Erik stood at the forest edge, invisible both from view and their senses. Watching, right hand raised forwards as tendrils of darkness swirled before his index finger.
Aimed at a now fallen Kavek.
(“I guess I wasn’t needed after all.”) He mused, dissipating the spell even he considered cruel.
Erik turned away, knowing Thea would be fine all he worried about was Makaela’s state of mind. The dark elf seemed to have found clarity, yet he knew she’d still have doubts. He pondered how she would act when they met again.
Moving his thoughts elsewhere, Erik moved on with what task he originally landed the wyverns here for. They very well could’ve gone for a few hours longer but there was a place where he wanted to visit.
Erik moved through the thick brush, gently flowing through it as the grass and bushes seemed to make way for him. The moonlight finding its way through the branches and leaves above, it lit up his path.
He walked for several minutes, his expression dreadful the closer he got, his hands clenching onto his pockets further with each step.
Until he finally stood before it, stepping out of where the forest ended Erik found himself staring up at a massive hill growing out of a mountainside. Trees and grass growing all over it, hiding it completely other than the large entrance before him now.
A cave entrance that would’ve gone completely unnoticed until you came directly before its dark interior. Vines, roots and other fauna growing into the sides, walls and ceiling. Blending it with its surroundings.
He glanced around, trying to make out what he knew hid at the cave’s entrance. Yet they were invisible to his human eyes, his senses too weak to detect what to his draconic self would’ve been obviously there.
Erik took another step forward, suddenly faced with two earthen halberds blocking his way.
He glanced to either side, the guardians having finally revealed themselves to his trespassing. Large drake-like goliaths of earth, vines and tree branches covering up the dirt that made them up. Their thick arms heaved the massive earthen weapons, made of the same dirt and fauna that made the golems yet raw magic kept them sharp and just as resistant as the guardians themselves.
“I am Erikathyr…exiled.” Erik announced himself in draconic as was proper, the guardian’s silver glowing eyes falling upon his form.
“Exiled shall not trespass.” Said the left.
“You shall leave or die, exiled.” Said the right.
“I seek not trespass into Zeekiathron’s liar, I bring Zeekiathron himself.” Erik said, raising both arms forwards before quickly chanting. “Set, Form, Come to me from whence you are. Spatial School; Low Tier Teleportation.”
Before him then reality tore open, a violet rift opening as tendrils of gold lowered out, each tendril bringing out a piece of armour. From helmets, chest pieces, platelegs, gauntlets and so much more. Each made from dark brown scales, bright green claws and gleaming blue crystals.
“This is what remains of Zeekiathron, alongside…everyone else.” Erik said, the rift rising up as more different pieces of equipment were pulled through. A large pile of differently coloured Slayer sets now lying before him and the two guardians.
“Bolronyth, Thiodryn, Selekia, Novadreth, Kalrunyth, Dretethron…and Zyndreth.” Erik listed each Draconic name present within the pile of magically repurposed body parts. “I bring the long departed, so they might rest in peace.”
“Hmm, we accept the bodies and shall treat them with care.” Said the left guardian, as roots suddenly grew out of the ground and engulfed the entire pile, pulling them down into the dirt where they disappeared.
“You shall leave or die, exiled.” Repeated the right guardian.
Erik grimaced as he stared up at the earthen drakon, “Lair Guard, before I leave answer me this. Search your memory, within is there any record of the Dragon Wars?” he asked.
“Dragon wars…War…Dragon clans at war.” The left guardian said, causing Erik to turn to it.
“Who? Who started the war? Why!?” Erik demanded to know.
“White clan blames Blue for causing white child’s death, your death.” Continued the right golem, ”White clan annihilates Blue clan. Heresy, Green, Red and Brown clans avenge Blue clan. Black, Silver and Crystal wage war on Green, Red and Brown…”
“The dark dragons…iron dragons and crystal dragons? Against the vine, flame and stone dragons?” Erik repeated, his grimace faltering into a sullen expression. “I…caused this.”
“Yes, Erikathyr the destroyer causes war. Erikathyr now exiled drake. Exiled, leave or die.” Then said the left guardian.
Erik sighed in annoyance, “Yeah yeah, I’m leaving.” he responded before turning away. “Bloody brain dead golems,” he cursed in elven, “not even a thank you for uncursing the blazing pieces. Should’ve left them cursed, see the worm-filled morons purge it.” He continued to curse.
“We understand elven, exiled.” Said the right golem.
“Exiled, leave or die.” Said the left golem in elven.
Erik groaned while continuing to walk away, “I knew, elven just sounds better for insulting your empty heads!” he shouted back at the guardians as they melded back into the entrance’s walls.
Annoyance still clear in his expression, Erik headed back towards camp.
The next day
Thea opened her eyes, waking up to wind rushing over her. “Huh?…” slowly she organized her newly awoken mind, finally realising why she was looking at the bottom side of a wyvern.
From her brief view, she concluded it was male.
“W-W-What?!” Thea exclaimed as she glanced about, finding herself tied up to a wide plank of wood. The wyvern’s hind claws were gripping each end of the plank, where it had remained as an unformed log, yet slowly the claws were digging in.
Beneath her were several layers of cloth and a headrest also tied firmly to the plank, the headrest and herself both tied with several meters of rope. The rope almost covered her entirely, her head, breasts and feet the only parts of her uncovered.
She whimpered in fear as wind blew strongly through her, unwilling to look up once more and see the wyvern’s dangly bits she looked to her right. Seeing below, far…far below, a city approaching.
Built into the last mountain’s side, Daldorth the iron port, was just as its name intended. Tall iron walls were built out of the mountain, reaching all the way to the shore barely several kilometres away. A massive city lay within the walls, houses of red brick with some parts made of iron. Chimneys littered the view, pumping out steam and other trails of strangely coloured smoke.
Factories, blacksmiths, smelteries, and warehouses took a large chunk of the dwarven city. Housing was clearly separate, the buildings being many times smaller than the massive warehouses or long factories. Less enforced too, as the industrial side of the city lay mostly made of iron compared to the brick lain housing.
Thea watched the city from afar, slowly approaching the marvel of dwarven engineering, the sound of machines humming barely audible until something somewhere exploded. A common occurrence around the black powder loving dwarves.
To her, who had never seen a dwarven kingdom before, it all looked like a completely different world.
But as the ground suddenly began closing in, her thoughts moved elsewhere.
Thea paled as she wondered, (“How is it going to land if it’s holding me?…”) she asked herself, before suddenly the wyvern let go of her.
Falling, Thea experienced it to its fullest as she plummeted towards the ground. The shaped log she was tied to rotated and turned about too, giving her a brief sight of the approaching forest beneath. She was about to summon up her magic and break free of the ropes, but then noticed she was falling slower and slower with each passing second.
Thea sighed in relief as the log lowered itself through the trees safely, before being lain onto the forest ground. “Enhancement” Thea chanted in a whisper, a brief blue glow flashing over her body before she burst out of her bindings.
“Apologies for the rough ride, Selene,” Said Makaela snidely as she faded in with a burst of shadows, ”but it was the safest way to transport your comatose self we could come up with.”
“Comatose?…What happened to me?” Thea asked in confusion as she stretched her sore body.
“We dreadblades tip all our bladed weaponry with poison, even arrows.” Makaela answered with a shrug, “We’re also the only ones who know how to make the antidote, although it takes a while to combat it. You were…asleep for most of the ride.” she explained as the sound of wyverns landing reached them from nearby.
“Ah…right I was hit.” Thea remembered, moving about her shoulder she felt nothing though. “So we’ve arrived at Dal-” Thea was about to ask, when she suddenly heard whimpers from beneath the log. Rising quickly in surprise she then glanced beneath, where the log below had also been shaped into a flat plank she found a tied up Shizuka.
Arms and legs tied together she also had her mouth covered, yet her eyes were held open by pegs. Shizuka was in tears, her expression paper pale as she wormed about beneath the log. Trying to wiggle herself out from under but failing.
“Wha-Why?” Thea asked as she glanced between the bestia and Makaela in confusion.
“Ah…She tried to escape again, when ma-When Erik found out, he made this her punishment.” Makaela explained, seemingly amused by the sight of a squirming Shizuka.
“Oh…” Thea looked down at the bestia in pity, her own view was one for nightmares but she couldn’t imagine for how long Shizuka had spent staring down at the passing terrain.
“Had enough chit chat?” Erik asked in annoyance as he stepped out from behind parting bushes, “Makaela I told the rest to set up brief camp outside the city, we won’t be staying here long enough to need an actual camp. You and eleven others will shadow us throughout though.” He said before turning to Thea.
“So, we’re at the port city. What’s next?” Erik asked as Nerick struggled through the bushes that previously opened up for the drake. Ivara lay around his neck, snapping away at waving branches playfully.
“Uh…” she glanced back at a still tied up Shizuka.
Erik sighed, “Demorph” he chanted and the ropes that tied the bestia up suddenly transformed into dozens of snakes which quickly slithered away. Shizuka shook the serpents off as she immediately rose away, almost forgetting to remove the pegs from her eyelids after due to the fright and trauma.
“There she’s free, but if she runs away again I will dispose of her. I only made an exception last time because I pulled you away from babysitting this assassin.” Erik said sternly.
Thea could tell he was annoyed but didn’t know exactly why, (“Did something happen while I was out of it?”) she thought but decided to leave it for now. “A family friend lives at Daldorth port, he manages a couple ships the Crimson Guard usually hire for far transportation. We’ll find him and ask for transportation to Sinroz.” Thea explained.
“Ships? You mean those strangely carved wooden logs?” Erik asked in confusion.
“No…” Thea shook her head, “Dwarven ships are large constructs, marvels of dwarven engineering and construction. They mostly run themselves I hear, but require very skilled captains. I’ve never actually seen one but I’ve been shown pictures, they’re supposedly massive.”
“They’re made for war,” Nerick pitched in to explain, “Armoured as much as possible to defend against ocean monstrosities, armed with dwarven weaponry to deter pirate attacks too. Although a certain pirate crew is known to own one themselves…”
“Seafaring dwarves…” Erik mumbled, “This age is just getting stranger and stranger.”
“The dwarves looked out into the sea long ago,” Makaela began, awkwardly glancing away from Erik as she spoke. “They’ve been the masters of it since then. Nobody, not even the Mer and their tamed deepsea beasts can match the sheer firepower those ships can carry.”
“Good…last thing I want is to have another argument with a sea serpent!” Erik said with a snort, remembering the encounter from long ago.
“Argument?” Nerick asked with wide eyes, knowing full well what a sea serpent was.
“Let’s just say there used to be an island to the south of Sinroz.” Erik added before turning around, “Enough talking though, we’ve wasted too much time already.”
“Are you worried about this other dragon?” Thea asked, everyone having been briefed in on the situation throughout their first flight.
“I…” Erik paused for a moment, “To call out their full power like that, they must have been faced with an equal or stronger opponent they deemed worthy of it. Like Azruxan was to me…I must find them.” He said with resolve, walking back into the forest later.
“Oh-Uh wait up!” Nerick said after glancing at Makaela, preferring to stay with the drake than the dark elves.
“Is something wrong?” Thea asked Makaela, having noticed this awkward atmosphere between her and Erik.
“Things just feel strange at the moment, nothing for you to worry about Lady Selene.” Makaela said with a sneer, “Or is worrying over me your job too now?” she then asked, pointing at Shizuka who actually looked shaken by the ordeal as she sat over the shaped log.
“I-” Thea was about to respond but Makaela made her exit, dissipating into a burst of shadows. (“Avoiding the conversation more like…”) Thea thought before turning to the bestia as she sat hugging herself.
Thea crouched before Shizuka, “Are you alright?” she softly asked.
Shizuka glanced at her with wide eyes, “Why? Why did you protect me?” she asked bluntly.
Thea chuckled awkwardly, “Not one for small talk huh?”
Shizuka didn’t respond, instead she simply shook her head.
Thea sighed, “Well…as I told him, I-”
“Please Lady Selene, don’t give me that bull s*** too.” Shizuka said with an annoyed snort, “Y-”
Shizuka was about to say more, but suddenly couldn’t as Thea’s left hand flashed before her eyes. Grabbing her tongue in between her index and middle fingers, Thea stared at the bestia with a raised brow, “You will not speak in such a manner before me, is that understood?”
“Y-Yeus.” Shizuka responded with wide eyes, nodding too.
“I’m sorry it has come to this but you’re stuck with us now, that means you’re stuck with me.” Thea then said with a sullen tone, Shizuka nodded once more. “I cannot let you go, I know Erik wouldn’t bluff. He will kill you if you try to escape again, so don’t do it okay?” Thea asked with a friendly tone and creepily perfect smile.
Again, Shizuka nodded, eyes still wide.
“Good.” Thea then added, letting go of her tongue before rising to her feet. “Let’s go then, before Erik comes to drag us along.”
“You haven’t answered my d-question, ma’am.” Shizuka said, stopping herself from swearing again.
Thea paused as she had turned around to leave, glancing back at Shizuka the bestia saw pity in her eyes. “If you promise you won’t laugh…or tell anybody, I’ll tell you.”
“Promise.” Shizuka responded all too quickly, not one for losing an opportunity.
Thea grimaced lightly before turning away, “You’re…You look the same age as my younger sister, Kayle. That is why I stopped Erik from torturing you…when he was doing it to the dark elf I was too shocked to say a word but when he aimed his magic at you I…my body moved on its own.” she explained dryly.
A brief moment of silence passed by them, before suddenly Shizuka leaned over laughing. “T-That? That’s why you bloody stood in between me and a fuc-” her words were cut off there as Thea appeared before her, Shizuka’s tongue once again in between her fingers.
This time though she clenched them closer, causing the bestia some pain and teary eyes while Thea held her tongue higher. Having to lean up to diminish the pain.
“What did I say?” Thea asked in plain annoyance, she couldn’t stop herself from swearing within combat but she could at least teach this kid what a lady shouldn’t say.
“S-Swowry!” Shizuka pleaded, her feline ears rearing back into her hair.
“Hmph, at least you know to apologise. I’m not as harsh as Erik or Makaela, but don’t expect too much leniency from me, assassin.” Thea told Shizuka before letting go of her tongue once more. “Now we better catch up, I wouldn’t bet on it but he…he could leave us behind too…”
Two hours of walking later
Nerick lead their little party through the city streets, having been here before he mostly knew where they were headed. Thea and Shizuka followed while Erik stood at the very back, glancing around just as curiously as Ivara.
Both their heads moving about almost in unison as new sights came into view, chimneys blowing out smoke, vehicles driving through the middle of the road where apparently pedestrians weren’t allowed to walk through, and things just generally blowing up here and there.
Daldorth wasn’t as packed with people as Druvia, the dwarven race holding a much lower population than humans. Yet it was just as busy, every dwarf and dwarfess at work on some strange contraption, driving unusual carriages around or as they neared the plaza, bargaining much more aggressively than a human would with the merchant stands.
Although, humans knew when to stop bargaining, and when it was going completely the wrong way.
“So…they’re around us? Just, we can’t see them?” Nerick whispered back at Thea, still anxious about the xilfir.
“Why are you so bothered by them but not…him?” Shizuka asked with disbelief, gesturing back at Erik who wasn’t paying much attention to them as he looked about like a child in a new country.
“I mean…look at him.” Nerick whispered back, “He looks harmless…But the dark elves, they get under my skin-”
“Drop it, the xilfir aren’t as bad as we make them out to be.” Thea told them off after jabbing Nerick in the side, “We’ve reached the port.” she added while walking past him. Now at the lead of the group.
The street of concrete opened up before them, the houses suddenly ending as they found themselves staring out towards the open ocean. They stared out into the sea from in between two massive ships of metal. Whether they glanced to the left or the right they saw hundreds of metallic boats, small and large while withholding the same bulky and long shape.
Sailors, engineers, fisherman and guards frequented the wide port. The port itself was mostly a metallic platform held several feet above the water and held up by pillars of the same, non-iron, material that it was made of. As Erik stepped onto the metal planks he couldn’t tell what the material was, just that it definitely wasn’t iron as not a spot of rust was visible anywhere.
His gaze then moved onto the ships themselves.
The largest being twice the length of a wooden galley and a bit wider while the smallest was just the size of a carrack, they were also entirely made of metal as far as he could tell. On either side of the back and front a square shape bulged out from the main body of the ship, looking through the water Erik could see some sort of watermill-like waterwheel mechanism within.
“This way, Droy said to go to the far left.” Thea told them, gaining Erik’s attention as he looked away from the large ships.
They followed her, passing by several warehouses, workshops and some taverns. The port was just as wide as the city, taking up a kilometre of the shore which was littered with the ships and other strange contraptions.
“There they are, Genus and Co.” Nerick pointed out three ships of a specific colouring, red and gold just like the crimson guard’s main colour theme.
“Genus is the captain of the fleet and a merchant between the three kingdoms of Druvia, Sinbeni and Ashcal.” Thea explained to Erik, “My father would hire his ships for transporting the crimson guard across continents.”
“I see.” Erik said as he stared up at the largest of the three ships, Genus owning two of the smaller ones alongside a single goliath of a boat. “So where’s this Genus?…”
“Right down ‘ere I’d be,” said a grouchy voice from behind them, the group turning around to find a rather pale old dwarf with a short grey beard, buzz cut grey hair and crimson eyes standing there. He wore black pants, a red button-up shirt and a black coat. Alongside his left eye being lazy, he would’ve looked like the perfect dwarven pirate if it wasn’t for the copper goggles over his forehead.
“Genus?” Shizuka asked with a raised brow.
“I just said so, why ye askin? Do I look like ye mother?” The dwarf captain asked whilst rolling his good eye, “Go drop ‘er in the forge if I do, cause that be one ugly ass drab!”
Shizuka glanced at Thea, “What…is he saying?”
“You don’t want to know,” Thea whispered back before stepping to the front to stand before the dwarf. “Captain Genus? I’m Thea Selene, of the crimson guard mercenaries. We need transportation to Sinroz.”
“Lady Selene? I hear ye ole man be ten feet under?” Genus asked with wide eyes, “Yes, yes I shall gather the crew. But it may take me a wee bit, those lugs are still carryin off the latest haul.”
“How long do you think we’ll have to wait? And which one are we taking?” Erik then asked, gesturing at the ships.
“Err, could be three, could be four more hours. Depends on how drunk they all be matey. As for the ship, well how many ye be and what haul you carryin?” Genus asked back.
“I think the sm-” Thea began when suddenly Erik spoke in her head.
(“The big one.”)
(“W-What?”) Thea asked back.
(“I want to ride the big ship.”) Erik replied.
(“We can fit on one of the smaller ones though…”) Thea argued.
Erik turned away briefly from staring up at the bigger of the three ships, looking her straight in the eye with a dead set gaze. (“The big ship.”) he repeated, a proverbial glint in his eyes.
Thea couldn’t believe how child-like he seemed, almost feeling guilty of her next words. (“The smaller ship is faster, we’ll get to Sinroz quicker.”)
Erik glanced in between the big ship and Thea several times, the others staring at them both in confusion. Until he finally looked at the dwarf, shoulder slumping down in disappointment as he said, “We’ll take the small ship…”.
“Aye, then I shall get the crew, meet ‘ere in three hours then?” Genus said as he took out a compass from within his coat. It seemed broken to Erik.
“Yeah we’ll…I don’t know, what will we do for three hours?” Nerick then asked, holding Ivara’s tail to stop the wyvern from jumping at the many flies buzzing about.
“How about ye get a taste of real dwarven ale ey?” Genus offered, “Good food too, I’d suggest a tavern down the right side of this here port. My Pearl tavern, it be called.” He pointed them down the opposite side of the port.
“Ale?” Erik repeated the unknown word.
“Alcohol.” Nerick answered, gaining a confused raised brow from the drake. “Oh, we have to go now.” Nerick then said with a wide grin.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea…” Thea offered worryingly.
“I’m no child Thea, I wish to know what this…Alcohol, is.” Erik said sternly before walking off on his own.
“Oh, this is going to be fu-priceless,” Shizuka quickly corrected herself, “it’s going to be priceless!”.
Thea was too worried to notice, looking after a drunk drake sounded like potential genocide to her. “We should stop him…”
“Ah we will if he can even get tipsy! I just want to find out.” Nerick said before pushing them both with, Ivara hissing down at Shizuka from the sudden proximity causing Nerick to pull away. “Ah…she still hasn’t forgiven you for kicking her.”
“She bit me!” Shizuka argued.
Thea sighed…then noticed Erik had actually gone ahead without them. “Let’s go before we lose him!” She told them both then stormed forwards.
It didn’t take a lot to catch up to the humanoid drake, Erik didn’t walk very fast. Having finally caught up to him though they still had to walk a fair bit more before encountering the tavern, My Pearl. Seemingly older than all the others they had passed by, slightly more run down that is, the tavern had black painted walls and a dark oak door. Above the door was a wooden white sign with a black, iconic galleon ship painted over it.
Thea grimaced as she saw how interested and curious Erik actually seemed, to the point that he seemed to have forgotten all about the big ship. “I still think this is a bad idea…” she tried to argue again.
“Hah, I’m a drake Thea, whatever this…Alcohol is, I shall not be defeated easily.” Erik assured all too eagerly as he pushed the door open.
(“DON’T LET HIM INSIDE THAT TAVERN!”) Makaela suddenly bellowed within Thea’s mind, without needing for an explanation she lunged forwards towards Erik…
But it was too late, missing his shoulder she then stumbled inside behind him.
Thea found herself within a jolly tavern, charcoal black wooden walls, cherry flooring and metallic tables all around but the bar itself which was made of the same black wood as the walls shaped with the design of waves passing through.
Dwarves, humans, and even a couple bestia sat or stood about chatting, drinking, eating and some cheering for seemingly no reason. Looking around she saw nothing out of the ordinary, until her gaze fell upon him…
A male human with short pitch-black hair, the scruffy start of a beard and bright green eyes. Seemingly in his late teens, the boy was completely inebriated as he held two dwarven women beneath each arm, swinging from left to right and singing alongside the main table where he sat.
Thea couldn’t not recognise him, his face, although much more well kept…was all over the northern kingdom. Statues, paintings and so many other things in his name.
The Chosen of Findri.
Alan, the slayer of Erikathyr sat drunk within the tavern.