Firnen and Verina were two dragons that lived out in the Eadilin forest. They had lived out here, for at least five years now since they had moved. While living out here they were away from humans and other races that might have hunted them. They had known a lot of dragons that had been hunted and killed for their treasures--both physical such as gemstones and rings but also because they were magical they hunted for their magical properties.
Firnen was a copper dragon but only twenty-seven years old, while Verina she was a black but slightly smaller dragon and four years younger. They spent some of the time as humans and other times they would go out hunting as mates. Even though they had encountered some humans and even befriended or trusted humans, they were very weary of other people encroaching on their home, as they had to deal with the dangers of hunters and other mercenaries seeking the blood of dragons.
The nearest city was southward. Instead of being up in mountains or some marsh or under water as some dragons lived. He woke with a start deep in the recesses of his dark cave, his home. Their home. Firnen was still a young dragon as was his companion, despite being a copper dragon, his scales yet showed much sign of aging. They still gleamed like honey being spread.
Firnen awoke slowly. His eyes flickering open. He tilted his head, looking around at Verina who lay next to him, still asleep. Her slender, beautifull body. She was still fast asleep. She would probably sleep for a while longer. He leaned over kissing her. His lips meeting her skin. Her scents, a sweet smell that reminded him of a yellowseed flower that was found in the forest around them. However there was of course the faint metallic scent that came with dragons, though Verina had done her best to erase that smell.
He rose quietly, shuffling through the cave to the entrance in his human form. He was naked except for the wrap of loincloth around his waist. He checked his right hand. Around his index finger was a ring. A dragon made ring. He wasn't sure what it did, if it did anything at all. He just liked it. It was made with a bright encrusted blue jewel.
Firnen took a longing glance back at into the cave. Hidden in darkness. He ditched getting his armour on today. As much as he liked armour, it wasn’t as good as his own scales. Though it muffled out his own metallic scent when he was in human form.
There was a pale grey streak in the sky above him. It looked as though it could rain. His belly rumbled. Time to do some hunting. He went back and pulled on his cloak covering himself up a bit more before heading out. Around him were pleasant green trees, bulging with fruits. It was still summer. He made his way, moving swiftly, before finding a clearing where he took to his dragon form.
Verina, woke soon, her eyes flickering open. She sniffed the air. She noticed his scent seemed faint. He was already gone? Usually she was the one who woke before he did. She licked her lips, and rubbed the sleep out of her eyes.
She didn’t want to move out of bed. It was so warm and comfortable. Nestled. Away from the world. She loved it.
Eventually she found herself, unable to go back to sleep. Her eyes flickered open to the familiar recess of the cave. Their home and it had been for a good number of years. She was lucky to have found him. Firnen.
There were a number of dragons left in the world of Brethanis since the days of old where there were hundreds upon different types of dragons. So they said. Where humans and the other races scarcely got on with dragons, hunting them for their scales or their supposed blessings of magic. They even tried to get their scales for rituals to grant them the gift of magic many years ago, but it never worked. At least not for people who couldn’t use magic at all. They couldn’t grant someone the ability to use magic when they haven’t got the gift. It might do something for people that could use magic. She wasn’t so sure. She could recall her parents, telling her the stories when she was younger. The memories brought her some joy but tinged with sadness. She missed her sister, Jirai most of all. Her younger sister. She hadn’t seen her in over five years now. She missed her even more than her parents. Since they were always away. Despite them being dragons, they had tried to assimilate with the normal humans and dwarves in some far away city called Goldaere on another continent. It was originally built by dwarves and still inhabited by Dwarves but they allowed humans to live there. They decided it would be better in a Dwarven home that stretched into the Thorn Mountains rather than a human city under the Empire. But she remembered anytime that there was a storm, her sister would come into her room to be comforted.
‘Firnen?’ She said huskily, dragging herself from her memories and back to the present. Her voice still raspy from her sleep. It was a sharp reminder that she had yet eaten or drank anything yet. She climbed slowly to stand. Her bare feet standing on the bundle of old furs they had. It wasn’t much. But it was still better being with him, than being in a kingly castle surrounded by those that fear you, and a few that love you and the rest plotting against you.
There was no response.
And yet, she thought she heard a voice. A deep voice. She leaned down and picked up her cloak. She glanced at her sword belt. Her gut feeling said, bring it. But she brushed those fears down. Firnen wouldn’t be hurt. She would feel it. Surely? They shared a bond. An attachment.
Verina hesitated, glancing at the sword. But did she really need it? She decided to leave it. Leaving everything behind, she made her way up the cave towards the entrance.
Outside, soft rays of sun light brushed her skin. It felt warm. Lovely. Despite being young she had become adapt at the shapeshifting ability. It seemingly was the gift she had been given rather than elemental control. She could turn into a human and her preferred form, an elegant fox. But that doesn’t mean she couldn’t use other types of magic at all. She had acute senses—smell, hearing like you would expect from a dragon.
It was said, when dragons aged, which they did, out living most of the world’s races by some distance. Even Elves. And with age they were granted by their gods, or whatever it was, more powers as well as size. It was a legend that some dragons never stopped growing. Magic grew with age too. Some dragons could hold their forms indefinite. Or so it was said. Her father could hold it for hours on end. The longest Verina could go was three hours flat. Then she’d have to revert back. It could be that or something that interferes with it. But with age perhaps she might be able to use some other power. She imagined being able to use water or perhaps earth…
Verina moved to one of the nearest rocks and dropped to a crouch. She scanned the forest. She heard the birds singing faintly. Nothing much else. No sign of anything. Yet she could have sworn there were voices. She fidgeted. Taking her dragon form, speckled leathery black skin. Her wings uncurled naturally. She took flight. It was a risk. But being surrounded by forest, if there were people around here, they were hiding well. But perhaps seeing a dragon might scare them out of their hiding places.
Only a few seconds went by and she was in the air, rising high. She released a low growl. She soared over a few trees before swooping low into a clearing to land and change.
Or at least that’s what she thought was going to happen. Before she even realised it though she felt her whole world, spin around her. She felt something cut her wings. Steel. She screamed loudly calling for Firnen, her lover with all her might. She tried to bite through the net. But it was steel and tightened her movement, restricting her. She could barely move her limbs or mouth but she wouldn’t give up. Then there was a flash of light. A tall, pale grey figure appeared in her vision. She caught a glimpse of white hair and narrow red eyes. Then the world went black and red.
Firnen had spent most of the morning hunting, finding a good deer. He never over hunted. And he rarely picked off the healthiest deer, usually Even though he could easily pick several strong ones and bring one or two back. But he rarely indulged himself that much.
He was half way back to his home, when he heard a loud scream that shook the forest. Firnen felt his heart beat quicken. He swallowed some of the meat and dropped the rest for now. He could come back for it. Maybe. He reacted by accelerating. He knew she was near. It wasn’t that far from their home. They shared a bond between themselves. He couldn’t say how or why but he put it down to the fact that they had been living together for a while. But he didn’t know what was happening just a touch of emotion.
Firnen swooped down low for, his wings beating against the air causing the nearest trees to vibrate like wind. His piercing green eyes stared down at the trees, scanning the area. Shadows slinking into darkness behind him. Such a vast forest. It had been of their safest areas to live in with so much space.
Not half an hour later, he saw them. Several men in a clearing. He tucked his wings in and dived towards the clearing. Some of the heads turned towards him, or but he didn’t really care. He knew he was close to Verina. He spotted some of them. Some started to scatter but some couldn’t move fast enough. As he came crashing down, he hit a body or two that he crushed underneath him.
Firnen snapped his jaws, as he swivelled his head round. There was a slender tall pale white figure standing a few feet away. He had two ears that swept outward, pointed. But what was even more unique was his pinkish red coloured eyes hidden behind a black mask. His eyes looked demonic. An elf? He had never seen an elf that looked like him. Firnen jerked his head in the direction of Verina. Two men gripping her. Both were dressed in boiled leather, tunics with blades hanging from their hips. One pulled on Verina’s hair causing her to whimper. She was now in her human form but she looked worse for wear. She had burn marks lashed across her delicate skin. She was sweating too. The other ripped at her hair. She was chained, tried to struggle weakly. Firnen growled loudly, edging closer. But there was a rustle of movement. More figures appeared from the trees. More than he had originally counted. Could he handle them all? Two nocked their bows with arrows, lining them up on him.
‘Well, look at that,’ One of the men said, a grin forming on his lips. He flashed a rather crooked, yellow set of teeth—no doubt tobacco stained. Even from here, Firnen could see the gaps in his mouth. ‘Is this your lover?’ He spat on the floor.
Firnen edged closer, but he swung his head around opening his mouth wide before releasing a cone of acid straight at two of the archers. It splattered all around them even as they tried to move out of the way. It caught their legs, burnt through their flesh and armour alike. They screamed. Two more of the men came rushing in toward Firnen. But then he released a thunderous roar, making some of them tremble and shiver in fright. The rage growing inside of Firnen which each passing second.
It didn’t stop them though. Drawing their blades they tried to hack at him. Firnen twisted his tail around whacking one man, snapping his neck sending him flying off his feet. The other ducked under the tail. Firnen growled just as loud snapping his jaws once more. The mercenary, a thin stick of a man, whirled away as Firnen lunged with a heavy clawed hand, missing him by inches. He moved a step back or two. He hesitated unsure to try another strike just yet.
‘I’ll fuck your lover! Rape her while you watch!’ The mercenary spat. A wicked, evil smile that formed on his face so quick that if Firnen had blinked; he would have missed it. Was he thinking he was going to get him to react and make a mistake? But his words drew a few laughs from the other men. Except the elf, who was still standing like a statue behind him. Firnen cast a glance behind at him before turning back towards the runt.
Firnen moved side on and flicked his tail around, cracking the air. The man ducked and then jerked his blade up landing a mark on his tail. Firnen hissed but it fortunately didn’t go to deep. It would never have cut his tail off completely. Firnen roared defiantly, and started to launch himself off the ground spinning in mid-flight just as some arrows flashed past him. He sprayed acid everywhere. Leaves, bushes burnt away. Anything the acid touched. But the hunters moved, and dodged trying their best to get out of his reach. One caught his wing and another his back. Firnen twisted, crashing down on the ground. He felt twigs, bushes, and more importantly people. He felt another cut at his side, from a blade as he landed. Firnen swivelled around, in a flash, and grabbed him with his tail curling around him like a snake crushing his legs and then curling around his back. Firnen could smell his fear.
‘Where’s that strength?’ Firnen hissed.
The man moaned beneath his group. All the others seemed to freeze.
Firnen squeezed even as the man released his bowls. His armour couldn’t save him as his legs snapped, his rib cage burst. His whole body snapping. Firnen then tossed him with all his rage like a rag doll into the forest. The few men that were left, didn’t seem too incline to attack just yet. He turned his head to the nearest one. He fell back onto the ground losing his footing in the process. Firnen stamped a foot and was about to end his life.
In an instant, there was a flash of light and a scream followed. Firnen turned his head in the direction of Verina. Before he could react, the elf, grabbed a hold of Verina placing a hand on her leg then he did something. Magic. Firnen started to move towards them, which became a charge. The elf never even flinched, until he was finished. He pulled his hand away. As bright as a star on a clear night, he saw what he had done to Verina. Burning brightly was a mark, glowing a red and blue. Verina seemed to slip into unconsciousness. Firnen growled. And he could see the satisfaction in the elf’s eyes.
‘Yes. Even dragons should fear the gods. She’s now branded. She can never hide from Adramelech now.’ He said with an icy cold voice. Firnen snarled at the name being said. The other god, the one that opposed the others for greed. ‘It will hurt her and there’s nothing you can do about it. She’s our treasure. We’ve been looking for her. Either you can surrender or you both come with us. And we’ll remove it when we get our money’s worth. Or continue fighting.’
The elf twisted his body, never looking at the two men still standing near Verina.
There’s always a choice. The words rang inside Firnen. But he didn’t like being cornered. Firnen started to move forwards. But the elf did something else that was unexpected he seemed to almost disappear from sight all together. Firnen stopped short, coming toward Verina. He sprayed acid toward one of the men sending him cowering to the ground. The other using his hands and a knife ripped at Verina’s clothes, shredding then. He started to touch Verina, trying to touch her breasts. She tried to weakly bat him away but he was far too strong. It incited Firnen. He came racing forwards once more. The man turned his head for a second before drawing his blade in flash trying to cut her.
Or kill her.
That made him mad. Firnen closed in and lunged his head but he already cut her arm, drawing blood. He locked his jaws around him, lifted him off the ground shaking him violently. He struggled and stabbed downwards cutting at Firnen’s snout and mouth. Drawing an inkling of blood. Firnen bit into him, crushing him in between his powerful jaws then dropped him to the floor. His teeth all bloodied. He was growing tired too.
‘Love?’ Firnen lowered his head nuzzling against Verina. She reached out with her hands feeling his scales. Despite everything a small smile formed on her lips. Firnen leaned down licking her hair then he opened his enormous mouth and lifted her up. To a stranger it might look as though he was going to swallow her, but that was far from the truth. His tongue wrapping around her body coaxing her wounds. They should heal soon. He turned his head, the mercenaries were already gone. Running off into the trees. Perhaps regroup and bring more men for them. Then there was a slash of steel, Firnen growled in pain. He caught sight of the elf reappearing on his left side. Had he cloaked? Or just moved that fast?
Verina screamed too, though it came out as a loud groan.
Firnen bundled forwards a few steps then cracked behind him with his tail as the elf tried to follow. He snarled between his teeth. Firnen roared before taking flight. The elf still didn’t give up throwing his blade catching his side before bouncing of a scale and falling to the ground somewhere. Firnen forced himself to fly despite his injuries. The elf was still there watching them coldly but even he faded with the rolling forests and the sound a bird’s cry echoing through the forest.
For a while she seemed to pass in and out of consciousness. Strange dreams and images crossed her mind, bright colours mixing with old memories. She saw strange things she didn’t remember and a few even scared her. When she woke they faded like shredded paper being blown like the wind and no longer wanted to sleep much. The painful cuts seemed to fade after a while soothed by Firnen’s saliva. Magical or not, she didn’t know. She didn’t understand things even about her own elusive race, never mind others since. Who knows? That pain was nothing compared to the pain she felt from the brand mark by her hip. She grimaced as she rubbed at her hip. She tried to distract herself, idly stroking the inside of Firnen’s mouth. He seemed to react to it, his tongue twitched. But he flew on. The distraction didn’t last long. She found herself in a cocoon of emotions. Even that didn’t seem too much compared to the guilt she felt. She felt guilty in the way that she was partially responsible for what happened. She wiped at her grimy, sore eyes. She was grateful that he couldn’t see her clench her fists in frustration.
At some point, later in the day Firnen finally came to a stop, touching down on the soft ground. He helped Verina climb out, she staggered out slowly and sat down on her back. She glanced towards him as he curled up on the ground, he shifted into his human form. He took his cloak off and handed it to her, which she gracefully accepted. She had been in so much pain and fearful for both their lives she had almost forgotten they had ripped of her clothing. Someone once told her, years ago that it was better to feel pain, than feel nothing at all. She couldn’t remember who it was, but she found herself disagreeing with that thought. She shuddered with the wind.
A silence drew between them. He seemed to be tending to his wounds firstly. Staring westward toward the distant mountains. The wind rustled the grass, and further away but still in sight the low lying bushes. The air at least was fresh, and crisp. She caught sight of a large bright blue bird soaring up in the sky above them. It was so colourful. It was heading north towards the other forest. Her eyes fell on the surrounding terrain, observing for a while. Verina decided it looked different to her than the one they had just been. Why hadn’t she noticed that before? The trees looked ancient, huge thick trunks but smaller trees, red and green trees. It looked lusher than their last home. It was called the Ravenwind forest. She had been this far north before. It was populated by several different animals that she had seen before. What kept them here, she couldn’t say.
Almost, as if it was on cue like some play, she spotted three of the large beasts wandering from one of the forest trails, appearing in view. They were fairly large. They were one of the creatures that they avoided trying to eat. It was armoured, covered in knots and plates of bone that were as strong as dragon scales. Well, almost. They also had scales too at the top of their heads and they were as black as ink, the plates were a stony brown colour. The animals were slow but made up for it in defence. If the armour wasn’t enough, on the end of their tails were rather large clubs. She had once seen one of them smash it against a predator and kill it. Fortunately they were herbivores. They were nicknamed ‘Bone tails’ by some merchants. But their real name, was Ankylodon and they were seemingly related to other creatures that lived around here. Two of them with an infant appeared and started to graze on the grass. Verina watched them for a while. Before turning back to the trees.
It wasn't a boring journey as they made their way through the Ravenwind forest by any means, Verina had been lucky to have caught glimpses of other species that lived there. Fairies. But they unlike humans kept mostly too themselves. They looked like humans but smaller. She had once spotted one while hunting but before she could get a closer look it had disappeared using the forest as cover. And she never found it again. She shrugged getting bored. They had stopped near a small river creek in the forest, they were sat on the bank. There wasn't else around. It was so peaceful. So quiet.
She turned to Firnen again. He had finished tending to his wounds. He had used one of his vials that he had kept in a small pouch. It was a small travelling pouch that was made to look like a part of Firnen’s body but it was hidden on him. When he was a dragon he was so big it was unlikely an attacker would notice it.
‘We might have lost those mercenaries, after all.’ Firnen said, sounding hopeful. He was fiddling with the ring on his finger. One of the few trinkets that he had collected that he actually carried around with him. She had asked him if it was for good luck, and he had responded with a slight nod. She had left it that, all she knew it must have been important to him.
Verina nodded in agreement, but she didn’t share that much confidence. ‘You didn’t get too hurt did you?’ Verina said.
‘Nothing that won’t heal.’ Firnen said with a shrug.
‘You have to be realistic about these things. You could have been injured and it’s my fault. I shouldn’t have wandered off like that.’ She said, her eyes staring at his. His bright green eyes.
‘It’s not your fault. I should have scouted first to make sure it was safe to leave you.’ He said with a profound sigh. He leaned towards her wrapping an arm around her pulling her close gently.
‘I love you.’ He whispered. He placed a kiss on her cheek causing her cheeks to redden like wine. It brought him a smile.
‘I love you too,’ She said weakly. She bit her lip. She felt guilty. Before she could dwell on it, Firnen moved towards her.
Firnen's eyes were fixed on her. His green eyes shining bright like a gem, and far more beautiful. She felt that same warmth feeling rising up inside her. He tilted his head, leaning in to kiss her. His hot breath made her skin tingle. She kissed him back passionately and then his hands unbuttoned her shirt. She felt a shiver slide down her spine in anticipation as well as the cool air caressing her naked flesh but she wasn't cold. He took all her clothes off. Her heartbeat was beginning to race as he moved towards her neck, kissing, sending a ripple of pleasure down her body. Then she started to quickly remove his clothes as well. She eyed his bare chest, soft but muscular. He then moved onto her breasts, kissing each, slowly, letting his tongue linger. It made her shriek, gasping for more. The pleasure it brought, made her almost forget everything that had happened so far.
It was morning by the time they woke up again. Firnen woke with the sound of the forest. There was birdsong coming from high up in the trees. Firnen yawned, staring up at the sky. The sunlight poking beneath the gaps in the trees. He climbed to his feet. He went down by the water, drinking thirstily.
After some time Verina woke up again, still tired. He went over to her, embracing her, kissing her, before nuzzling her, their noses touching. They lay there for a while just enjoying each other's company.
Firnen eventually rose again, moving to fetch his clothes.
‘We’re going to need to find a new home. We can’t go back there now. Not for a while at least.' He said, buttoning his shirt back up again. He eyed her, she looked uncomfortable. Something was wrong.
Firnen glanced at her mark. ‘It’s bothering you, isn’t it?’
Verina nodded, biting her lip.
‘There might be someone that can help us.’ Firnen said.
‘Who?’ Verina said, her face creasing into a frown.
Firnen paused, pursing his lips. ‘Venden Chandra,’
Verina bit her lip. She knew the name. He was coincidentally a shaman but lived out somewhere in the Ravenwind Forest, or perhaps further out. He was constantly moving. He was a nomad so it was hard to know where exactly he was going to pop up. He was actually a member of the Tanuki clan, they were known for their solitude. So it wasn’t that surprising he lived the way he did. He was once married. But he had known them for a while and perhaps—Firnen even longer.
‘Is that the only one we can see for help?’ Even as the words came out, she kind of already knew the answer. They had lived like hermits for years, occasionally stumbling on camps, on things that had been left behind by hunting parties in the different forests. They had of course even met a few travellers, but they were so far from any major cities, knowing very few people. And even less that would help them.
‘Do you know where he would be?’ Verina asked.
Firnen shook his head in response. ‘Not seen him in about three months.’
Verina felt her shoulder slump.
Firnen leaned in closer. ‘It will work out. We will find something.’ His face cracked into one of those smirks he had. He leaned in close kissing her, his hand reaching for her hair.
She nodded, taking warmth in his confidence. They would get through it somehow.
‘We can’t both sleep at once. You can sleep first.’
‘Hold on, we need a bit more cover….’ He said. ‘And food.’
Firnen had gone hunting, leaving her most of the afternoon. She was used to it. It sometimes gave her time to rest, reflect or fix things that needed repairing. She was one that fixed their clothes. Or she would be the one that would go out wandering, interacting with travellers she sometimes met. If they seemed particularly dangerous, she would do her best to keep away from them. More often than not they were travelling caravans and troupes, as well as travellers. At the moment though she was glad no one else was around, she felt very vulnerable. She hated the feeling of being exposed. How long will he take?
It turns out, he wouldn't return until almost nightfall. She had been angry that he'd taken so long. When he came back, the anger faded, replaced with relief. He came back with food for them both. As soon as he came back, she embraced him, hugging and kissing him.
'You took so long,' Verina said.
'Sorry.' Firnen replied. 'I brought food though. It should last us.'
It was meat, from some dead animal. The carcass smelt bad, just the way she liked it. He must have already burnt it in flight.
They ate quietly but once they'd eaten they moved on through the night. Verina had enough of sleeping.
Eventually they came to a rest in a clearing. There were ancient stone statues and stones that had been left behind. They had worn away in many parts, so much that it was difficult telling what they had been. It was away from the main roads used by travellers. It must have been some long forgotten place. They decided they would rest here for the night.
Another hour or so passed, and Verina stirred first from his light sleep though in actuality they had took turns in sleeping. They had The few precious moments she had drifted to the realms of sleep, she had seen more memories of the fresh attacks on her from those vile mercenaries and something else that felt alien. The dreams had showed her events that had happened but also something else. She had watched the events unfold but in such a way that it was almost like she was watching it from afar. Glowing eyes. Was that another being watching them all? The situation and that especially made her shudder with fear. Had Firnen taken any longer, what would have happened? Was there really another person out there waiting or was it just her mind? It was her turn to keep watch at the crack of dawn, which was a slight relief.
Verina lay there for a while, staring up at the sky with her head on Firnen’s chest. Her sharp ears listening to his breathing, and his heartbeat. That mixed to the sounds of faint insects and birds chirping. There was a low honking sound somewhere in the darkness.
Verina glanced across the wilderness, still deep with shadows, twisting as the sun peeked between the gaps of the trees. She sniffed the air as the wind blew. It smelt fresh. But no other unusual scents. No men. Maybe they had left. But deep down she knew they wouldn’t give up their prize dragon. But now they could get two dragons. She had yet to discuss it with anybody but she did feel guilty. Anyone in her position would. The memories tugged at her again. Why were they bothering her? What was it that was bothering her?
It wasn’t the first time she had encountered hunters before. After they had left the city of Goldaere, the family had travelled eastward trying to move to the next city. They could never stay for too long. But it was made all the worse that her father was that he was dying of disease. They had been travelling along a road. Even to this day she could still remember the aroma of pine trees that dotted the landscape. They had come up to a hill and on the other side. There was a man by the side of the road, dressed in tattered clothing like a beggar. He called for help. He had said his wife was in danger. Verina didn’t trust him, so she had told her parents to stay back, her mother tending to his sickness. They were in their wagons carrying all their belongings. Which wasn’t much. Her sister, Jirai stayed with them. She thought she was strong enough, despite being her younger sister to handle herself. She had already shown she was growing in her powers. And besides who would have attacked three dragons?
That’s the mistake they had made, thinking because they were dragons they were superior to humans. Despite being in human form they were supposed to be stronger but not when you’re outnumbered. Verina recalled following the hapless man through the woods by a river creek. The path was muddy and wet from last night’s rain. She had counted the steps she had made before reaching there, to try and judge how long it would take to return to her family. The surprise was that there was indeed an injured woman lying there, rather than an ambush. At least it looked like that to start with. Verina had bent down to look at the woman. She appeared to be in discomfort, a piece of cloth wrapped around her ankle, barefoot. Her boot lying a few feet away. She had started to help the woman up to her feet but then she heard the sound of screaming voices. But before she could even react she felt someone hit her on the back of the head. She went down hitting the ground, unconscious. Verina had awoken sometime later with a throbbing headache. She was all alone. In her panic, she had started shouting and running back toward the road. When she arrived, she found both her parents were both lying on the floor in a pool of blood. But there had been no sign of Jirai. Everything had been stolen from them. Engraved on the side of the wagon was a mark.
The realisation hit her then. It was the same mark. It had to be. Even though the mark had meant nothing back then. The mark of Adramelech. She felt tears starting to form, she tried to blink them away. Beside her Firnen started to stir. She cocked her head around, wiping the tears away. She did her best to steady herself. Firnen shifted a bit moving his arms and legs slowly. Another moment passed and his eyes flickered open slowly and he sat up.
Firnen cleared his throat. ‘Morning love…’ His voice still sounded raspy. He wiped his eyes. His hair was wild from his sleep as bad as hers.
Nothing they could do about that now, most of their stuff was still back at the cave.
‘Morning love.’ Verina’s voice sounded quiet but she smiled lightly as he leaned forwards to kiss her forehead, while placing a hand on her hair stroking. The soft caresses tickled her skin making her giggle that made him crack a grin. His smile was infectious.
For a while, they stared at each other their eyes locking into one another. His eyes seemed to soak up the soft light, and reflect it.
‘Are you hungry?’ Firnen said after a few moments.
Verina’s stomach rumbled. She hadn’t even realised before he had asked. She nodded her head, knowing what he was going to say next. She leaned up to his left ear.
‘I don’t want you to leave me,’ Verina whispered.
He gently pulled her into his arms. His lip curled for a second, he chewed it briefly. ‘Then come with me.’
She nodded, feeling his breath on her. The warmth growing inside her.
Firnen nodded. ‘Did you sleep well?’
Verina glanced away and then back at him. ‘Not really.’ She admitted. She felt a knot forming as she tried to find the words to explain properly.
‘Your injuries? Or that mark on your hip?’
She didn’t want to worry him but there was not much good in hiding it. ‘The mark,’ She muttered.
‘We will do something about—’ He abruptly stopped.
‘What is it?’ Verina prompted.
‘Did you hear that trumpeting sound?’
Verina felt stomach sink. Horns? Here? Where were they? Had they just been waiting to ambush them all this time?
‘Stay quiet.’ Firnen’s voice remained calm and fairly confident.
It went silent again.
There it came again. This time there was no mistaking the sound. A loud trumpeting sound.
Firnen climbed to his feet, brushing himself off.
Verina stood up a few seconds later. She scanned the area around them. The sun had risen a bit more now. Sun light touching her skin, radiating warmth.
They waited, expecting an attack.
And they waited.
But it never came.
The grassy plains around them were empty.
‘There’s nothing here Firnen,’ Verina said out frustration.
‘Shhh.’ Firnen hushed her.
They waited for a while longer. But then there was a third, trumpeting sound, and another one, coming closer. Firnen shared an uneasy glance with Verina. They scrambled together their meagre possessions before coming down the hill. Firnen kept on looking over his shoulder as they moved to entering the forest. And when they did, they never looked back, missing a scouting bird in the sky above.
They had continued to make their way through the forest, following one of the trails. It was badly maintained with the wilderness slowly reclaiming the roads that had once been built here. Firnen hardly noticed as he trudged down one. The Ravenwind forest was large, one of the largest forest’s he had seen, though still not larger than their home, Eadilin forest. The further they walked in, the more entrancing it became. It was awash with sunlight that peeked through the trees. Ancient old beauty. If it wasn’t for the roads, you wouldn’t know they were ever used by humans. Or anyone for that matter.
He glanced around at Verina, silent as ever. It unnerved him somewhat. She was quiet, when they were meeting other people for the first time, or sometimes when she was really angry. He stopped, looking at the ground and the grass around for a while. Searching for any fresh prints or pick up any scents of humans. The grass was dry and it crackled under his feet.
After spending a good half an hour, with little results, he finally broke the silence.
‘Maybe it would be better to shapeshift’ Firnen suggested.
‘Possibly. Yeah. Maybe their gone.’ Verina said.
While it was true they hadn’t heard a trumpet call since they had made their way into the forest, if it even came from here, he wanted to be certain and safe. Firnen’s body twisted and changed as he became his normal coppery dragon. He growled lowly as he trotted down the curving route. A couple of rabbits and other small animals came bursting out of the undergrowth. A few birds flittered into the air from their own hiding places. Firnen lunged, cracking his jaws. They were quick and skittish, but he too was fast. Underneath his body, twigs snapped and leaves blew. He caught one of the creatures, a small mammal that wriggled in his grasp. It was a rabbit. He crunched down on it, and swallowed it whole, hungrily.
Craning his neck around, he caught a glimpse of bristling red and black fur. A fox, skirted alongside him. Verina, of course. She ran a few feet ahead, before turning off to the right, almost hidden from view because of the plants. Firnen followed closely. Foliage slapped at his legs and body as he moved away from the trail. The grass and plants seemed to be even higher along here.
Ahead of him, Verina seemed to dart off to the right somewhere. His ears picked up a new sound. The sound of flowing water. Verina seemed to have led him straight to a water source. He caught sight of her before she jumped straight in. She started to gulp down water. Firnen eventually caught up with her entering the river gingerly. It was fortunately shallow.
‘Feels nice, tastes even better,’ Verina called out to him.
Firnen smiled coming over to her. He bent his head down and drank some water. The cool, refreshing taste to his lips. He shut his eyes for a moment enjoying the moment. He dunked his head into the water letting it wash over him. He raised his head, looking toward Verina. But she had seemingly disappeared.
‘Verina?’ Firnen said.
Almost as if on cue, there was a surge of water, a breaking. Firnen turned his head toward the sound of the noise, over to his left side. Verina broke the surface of the water with a wriggling between the jaws. She went over to the other side of the river bank, and up onto the grass. She shook all the excess water from herself. Then she crunched down on the fish, ripping it into two pieces, with the other half dropping to the ground. She pawed at it holding it in place and then bent down eating the other half.
‘Feeling better?’ Firnen fretted as he crossed over to her. He ducked his head down, nuzzling against her. She smiled, tilting her head upward meeting his lips in a sweet kiss. He tasted her breath, fish.
‘I am.’ Verina said, a moment later. Her eyes glittered with warmth or at least it looked like that to him. She is so beautiful. What would he have done without her?
‘Good.’ Firnen said. He said ducking his head down again to lick her cheeks. She made a soft noise showing her approval, to his touch.
But then abruptly her eyes narrowed in thought, her tail stood on end as did her hairs. He recognised what that meant. She always did that when she got anxious, nervous or even fearful about something.
‘What is it?’ Firnen said, concern in his voice.
‘Don’t you hear it?’
‘Hear—’ Before he had the chance to finish, there was a loud crashing sound. He coiled his neck around and spotted a medium sized animal that he didn’t recognise. It was large, as big as a cow. Perhaps bigger. There was an odd shaped crest that curved out from its head. It was four legged with a swooping tail behind. They had a mottled brown and striped bodies, and a lighter underbelly. It opened its mouth and gave out a low trumpeting call. Another one answered, but it was deeper.
Seconds later a larger animal, almost twice the size. Verina squeaked beside him, and sheepishly ran around Firnen, hiding behind him. Firnen smiled, it was cute. Both animals looked towards them then the sounds of voices drifted to them. But Firnen realised they weren’t dangerous—he saw that they had ropes and modified saddles around them. Somebody had actually tamed them. He had heard of riders from around the world taming all sorts of different creatures. Gryphons were also known in different sizes. But some had a stronger connection with animals than other races. Especially dragons, and the fae. They seemed to have an even stronger bond with nature and animals than humans.
‘Good boys, eh what have you found?’ A loud, voice came over to them. A man appeared, with a smaller boy alongside him. Their clothes battered from age. He came around the side of the animals and looked towards Firnen and Verina. ‘Well I never, is that you Firnen?’ The voice said.
Firnen blinked. It was Venden Chandra.
‘Yeah it’s us.’ Firnen called out. ‘It’s okay. Don’t show fear.’ Firnen whispered down too Verina. She nodded even though it might be a bit late for that. Regardless she came out from beside him sheepishly. He ducked his head nuzzling his snout against Verina for reassurance, and that eased her into relaxation. She felt slightly better. Just a bit. Firnen led the way over to them. The animals, whatever they were, stared at him with brown eyes. He found them fascinating. In the way that they didn’t seem to get skittish or afraid as they neared. Firnen found that odd. Some animals got scared around him, even when he was in human form. Such as cats. Were they being subdued or relaxed by some hidden magic? He was a shaman after all, known for his healing. But taming creatures? Last he knew him he had a dog, and a wagon. His eyes glanced from the two animals to the small boy he didn’t know. He smelt his fear. They both stopped short and then shifted into their slender human appearances. This brought a snort and trumpet from both animals, with the smaller one lolling its head at them at an angle, with curiosity and perhaps confusion. But they then went quickly to indifference.
‘Didn’t know you had a boy.’ Firnen remarked.
‘Aha, he’s not my son but he’s like it. He’s called Kafi. He’s an orphan that was working on a trading ship from the Emerald Isles. He had been enslaved and taken, forced to work on the ship. The ship had arrived and I happened to be down on the coast in the city of Dosayl. So I traded some of my wears for him.’
Dosayl was a small port city south–east. He knew this because this isn’t the first time Venden had mentioned Dosayl. He had seen the city himself while flying but never knew it’s name. There were only a handful of human cities located on this smaller continent of Gorion. There were numerous villages and towns as far as he could remember from what he has seen and been told. It was half the size of the other two larger continents in Arendor and Kaidon. The Emerald Isles were located off the South East coast of Arendor, as that was the home of Shallan. Shallan was a female Adamantine dragon, before he had met Verina, he might have ended up with her instead. But she was far older, far more powerful and far more dangerous. She was making use of the lax laws they had over there courting high ranking men, for her own gain. What that was, Firnen couldn’t say. She used her magic to seduce and manipulate people to her will. He had no interest in ever visiting that place again but he was curious about if the place had change. Inwardly he believed it wouldn’t.
‘Very nice, what’s the emerald isles like now then?’ Firnen prompted. His eyes flickering from Kafi back to Venden.
‘Well same as it ever has been, brothels on every corner and still no church. Of course, gambling and slavery still prevalent. It’s under the rule of Rath Hagys from what I last heard.’ Venden said thoughtfully. ‘He is the leader of the Fire Knives Company, which gives them an upper hand in their militaristic power, I suppose.’
The name of the isles never did suit that cesspool, Firnen thought with a nod. He knew it wouldn’t have changed. But then he thought it could be worse, like the Badlands….
Firnen was about to ask about Shallan, and her fate but something distracted him.
A sudden animal honking sound brought him back to the present. Firnen looked at one of the creatures.
‘What about these unusual creqasaurs for short, or their full name as scholars call ‘em Parasaurolophus. You can pat them, their friendly. You can feed them too or ride them.’
‘Where did you get them?’
‘Well. I traded for ‘em. Actually I had three, another adult but it was killed on the road. Only just managed to escape. I got these before I met Kafi. Cost me quite a lot.’ Venden said with bitterness in his voice. He spat on the ground.
A few moments passed as Venden hand fed the larger of the Parasaurs, and gave it an affectionate stroke on the side. The animal stared at him, licking his hand, as a pet dog might. But far nicer, stronger and perhaps cleverer than a dog.
‘So how have you both been?’ Venden said after a while, his face beaming. His eyes reflected that. Genuine. He came over and gave a pat on the shoulder too Firnen. Then he moved over to Verina and gave a kiss on the hand to Verina, which made her fluster. She didn’t like people touching her. Except him of course. With a closer look at Venden he was wearing dark breeches, and a sleeveless woollen shirt which gave him a glimpse of his markings on the skin, one was yellow and another blue that signified something, probably signifying his family.
Firnen and Verina shared a glance with each other, communicating by their eyes, deciding which of them too answer. Firnen spoke first, ‘Good enough. We’ve decided to move now.’ He spoke but he was glancing at the small boy who was timid. His left arm looked withered and the right didn’t fare much better. He had short hair, and grey coloured eyes. A small nose.
‘Move on? To where?’ He asked casually.
‘No idea.’ Firnen replied with a shrug.
Venden’s face creased into a frown, a look of confusion in his eyes.
‘We got attacked by mercenaries,’ Verina said quietly but it was loud enough for them to hear.
‘There was this elf with them. I have never seen anything like this elf before. He looked undead.’ Firnen said.
‘Stranger still, he put some sort of mark on Verina.’ Firnen said, gesturing towards her.
‘Let’s see.’ Venden crossed over to her.
Verina glanced at Firnen who came and helped her as she showed him the mark. Firnen felt his whole body go tense in anticipation. Would there be a cure?
Watching Venden as he peered down at it, his eyes went wide-eyed as the realisation hit him. ‘It’s the mark of the…other..’ His voice barely an audible whisper. He pulled his hand away.
‘Does it hurt?’ Venden asked. His eyes scanned her body especially her mark.
Firnen felt his throat tighten. Does he know anything about these?
Verina jerked her head up and down, a yes.
‘Is there a way to heal it?’ Firnen asked.
‘Heal….as in make it go all together? Possibly. If you spoke to a priest maybe he could do something.’
Firnen felt his stomach drop. They were hundreds of miles from a church. In fact he didn’t even know where the nearest church was. He was never strongly religious. He was aware of the Gods—even Dragons knew of them. Surprisingly nearly everyone, no matter what race were taught about the twelve Gods. Of course some had different names for them, so his father had told him years ago. He couldn’t remember all the names, not even the ones he was supposed to remember. As it was said that there was the other God. The God that was blamed for much of the evil in the world. It was said he was the God that mated with humans. And because of this he was the cause of many evil in the world, as he was the only God to mate with other humans. He inadvertently gave them his own touch. To counter that, though according to the same story the Gods, sent down their own creations called the Vespira. Different beasts to ward against their own. It was said that it was how Dragons and other creatures came into being many hundreds of years ago. Ancient times.
A low sigh brought him out of his thoughts. He could feel Verina’s disappointment even before he made eye contact with her. He wrapped his arms around her waist as he leaned into her, giving her comfort. She whimpered. She turned around staring up at him. Tears burned in her eyes. He couldn’t tell if they were tears of anger or sadness. Maybe both. He wanted to tell her that it would be okay, but it was nothing but false hope. Firnen just wanted to scream. But he knew it wouldn’t help them.
‘But there might be something we can do,’ Venden suggested, noting her discomfort.
‘What?’ Firnen and Verina exclaimed as one.
‘Well…I can help ease the pain at least. But it will never make it go away. You need to bathe it daily in Ryl oil or a chew on Ether leaf. That could help.’ Venden considered, stroking his chin. Ether leaf was a type of leaf used by some people for its magical properties but it was rare.
‘Anything else?’ Firnen insisted. His voice showing desperation.
‘Ryl Oil along with some other stuff. I have Ryl oil back at my camp.’ Venden replied.
‘We should leave now then,’ Firnen prompted, trying to get across the need to leave quickly.
A parasaur honked near him. The wind shifted around him.
‘All right then.’ Venden replied. ‘It’s not too far away. It’s near Lake Nevan.’
Firnen knew the spot. It was a beautiful tranquil lake. He had once taken Verina to the lake a summer ago. It was nestled between the forest and hills.
‘Let’s go then.’ Firnen said.
Vended saddled up onto his parasaur as did the boy, Kafi.
‘You alright following?’ Venden asked.
‘Yeah.’ Firnen answered. He sniffed the air, taking in their scents to follow them.
The parasaur honked again. This was a deeper, more alarmed sound. Firnen froze, suddenly alert. His pulses throbbing, his feet itching. He breathed in deeply trying to force down the urge to change and strike them before they made the move. He started to turn but a tug on his arm kept him still.
‘Firnen we need to go now,’ Verina said, leaning to his ear as Venden urged his parasaur, to turn around. The larger one nudged the younger parasaur to move. Which it did after a few seconds. They both hurried scrambling into the forest. Once they were clear, they started to move hurriedly. Whoever was coming was drawing closer. There was no time to waste.Firnen linked his hand with Verina’s left hand and they burst into a sprint, cutting through vegetation, and low lying branches.
© 2017 GannerStorm