The Gods of Dragons (Vol 1)

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


The Road I Must Travel - Mr. Mister, 1985

Chapter 8 (v.1) - The Road I Must Travel

Submitted: May 14, 2018

Reads: 48

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Submitted: May 14, 2018

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Orn 19, 1103

Breathe…

Master Veon-Zih sat cross-legged in a small shrine within the confines of Taolu Monastery outside of Zanit in the Halakon desert. Behind him, the shrine doors slid open with a soft hiss, but he paid it no mind, letting the sound go as quickly as it had come.

Breathe...

The floorboards beneath him creaked and groaned as the newcomer took a seat beside him. He could hear them breath, in through the nose, out through the mouth, but he let that sound go too.

Breathe…

He could smell jasmine and hot dust, and he knew who the newcomer was. It was a little harder to let that thought go. But he was experienced and discipline and soon even that was gone leaving his mind blissfully empty and at peace.

The two sat in comfortable silence. Their breath eventually coming to match each other in the way rhythmic things often do. Until…

Dong... Dong... Dong…

The bell that marked the hour in the monastery was deep and resonating, its vibrations filling the facility and traveling down the small mountain to nearby Zanit. Veon-Zih took one last breath and letting it out slowly opened his eyes.

“Fancy seeing you here Master Velona.” he turned to smile at the woman beside him. She looked younger than she was, though the smile lines by her eyes and mouth gave some of her age away. She sat kneeling beside him, a delicately curved short sword strapped diagonally across her lower back, and a plain looking dark wood staff on the floor beside her. The Monks of Kensei were never found without their weapons.

“I believe that is my line Master Veon-Zih,” she continued to face forward but looked sideways at him out of the corner of her eye, a mischievous grin playing at her lips, “this is MY monastery after all…”

“True, true,” Veon-Zih nodded solemnly, then stretched and reclined back, leaning on his hands, “but I heard you had grown tired of monastery life and were instead destined for pilgrimage…”

“Perhaps,” she finally turned to look at him fully, “but I will never cease to be amazed by your damn ears.” reaching out she pulled at the offending appendage, then laughing shifted her hips off of her feet and onto the ground, bringing herself slightly closer to him. “Where did you hear about my pilgrimage anyway?”

Veon-Zih laughed and shook his head, “a wise man never reveals all of his secrets.”

Velona rolled her eyes but said, “Is that why you’re here perhaps? To give up your life of traveling the kingdom to slay monsters and stop vagabonds and instead travel the kingdom to slay monsters and stop vagabonds AND pay your respects to all the shrines in the land?”

The old monk shifted his weight to one hand and made a show of rubbing his chin in mock thought, “hmmm, you do make a convincing argument, but on the other hand.” he lifted his other hand off the floor but maintained his reclining position, his abdominal muscles flexing hard beneath his loose tunic. “I have a student I would need to visit, and that would interrupt the pilgrimage and possibly defeat the purpose.” he put both of his hands back down to lean on again.

Velona looked wide-eyed at him, her eyebrows reaching for the sky, “You have an apprentice? I never thought the day would come.” but Veon-Zih was wagging a finger back and forth at her.

“No. I have a student. That is a very important distinction.” her look turned more skeptical than amazed, “he has no ties to the monastery or to the Monks of the Open Hand. Instead, he is bound to the Temple of Heironeous.”

“But Monks can hold allegiance to... “ but he interrupted her

“As a paladin.” he shrugged, “well as a squire soon to be a paladin.”

Velona gave a small “oh…” that made slightly more sense. Though why Veon-Zih would take a student already sworn to another path, she had no idea. “So why are you here then? You have been in the area many times over the years but have been conveniently absent from the monastery.”

Her grin was mischievous again, and Veon-Zih looked away. She may not be bitter towards him anymore, but that didn’t mean he didn’t still feel guilt… and regret. “Actually it has something to do with my student. You see it is nearly Winter Solstice and I am supposed to be with him around this time for some training and general updates…” he let the sentence trail off and Velona circled her hand in the air to motion for him to continue, “well I'm down here in lovely Halakon, and he is up in Hamerfoss…Clearhelm”

Velona was shaking her head in disbelief, her eyes on the ground but her grin still firmly in place, “And let me guess. You were wondering if maybe I would like to start my pilgrimage in the north and work my way back down?”

Veon-Zih gave her an exaggerated scrutinizing look, “are you sure you’re not a mage? You seem to know an awful lot about the goings-on inside my head... “

“Oh, I wish,” Velona said, and a small hint of the bitterness she once felt over what could have been crept into her voice. Veon-Zih immediately regretted his comment.

“Well if you still have your contacts at the mages guild I thought perhaps you could start your pilgrimage in the North and we could do at least some of it together…” he looked away again as she looked him over, from crossed legs up to bald head. He couldn’t give her everything she wanted, but he could do some, and they weren’t getting any younger.

“I would like that,” she said, her voice soft, the playfulness gone.

Veon-Zih looked at her again. She was smiling, but it was a soft, sad smile. “I would too,” he said just as softly.

***

Orn 20, 1103

Sr. mage Ranito taped his bottom lip with the fingers of his left hand. He was staring intently at a bottle, resting on a three-legged table, in the middle of an endless empty space. The room was specifically designed for practicing destructive spells, such as the ever-popular fireball or lightning bolt, without the risk of damaging the tower. Today he had used his authority to empty the room and was waiting for the other Sr mages to join him.

Slowly the other six mages filtered in through the heavy iron door behind him, their expressions ranging from annoyed to intrigued to a little worried. Ranito just continued to stare at the bottle, tapping his lip. Finally, when they had all arrived old man Meshed cleared his throat, “well Ranito, what was so important as to bring us here of all places?” he was the Divination master and had rarely, if ever, found himself in this room dedicated to destructive evocation magic.

“This…” Ranito answered, gesturing lazily at the bottle then bringing this hand back to his lip. His back was still to the others.

They exchanged concerned glances behind him, and Mistress Vevi asked: “And what is that?” Ranito had been behaving very strangely of late. Some might say obsessed, sending his apprentices all over the tower and city but hardly being seen himself.

e turned, spinning on his heal and causing his robes to bloom around him like a dancer. “This. Is a dragon blood elixir.”

Erdud scoffed, “I think he’s finally lost it…”

Thio shook his head, “There’s no way. We haven’t had dragon blood for centuries….”

“It's the girls.” Ranito interrupted

“Damn Ranito. How much have you taken?” Erdud looked wide-eyed at his peer.

Beside him Vevi said, “Subtype dragons can’t make dragon blood elixirs Ranito.” she would know, she had been with him when he was trying to recreate the elixirs using wyvern and dragon turtle blood as a journeyman.

Rather than continue arguing Ranito spun again, picking up the bottle and bringing it to his lips before any of the shocked mages could stop him.

“You damn fool!” Erdud pulled the now empty bottle out of his hands while Vevi grabbed his arms as if he were about to fall. Failed elixirs might as well be poison.

Ranito smiled, and gently removing Vevi’s hands, stepped away from all of them before letting out a massive breath of fire into the void. The six observers covered their faces with their arms at the sudden light and heat. The breath lasted for ten full seconds before Ranito stopped and turned back to the group, wiping his mouth with the sleeve of his robe.

Wide-eyed, Erdud brought his hands down slowly, “Ivelm was right…”

“That old madman?” Kanrak whispered, trying to find something that made sense in all this, “Isn’t he retired?”

“He’s the one who found the girl,” Vevi said stepping forward to look Ranito in the eyes, checking his pupils and feeling his pulse to check his health.

Ranito laughed, “Don’t bother Vevi I feel better than ever before.”

“You think polymorph?” Erdud spoke again, addressing Kanrak, the transmutation specialist, who just looked at him blankly, “To change a dragon into a girl?” he clarified.

Kanrak blinked rapidly and shook his head to clear it before stammering, “I… Uh… well… polymorphing a human is illegal, even if it is in the direction of the human and not away from it…”

“Everything they were doing was illegal Kanrak.” Thio said, “they were warlocks, their very existence is illegal.”

“Oh… yeah…” Kanrak nodded absentmindedly and continued to think, “well it would need to be a true polymorph, but the supplies and energy cost of that… they would have to expend a lot of power and gold.”

“But it could be done?” Vevi asked, but Kanrak just lifted his hands helplessly and shook his head. It had never been done before that he knew of, dragons had been extinct for centuries.

Ranito was smiling, his arms crossed smugly in front of him, “I have gotten good results on a number of old spells that call for dragon scale or saliva, using her hair and, well, saliva.” he looked at each of them barely able to contain his excitement, “Don’t you know what this means!? We have a Dragon! A true dragon! With an endless supply of blood and scales…” but no one else looked excited. They were all exchanging worried looks.

“What this means,” Meshed wheezed, “is that we have one of the most powerful creatures, monsters, the world has ever seen, living in our tower.”

“And who’s to say she's the only one…” Thio mused.

“Now calm down.” Vevi pated the air in front of all of them, “She has been here for almost a full year and has only ever been curious and kind, there is no indication that she should cause any danger.”

“Unless you touch her stuff,” Erdud interjected, “that explains how possessive she is.”

“Do you think she even knows?” Thio asked anyone who could answer, “I mean if they did it when she was newly born… or hatched… or whatever.”

Meshed was shaking his head, “I don’t think she was lying when she said she didn’t know what she was.” he shrugged and somehow seemed less worried then just a moment before, “And she has been nothing but gracious like Vevi said.”

“Do you think we should tell her?” Vevi asked Meshed, the oldest of the Sr. Mages, but he just shook his head, and she continued, “Either way we have to tell the temples.”

“What? No.” Ranito spoke up again, “We can’t just give this resource away. They will want to send her off to the capital or something.”

“Or kill her…” Erdud interjected, and Vevi gasped. He glared at her, “She could be a red dragon Vevi! Those are some of the most destructive and evil according to the stories.”

“She could be gold,” Vevi argued, “her hair…”

“Don’t be stupid Vevi her scales are red.” Erdud countered, and Vevi went silent.

Thio came to Vevi's defense, “But there is the case of her disposition. And the paladins would have detected if she were inherently evil…” Vevi smiled at Thio in thanks, and Erdud just shrugged.

“I didn’t say they should kill her, just that they might with the evidence at hand.” he crossed his arms and didn’t meet anyone's eyes, “I admit she’s grown on me, I would really rather they not hurt her.”

“So what do we do now?” Kanrak asked his peers looking to each of them in turn.

Ranito stepped forward, “Nothing. There are still more tests we should do before we report anything to the Temples.” the Sr. mages all looked at each other nervously but in the end agreed with silent nods.

***

That night Vevi moved silently down the hall of the general living quarters in the guild. She couldn’t sleep, and before she realized it, she was standing in front of Lily’s room. There was no light coming from below the door. She must be asleep… The Sr. mage had second thoughts. The last time Lily had been woken up in the middle of the night, it had been downright terrifying. Her eyes glowing as she forced the offender out of her room with a wall of fire that somehow didn’t burn the floor or walls but turned the man's skin a deep red with blistering burns.

Everyone had just assumed she was a powerful fire sorcerer. And who would blame a seventeen-year-old girl for being angry at someone sneaking into her room in the middle of the night? But wasn’t one of the theories behind sorcery that its users had dragon blood...

Softly Vevi rapped on the door. Nothing. She knocked a little harder. Nothing. Carefully the Sr mage placed her hand on the door and pushed it open. She called out before stepping in “Lily? I’m sorry to wake you.”

The room was empty.

***

Orn 24, 1103

There was nothing quite like gate travel. In a single step, one could traverse miles upon miles of distance. Assuming they could afford it. The mages sold one-way gate tokens for hundreds of gold each. Some particularly favored mercenaries and adventurers may earn one or two as a reward for a mission well done, usually recovering some lost artifact or hunting down a mage gone rogue. Veon-Zih usually passed up the opportunity to travel by gate, the open road being the best part of most journeys in his opinion. But occasionally, when time was of the essence, he would make an exception.

He and Velona earned a few strange looks from those who saw them entering the mages tower that morning. Two apparent peasants could not generally afford anything offered by the guild. Those who were more observant knew what they were by the shaven heads and rosary beads and nodded respectfully to them as they passed. Masters Veon-Zih and Velona returned the gracious nods of passers-by as they entered the guild.

The ground floor of the tower was a massive affair, with dark marble floors and tall pillars holding up the circular balcony of the second floor. The center of the room rose all the way to the second-floor ceiling which was enchanted to show the time and constellations of that particular sky. Apparently, that came in handy for some spells, though the monk had no idea how.

While Velona exchanged pleasantries and travel tokens with the attending journeyman mage, Veon-Zih meandered around the entranceway, his hands behind his back as he arched up to watch the stars move on the ceiling. The exchange didn’t take long, and with a single hallway and spell from a diamond-studded wand, the two monks stepped from the warm desert into the artificially warmed guild of the harsh northern winter.

Velona led the way out of the gate room but stopped in the middle of the circular ground floor, resting a hand on Veon-Zih’s arm. “One moment while I say hello to my niece.” The expansive room was identical to the one in Zanit, and from one of the doors on the right came a young woman in a red robe. She had dark brown hair, the same color Velona’s would be if she didn’t shave it as part of her monastic practice, and what looked like worried gray eyes. Veon-Zih frowned slightly at the woman's expression, she was smiling, but it had a fixed look to it, and her eyes were darting all around as though looking for something.

“Aunt Velona,” the woman stopped just short of them and bowed in the monk style, right fist in left palm. The two monks returned the greeting before Velona stepped forward for a hug. “And what brings two desert monks to the far north in winter?” she looked from Velona to Veon-Zih, who tried to smile reassuringly at the still nervous looking woman.

Velona stepped aside saying, “Vevi, this is Master Veon-Zih, he is actually from the north, though the Oane mainland province.” she gestured at each of them in turn, “Veon-Zih, this is my Niece Vevi, she is the Sr. mage of illusion magic here in Tarorn.” the monk raised his eyebrows slightly, the woman seemed awfully young to be a Sr. mage.

“It’s my pleasure,” Vevi bowed to Veon-Zih again, who returned it, but before anymore small talk could continue the mage Vevi’s nerves got the better of her. “You are actually just in time Aunt Velona, I need your help…”

***

Shon rolled his shoulders and popped his neck before returning to his fighting stance. He was shirtless despite the cold, though this time it could be attributed to the hard work and sweat covering his tunic and not only his affinity for the winter. Across from him, Rerves stood ready, searching Shon’s stance for any weakness. There was none.

They had started hand to hand training at the beginning of the month, and weapon master Daunas had made a special exception considering Shon’s history and previous training. He was assigned to help teach the others, though they were learning only basic pugilism and grappling, and not the strictest of martial arts. Now, before the break for the winter solstice celebrations, the others had been challenged to defeat Shon in a bear pit style tournament. As Shon beat each squire one on one, they would return to the back of the line of challengers. He had already gone through the line twice and had taken his tunic off five fights ago.

His stamina was starting to falter, and Rerves was significantly larger than he was. Shon had only grown another inch since the previous winter, but his chest and shoulders had filled out considerably. Rerves, however, was still five inches taller than Shon and barrel-chested, but he didn’t have the speed or experience that Shon had.

Rerves bobbed up and down on the balls of his feet and lunged with a straight right-hand punch. Shon stepped inside the punch and struck Rerves on the side of the jaw with the heel of his palm, slipping his leg behind the larger boy as he tried to recover from the hit and instead sending him to the ground.

Rerves rolled away and returned to his feet, rubbing the back of his hand against his jaw. Shon had already returned to his fighting stance. Rerves gave a nervous laugh, Shon’s unblinking eyes were intense and cold. Rerves tried circling, looking for some kind of opening that Shon wasn’t going to give him. Shon turned slightly as Rerves circled, keeping his eyes on his opponent and doing his best to block the shouting from the sidelines.

“Come on Rerves, use that big body of yours!” Shon looked away. Lily was standing on the sidelines grinning evilly and cupping her hands around her mouth as she shouted.

Rerves took advantage of the distraction and rushed forward, barreling him over like a bull and attempting to grapple him to the ground. Shon had the wind knocked out of him and hit the ground hard. It took him a moment to recover, and Rerves was already trying to get him in a hold that could end the match. With a little growl, Shon twisted free, looping his legs on either side of the Rerves' arm. Shon arched his back, holding Rerves fist tight against his chest and hyper extending the elbow.

The big man smacked the ground hard with his free hand and a little cry, it would feel as though his arm were about to break, “Match, match!” Letting go quickly, Shon rolled backward onto his feet. He stayed in a crouched position, trying to catch his breath as the other squires crowded around Lily crying out their greetings.

She was smiling ear to ear, in a simple tunic and slacks soaked to the knee from the snow. Her golden hair had been done up in a loose bun held in place by a set of lacquered sticks tipped with red stones. She had a dark wood quarterstaff leaning in the fold of her right shoulder as she hugged each of the squires in turn.

Weapon master Daunas approached Shon still crouched in the ring, “You done boy?” his voice was as gruff as usual but not accusatory or degrading.

“Yeah…” Shon breathed, then swallowed and corrected himself, “Yes sir,”

“Well, take your turn to great the girl then go get yourself cleaned up.” the weapon master smiled and smacked Shon on the back as he stood making him lunge forward.

Shon ran his fingers through his hair, it needed to be cut again, and looked up to see Lily walking towards him, her dark blue eyes sparkled as she smiling wickedly. It looked like he wasn't the only one who had filled out over the year, “It's not fair to beat up on amateurs.” she teased.

Shon gave one of his small smiles, one hand on his hip and the other behind his neck. “All is fair in love and war.” he countered, and she beamed at him.


© Copyright 2019 Shawn Cameron. All rights reserved.

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