Evil plans to destroy Etias. The king, known as the Reaper, must save the realms.
Krextia moved from behind the bedroom curtain where she helped tuck the daemon children to bed, returning to the small living room. She looked over at Etriz with sympathy in her glowing white eyes as he sat before the fire-lit mantel.
The wind daemoness pushed her braided blonde hair over the front of her shoulder as she stepped to gather the tea she crafted before the fire family arrived at her home. She walked over to sit beside her friend.
"Everything will be okay. Azara is strong and stubborn. She will not let the likes of them defeat her," she said to the man. Etriz sighed, placing his face into his hands, the weight of failure upon his shoulders.
"I realize she is, but I failed... Not only did I not keep the village and its people safe, but I didn't protect my family from harm." He lifted his gaze, staring deep into the fire as if expecting it to offer him a solution to rid the guilt in his heart. "I cannot take on Niaris and that man by myself. The man... Who is he? Azara never mentioned such a being."
Etriz turned his head, looking at Krextia with exhaustion embedded in his gaze. He refused to sleep, fearful that the dangerous duo would return and attack his family again while he slumbered. Krextia shook her head as she offered him the second cup of tea, picking up her own.
"I never heard of this man. He is not one of Madame Medri's usual lackeys. He must be someone she found... he sounds dangerous," the firelight glinted off the shadow on the upper part of her face, "she let Azara be for centuries... so why come back now? The Madame must be planning something."
Etriz took the tea with a nod of thanks, leaning into the furniture and drew a slow swig. He gazed back at the fire, the blaze in his own eyes dulled with exhaustion and worry. "She has them and gods know what else behind her. Now she has Azara. Who knows how she will control my wife for her plans?”
Krextia shifted before letting out a heavy sigh after taking a sip of her tea. "Unfortunately, I know how she will use Azara. It's how she controlled us before we escaped."
An expression of worry crossed over Etriz's face, understanding the implications of Krextia's words. If Madame Medri took control over Azara as she did long ago, he knew a battle with his wife would be eminent.
"Before we attempt to find Azara, we need to place the children somewhere safe. They aren't ready for this... and I can't bear to lose them too."
Krextia paused for a long moment as she stared at her tea. "The children can stay here while we sort out what to do for her."
Etriz's golden eyes drifted from the fire to the side where the dragon egg sat on a small cloth. He brought the egg from the temple, never letting it part from him for long.
Krextia looked from him to the egg. "I hate to intrude on your private matters, but... why do you carry that egg?"
Etriz tore his eyes away from the egg back at the woman. "It was left by the elder dragon who raised me centuries ago."
He stood, placing his tea on the table as he walked over to the egg. He put his hand on the scaled surface. "I was young when my village was ransacked. My mother was mortally wounded, though she managed to escape with me. She stumbled across a cave with an old dragon living within… Undry, Guardian of the Forest. As her dying plea, she begged Undry to care for me. The dragon obeyed my mother's wishes by raising me and training me to fight.”
Etriz lifted his tunic just enough to show the faint marking of an abstract dragon that covered the whole right half of his body. The head started below his collarbone with the tail ending on his ankle. "The elder dragon gifted me with this once I was ready. My natural fire abilities increased tenfold, and I found I can communicate with dragons in their native tongue."
He lifted a hand, producing a small flame in his palm. As he did, the markings on his side shined a brilliant gold color. When he distinguished the blaze, the glow disappeared.
Krextia examined the tattoo, tilting her head as she sipped on her fresh cup of tea. "I assume then your guardian was a fire dragon? Those are the most hotheaded.”
Etriz smirked at her humor as he let his tunic fall. "Yes, he was a fire dragon. As much as he taught me, Undry left me with just as many questions."
The male fire daemon paused, pondering over the memories of his guardian. "He died of old age. Before his death, Undry instructed me to use his scales as a new coat of armor, as dragon scales are the strongest material in the world. After my state of grief, as I collected the scales, I found this egg buried beneath them. He never mentioned it, but I carry and protect the egg every day since his passing."
He lifted the scale-covered egg that shown an iridescent glow from the flames. Krextia listened to his tale, sipping at her tea as she did. Her white eyes examined the egg, studying its features.
"I imagine that you received it years ago... long before you met Azara, correct? The thing never moved? Nothing ever hatched?”
Etriz nodded, using his tunic to polish the egg from the faint dust particles that collected on it. "I have had it for near to five-hundred years. It has never so much as twitched, but I am connected to it as I was the elder dragon who raised me. I will never let it leave my side."
Krextia nodded in understanding as she stood up to get herself more tea. "Your mentioning of the dragons is interesting, as there are rumors that the dragons are stirring.”
Etriz cocked an eyebrow at her. He placed the egg back beside the fire before turning his gaze to Krextia. “Stirring? How so?”
“They are attacking innocent people,” said Krextia, her expression grave. “They have been breaking the Equinox Concordant. No one knows why. However, I find it odd that Madame Medri’s sudden attack and these dragons are happening at the same time. It can’t be a coincidence. Perhaps there is a dragon in this area who knows what is happening? Dragons are very wise of the workings of the world, after all.”
Etriz turned to the window, gazing out into the darkness. "That depends on what dragon we speak to. A few are easy to track if you know where to look.”
The Faceless Daemoness of Wind brought a finger to her chin, her white eyes looking up towards the ceiling as she pondered. "I believe a blue dragon lives relatively close to this area.”
Etriz moved towards her as he folded his arms over his chest. "Then if you agree to go with me, we will seek this blue dragon in the morning. I must find more information about Madame Medri, her schemes, and where my wife is."
Krextia placed a hand on her hip as she looked up at him. "Very well. But if I am eaten by any dragons, I will have the Reaper bring my spirit back to haunt you." She gave a wide grin, a characteristic trait of hers.
Her humor lifted his spirits, allowing his troubled mind to ease. "You are a wonderful friend, Krextia. I am in your debt for your help." He sat back in his chair, his body appeared relaxed with the fire returned to his eyes. He smiled at her before taking another swig of his tea. "My children have a wonderful aunt."
"Your children tell me that often," Krextia said with a stretch of her slender frame, lifting her arms high above her head. "Try to sleep tonight. You won't be useful if you're exhausted." She gave another smile before she turned to disappear into her room.
Etriz nodded as Krextia departed. As much as he wanted to rest, he could not. He spent most of the night staring into the fire and glancing at the egg by it. His mind focused on Azara, thinking back on happier times together. Finally, fatigue got the best of him, forcing him to shut his eyes.
"I will see you again, my love," he murmured into the darkness of the room as he drifted off to dreams of his wife.
Once the children settled, Krextia and Etriz began their search for the dragon north of their location, staying near high altitudes as dragons frequented mountainsides. The woman shivered from the bitter wind, despite her thick, white fur coat around her shoulders.
She lifted a hand, and at her command, the wind ceased to blow around her general proximity. She heaved a great sigh as she continued up the mountain.
"Azara owes me for this," she grumbled to herself. "She knows I don't enjoy the cold."
"I swear to you, Krextia, that we both are in your debt," Etriz said. He remained a few paces behind her, adorning his dragon-scaled armor once more. The heat emanating from the scales prevented the bitter coldness from nipping at his skin. He carried with him the dragon egg nestled in a leather satchel on his side. They pounded forward through the snow, Etriz's yellow eyes scanning the skyline and the ridges of the mountain for any glimpse of what could be a dragon.
Krextia moved forward still until the pathway became too narrow to continue straight. It forced her to hug the stone wall as she slid her body along the narrow ridge, grumbling to herself as she glanced to the valley far below them. She sighed as she braced the wall harder, easing along her path.
When she turned around the corner, she noted a large ledge that led to a cave. She hurried along before stepping out before the mouth of the cavern, glancing around with her white eyes.
"This looks big enough to fit a dragon," she whispered. Even at her low volume, her voice echoed into the cave.
Etriz moved to her side, glancing inward at the cavern. He noted the size of it was near the same as the elder dragon's that raised him.
"I believe this is it," Etriz said as he moved into the cavern. As he neared the entrance, the egg that remained dormant for many years gave a hard jolt. Etriz stared in amazement before he looked at Krextia. "I say that is a confirmation. It has never moved until now."
Krextia raised an eyebrow at the egg before looking back up at him. "Does it know when a dragon is nearby?"
Etriz gave a shrug, unable to offer any answers. A low grumble from inside the cavern caught their attention, turning their eyes back to the darkness of the cave. Etriz hesitated for a moment before inching his way forward to investigate. His eyes darted around the walls, keenly aware of any movement.
The low growling grew louder when, from out of the darkness, a giant blue dragon claw stepped forward, followed by a mammoth-sized head. The deep vibrant blue of the dragon's scales shone even in the cavern's darkness. The lizard turned its icy blue eyes on the two intruders.
"Svaust beviri lekar wer okarthel di Nyvet, sargt di wer myvillion?" the deep voice snarled.
Etriz's eyes lifted to the top of the towering creature before him. He understood the dragon's language. He sensed the warmth of his dragon marking on his side intensify before he responded in the common tongue.
"I am Etriz Arkan. This is my friend, Krextia. We come to seek your great wisdom, Nyvet, Guardian of the North."
He gave a short bow, the dragon-scale armor shining brighter than usual. The egg at his side gave another hard tremble. Etriz kept his attention towards Nyvet, not wanting to give the impression that something else was more important than the dangerous lizard before him. Nyvet turned his blue eyes on the fire daemon, lowering his massive head to eye-level. His icy breath compared with the mountainside he resided.
"Why do you wear the skin of a darastrix, mortal?" the dragon sneered in the common tongue, his thin pupils narrowing into dangerous slits. Etriz sensed a shiver run along his spine. This surprised him as his natural hot-tempered race, and the protecting dragon scales always prevented the coldness from reaching him.
Even the egg appeared to sense the biting chill as the thing shivered against his hip. Etriz stood unwavering as he spoke in draconic as an attempt to show respect for the dragon, "An elder dragon in the south gifted the scales. He raised and mentored me in the ways of the darastrix, Guardian Nyvet."
This caught the dragon's attention, moving its long snout closer to Etriz, sniffing at him and his scales. Etriz didn't move, allowing the mighty beast to take in his scent.
"Yes... I recognize that scent," Nyvet said in the common-tongue as he lifted his long neck up, eying the two. "Undry, Protector of the Forest… I have not heard of tales of him in many a century."
Etriz’s heart leaped at the sound of Undry's name being spoken out loud. He had not uttered the name in centuries, the title a faded memory in his mind.
"After Undry's passing, I continued protecting that same forest as he did, near to five centuries since his presence last graced the realms."
The egg gave another hard twitch, shifting its position to slide out of Etriz's satchel. Etriz bolted to catch the egg before hitting the ground. Nyvet stared at the egg in the fire daemon's hands.
"Place the egg on the ground," the blue dragon commanded. Krextia glanced at Etriz before looking back up at Nyvet. Etriz hesitated for a moment before he heeded the lizard's instructions. He set the delicate egg down before he took a step back.
The egg jerked and rolled towards the blue dragon. Nyvet lowered his great head once again, eying the egg and its movements in quiet observation. The great dragon exhaled, blowing a coldness over the egg, extending his power to the contents within the shell.
The egg shivered from the breath before hopping several inches in the air. It continued to jolt back and forth before a loud crack echoed throughout the cavern. The egg's scaled outer shell shifted, and a piece fell away. A soft noise squeaked from within the casing, followed by a shrill screech.
The blue dragon lifted a giant claw, prodding a piece of the shell away to show more of the contents.
"Confn ekik, sart ir," Nyvet said out loud, reverting to the draconic tongue.
"Come out, small one?" Etriz translated, his heart thumping in his chest as he stared at the egg. Another shifting motion displayed a small, red, and gold baby dragon. Its scales glistened with an inner flame, even in the dim light. The dragon screeched once more before lifting just its head, blinking open its large eyes at Nyvet.
The baby dragon opened its mouth wide and breathed, sending out small sparks. Thin tufts of smoke filtered from its nostrils, letting out a high-pitched growl. Etriz's eyes widened in shock, realizing the tiny thing appeared as a smaller, younger version of Undry.
"Such a sweet little one!" Krextia cooed as she clasped her hands together, her white eyes sparkling at the baby.
Nyvet leaned his head back again to allow Etriz a full view of the tiny dragon. "Darastrixi... we do not die of old age. No. We are like the phoenix - reborn again to grow and live our lives anew. This is how we are eternal."
Etriz kneeled beside the egg for closer examination. The small red and gold dragon turned its head towards him while unfurling from its curled state. It tilted its head at Etriz, omitting a slight cooing noise while lifting its body up, stretching out its tiny wings. Etriz looked up at Nyvet, stunned and at a loss for words.
"Are you saying... this baby... is Undry born again? Why did he not tell me this, Guardian Nyvet?"
The blue dragon nodded. "Yes, mortal. A hatchling must be near a grown darastrix to come forth." Nyvet appeared to shrug as he shifted on his large feet. "It is possible he wanted you to discover this on your own."
Etriz smiled in astonishment as he reached out for the baby dragon. "Undry, even after this time, you still teach me."
The baby dragon hopped onto Etriz's hand and clambered along his arm, perching himself on the top of the fire daemon's helmet. Etriz's scaled armor appeared to have a renewed glow when the baby settled on him. Nyvet chuckled, which came out as a deep rumble that shook the ground beneath their feet. Krextia stared at the baby dragon before turning her white eyes back to the Guardian of the North.
"Guardian... we come to request information."
Nyvet turned his blue eyes on the female now, his large nostrils flaring as he took in her scent. "I recognize you." His blue eyes narrowed in focus on her. "You are a creature from the Elemental Plane of Wind, are you not? But an evil monster created you... one who has sided with Xarsunon."
"Xarsunon?" Krextia questioned, the name ringing memories from long ago.
Nyvet's scowl was evident as he lowered his head to her level. "Xarsunon the Undead Dragon King, a monstrosity to the darastrixi.” The great dragon gestured with his head to the eggshell on the ground. "Darastrixi are aware they will die and be reborn unless their souls are destroyed before rebirth. Xarsunon was not content with such a fate. He never wanted to die or pass through the stages of rebirth. The Undead Dragon King is a lich, just as the Reaper and Madame Medri. Unless one were to destroy the phylactery of Xarsunon, the item that contains his soul, that perversion of the darastrixi could never perish. However, he no longer has a physical body, as it was destroyed during the Great War. No one knows where the phylactery is.”
Etriz's face twisted with confusion before long-forgotten memories came back to him. He turned his golden eyes back to Nyvet. "Undry told me of such a being long ago.”
The baby dragon on his head perked at the mention of Undry's name. It leaned its head over the face of the mask to make eye contact with the fire daemon.
"Yes, your name is Undry," Etriz confirmed to the dragon who made a clicking noise of excitement before settling back on his perch. He looked back at the Guardian of the North. “If the evil witch Madame and Xarsunon are in ties with each other, then she has a mighty army by her side. Guardian Nyvet, do you know anything about the recent dragon attacks?”
"That is beyond my knowledge," Nyvet said with a shake of his giant head. "But if Madame Medri and the dragon-lich are working together once more... it can only mean doom for the rest of us.”
Etriz stood tall as he looked back at Krextia. "Do you know anything?”
“I… know very little,” Krextia said with a shake of her head. “Madame Medri ensured us Faceless Daemons were kept ignorant of her plans.”
Etriz turned to Nyvet and bowed, forgetting for a moment the baby dragon perched on his shoulder. The baby sprung to life, scrambling to grab onto Etriz's shoulder pauldron to prevent from falling. Etriz stood up straight and used his hand to nudge Undry onto his shoulder.
"Then we must start the search for this Xarsunon and Madame Medri’s ties to him. Nyvet, Guardian of the North, thank you for your wisdom. I am forever in your debt."
"Should the need arise, I will fight against Xarsunon and Madame Medri," said Nyvet with a bow of his great head. "Good luck, to the both of you."
A group of gray elves kneeled before Madame Medri. The lich stared at the gathering, her great scythe in hand as she gestured to the leader of the bunch.
"Symania, what news do you bring?"
"Uddris and the dragons have agreed to the alliance, and will acknowledge Lord Xarsunon as their king once more after he defeats the Reaper," the woman answered.
The report gave the creature pause. It approached the kneeling individual, gliding over the dirt as the mist swirled around its garments. "Rise."
The noted elf woman, Symania Tathviel, stood to attention, her cowl resting on her shoulders, her sharp features evident to see. Her eyes stood out the most on her face, her irises swirling hues of the sunrise which glowed in the graveyard's darkness.
"What are Uddris’s contingencies, Symania?" inquired the scythed figure, pacing through the dense gloom in reflection.
"He demands to be the new Dragon Lord, once Daar Ethot is destroyed.”
The gaunt figure scoffed at the notion, waving a hand at the idea. "He is a fool to expect I will ever permit him such authority. The Guardians will likely start their own war with a new Daar.”
"Then what shall I inform him, Mistress?" the elf asked.
Madame Medri paused, moving a bony finger to her chin. "... Tell General Uddris if he wants his position, it will be by my laws. Particular conditions must be met. I will not blindly place that amount of power into the claws of a dragon, only to have another battle on my hands. We are to coax the Guardians to our side, not divide them.”
Symania bowed her head in understanding before lifting it once more. “Mistress… we have also heard news about the Reaper’s movements.”
The Madame stared at her, waiting for her to continue.
"The Reaper is searching for information," the gray elf said. “He is becoming increasingly suspicious, and word has it that he builds his army in preparation for battle.”
The Madame paused at the news, bringing a withered hand to her chin in thought. "Good. Let him discover what is looming. He will not be able to stop it."
The rotting witch reached into her robes, pulling a small necklace with a gleaming ruby attached at the center. She held it out for Symania to take. Symania raised an eyebrow, casting her mistress a confused look.
"The gem that holds Azara? Mistress, why are you giving this to me?”
“Wear it. Use Azara's powers as your own. Familiarize yourself with her abilities,” was all Madame Medri offered as she held the necklace to the gray elf.
Symania took the necklace from her, dangling before her glistening eyes. “What if Azara does not permit my use of her powers?”
“Allow your daughter to train with you,” said the lich, turning her evil gaze onto a younger elf maiden. The female bowed her head in respect before lifting her hood, displaying her silvery skin and sharp angular futures. Like her mother Symania, this young woman held strange eyes of swirling pinks and golds. Cascading locks of white hair fell along her back, near to her waist.
On her forehead sat a tear-shaped sapphire in the center of a circlet, the precious gem sparkling even in the dim light.
“Verrona has been training with Nelene for several ten-day now,” said the old lich to Symania, turning back to her. “She grows stronger each day, despite Nelene’s resistance. Azara may fight at first, but she cannot withstand for long.”
“Mistress,” came another voice as one female stepped forward on Symania’s other side. She lifted her hands to remove her cowl. She looked similar to Verrona, though older with dark black hair.
“I humbly request to receive the gift of the Faceless Daemonesses. I believe I am far more qualified than my sister to take on such a task to serve at your bidding.”
Verrona glared at the other through the corner of her eyes, though she said nothing.
“Foolish girl!” hissed Symania, rounding to face her daughter with a threatening glare. “You dare presume such things to our Mistress?! I should cut that waggling tongue from your insolent mouth!”
If the withered creature could smile further, she would have. She appreciated Jaelryn’s blood lust and knew she would be a strong tool as the war neared its peak. Madame Medri raised her scythe to silence her minions, a purplish glow shimmering from the runes decorating the blades. Symania and her daughters stopped their bickering to turn back to the lich, bowing their heads in apology.
The Madame lowered her scythe again as she turned to the other female gray elf. “I have further plans for you, Jaelryn. I intend to let you fuse with Niaris, once she gives birth. But for now, you are to aid the others with locating further information about the remaining Tome of Kaegro. I have in my grasp the Book of Kothar, but the other two remain missing. The Crimson Lunar Prophecy cannot be complete without them.”
She noted the smirk of approval stretching along Jaelryn’s sharp jawline before the lich turned to the other two.
“Azara, Faceless Daemoness of fire and Nelene, Faceless Daemoness of water. These two are opposites and much be taught to work together to strengthen their abilities. I must warn you – neither approve of the other, so there will be challenges ahead for you both as you train.”
The three bowed their heads in understanding.
"Now go. Return to Selirius to General Uddris," said Madame Medri. She watched the group disappear, remaining motionless as whispers crept from the fog surrounding her.
Do you trust these incompetent fools with beings such as Azara and Nelene?
Madame Medri glanced over her shoulder to see the cracked statue standing a few yards behind her. The eyes of the decaying bust glowed an eerie crimson, mist swirling around its face.
"Do not fear," said the lich, turning to face the statue. “Even if those fools fail their simple task, Azara and Nelene are still well under my control. Besides, they are mere pawns. Only the vessel is one I am unwilling to sacrifice.”
You speak of the prophecy foretold in the Book of Kothar?
The old lich lifted her hand as the thick book appeared in her bony grasp. She opened it, sifting through the pages until she found the passage.
“In starless night, block'd light, arose from shadow's bleak of the lunar blood song. The promise of the angel’s ice lips, a silhouette of the deepest black rises from the cold earth before the white. The skies blaze with the fires of suffering, mortal and god of one melting to flesh and bone.”
The book disappeared in a burst of flames as she lifted her eyes to the cracked angel statue once more. “This child was conceived in the night of the blood moon… and will serve as your vessel, so you may rise to power once more.”
Do not hold such certainties so soon. For, as you prepare your champion, so is the Reaper.
Madame Medri scoffed at the notion as she waved a hand dismissively. “I fear not the young Prince Kyvan. He is callow and arrogant, naive about the workings of the universe. Regardless of the intensity of his training, he will not be prepared by the time of the next blood moon.”
Yet the vessel will be?
“Yes!” the Madame hissed. “He will be the ultimate killing force… unstoppable by all those who dare stand in his way!”
A creature with such power cannot be controlled.
“I have my ways, Lord Xarsunon,” purred the lich before she turned with a billow of her cloak, disappearing into the fog as the red eyes of the statue stared at the spot she once stood.