heard in his life.
“You’re very welcome,” he nodded. They sat with her for a moment, the mud continuing to pull her down into the black void under the swamp. In only a few hours, she was completely under the mud. Terrin stood from the spot on the shore he had been sitting on.
“How could you agree to something like that? Neither of us can teach the young how to be earth dragons. I sure as hell don’t know how to dig,” Zan held up his ‘arms’ which were more like bat wings.
“It may be a standard rule for dragons not to accept eggs from another brood.” Terrin emptied the bags he carried with them. “But I am not a dragon,” Terrin said. He lined the bags with swamp leaves and a little mud for cushioning, and gently placed the eggs inside before tying them tightly to Zan’s spikes.
“And if we can’t find a cure? You’re going to raise three earth dragons, on your own?” Zan said.
“We’ll just have to make sure we find a cure, then,” Terrin said, matter of factly. Zan sighed before taking off and heading towards the lava pits.
As they approached the lava pits, Zan was confused by the sheer volume of red dragons outside. Most of them were usually in the caves or swimming in the pools themselves, but they were all just standing there. As they approached and Zan landed, they finally noticed their presence and bowed.
“What are they doing?” Terrin asked.
“I don’t know...” Zan mumbled, just as confused.
“We heard you took ill, Zantoranzin. We offer our condolences,” the largest red dragon Terrin had ever seen stepped forward, the queen. He had only seen her twice before, on the island where they had declared peace, and when Zan had first brought him to his home. Since then he hadn’t spoken to the dragon, but he could always feel her eyes over them.
“Thank you, my Queen.”
“It’s an honor to see you again, and thank you,” Terrin bowed his own head. The queen smiled.
“Come, we have much to talk about,” she turned, and beat her wings to reach the large volcanic cave that made her nest.
“Have you found anything out about the illness?” she asked, as she turned and laid down comfortably in the large cavern.
“No. Nothing new my queen,” Terrin said.
“How unfortunate...” she sighed, obviously hoping for good news.
“I have the best in my kingdom looking for answers. We will find something,” Terrin nodded, “I promise.”
“I know we will. We just need to have faith.” She nodded her reptilian head. “Zan, what are those on your back?” she asked.
“We encountered an earth dragon on the way here... she was stuck in a sink hole with a sick red dragon attacking her nest... I promised her we would care for her eggs,” Terrin said.
“That’s quite a big task. What with neither of you being earth dragons.” She seemed to laugh in their heads, but it was more out of an odd form of respect than anything.
“We’ll make it work,” Terrin smiled. There was a silence as he stared at the ground, thinking about what he had gotten himself into, when the queen spoke.
“Zan?” she whispered in their heads. Two large red dragons stepped forward, obviously guards. They readied themselves for a fight. Terrin looked up at Zan, his eyes had gone completely black and he was simply staring at the queen. Terrin stepped forward and drew his sword.
“I respect you more than anything my queen, but I will fight to the death for him. Tell your guards to back off,” Terrin growled.
“I’m fine,” Zan mumbled, and the darkness began to recede back into his skull. He seemed tired. The queen nodded her head and the guards relaxed.
“It’s good that you’ll fight for him, even now, Terrin. When I met you, I knew you two would be a good mated pair. You’re love is very strong,” she said. Terrin sheathed his sword and stepped closer to Zan, hugging his scales tightly.
“I won't let anything happen to him,” he whispered.
“I know you won't. Now, what is it that you wanted to speak to me about?”
“Its about Lestrazar. Big-green-and-ugly paid us a visit not too long ago and I’m starting to get curious about him,” Terrin said. Zan turned his head to the side slightly, he had never asked what Terrin wanted to talk to the Queen about.
“Lestrazar? I haven’t seen him in a long time... not since the war,” the queen whispered in their heads.
“Yeah well he isn’t exactly the kind of guy I would like to meet on a regular basis,” Terrin said. “Zan could have died and he didn’t even think about helping him,” he frowned.
“The years and the loss of his brood have made him bitter. He wasn’t always like that,” the queen shook her head. “Why do you ask about him?”
“Isn’t it a little curious that this dragon has been a recluse for so long, then he starts making appearances again and everyone is getting sick? You said he wasn’t always bitter, how much more aggressive has he gotten?” Terrin asked.
“Terrin, what are you saying?” Zan asked.
“I’m saying that couldn’t it be possible he’s getting a little revenge? I mean, I can kinda see where he would be coming from. His entire family was wiped out by humans and now that the rest of his kind are allies with them it could be a little irritating. He knows that we live in peace now and if the dragons are hurting, so are the humans. He’s taking his revenge,” Terrin said bluntly.
“No, Lestrazar would never do that. He’s a peaceful dragon and takes life into the highest regards,” the Queen replied, shocked but seemingly not entirely sure if what Terrin was saying was true or not.
“It didn’t seem like it after Zan’s fall, he wouldn’t help him,” Terrin shook his head.
“But...” for the first time since Terrin had met the queen she seemed to lose her composure and was at a loss for words. “As much as it pains me to say, it is something that we should look into,” she said, sadly. “I can arrange a small group of my brood to take you back to the mountains and find him. Zan should rest,” she said.
“Everyone keeps saying that, but we’re all well aware that rest is going to do nothing for me. I want to go. It will keep my mind off of things,” he whispered.
“He’s fine to fly me there, and I don’t want to put any more dragons or humans in danger. The two of us will go,” Terrin said, and bowed to the queen.
“Are you sure that’s a good idea? Just the two of us? He didn’t seem to like you very much, last time,” Zan said, as Terrin climbed onto his neck.
“No, not really... but who else would go with us?”
“This is a bad idea,” Xavier said as he stared at the small red dragon in front of him.
“Come on, Xavier. You’re the only one besides myself who has ever ridden a dragon,” Terrin said, as he straddled Zan’s neck.
“Yes, once. During an emergency. This is different!” Xavier had a clear layer of sweat on his forehead.
“Lewtanzina is a good friend of mine, she’ll take care of you,” Zan assured.
“You may call me Lewt,” The gruff female voice echoed in Xaviers head.
“She’ll drop me,” Xavier whined.
“No she won't,” Terrin and Zan said at once.
“We’re losing daylight, Xavier. Get on the dragon,” Terrin instructed, looking up at the sun. Xavier whined once more before approaching the dragon, and climbing up her wing unsteadily. He straddled her neck and swallowed as she stood up straight again, lifting him a good twenty feet into the air.
“I think I’m going to be sick,” he moaned, covering his mouth. The two dragons chuckled and spread their wings. Zan took off first, Lewt following him close behind.
Once they were in the air and Xavier stopped sobbing, he loosened his grip around Lewts neck and opened his eyes. The farmlands below them were large and green, specks of black marked the herds of cows, and the crystal lakes looked like nothing more than blue gems from their height.
“This isn’t so bad...” Xavier said, carefully.
“See, I knew you would get over it,” Terrin yelled over the roar of the wind. “It’s a long flight, so get comfy.” He smiled and swung his leg around Zan’s neck, he positioned himself so that he was lying on his back, hands behind his head and left foot over his right knee, bouncing steadily as he shut his eyes.
“Sire, that really doesn’t look safe,” Xavier had a mild heart attack.
“Relax, Xavier. Down on the ground is your territory, this is ours,” Zan smiled his reptilian grin and fell into a smooth dive beneath the clouds.