So, we're almost to the end! There will be 1 more chapter...... maybe 2 depending how it goes.
Let us know what you think :)
The dragons dropped to a low altitude as they flew, staying away from the strong winds between the peaks made them work harder to stay in the air. Keeping them moving kept their blood pumping. The red scales stuck out like a sore thumb in the white landscape, and as the delicate flakes of snow fell on their wings they dissolved quickly into nothing but vapor. By now, Xavier and Terrin were soaked with the water from the snow and were only kept safe from hypothermia by the dragons warm flesh. Terrin had moved from his relaxed position to one that clung to Zans neck, absorbing all the heat he could. Xavier had followed suit and was hugging Lewt with all of his strength.
“What is the green dragon doing out here, anyways? I thought his kind liked the swamp?” Xavier asked.
“They do, I’m not sure why he would be here. They don’t like the cold anymore than we do,” Zan said.
“We’re here, this is where we fell,” Terrin pointed down to a dent in the snow, the crater where Zan had hit the earth.
“He came from that direction,” Zan turned his body to fly in the direction he indicated. He remembered the stripe of green in the snow as the dragon had caught Terrin.
“He shouldn’t be too hard to spot. Big, green, ugly, and a bad attitude.”
“That’s not very nice,” the ancient voice filled their head. All four of them screamed, the dragons nearly bumping into each other as they flew wing-tip to wing-tip. Zan looked up and realized the old dragon had been flying not far above them, gliding on wide green wings.
“How long has he been there!?” Xavier shouted.
“I have no idea,” Zan shook his head.
“Come, get yourselves out of the cold,” the dragon banked hard to the right and soared up to a tall peak, landing on a nearly invisible cliff ledge and disappeared inside a cave.
“Do we follow him?” Lewt asked.
“If he’s the one making the dragons sick, that doesn’t seem very safe,” Xavier mumbled.
“We don’t have a choice, we came here to find him and we did,” he shrugged. Zan banked to the right, followed by Lewt.
Their footsteps echoed on the cave floors. Terrin expected it to be dark and empty but it wasn’t. The cave was more like one long tunnel, straight back into the mountain. The blizzard outside blocked out what little sunlight there was, but that didn’t mean the cave was dark. A strange gas floated around the top half of the cave, emitting and eerie green glow. Terrin knew that the green dragons had always been the strongest of the dragon broods. They were the oldest and had mastered many forms of magical and natural abilities that humans and other dragons had never even heard of. That is why the humans had wiped them out. They lived the closest to the human lands and they were the biggest threat.
The walls were covered with paintings and drawings of dragons, all of them green. They seemed to be done with different colored herbs and small bowls of the colored paste were placed closed to the walls, obviously ready for use whenever the dragon decided to continue his paintings.
“Well this is depressing,” Zan said.
“Life is a depressing thing,” Lestrazar said, not turning to look at them as he continued to walk through the cave.
“On second thought, Zan. I don’t think he’s the cause of all of this. God knows that bitter magical dragons with depression never do anything unreasonable,” Terrin raised an eyebrow.
“Terrin!” Zan hissed.
“You think I’m the cause of the madness overtaking the rest of my species?” Lestrazar stopped and turned to face them.
“That’s why we’re here,” Terrin gestured to the group. “Are you honestly telling me that you appearing again right after the other dragons start getting sick is just a coincidence?” Terrin asked.
“Yes,” Lestrazar seemed unphased by the question. Terrin rolled his eyes.
“If it’s not you, then who is causing this?” Zan asked, as black liquid dripped from his eyes. He rubbed them with the back of his wing, black drops falling to the ground.
“Zan...” Terrin turned away from Lestrazar and touched his mate comfortingly.
“Hm, you’re sick,” Lestrazar muttered.
“He’s fine,” Terrin snapped, and wiped the black liquid from Zans snout. Lestrazar scoffed.
“Quiet, you overgrown lizard,” Terrin grumbled.
“Terrin...” Zan hummed. Terrin sighed and rolled his eyes.
“I’m not doing this. Why would I kill my own kind? If it was humans getting sick that would be different...” Lestrazar grumbled.
“I don’t think he’s lying, Terrin,” Zan said. Terrin stared at him for a long time.
“Then do you know what this is?” Terrin asked, gesturing to Zan. Lestrazar took a few lumbering steps and squinted his glowing eyes at the smaller red dragon.
“Hmmm...” he grumbled. He turned around and before Terrin could blink a tall human man stood there. He wore green armor with a jeweled cape trailing behind him. He stepped up to one of three bookshelves Terrin hadn’t seen before and pulled down a book. With a thumb on the corner he let the pages fly down until he stopped, flipped a few more pages, and let his finger trail down the page. “The Red Plague,” he tossed the book down to the stone floor at Terrins feet. Terrin bent and picked up the book and looked at the unusual lettering.
“I can’t read this...” Terrin frowned.
“It’s Draconic, even most dragons can’t read it anymore,” Lestrazar shrugged, a very human gesture.
“Why is it called The Red Plague, if it’s black?” Lewt stepped forward, her claws clicking on the floor of the cave.
“It’s not the symptoms the name refers to, it’s the source,” Lestrazar said, as he began flipping through a purple book he pulled from the shelf. He did the same thing, flipping through pages quickly, stopping, turning a few more, and then holding the book out for Terrin to see. “It’s a Mors Roseus. Red Death.”
“These flowers, they’re the ones that grew on the divide...” Xavier mumbled.
“I thought they grew naturally, they look like the ash flowers that grow by the lava pits,” Zan pointed out.
“They’re almost identical,” Lestrazar nodded. “I thought they were extinct,” he shrugged. “I suppose not.”
“These are causing the sickness?” Terrin asked.
“Most likely,” Lestrazar nodded his head once.
“Then we destroy them,” Lewt said, smoke and flames licking her leathery lips as she opened her mouth in a growl.
“That won't work, the ash from the flowers could cause even more damage if inhaled, the pollen is what causes... all of that.” Lestrazar gestured to Zan, whose eyes had glazed over black again.
“Zan?” Terrin asked.
“I’m... fine.” He shook his head but the black eyes stayed. Terrin swallowed and turned back to the book as Lestrazar translated it over his shoulder.
“It’s basically an allergy. Only some respond poorly to the pollen, others can stand right next to the stuff and would be fine. Burning them, however, will spread the ash, and the pollen with it. The actual flowers are poisonous, as well. So that means humans and dragons alike will be inhaling the toxic mess,” Lestrazar said.
“Okay, easy fix, we just figure out a way to get rid of the flowers, without burning them, and we’re good, right? I don’t care if I have to get the entire kingdom out there with pocket knives and flower baskets, we’ll get rid of the damned things,” Terrin shut the book, letting a puff of dust out from between the pages.
“Well, not so much,” Lestrazar stood up straight, after being bent over Terrins shoulder to read the book.
“What?” Xavier frowned.
“The flowers... they wouldn’t have grown naturally. I told you, they’re extinct. I’ve been around a long time and I haven't seen a single one of those things for hundreds of thousands of years,” Lestrazar shook his head. “The only way one would find one, especially so close to home, would be if someone saved the seeds and planted them.” Lestrazar looked at each member of the small group, before taking the book back from Terrin and shoving it back onto the shelf.
“So somebody purposely planted the flowers?” Zan whispered.
“Who would do that?” Terrin asked.
“I know there are some people still against the dragons and humans coming together, but no one with the resources or the willpower to do this,” Xavier shook his head.
“This is ludicrous!” Lewt shouted. “Why would someone do something like this?” she asked Terrin.
“I don’t know,” he shook his head.
“Do you think we should have asked Lestrazar to come back with us?” Terrin yelled over the wind.
“He may not be the one causing the flowers to grow, but I wouldn’t trust him around a city of humans. Dragons can hold grudges for a very long time,” Zan chuckled.
“Good point,” Lewt smiled a reptilian smile.
“What is that?” Xavier said, over the chatting friends.
“What's what?” Terrin looked in the direction Xavier was. The clouds were thick but Terrin knew that the coast was in that direction.
“That...” Xavier pointed, and Terrin finally saw it. Three ships sailed close to each other, and between them was a large, blue, water dragon. The serpent's body was twisted and wound around the boats. Both of its heads were busy blasting the wooden ships with jets of water, sending splintered pieces of wood and tattered sails everywhere.
“Zan, we have to help them, turn us around,” Terrin instructed, and Zan banked hard to his right, sending them towards the coast.
“Terrin, I don’t mean to contradict you, but fire and water don’t mix well,” Lewt banked so that she was flying wingtip to wingtip with Zan again.
“We have to do something, we can’t just let them die. They’re well within the designated shipping lanes, they must be sick,” Xavier said.
“No time for talking, take us down Zan,” Terrin said. Zan dipped his wings and circled the area, several sailors looked up when the large shadows were cast over the ships. The dragon roared and Zan banked just in time to avoid a blast of water to the face. “Drop down, we’ll have to take them off the ships before they sink,” Terrin shouted. Without a word, Zan dipped down even lower until he was flying in circles around the ships. He spread his wings wide enough to slow down and before he could even touch his large feet to the smooth wood of the ship, a blast of water knocked both him and Terrin into the water.
“Terrin!” Xavier shouted, and Lewt let a large blast of flame into one of the water dragons head. Steam rose into the air and covered the ships, and the dragon roared in agony, before diving under the water. Terrin bobbed to the surface and coughed hard. He looked around and when he realized that his lover hadn’t surfaced he waved to Xavier.
“He hasn’t come up yet!” Xavier shouted down to him.
“We can’t swim!” Lewt reminded them both. Terrin dove underwater but came back up seconds later.
“I can’t see, it’s too deep,” he shouted. Lewt looked around before she soared down to the ocean and dipped a toe in the water, allowing Terrin to grab on. She lifted them to the deck of one of the boats and set them down. Terrin covered his face and sobbed.
“Terrin...I...” Xavier didn’t know what to say. Suddenly, the ship heaved and began turning onto its side.
“It’s sinking!” Lewt said, and spread her wings ready to take off again.
“No, look...” one of the sailors pointed as a black claw hooked over the side of the ship, and a steaming scaled mass lifted itself onto the deck. Zan coughed, letting chunks of burning spit and water out onto the deck, where it steamed and fizzled out. Terrin stood and hugged the dragon hard.
“We need to get everyone out of here, he’s not going to stay gone for long and this ship is going down fast,” Lewt growled. Xavier climbed back onto her back and Terrin stroked Zan as he brought himself back up to his feet, coughing and hacking some more.
“Can you fly?” Terrin asked. Zan said nothing, but nodded. “Okay, everyone up, pick a dragon. Ten at a time, no more.” They took no more than thirty seconds to tie people with soggy ropes to the dragons legs and necks, before they were lifted up off of the boat and began flying to the shore. By the time they landed on the sandy banks, Zan was able to speak again. His own red scales had steamed and sizzled until all the water was gone.
“We need to go back, we still have two other ships,” Xavier said. As soon as the words left his mouth, an ear shattering roar lifted from the ocean. They all turned and soon realized it wasn’t a dragon’s roar, it was the roar of waves as the snake-like creature burst from the water, half of a ship in its jaws. Its eyes leaked black fluid like a waterfall and its jaws crunched the ship into tiny shards of wood. As the serpentine body bent and swayed outside the water, it collapsed, landing on the remaining inhabited boat. The waves and sea foam died down, and the dragon was gone. “Never mind,” Xavier whispered.
After twelve hours of searching the ocean for survivors, they were finally home. Terrin had called all ships and closed the ports down until the water dragon was found, and dealt with. He knew it wouldn’t last though, if they got rid of one sick one, another would replace it.
“What do we do, Terrin? Someone here is trying to get rid of the dragons, and they’re willing to do some pretty extreme things to do that,” Zan said as he collapsed onto the large bed that he and Terrin shared.
“I don’t know... first thing tomorrow we’ll find out who would even have the means and the know how to keep the seeds of those Red Death flowers, and we’ll go from there...” Terrin said, and before Zan could reply they were both asleep.
Terrin woke and the bed was empty. He frowned and stood up, looking around for his love. He stood and got dressed as fast as he could, before leaving his room to find Zan.
He found him in the library. His mate had several books lying in front of him and all were open to various pages. A stack of books sat in the corner of the table, stacked as tall as Zan was.
“What are you doing?” Terrin asked.
“You were tired, I let you sleep and started an investigation myself,” Zan mumbled, not looking up from his book.
“Find anything?” Terrin asked.
“I went into town and asked around several of the alchemy shops. They all laughed in my face when I asked if they had any seeds of the Red Death,” Zan explained, finally looking up from his book. “So after that, I started asking different mages and spell casters. None of them knew of anyone who had any of the seeds or flowers,” Zan said. Terrin sighed. “But, when I asked if they knew anyone who would have the desire to wipe out the dragons, everyone gave me the same answer,” Zan turned back to his books.
“The Necrovir Draco,” Zan said.
“I never payed attention when I was forced to learn Latin,” Terrin admitted.
“It means, loosely, Dragon Killers. They’re an old, old, old clan of knights and warriors whose only goal in life was to wipe out the dragons. They’re the ones who really pushed the war to start. They used to inhabit your kingdom, but were forced out hundreds of years ago. The king then, your great great grandfather, was the one who declared war on the swamp dragons. When the Necrovir joined the war, that’s when they were really wiped out. But not without a cost,” Zan stood up and walked over to a different open book, pointing to the page with a picture of several armed men fighting a large swamp dragon.
“The Necrovir were very powerful, they were generation upon generation of dragon slayers. Father taught son, who taught his son, who taught his son. You get it. This made them amazing allies in the war, but the downside was that they would stop at nothing to kill a dragon. Even if it meant sacrificing their own men.” Zan walked to a different book, Terrin following close behind. “Because they were such ferocious warriors, they were promoted to the rank of general remarkably quickly, so they had control of hundreds of troops. They would make up a fake battle plan and explain it to the king, getting him to approve it. But when it came time for battle, they would revert to a different plan. Using foot soldiers as live bait while they slayed the dragon. Thousands died at their hands and soon the kingdom was nearly out of soldiers. Luckily for you, the war ended quickly after the green dragons were wiped out. Unknown to us, you had no troops left to fight,” Zan leaned against the table.
“So where are they now?” Terrin asked.
“Gone. As far as everyone knows they were wiped out before your father became king. With dragons no longer an immediate threat, they had no use,” Zan shrugged.
“Then how could they be responsible. You’re saying dead knights brought back a dead flower to finish making the dragons dead?” Terrin asked.
“No. What I’m saying is... we thought the flower was dead, but it isn’t,” he clarified. Terrin stared at him, confused, before his eyes lit up.
“You think they’re still out there,” his eyes went wide.
“Yes. They’ve been very careful though, I went to the couriers nearby.” Zan grabbed a scroll that was marked with their kingdoms carriers seal. “He says there have been quite a few dragon killings, people just chalked it up to the Red Death, but look,” he unrolled the scroll and showed it to Terrin. “It says the dragons heads were severed, and their horns, teeth, and spikes missing. People thought it was just looters or bandits looking to make a little extra cash, since all of those are used as alchemy ingredients, but...” Zan ran over to the other side of the table again, back where he had started. “Look at this.” Zan held up one book open to a picture of a man in armor. At first he didn’t see what was so important. Then he saw it.
The man's armor was made entirely of dragon parts. Horns decorated his shoulders, and teeth protected his eyes inside his helmet. Spikes were welded into the armor, which was made of dragon hide from the looks of it.
“Their armor is made from harvested dragon parts,” Terrin nodded.
“Which have been banned since you became king. I hardly doubt that would stop some ‘dead knights’ though,” Zan grated.
“So they are out there... do you think they could have gotten a hold of Red Death seeds?” he asked.
“They’re a secret society who have gone undetected for hundreds of years. What do you think?” Zan asked.
“I think we have a lead.”