Makaela groaned as she stretched out her arms, having to endure the recoil of strain that came from overuse of her enhancement magic. As she did, she stared off at the approaching formation of large rocks amidst the desert. Her group of dune-riders, small boat-like transports that rode the wave-like sands, where only one-fifth of the assault force used to attack the convoy that they had long left behind hours ago.
The rebels had divided into five groups, dispersing their numbers to decrease the chance of being tracked by survivors while they made their escape with the hostages and resources pillaged.
Makaela stood at the very front of one dune-rider, wearing a single-lens set of goggles to block out the sand from entering her eyes as did most of the rest. As she stood alone staring off into the distance, all she could do was ponder on what had happened.
(“He’s awakened…”) she thought, at least knowing that Erik had woken up, as did every other Xilfir.
The unmistakable roar that had preceded the pillar of darkness, told her as much. But she still couldn’t help but worry, (“What was that…dark energy?”) thinking of the quaking earth and air, remembering the sight of the pillar of demonic power that rose into the sky.
She had never seen anything like it, but had heard of something similar from stories older than her. Stories that told of Azruxan’s arrival on Faetera, of a rift opening at the heart of Druvia, out of which came the energies of Hell itself. A darkness that had enveloped the surrounding towns and cities into disaster.
Yet…the stories did not speak of the very ground they stood on…the air they breathed…shuddering as if in fear. A cold fear that filled her own heart with dread when it occurred, her heart, which she thought had reached the point of numbness.
But she knew better now, that numbness could only block out so much. Makaela still felt fear, she still felt worry and dread…alongside another feeling she couldn’t control. A fluttering of the heart, whenever she heard a certain someone’s voice.
And as the dune-riders entered the Lair. Driving straight into one of the largest rock formations, and disappearing into its side, as if having disintegrated into the stone.
The first thing she saw, was a bright sun shining down upon the cavern, as wailing green phantasms flew about it.
As a serpent of storm, a hound of flames and a moving puppet of earth, formed on either side of it.
The light dimmed, revealing the draconic humanoid within. “I am Erikathyr, Guardian of Nature’s Spirit, Destroyer of the weak and foolish…Slayer of Azruxan the Brute, Slayer of Delirio the traitor!” He bellowed, his voice demanding their attention and obedience.
“Slaves, Pirates, Thieves and Bandits. I welcome you all, to the birth of a new empire…” He stated with flair, pausing for effect and for his words to sink in.
“For be it Xilfir be it Human or Bestia…Be it even Dwarves or Mer. All are welcome.” Erik said with arms wide open, as he slowly hovered down to be more visible than the speck of light he was at the cavern’s highest.
“And be it hell, or even heaven…” He continued, as the camp gathered beneath him, workers and soldiers in training dropping everything they had been doing to watch and listen. Even Makaela’s squad, and the just now arriving Pyra’s, listened attentively as they raised their sails and dropped the ramps.
“Nothing will stand in our way!” Erik bellowed, a resounding cheer from beneath following his words.
“Nothing…” Speaking again, his voice like a serpent’s hiss, travelling further than it should have and silencing the crowd’s cheer, “will stand in this Dragon Empire’s way.”
His draconic voice overtaking all sound, and all thought.
After which, silence followed, as if the entirety of the cavern held its breath. As if, everyone waited for more.
And slowly, as realisation came that he was finished and that they wouldn’t be disrespectfully speaking over him…Not that they could anyway…The cheers returned to fill the silence.
Louder than ever before, and more akin to the cry before a battle. The sound of their joined voices, was now only matched by the sound of Erik’s wing beat.
It was a cry of hope, filling them all with resolve as the dreadblades scattered the crowd to continue work. Each man and woman, each child, moving about with new found strength.
Makaela grinned as she watched him, (“Risen anew…like a phoenix.”) she mused, (“Shining just as bright as ever, above everyone and everything else…Like a god amongst men, just how grandfather’s stories…depicted him.”) she thought. Continuing to gaze at him, as he approached her.
But Makaela knew, (“Yet…He’s no god, and the depictions are just as inaccurate as the sight before me.”) She knew now, of how Erik really was. (“Filtered by his own light…”) Of the individual, he was behind his draconic brightness.
“You returned, seems like you have done well while I was out of sorts.” Erik mused as he landed before her, wrapping in his large wings between his back and cape, but doing nothing to hide their size.
(“You act, as if the entire world rests on your shoulders…”) Makaela though was deep in thought, continuing to gaze and ponder even as he spoke to her.
“Makaela?” Erik called out her name, raising a brow as she woke from her daze.
“A-Ah, yes?” She asked, blinking her eyes trice.
“We need to…talk,” Erik said, his gaze faltering as he glanced away. “Preferably in private.”
“D-Did something happen?” Makaela asked, noticing his behaviour.
Erik sighed, giving her a weary smile. “A lot has happened, come, we’ll talk as we walk.”
He showed the way through the camp, and she followed, the both of them sharing of what had happened as they spoke. Erik immediately told her that everyone was healthy and fine, giving Makaela much needed relief before she began to explain how the assault on the convoy went.
She told him of their losses, and their results. How many people they lost, and an estimate of the resources they gained.
But Erik didn’t seem very interested in any of that, staying silent as she reported the victory.
Only speaking up when they reached a large doorway that hadn’t been there before, the two massive wooden gates opening for them as they walked through, and closing behind them.
“Makaela, we defeated Delirio and…rescued the drake, Ivyieth.” Erik then said once the doors closed shut.
“Really? That’s a relief…but, you don’t seem very enthusiastic about that…” She pointed out, leaning forward as they walked side-by-side through the short corridor to get a glance at his current gloomy expression.
“Well…yeah, Delirio managed to transfer Ivyieth’s soul into a human vessel past the point of return. We had no choice but to quicken the process to save her, while I dismantled her bindings…but, that unleashed something else.” Erik sighed as he explained, “Devil prince Brazath has entered our world.”
“A-A Devil?!” Makaela exclaimed in surprised elven, “W-What happened after that?” she pressed for more.
“Brazath ran off, thankfully…” Erik said with disdain clear in his tone, “He felt…different from Azruxan…his mana was darker, his scent far more intoxicating…Kyllix said-Ah, right. Kyllix left earlier, he had to return to his realm.”
“The God left?…Not to sound relieved but, I never trusted that man anyway.” Makaela mused with some annoyance.
“Indeed, he’s an odd one. But his information has proved reliable thus far, he even managed to explain to me what Thea’s strange power is about…” Erik said, pausing as they reached one door along a corridor of many. “Anyhow, Kyllix said that Azruxan was a different kind of Devil, unlike Kurzan, Xokith and his son, Brazath…He said that Devils like Azruxan and Azkel, are unmatured like drakes are. Devillings he called them, or Unascended.”
“Unascended…In elven, that would mean those three are on a completely different level of power, when compared to Azruxan.” Makaela said with hesitation.
“It would seem so,” Erik said as he turned to face her, seemingly inspecting her expression for a moment.
“W-What?” Makaela asked in elven, disturbed by his staring.
“Risera Isiroth, I know you fought and defeated her at the assault, but who is she to you?” Erik asked, speaking in elven as well.
Catching Makaela off-guard with his question, as her eyes widened in surprise. “Hah…So Kayle really is here, isn’t she? Pyra told me that she had an idea of…And Zentha told me that she would know even more now.”
“Which of them was it?” Erik asked, his solemn gaze piercing right through her.
“Zentha, for seven years, she was under that whore’s influence.” Makaela answered with contempt, glancing away, unable to meet his eyes as he stared at her. “D-Does she-”
“Thea knows, she knows the entire story as do I.” Erik answered before she could even ask. “Give her some time, as things are right now…You two shouldn’t speak, not yet.”
“I’m sorry, for keeping it from you…I thought…rather I hoped it would never come up.” Makaela said, “If you need me to…” She turned to face him, smiling coldly as she once did, “I will resign from my post…Pyra can lead in my place just as w-”
“Resign?” Erik repeated in question, seeing through her fake smile which quickly faltered on meeting his cold gaze. “Makaela, this is between you two, it has nothing to do with me. You will not resign, you will not run away from this either. You both must figure your way out of this maze you now find yourselves trapped in. For better or worse, you trust in one another, no?” He said, as his previous cold demeanour changed into a warm smile.
“Y-You heard all that?…” Makaela asked with some embarrassment.
“When I awoke, every word you all spoke through the blood bond, rushed into me like a rain of arrows…” He said with a sigh, “Do you remember what I told you? Months ago, among the forest and outside the dwarven city?”
“Which part? Where you denounced yourself as our Deity?” Makaela asked with an awkward tone.
Erik chuckled as he shook his head, “When I told you to think for yourself, and told Thea to see through the masks you wear. I can tell, I’ve noticed how much closer you two have become.”
Makaela chuckled, “What about it? She’s…hard to hate.”
“And you’re hard to understand, even I needed a certain fox to help me. Makaela, if you’re conflicted on who to choose between us and your people…The decision is all up to you, and no matter which you choose, I will hold no grudge.” Erik reassured her.
“Even if I choose to protect my people…over helping you?” Makaela sheepishly asked.
“Yes, even then. Because for once, you’d have chosen a path for yourself. And nothing could make me prouder than to see you grow independent from me.” Erik said…
But she could tell from his expression and tone, that her words had still saddened him.
Seeing his sorrow at the thought of her leaving, it gave her joy, but at the same time filled her with guilt. (“What am I doing?…”) She wondered, as she met his deep blues, “Then, you won’t mind, if I choose you anyway?” She asked.
Her body suddenly moving on its own, as she stepped closer to him.
(“Am I this unfair?”) Makaela asked herself, as she found her face mere inches away from his surprised expression. (“Only…another step and…”) She thought, as she lay her right hand over his chest. (“He could be…Maybe we could…”)
But she stopped herself, as he had glanced away from her.
Burning that slight bit of hope that had suddenly appeared in her heart, (“I’m not the one he sees…”) she knew that before, yet his earlier saddened eyes had made her wonder…what if?
A ‘What if’, that he had just denied by looking elsewhere.
Makaela pulled away, “I shall return to the camp then, we must make preparations for Lahihr, and you should go check on the others…” She solemnly said, then walked around him, taking a few steps away before pausing.
“I treasure Thea, as a friend I’ve never had before. I treasure you, as someone I look up to…But,” She told him, (“Because you won’t see me…”) thinking to herself before continuing to walk away.
“I choose my people, I choose my brother and sisters.” Then speaking again with finality as she left.
Leaving Erik alone, and with his thoughts.
(“What was that…about?”) As he did not realise what had just occurred, other than the sudden weakness he had felt when she approached him. Deciding it was best to not think too much about it, he pushed open the door he had stopped at, entering to find Nerick standing with his back to the wall.
Directly to his left, and staring at him with a raised brow and narrow eyes.
“I…didn’t mean to listen in but, these walls aren’t exactly thick.” Nerick said, “I’m not really sure what I just heard, either.”
Erik sighed at his words, “How is she?”
“She just woke, she’s asking for you so I was coming to get you. Then I realised we were in a different complex entirely, that Thea and Kayle are somewhere else, and that there was an extra door…” Nerick explained, straightening himself before leading the way to the room.
Nerick paused before the door, “Prepare yourself…” he warned Erik with a glance, then turning back and pushing it open.
Revealing a disaster zone, as furniture, bedsheets and other objects lay scattered about the floor. Shizuka stood at the centre of the room, trying to clean up a shattered vase with her water magic, but stopped when she noticed them entering.
“Finally, see? I told you he’d come, can you calm the hell down now?” Shizuka said, turning to the agitated girl that lay sitting at the bed’s corner and as far away from the centre as possible, legs raised before herself as she hugged them.
Erik now understood Nerick’s warning, not only was the drake highly agitated but her body’s appearance had…changed. The only similarity to her earlier form, were the green eyes that had remained, but the rest was entirely different.
For one, her body had somehow grown much younger. Now seeming like a young girl in her early teens compared to the late twenties woman’s body she had before. Her hair also had changed from being short and pitch black, to a pale brown, approaching dirty blonde. And was long enough to reach her own feet, as she lay on top of the scattered mess of hair.
But what was most noticeable, were the draconic parts of her.
Her eyes were like a serpent’s slits, focused and alert.
Her skin, although pale, came with patches of emerald snake-skin-like scales.
A tail, was also present, as it lay wrapped around herself. Reptilian and bright emerald green just like her scales, but unlike Erik’s which ended with a thin and smooth tip, her’s ended with a crystal bulge akin to a war-mace.
Finishing her appearance, was her singular horn. Crystalized just like her tail’s end, and rising out of her forehead like a crescent moon that had been sharpened to have a bladed edge.
And as Erik came to stand before her, Ivyieth’s feral eyes locked on him. “You…Erikathyr?” She asked in draconic.
“She’s been saying your name a lot, but we can’t comprehend anything else.” Nerick explained with a shrug.
“She doesn’t speak common?” Erik mused as he faced her, “I am Erikathyr, and you are Ivyieth then?”
Her eyes widened with relief as her tail uncoiled from around her, then letting go of her feet she leaned onto all fours, grimacing when she accidentally pulled on own her hair to move. “G-Gwah…Y-Yes! I’m Ivyieth! W-Where…where has the demon gone?” she asked after stepping off her own hair.
“Demon? What demon do you speak of?” Erik asked back, unsure who she was referring to.
“My captor! The vile creature that chained me and…what happened to me?” Ivyieth asked as she glanced down at her hands.
“Young one…you weren’t held by a demon but instead by a Black Clansmen, Delirio, who sided with the Devils.” Erik explained as she neared closer, inspecting his tail and wings with great curiosity before looking at her own tail.
“Delirio? A Black Dragon?…I-I couldn’t tell…” Ivyieth mused with surprise.
“I don’t blame you, his people are well learned with deception. As for what happened to you-” Erik continued, but paused as Ivara suddenly appeared out of nowhere and leapt onto Ivyieth, wrapping herself around the drake’s neck and shoulders as if at home.
Ivyieth didn’t seem to mind, as she petted the young wyvern with a childish smile. “Hm…Ah!” Moments later remembering that he was still there, and she yelped in embarrassment before returning to face him. Her eyes wide as she sat straight.
“Ah…Ivyieth, how old are you?” Erik asked with an awkward smile.
“Eh-Errr, what…year is it?” She asked, still embarrassed from her moment of distraction.
“This is the 6th age, year 225 since last month.” Erik answered.
“Ah then…I’m on my first cycle still,” Ivyieth counted something on her fingers before responding, “A…hundred and…twelve years.”
“So, she’s basically still a child…” Erik mused in common.
“Like we haven’t figured that s*** out already, little thing acts like a wild beast.” Shizuka grumbled.
“So…Elder, what happened to my body? Why am I in this strange mixture of a form?” Ivyieth then asked, the word ‘Elder’ catching Erik off-guard.
Swelling him with pride, “Ah…Delirio was trying to fuse your soul alongside hundreds of others into a small vessel which he then wanted to offer to his master, the Devil Brazath. We stopped the ritual but…your soul was too far gone into that vessel, so we had no choice but to pull it the rest of the way. Apologies little one, but you’re stuck in this body, as dreadful as it might sound.” He explained to her.
“Hmm…I don’t mind it, I still have my tail, horn and claws, and my magic doesn’t feel obstructed at all…I think I actually like this form better, I’m smaller and harder to catch!” Ivyieth exclaimed as she suddenly stood up, but tripped over her own hair and fell forward into the bed. “Oof…”
“Well as long as you don’t mind it. But it might take you a few days to get used to moving about, although it didn’t really take me long since I frequently shape-shifted in the past.” He warned her.
“O-Of course, It won’t take me long either!” Ivyieth assured him as she pulled herself together, moving to sit back down and remain still as to not fall over again, nor embarrass herself further.
Ivara though whined in annoyance as she had to leap off as to not get squashed. The young wyvern then gliding over to Nerick’s neck where she coiled up and fell back asleep.
“If you say so…Also Ivyieth, I’ve been meaning to ask you something since…I’ve known of you.” Erik then said, his previous cold gaze softening as he realised this was truly just a child.
“If Elder brother wishes to know something, I can answer!” Ivyieth replied respectfully, her tail beginning to swing about excitedly.
Causing him to smile, (“Elder is enough…”) He thought but didn’t want to burst her bubble, “Ivyieth, who were your parents? Where were you born and how did you survive this long alone?”
Ivyieth’s excitement died down, her tail lowering about her as her expression darkened at his question. “I…Galaxio was my father, a Green Dragon, and Terrestra was my mother, a Brown Dragon. But…I never knew either of them. When I was laid as an egg, I was given to a Fae Lord who took care of me.”
“A Fae?” Erik mused, (“Things were so dire then…that they relied on Pepputia?”)
Ivyieth nodded, “Lord Dree’Velio Adreus, and his mate, Lady Dree’Velio Soleil. They raised me…”
“Do you mind if I ask…what happened? When and how were you taken?” Erik asked softly, seeing the pain that now filled the young one’s eyes.
“I don’t…remember everything. It was four months ago, and all I remember was the sky turning black one day…the…beating of heavy wings…” Ivyieth shook her head, returning to hugging her legs and tail as she tried to remember. “I don’t even know if they…lived…”
Erik stepped to stand at the bed’s side, “Don’t worry young one, the Fae are tricky, they won’t die so easily.” He assured her, patting the sulky drake over the head and trying not to cut himself on her very sharp horn. “We have some business still on this continent, but I can send some messengers to Pepputia to get the whole story. Is it fine with you if you wait here just a bit longer?”
Ivyieth nodded silently, lowering her gaze and grabbing her own head as he removed his hand, seemingly embarrassed by his patting.
Erik turned to the other two, “Shizuka, give the young one an appropriate haircut, you know where ever you put the tool for that right?”
“A tool you wouldn’t have even considered if I didn’t tell you about it…” Shizuka reminded him with a snide smirk, “Yeah, I know where the scissors are.” She then said, taking a pair out of a nearby drawer.
“Fine,” Erik rolled his eyes as he then turned to Nerick, “I need to speak with you in private as well, bring Ivara with you.” Nerick nodded and moved to open the door, “Shizuka when you’re done, take the little one to where Thea and Kayle are, I’m sure they’d like the company now…”
“Ah…sure.” Shizuka said sheepishly as she watched them walk out, sighing after as she turned to face the feral beast before her.
Silence befell the both of them for several moments as they gazed at one another.
Ivyieth then regained the cold wide grin she wore before Erik had entered, as she bunched up her hair and showed it to Shizuka, “Well beastie? I believe Elder brother ordered you to take care of me?” she said snidely in elven.
Shizuka raised the scissor before herself and cut empty air a few times, “I’ll cut you…” she warned the youngling with basic elven.
“Isn’t that the point?” Ivyieth continued to be contemptuous, causing Shizuka no small amount of annoyance.
As the Spirit Beast summoned up dozens of tendrils of spiritual energy, and the Drake formed crystal blade-edged vines out of her back.