The Gods of Dragons (Vol 1)

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic


Sixteen - No Doubt, 1995

Chapter 5 (v.1) - Sixteen

Submitted: May 13, 2018

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Submitted: May 13, 2018

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Ulhar 23, 1102

He remembered Nurangran Flintchest's back as he moved forward to pick up the rescued girl. He thought he remembered the mage Ivelm opening another portal. He definitely remembered leaning against one of the surrounding pines and resting his eyes for just a moment…

"Completely unscathed?" he could hear someone talking… General Davies...

Shon's eyes were closed, and he didn't want to open them. His head felt like someone was pounding nails into it, and even the little bit of light filtering through the skin of his eyelids was making it worse.

"A few minor cuts and bruises, but other than that she seems fine." That was the Hamerfoss cleric's voice… "I was afraid she may have some kind of infection at first…"

"What would make you think that?" Weaponmaster Daunas Mung…

"Well her skin was just so hot. But definitely not burned, not even pink."

"Can a fire resist spell do that?" the general…

"Not with fire that hot! It was melting the stone." Mage Ivelm. Shon flinched as the man didn't even try to keep his voice down. "I doubt she's human."

"She looks human enough to me." Weaponmaster Daunas.

"Some of the worst demons and devils appear human." the general.

"I don't sense any evil from her." the cleric again.

He must be in the medical word. Why else would they be talking to each other with him just laying here, apparently unconscious? The cleric assigned to Hamerfoss almost never left the word except to go to the chapel or meals. As if reading his mind the general spoke again.

"And Shon?" he asked,

"Physically fine." the cleric said, but considering the pain in his head, Shon was inclined to argue the point. If he could bring himself to even open his eyes. "He's been spiritually drained but should recover fine in a day or two."

Ivelm scoffed loudly, "he did some impressive work. Are you sure you don't want to force him into the guild?"

But luckily master Daunas came to his defense, "Hardly. Even if he didn't want to stay, I wouldn't give him up without a fight. Monk V would never forgive me." the mage scoffed again.

"Well gentlemen, let's continue this conversation in my office shall we?" the general.

Shon could hear at least three sets of booted feet moving away from him, and another pare moving closer. Breathing deeply he braved the light and opened his eyes as slowly as he could.

The light caused waves of sheering pain starting in his eyes and washing back over his head and down his neck, but rather than getting worse, it seemed to lessen the longer he kept them open. Turning his head slightly to the right Shon could see the resident cleric drawing a curtain over the window, blocking some of the bright morning light. Slowly he turned his head to the left and saw another bed a few yards away.

It was the girl. She had a blanket pulled up to her neck, but he could see her chest rise and fall in a deep, sleeping rhythm. She definitely looked human, her gold hair pooled around the pale skin of her face, but Shon couldn't help but remember that same hair wiping about her as she stood naked and unbothered in the raging fire.

Sighing Shon closed his eyes again and tried to fall back asleep. The commanding officers would decide what to do. All he could do now was rest.

***

Ulhar 25, 1102

She was warm, and the bed was soft, but the smell was different, and the realization caused her eyes to fly open, momentarily confused. Then the memories started coming back in jagged bits and pieces. The sound of running feet coming from the ceiling, the melting door handle… it made no sense, but she knew. Knew everything had changed…

She could feel the moisture build in her eyes, blurring her vision. Angrily she wiped the tears away and struck the mattress in frustration before rolling to her side and sitting up. The room was almost painfully white. White sheets, white wall hangings, white carpet under the beds. How in all the hells did they manage to keep the place clean? On the wall across from her bed was a shelf holding a little altar, the banner behind it depicting a fist holding a lightning bolt. Heironeous. She had read about him in one of the many books her caretakers had given her. Those were probably gone too...

"Oh, you're awake." she jumped, the ropes of the bed creaking as her weight came back down on them, she hadn't noticed the person now walking towards her from the corner to her left. Turning that way she saw a large desk with papers stacked neatly on it, another small altar to Heironeous in the corner. "You seem well enough."

The man had a kindly smile, and she didn't pull away when he reached down to feel her head and lifted her hand to take her pules. "Still warm though..." his brow furrowed but he let her arm go without further comment.

"The general will want to speak with you." he smoothed his white robes, also with the symbol of Heironeous on in, and began moving towards the door, "if you will wait just one moment." he left, and she had a fleeting thought to follow. He hadn't locked the door, she could just go. Then she could go outside whenever she wanted, maybe even travel to different provinces. She stood, taking stalk of her bare feet and the long white shift. Of course, it was white.

But she didn't go for the door. Instead, she went to the window and looking out was shocked to see treetops and blue sky. She was so accustomed to sleeping in the lower levels of her tower that being in an upper room had momentarily surprised her. Placing her hands on the glass, she stood on her toes to try and see further down the building. There was a large courtyard, surrounded by tall, thick walls. People in silver armor walked along the battlements, and she had to wonder if she even could leave if she were to try.

She watched the people in the courtyard. Some were firing bows at distant targets, others were facing off against each other in dirt rings. Some were just moving from one area to another, disappearing into doors she couldn't see.

The door behind her opened, and she pulled away from the window. She turned to see an older man, his brown hair peppered with silver, neatly cut and clean shaven. He wore a long sword on his belt and his tabard, lined in gold, bore the symbol of Heironeous. "Good morning." his voice was authoritative but not unkind. And he motioned towards the bed with one leather gloved hand.

Taking a seat on the bed, she didn't wait for him to speak further, "Where am I?"

The cleric from before dragged the chair from his desk over for the man to sit, which he did before answering her question. "You are in the Fortress of Hamerfoss. Northern training facility for the Order of the Sword." that would explain all the Heironous symbols…

He continued, cutting her off before she could ask anything more, "What is your name."

Her mouth snapped shut on the question she was going to ask and blinking a few times said, "I don't know yet."

His speckled eyebrows lifted, and when she didn't clarify her answer he said, "what do you mean by that?"

She shrugged, "They always said I would know my own name, and to tell them when I did." She shook her head, "but I really have no idea what that's supposed to mean." she had asked them many times when she was younger, years and years ago. But finally stopped when they just kept giving her the same answer again and again.

"Who are 'they'?" he asked next, causing her to tilt her head in confusion.

"my caretakers." He said nothing, "The wizards of the tower." but thinking of the tower caused a chasm to open in her chest and she looked down at the hands in her lap, forcing back the emotions, "Please don't make me go back there…" her voice was a whisper and the man leaned forward to bring his face closer to her.

"There is no 'there' to go back to," she looked up, confused, "The tower burned to the ground, much of the stone melted. We found no other survivors." his voice was measured, his eyes studying her face for a reaction. "No natural fire could do that…"

She lowered her eyes again, staring at the hands clenched into fists in her lap. It didn't matter anyway. They had taken her treasures from her. That memory burned the tears away, and she said nothing. Finally, the man asked, "Do you remember what happened?"

She looked up, and something in her eyes caused the man to sit back in his chair, "He took my treasures, killed them," her voice trailed off as she tried to recall the details, but there was nothing but white-hot anger… "there were two older men and a younger. He had blue eyes."

"What do you mean by 'treasures'?" he leaned forward again and she tilted her head at him.

"The other subjects, mixed breeds, and samples…" he looked puzzled, and her voice trailed off.

"What exactly were they doing out there?" the question was directed at her, and she blinked again tilting her head to the other side.

"Bringing back the dragons," she answered.

***

Ulhar 26, 1102

Shon had left the medical ward two days previous and Weaponmaster Daunas wasted no time getting him back to work. Breaking through the layer of ice that had formed over the water in the rain barrel Shon splashed cold water onto his face and down the back of his neck while the others just shook their heads in confusion. All the  were used to this behavior, so they said nothing as they filed past into the barracks, intending to get a hot shower in before dinner. Shon hated the crowds that always formed in the halls and showers after a particularly hard drill and instead avoided them both by staying outside and showering after dinner.

There were only around fifteen squires at any one time being trained in Hammerfoss, but when all of them wanted to shower at once, it was fourteen too many. Instead, he plopped onto the bench beside the barrel with a heavy 'thunk' and proceeded to unbuckle his armor. By the time he was ready to carry it to his , the halls would be mostly clear. Then he just needed to wait for dinner to start and he would be first in line.

Leaning back he ran his fingers through his black hair with a sigh. It needed to be cut. It was about two finger widths long already and well out of regulation. The sun was already setting, painting the winter sky in a rainbow of reds and purples and blues. It was while he was leaning on the wall watching the colors in the sky that he caught sight of something out of the ordinary on the roof. Squinting up he could make out a figure in white, but it couldn't be any of the paladins, it wasn't a location they patrolled. He leaned forward and saw the gold hair flowing down the back as the figure turned to put their hands down before taking a seat.

The girl…

But what was she doing alone and on the roof? A moment of dread seeped into Shon's mind. He wasn't known for being particularly kind or sympathetic to the loss experienced by the other squires in the fortress. The truth was he didn't really have anything to compare the loss of a family member too and wasn't practiced in comforting others. It didn't mean he didn't care… and this girl had just lost everything. What if she jumped… but she was sitting, not standing on the edge or anything...

Shon made the decision and was moving even while he questioned the wisdom of the idea. He didn't run. Instead, Shon stopped by his room, dropping off his armor and slipping on a clean tunic. He was almost out the door when the leather journal he was currently working  caught his eye on the desk by his bed. If she didn't want his company, Shon wouldn't force it on her, and it would be nice to have while he waited for dinner. Scooping up the journal he took a deep breath and headed for the fortress roof.

He was trying to decide on what exactly to say as he stepped onto the window ledge that led out to the roof. Looking up  his feet he saw dark blue eyes staring at him. She must have heard him coming. "Um…" he swallowed.

"Hello." she tilted her head to one side like a cat, her gold hair falling in that direction. "Did I take your spot? I'm sorry."

Shon blinked in confusion, waiting just a moment too long before answering, "uh. No, it's ok… I, um, just saw you up here and wanted to make sure… " what? That she wasn't going to jump to her doom? Stupid stupid stupid.

But the girl smiled, and it made her eyes sparkle.

She shifted over, making room for him. "You can sit down if you want. I don't get to go outside often, so I was just enjoying the air." she turned to look out at the courtyard, bringing her face into profile as he walked carefully out onto the roof and took a seat beside her.

Situated on her right side, he couldn't help but stare when he looked back up at her. She had three pointed stripes across her right cheek, they merged into a single band on her neck and disappeared behind the collar of the white shift she was wearing. Realizing he was staring Shon pulled his eyes away and saw that there was a similar set of stripes on her left hand, which she had crossed over her bent knees. It snaked around her arm vanishing up her sleeve, and as he continued to look away he noticed a third set on her right foot that trailed up her leg, he wondered if they were all connected in some way under the long shift…

Shon shook himself mentally. She looked about fifteen or sixteen, his age, but there was something about her that seemed… older. She turned her head to look at him, resting her left cheek on her bent knees so he couldn't confirm if she had matching stripes on that side. "You were there. At the tower," she said.

She didn't sound sad or upset, and Shon nodded in answer. "Thank you," she said looking back out into the distance, her chin on her knees.

They sat in silence for a while. Normally Shon preferred this kind of companionable silence, but this time he felt like he had invaded her solitude and should say something. More than anything he wanted to know more about her. "What's your name?" he asked. At least he didn't ask about the weather…

To his surprise she shrugged, "I don't know yet." it sounded like an answer she had given frequently. Facing him again she asked, "what's yours?"

"Shon," he answered right away but continued to stare at her, "how do you not know your name?"

She shrugged again and sighed. "They said I would know it when I knew it. But I don't know it yet."

Shon didn't bother to ask who 'they' were. He figured it must be the others at the tower, and he remembered the charred bodies with a little shiver. Instead, he asked, "but what do you go by in the meantime?" she just blinked at him, tilting her head again, so he tried to clarify, "people don't normally pick their own names, what did they call you while you were growing up?"

"Different things. Mostly just 'you' sometimes 'Red'" she ran a finger over her face and down her neck, "after my scales. Or 'Goldy'" she picked up a handful of hair, "after my hair." dropping it she shrugged again, "everyone had something different, and sometimes it would change."

They sounded like nicknames one would give a horse or a pet hound. Shon looked out at the skyline and let the silence stretch again. The girl didn't seem to mind. Finally, he asked, "would you like one?" she wrinkled her eyebrows at him, "a name I mean," he clarified, then quickly added, "in the meantime, until you know your own…?" Shon's voice trailed off. Not sure if he had said something offensive.

But her face lit up like the sun, and she turned her whole body to face him leaning close enough that he could see the tiny red scales that made up her stripes. They were only on the right side. 'I doubt she's human'... Ivelm had said... "That would be wonderful! I would finally have something to tell people when they asked. And then they wouldn't have to ask what I meant." looking down she continued talking almost to herself, "If I'm going to be meeting more people now I don't want to explain everything every time..." she looked back to him suddenly, and he pulled back slightly in surprise. Her blue eyes were darker than his and very intense. Were her ? "How did you get your name?"

He was definitely not expecting that question. After a moment he said, "The priests gave it to me when I was a baby." she continued looking at him and he continued, "They got it off of a list." whenever they took charge of a nameless child they would give them the next name on the list, or at least that is what they told him.

"Do you think I can have one of the names on the list?" she asked.

Shon couldn't help but smile, "you don't have to wait to get one of those." she tilted her head again, and Shon couldn't help but think of what a pleasant curve her neck made when she did that… He shook his head. Partially to clear it but also to answer her unspoken question. "We can pick one now…" he looked around, but all there was to see were stones and fir trees, "What's your favorite flower?" he finally asked.

"What?" she took a moment to consider, "Do flowers get names too?" she huffed and crossed her arms puffing out her cheeks. The expression made Shon wonder whatever had made him think she seemed older, now she seemed like an upset child, "Even flowers get names, and I have to just wait around to come up with my own…" she grumbled to herself and Shon actually laughed. It was a quiet chuckle and luckily none of the other squires or paladins where around or they may have died of shock.

Instead of commenting Shon brought around his journal, opening it up to a clean page. Turning it lengthwise he began sketching out some of the most common flowers he could think of that could also double as names. The girl had stopped grumbling as he drew, but Shon was so focused on his work he hardly noticed. When he was finished, Shon turned his head to face her and found her only a few inches away, looking wide-eyed at his drawings.

His breath caught in his chest. She was so close… he could see where the red scales of her stripes merged smoothly with the skin of her face. She smelled like cinnamon… Swallowing he asked, "Which one do you like best?"

She wasn't looking at him. Instead, her eyes were darting from one flower to another, studying each. It was making him very self-conscious. "They're all so pretty…" he wasn't sure if she meant the flowers or his depiction of them but either way she was still so close he felt himself start to blush. Finally, she pointed to one six petaled flower on the top row.

He swallowed again. How had his mouth gotten so dry? "That's a lily. How about that for a name?"

She beamed at him, seemingly unphased by the lack of space between them. "I love it. Lily… " she tried the name, chewing it over, "Lily… Thank you sooooo much." she threw her arms around his neck and it felt like his heart might explode out his chest.

The skin of her arms was warm against the back of his neck and he could feel something… soft and… squishy press up against his upper arm. He braced himself for her to pull away, shocked at the cold of his skin. But she didn't. She gave him one more squeeze before letting her arms fall and looking at the drawing again. "What are the others called?"

"Um…" he stuttered and stared at the picture for a while before his brain straightened itself out again, "this one is a rose, a daisy, a violet, a petunia and a jasmine." he pointed to each in turn and quickly added, "I've only ever seen pictures of the last one so I don't know how good it is…"

"They're all beautiful!" she looked whimsically at the flowers and Shon reached down, slowly working the page out of the book, making sure not to rip the drawings.

She gasped until he held the page out to her. "Here. You can keep it." Lily looked from him to the page and back again before reaching up and taking it gently with her fingertips.

She looked it over again, as if she wanted to carve the image into her memory, then held it to her chest. "I will treasure it…"

Her eyes were so blue, and even the strange red scales just made her look more exotic. Her gold hair fell forward as she looked at the picture again, her hand absentmindedly pushing the strands behind her ear. Shon swallowed again, or tried to, there wasn't anything there to swallow. "No problem. Lily." she beamed at him.

***

General Davies Selibra sat at the officer's table in the chow hall but he wasn't really enjoying the venison soup slowly growing cold in front of him. He could hardly taste it as his mind continued running over possibilities and plans in his mind. Beside him weapon master Daunas was hunched over his bowl, scooping up a new bite even as he swallowed the one before. Picking up the bowl he drake the last of the broth before leaning back in his chair with a contented sigh.

"Eh, Selibra." Daunas waved a hand in front of the general's eyes, finally snapping him out of his thoughts.

"What, oh." he shook his head blinking down at his soup, "Sorry, just thinking." beside him Daunas huffed while the General scooped some of the soup into his spoon, taking a little time to look for a piece of venison with the bite.

"Really? It looked more like you were trying to stare a hole through the east wall." he chuckled at his own comment but then leaned forward to speak quietly to his old friend, "A copper for your thoughts Selibra. Why don't you try sharing the burden for once?"

Davies sighed through his nose, finishing the bite of soup before setting his spoon down completely, what was the point if he couldn't taste it. "Dragons Daunas. Dragons." he shook his head but beside him, the weapon master shrugged leaning back again.

"Don't believe in them myself," he said patting his belly. Davis looked sideways at him and he continued, "Not REAL ones anyway. Even if they did exist it was centuries ago, it's more likely they were invented as a fable to scare young children and to give heroes and gods something to fight."

The General sighed again, he was doing an awful lot of that lately… "Either way, someone believes in them and they are doing experiments on young girls to try and bring them back." almost on cue, the girl in question came into the mess hall. Her appearance was enough of a surprise that he almost didn't notice Shon behind her. The boy was pointing to the table with the food for the evening apparently showing her what to do.

Fourteen other squires went quiet. The more observant tapping the shoulders of, the less so, and pointing out the two newcomers until all the boys were quiet and staring. The silence lasted a full heartbeat before the whispering started. It reached the officer's table as an incoherent hiss and the  chuckled, crossing his arms and shaking his head "Boys…"

Davies also shook his head, but he wasn't smiling, "There is a reason we train the girls in a different facility." as the girl walked towards the squire's tables with her soup he considered calling her up to eat at the officer's table. But the more social of the boys were already waving her over and motioning for others to make room, while those with shy dispositions bent over their bowls in embarrassment. "It's not like they never see girls their age…" but Daunas scoffed at him.

"Twice a year for one night on a holiday is definitely not enough for young men of their age." he clapped the general on the shoulder, who still wasn't smiling, "Don't you remember being young? Hormones raging! Girls giggling, ah…" he sighed looking at the ceiling but obviously seeing something else from his memories.

Davies shook the hand off his shoulder, "It was a long time ago. And unlike you, I was here at that age, focused on my training and oath…" that wasn't completely true… there was one farmer girl that would come to the summer and winter solstice celebrations… Finally, he relaxed his shoulders with yet another sigh, "Either way she won't be staying much longer. I've already contacted the Temple and they have a representative from the Mages guild coming up to fetch her."

Daunas nodded, "But in the meantime, the lads can get some of the flirting out of their system. And who knows," he leaned closer to the general. They were alone at the table but he spoke quietly anyway, "maybe they will ask the questions that actually get useful answers…" the two men looked at the girl sitting with the squires. She was laughing and the young men around her couldn't help but stare.

***

This was Lily's first time in the chow hall. Shon had kindly explained the procedure, you get your food yourself at the mess table, then find a seat amongst the other eaters. Simple. But to the girl who had always eaten alone, it was an exciting new experience.

As she approached the long tables, Lily tried to find a spot large enough for the two of them and was shocked and pleased when the squires began to make room, calling her over. She gladly obliged but didn't sit right away. Instead, Lily tapped one boy on the shoulder saying "Hey can you move a little more? For Shon." he hadn't been looking at her, seemingly entranced by his soup, so he jumped at her touch and looked at her as though she had grown a second head.

Tilting her only head at him, she smiled and turned to the boy on the other side tapping him on the shoulder as well. He started moving before she had to ask and it seemed to snap the first one out of whatever stupor his mind had fallen into and he scooted over as well. Between the two of them, there was soon enough room for the both Lily and Shon and she sat next to the quicker of the two boys turning to Shon, who hadn't moved to sit and patted the spot next to her.

He sat and almost immediately the young man across from them said, "Wow strange seeing you here in the middle Shon." Shon just shrugged in response dipping his spoon into the steaming soup. The young man shook his head and turned his face back to Lily, acting as the unofficial spokesman of the group, "My name is Brardin, this is Rehlein, Zihler…" he listed off each of the other thirteen squires pointing as he went and ending with, "and you already know Shon apparently…" he looked at Shon questioningly, seemingly waiting for something.

Shon lifted his head to look at Brardin but said nothing, Lily was only paying half attention to them and instead was whispering the names of the other boys under her breath, determined to remember as many as possible. "My name is Lily." she beamed at the boys around the table, so happy to finally be able to give someone her 'name'. Beneath the table, she moved her leg over slightly to touch Shon beside her. He dropped his spoon.

Brardin looked away from Shon again, focusing on her, "it's nice to meet you Lily," the boys around him each greeted her in one way or another, some with a "hi," and smile, others with just a wave, and still others mumbled something before focusing on their food intensely. "Soooooo," Brardin let the word draw out for a long time, he glanced at Shon then finally asked, "How did you meet Shon? He isn't usually the type to make conversation."

Lily tilted her head just a little. His voice didn't sound cruel, like he was making fun of her new friend, but Shon had sighed beside her. Maybe he was just trying to find a way to start a conversation… "He saved me. That's why I'm here." Shon looked over at her and she smiled at him, "As for today, we were just talking before dinner and he invited me to come have some."

The boys were staring at them openly. Apparently they had not been told about the tower incident. She wondered for a moment if she had said too much and decided to take a bite of the soup while she thought. "So, he's almost like a knight in shining armor." said the boy next to Brardin, Rehlein, his voice teasing as he focused on Shon.

"Except he's a squire in leather armor." said another boy, whose name she couldn't remember. The boys around the table laughed until…

"AW! Damn it, Shon…" Brardin had tried to take another bite only to find his spoon frozen in a block of ice that had once been a steaming bowl of venison soup.

Beside him Rehlein laughed at him, at least until he noticed his own food just as solid, "oh come on!" all down the table boys where checking their bowls and groaning.

Shon sat wide-eyed, his pale cheeks turning pink, "I'm sorry I didn't mean…" but he stopped talking when Lily started giggling.

"That's so neat!" she said, tapping the ice in her bowl.

Brardin was glaring at Shon, "It's not 'neat.' There isn't enough for everyone to get new bowels, Shon."

Shon lowered his eyes with a soft "Sorry…" Concerned, Lily reached out under the table placing a hand on his knee, causing him to look up. His eyes were so blue, like the clear sky on the coldest of winter days. But now they were upset and embarrassed and Lily felt an ache in her chest she only really felt when one of her treasures had been in some kind of discomfort.

She smiled at him, trying to make it a reassuring look before she turned to Brardin across the table. "It's ok. We can just warm these back up." she stood, leaned over the table and dipped her index finger into the middle of the frozen soup. Soon it was steaming again and she moved on to the boys on either side of him. It took a moment for the squires to realize what she was doing, she was leaning WAY over the table… But when they did notice they stared at the bowls instead of her, picking up their spoons to let the steaming liquid pour back into the bowl. Stepping over the bench she worked her way around the table, squeezing between the squires on her side to reach over to those on the other side.

As she was finishing up the boy whose name she couldn't remember looked at Shon saying "Now THAT is a useful ability." Shon ignored him, watching Lily as she came back to her seat beside him.

"It does come in handy." she sat down and took a moment to examine her soup covered finger before sticking it in her mouth and sucking the juice off. The boys shifted uncomfortably in their seats, but she didn't notice. Pulling her finger slowly out of her mouth, it was delicious soup, she picked up her spoon and continued, "They did say I made the best bed warmer on cold nights." Shon choked on his soup, spluttering and quickly moving to wipe his mouth. Maybe I made it too hot


© Copyright 2019 Shawn Cameron. All rights reserved.

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