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Rated: 18+ · Book · Fantasy · #2175359
Evil plans to destroy Etias. The king, known as the Reaper, must save the realms.
#950992 added November 29, 2019 at 2:22pm
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Chapter 6
Chapter 6

White, fluffy tufts of clouds drifted across an otherwise endless canvas of the perfect blue sky. A thick layer of holly, oak, and ash trees wove the radiant forest together. The crowns of older, taller oaks emerged above, towering as watchful giants over the rest of the woods. Rays of light burst through their tops, reaching a range of young saplings in the understory layer, as they struggled to take hold in the stony ground.

Creepers clung to the occasional tree, and a range of shrubs and flowers appeared along the floor, contrasting against the otherwise dark terrain. A cacophony of sounds, most belonging to bird songs, resonated through the air, forming a chaotic orchestra disrupted by the occasional cries of birds of prey.

To the untrained eye, the dark form that now moved across the vastness of this landscape could be confused with the massive shadow of one of those birds of prey. But blood-red scales, iridescent underneath the noon sun told another story. As narrowed, red eyes set within a bony, angular skull, complete with two thick, angular nostrils and a flat nose. A thick, muscular neck ran from its head and into a rippled, bulky body that glistened with crimson scales, acting as armor plating its spine. Smooth leather covered the bottom part of the creature, colored darker than the rest of its body.

Massive wings grew from below its shoulders and ended at its pelvis. Thick leather stretched across the appendages with eerie bone structures and curved points rising from the end as giant scythes. Its tail held a razor-edged tip and covered in the same crystal skin as its body. Four massive limbs carried the immense weight of its body, each ending in a claw containing five digits, adorned with sharp talons made of grayish bone. Its size, color, and terrifying visage unmistakable, as it circled, dipped and dived across the firmament.

In the forest floor below, a woman pushed through a thorny thicket and paused. With a glance upwards through the tall oak trees above her head, she sought a better view of the other figure hiding amongst the branches. Her protective, leather garments blended well into the green grove around her, shielding her into the scenery, save for her deep blue eyes which stood in stark contrast to the muted earth tones surrounding her. The traces of the girl she once was still lingered in Melina's eyes and thinness of her body, though now her womanly curves were noticeable.

"Do you see anything?" she called upwards, her voice swallowed by the vast array of vegetation around her.

No response. Groaning under her breath, she checked to be sure she strapped her prized bow, Aicanáro the Soul Scorcher, and matching quiver secure to her pack. She gripped a low branch and hoisted herself up into the tree. With honed skill, Melina climbed up the mighty tree until reaching the top, pushing through the leaves to break through the canopy. The fresh breeze felt pleasant against her sweaty face as she brushed strands of her long earthen-brown hair from her eyes. She glanced around, calling again,


She squinted her eyes at the sudden light from the exposure of the sun, considering her surroundings. From her high vantage, she observed their tiny village, SilentForest, to the southwest and not far away. She clambered back the massive oak, landing on the grass floor with a gentle thud of her leather boots. As she straightened, a male voice startled her, forcing her to whirl around and stare into familiar hazel-colored eyes.

"Melina, where the hell did you go?"

Bleiz pulled back his cowl, uncovering his short, spiky light-brown hair. Four years her senior, Bleiz stood a half a foot taller than her now, with wide-shoulders and light scars decorating the skin over his lips and under his left eye, hard-won reminders from many years of battle.
Stubble lined his tight, well-structured jaw. His dark eyebrows sloped downward in a perpetual scowl that drew his mouth into a hard line across his face. Bleiz's eyes enclosed a bright amber color around the pupil which balanced with a ring of honey-brown. The young man's gait showed a careful, seasoned warrior.

"SilentForest is a short way from here," Melina stated, ignoring her brother's question. She gestured in the town's direction before she shifted to the predetermined location. Her older brother sighed before shaking his head, turning to follow the smaller woman. They walked in silence through the dense woodland, breaking through a clearing which opened to a patch of blue sky. Melina stopped to glance up at the stratosphere for a moment, returning to a compelling, nagging feeling that something above them demanded attention. Bleiz strode a few more paces forward before noticing she stayed behind him. He spun on her in annoyance.

"Are you coming?"

Melina didn't reply right away. Instead, she squinted her eyes against the sun above them. After a moment, she raised a hand, gesturing for Bleiz to follow her gaze.

"Do you see it?"

Bleiz tilted his head upward, his gaze following Melina's gesture to the sky, just as a dark shadow moved the firmament. He narrowed his eyes as he stood straight. The dark shape swept closer and closer towards them, moving at a high rate of speed. Then an ear-splitting roar sounded, causing their hearts to plummet to the pits of their stomachs.


Without delay, the siblings sprinted in practiced unison through the timberland, southwest towards the village. Flames erupted behind them, licking the bark and leaves of the oaks, swallowed by mounting embers. The blaze, soon all-consuming, filled the forest with thick, smothering smoke. Melina and Bleiz tumbled out of the woods with the dragon right on their heels. Enormous red wings destroyed tree trunks with absolute ease as another deep intake of breath resulted in flames building inside its chest cavity. With another roar, the fiery inferno erupted past a range of sharpened fangs, headed right for the fleeing pair.

Flames caught Melina's cloak, igniting the fabric. The sudden, fiery heat on her back caused her to stumble. She performed a somersault in the dirt and in a seamless motion, unclasped her cloak and threw it free from her body. Bleiz ran ahead at first, not realizing what happened until he came to a screeching halt, spinning around to see his sister,


Melina got on her knees, facing the monstrous beast hovering menacingly above her. Without looking back, Melina reached to pull out her onyx bow Aicanáro. In a flawless motion, she pulled an arrow from the quiver, clicking the nock at the end of the shaft into the bowstring with practiced ease. With careful aim, she released the arrow at the dragon. The moment the missile left the string, a small fireball erupted in the sky blinding everyone nearby.

The arrow landed dead center between the dragon's eyes. It bellowed in pain, frustration, and rage as the bolt exploded in a shower of embers against its scales. It knocked the beast senseless, shaking its monolithic head before it turned its enraged eyes back on the human woman. On her feet now, Melina stepped backward, firing arrow after arrow at the dragon, as bolts of fire from her arrows mixed with the reptile's flames.

Bleiz scrambled up a building spared from the fire-fight around him, his bow out and ready. Though not enchanted as his sister's weapon, he possessed an extraordinary aim, not once missing his mark, even as the monstrous beast thrashed its body. In a frenzy, the dragon's hazardous tail swished around, crashing into a nearby cart, splintering the wood. Its tail swung back, colliding with Melina's side. She let out a cry of agony as the dagger-like-tail slashed her flank, sending her flying backward through the dirt. Bleiz's eyes widened.

"Damn!" he hissed between clenched teeth. He glanced towards Melina as she struggled to return to her feet despite her severe wound. Her bow flew from her hands and now rested on the ground several yards from her. Bleiz could not reach his sister in time as the fierce dragon stalked towards its defenseless prey. Like a snake ready to strike, it leaned its head back, massive jaws distended to show rows of razor-sharp teeth. A deep, growling hiss rumbled...

In this commotion, it deafened the sound of pounding, approaching horse hooves. Someone hoisted Melina up into the air, seconds before the beast snapped its mouth on the spot where she once sat. She let out a scream of shock, plopped on a saddle. Stunned and disoriented, she looked up at the horse's rider, a man with piercing gray eyes and jet-black hair.

The mysterious rescuer wore a dark gray armor which glinted in the sunlight. Masterfully crafted layers of metal in the shape of dragon scales decorated the man's shoulders, with pointed, half-covering rerebraces that sat under the shoulder plates to protect his upper arms. Vambraces shielded his lower limbs with two blades attached on each outer side, sharpened for a weapon.

Two layers of the same colored metal created the breastplate, mimicking dragon scales along with the sigil of the Royal Family imprinted in the center. It covered everything from his neck downward. A rounded cuisse covered his upper legs while greaves with a skull-shaped metal ornament piece on each outer side protected his lower extremities. On his hip rested his sheathed blade. The cross-guard held a lavish dragon tail on each side. His horse was pure white and dressed in matching glinting armor. The horse snorted as it turned around towards the dragon's eyes, coming to a trot now as the man addressed Melina,

"Are you all right?"

He did not wait for an answer. He hopped off the horse while unsheathing his blade in one swift motion. With a quick smack to the steed's rump, he sent Melina out of the fight. The injured woman supported herself against the muscled neck of the mount, one hand pressed against her bleeding side. Spots danced in her vision, and her grip weakened on the mighty animal.

The dark-haired knight spun back to the fight. The dragon, undeterred by the newcomer, opened its jaw wide again to snap its mouth around the warrior. He was the quicker, sliding under its head to position himself under the more vulnerable underbelly. He stabbed his broadsword upwards to slice the blade through the softer tissue with ease.

With a painful howl, the dragon reared up to avoid another strike from that wicked blade. This placed the monster in perfect alignment with Bleiz's next arrow, as the pointed-tip slid deep into the crimson of the dragon's left eye. The now half-blinded beast tried blowing fire sightless at its surroundings to incinerate the humans.

With the dragon's focus elsewhere, the knight wrapped his hand around one of its horns atop its head. He swung his body on top of the dragon's head, kneeling between its eyes. He lifted the blade above his head, thrusting it into the beast's skull. Blood and brain matter coated him as the dragon shuddered beneath him. With a thunderous bang, its massive body collapsed into the dirt, dust billowing up into the air.

The man jumped off the now-dead creature, wiping his sword clean on its scales. He sheathed his weapon as he turned to the surrounding destruction. With agility fitting to a ranger, Bleiz scaled the side of the building to reach the ground. He ignored the knight as he ran to his injured sister who remained propped on the horse, teetering on consciousness.

"Melina, keep your eyes open!" her brother demanded of her, forcing her to turn blurry gaze towards him.

"Please, allow me to take her to my healers, they can help her," said the knight from behind Bleiz. The younger man turned to glare at him, not appreciative of the offer.

"We don't need your help. I know how to take care of my sister."

The man frowned at Bleiz, sensing the unnecessary stubbornness in this one.

"Do not allow your pride to blind you from what's best for your sister's wellbeing. The healers can heal her far quicker than you can," he said. Before Bleiz barked back, there was a loud thud. The now unconscious Melina fell from her perch upon the horse and lay motionless on the ground, her blood darkening the soil. Her brother kneeled over her in shock, the fear of losing her consuming him.

Without looking back at the knight, he said in a hushed, hoarse voice, "Very well... take her to your healers."


Thick, red velvet curtains lined with gold hung in generous folds around a mullioned window beside a small wool bed. The warm morning sunlight filtered through Melina's thin eyelids, which caused the sleeping woman to stir. With eyes still closed, her groggy thoughts came to as flitting memories of her battle with the dragon.

Melina jolted to a sitting position, her eyes wide as she whirled her head to take in her surroundings. Nothing around her appeared familiar, with the dark rustic furniture, a walnut-colored wooden floor, and high vaulted ceilings. Even the bedsheets underneath her were of fine silk, Melina realized.

Thick, red velvet curtains lined with gold hung in generous folds around a mullioned window beside a small wool bed. The warm morning sunlight filtered through Melina's thin eyelids, which caused the sleeping woman to stir. With eyes still closed, her groggy thoughts came to as flitting memories of her battle with the dragon.

Melina jolted to a sitting position, her eyes wide as she whirled her head to take in her surroundings. Nothing around her appeared familiar, with the dark rustic furniture, a walnut-colored wooden floor, and high vaulted ceilings.

The door opened, causing her to jump with surprise. The knight from the earlier battle strode in the room. He noticed her awake and smiled.

"Ah, glad you awoke, my lady," said the dark-haired man, bowing before the confused woman.

"Where am I and where is Bleiz?" she asked, wasting no time to get straight to the point.

"First, please allow me to introduce myself. I am Sir Casimir Armond, Knight of the Reaper's Royal Guard. You are in Haerton Castle. Fear not, for your brother is fine. He is in the throne room, awaiting an audience with the king."

Slack-jawed, Melina stared dumbfounded at the royal guardsman, at a loss for words. She closed her mouth, re-opened it, and closed it again. Casimir chuckled at her stunned silence.

"I brought you both here after the battle in SilentForest. Your injury needed medical attention right away. Your brother hesitated at first, but he understood the gravity of your condition. After I informed the king of the fight I witnessed, His Majesty demanded to speak with both you and Bleiz."

"I'm going... To speak with the Reaper... Here in Haerton Castle?" Melina clarified, in the belief she was still dreaming or dead.

Casimir nodded in confirmation. "Correct. Now, the servants placed fresh clothes out for you." Casimir gestured to a well-ordered bundle of clothing set on the chair beside her bed. "You must be dressed as a proper lady before you speak with the king. Lady Aneira shall come for you when you are ready."
He bowed before turning to leave, shutting the door behind him. Melina stared at it for a long moment before looking again at the pile of clothes. She took in a deep breath and slid out of bed to get dressed.

A few moments later, she stood in front of a full-length mirror in the room's corner. Her refined gown flowed from top to bottom with a jewel neckline. The exquisite fabric covered her stomach where the continuous flow divided by a small cloth band worn around her waist.

Under the belt, the dress opened to the left to show the silk material beneath it. The linen concealed Melina's feet while the back continued a decent length behind her with a narrow-ended curve. Her sleeves long and slim, broken up well above the elbow where thin, modest bands divided it, The brunette never enjoyed dressing up like most women her age. She felt restricted in her ability to move. A knock on the door interrupted her thoughts as she turned to spot a qheilae female in the doorway.

Straight, shoulder-length light blonde hair framed a delicate-featured face while striking green eyes looked back at Melina as the woman gave a bright smile. Her skin was a smooth dark brown, which contrasted against her light blonde hair and eyes. The female was short, standing no taller than Melina's nose, but the human knew better than to be fooled by the qheilae's minuscule stature.

"Greetings, Mistress Melina," said the woman, giving the human a polite curtsy. "I am Lady Aneira Bevan, palace woman to Lady Syllia. Please, follow me to the throne room."

Before Melina responded, Aneira turned to leave out the door. Melina paused before following her, not enjoying how cautious she stepped to make sure she didn't trip on her dress.


Melina stared around with stupefied eyes as she stood beside Aneira, in shock at the elegance of the throne room.

"I know. It's exquisite," Aneira grinned at the human's expression.

Melina noted her brother, kneeling in obedience before the seat of power. Her eyes raised from him to the being he was bowing before, and her heart leaped into her throat.

Seated in the middle throne was a shrouded specter, dressed in long, pitch-black robes that covered his entire frame. The large hood overshadowed his visage, but two red points of light glowered from underneath the shadow the cowl cast. An arm rested on each armrest, and Melina saw the white-bone of his skeleton hands poking out from beneath the sleeves of his robes.

Melina gulped as the blood drained from her face. It was him - their king, the Reaper. Her knees weakened for a moment, and it took everything she had not to let them buckle underneath her. Aneira stepped forward, saving Melina from her thoughts. She followed the qheilae and kept her eyes to the ground in respect.

Before the Reaper, Aneira bowed in greeting with her head lowered and eyes closed. "My king, before you are brother and sister, Bleiz and Melina Dawnshade. These are the humans who fought against the dragon in SilentForest."

Melina kneeled by her brother, bowing as her heart pounded in her ears. A long silence followed Aneira's introduction, and Melina sensed the Reaper's red eyes scrutinizing them both.

"You may go, Lady Aneira," said the Reaper. His voice was gravelly and dark, which enhanced the sinking plop in Melina's stomach. Aneira bowed again, turning to leave without another word as she departed, leaving the siblings alone with the king.

"Rise," commanded the Reaper. The siblings stood at attention as they faced the king, waiting for him to continue. He leaned back further into his seat, placing the tips of his bone fingers together in contemplation.

"I congratulate you both on your efforts against the dragon. You have done the people of our world a great deed by killing such a beast who will not follow our laws. This isn't the first time, and it will not be the last."

Melina and Bleiz glanced to one another with raised eyebrows.

"More reports are coming in of dragons no longer following the ordinances set forth by the Equinox Concordat centuries ago. I intend to send a small group out to investigate the reasons behind the hostility from dragons." The Reaper leaned forward, staring at them both. "I want the two of you to join this expedition. Being only humans, the fact you faced the dragon is impressive. I believe you will be greatly beneficial to this task.”

"Y-Your Highness, it's such an honor to be considered for this. But we are not of any importance. I-I don't know if we could offer you much aide—"

The swinging doors interrupted Melina as another person stepped into the vast chamber. By instinct, the two turned to see a young man walk in with a determined stride, even and quick-paced. Dressed in the trappings of royalty, it was plain he was a person of high importance.

The man's attractiveness was indisputable, and Melina noted it right away.

He stood a tall six-foot-two and of slender build with wide-set shoulders, emphasizing his tapered waist. He brushed away short, jet-black hair from his brow, displaying his robust features with a defined sharp jaw, chin, and angular cheekbones. The most striking feature was his unique eyes of a hypnotic ghostly blue. His eyes did not have any definable pupils, but rather a faint circular white center where the pupil should be.

It took Melina a moment to realize she was gawking at the man. Bleiz glanced at his sister before rolling his eyes at her gaped expression. The man didn't acknowledge either of them, stepping past them to give a bow before the throne. The Reaper was unperturbed by the interruption.

"Grandfather, I come with news of leads to information about the recent dragon attacks," said the man. His voice was silvery and euphonious, and Melina felt her swoon at the sound.

"Good, you will brief these humans on the matter."
The man paused for a moment before turning to regard the two siblings behind him as if only now realizing they were present. He stared at them before he turned back to his grandfather.

"Excuse me?"

"You heard me, Prince Kyvan," said the Reaper in a calm but firm tone. "I am assigning them to the investigation. They will be your responsibility now."

"Grandfather... they are humans!" Kyvan blurted, his face twisting into utter disgust at being near anyone of the race.

"Correct, and these humans defeated a dragon. I will hear no further debate on this issue."
The prince stared in shock at his king. There was nothing more he could say. With a huff, Kyvan snapped to attention.

"Very well, I will await the humans' presence in the briefing room with Sir Casimir," said the prince. He gave another curt bow and spun on his heel. He brushed past the siblings, his shoulders pushing Bleiz's as he did. Melina furrowed her eyebrows, not impressed by Kyvan's behavior. The corners of Bleiz's mouth twitch as he held his fist in place. The Reaper once again turned his intimidating gaze on the pair.

"That was my grandson, Prince Kyvan Andurth," explained the king. "He is the heir to my throne. I assigned him to be the leader of this investigation. But, he is inexperienced in the ways of the realm outside of this castle. That is where you two will be of value, so do not disappoint me." The Reaper waved them off then as he finished, "Aneira will take you to meet with Sir Casimir and Prince Kyvan, who will inform you of the details."

The siblings nodded at their dismissal, gave the king one more bow before they turned to leave. Aneira waited for them outside the room. She led them to a small side chamber where Casimir stood over several maps on a large desk. The prince stood beside him, his hands folded behind his back as he gazed at the parchments with half-lidded eyes. The knight lifted his head at them while the prince didn't acknowledge their presence.

"By the look on your faces, I can assume that His Highness informed you of your mission," said Casimir with a smile, understanding why the two appeared so displeased. "Fear not. He will compensate you both."

"Who cares about compensation? I want no part of this!" snarled Bleiz, slamming his hands on the tabletop. Melina hissed at him to stop his behavior, but Casimir raised a hand to silence her.

"You have no say in the matter," Casimir informed the tempered ranger. "Should you refuse, I will charge you with treason."

The threat simmered the fuming man, but his glare did not diminish. Kyvan lifted his head at the two. He declined direct eye contact with anyone.

"And... who are you?"

Bleiz reached out to stop Melina from speaking, earning an annoyed expression from his sister.

"Nothing but strangers from the forest that need not concern you," said Bleiz as he passed the prince a cold expression.

Kyvan scoffed and cracked a wry smirk. "Everyone in all the realms is my concern. Let me guess, judging by the looks of you two, you are rangers, I take it? Or should I conclude that you are nothing but bandits? Is that why you won't tell me who you are?"

"He won't tell you who we are because he's an unfriendly person," Melina said. "My brother sometimes forgets he doesn't answer for me," she added, giving her brother a warning side glare. She glanced back towards the prince before bowing her head in reverence. "My name is Melina Dawnshade."

Kyvan gave her a nod, looking from her to Bleiz. "Are you going to tell me your name, or must I send you to the dungeons before you show respect to your future king?"

Bleiz opened his mouth to spew another snide comment, but a glare from Melina made him stop short.

"Bleiz," he said.

"Who else will be a part of this group?" asked the brunette, having accepted their fate.

"Prince Kyvan and I, as well as Lady Aneira," the knight pointed to the well-dressed woman beside them, who gave a slight curtsy at her acknowledgment.

"A bedchamber woman? What could she do to help us?" growled Bleiz.

"Aneira is well informed of the bureaucracies of the country. It is important to have a thorough understanding of the inner dynamics of the cities we go to if we need to interrogate someone. She is an excellent potion-brewer and healer," Casimir replied with narrowed eyes, a warning to Bleiz to keep his mouth shut. Bleiz scoffed as he folded his arms over his chest.

"When do we leave and where are we going?" Melina asked.

"We leave the morrow," Casimir gestured to the maps sprawled out over the table. "My sources believe useful information resides in the city of E'athkadi, to the far north." He placed a gloved finger on the map.

"That is where the cryo-giants reside," said Aneira as she leaned over the map to study it. “The Astral Athenaeum? Is that where we are going?”

"What is the Astral Athenaeum?” asked Melina with a raised brow.

“An ancient library, rumored to have the oldest of Etias’s knowledge hidden within,” said Aneira as she straightened. Kyvan reached out to pick up the map, rolling it up as he looked at the group.

“Be prepared to leave at dawn.”
© Copyright 2019 Dawnshade (UN: mwelsch678 at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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