Gelk Versus the Devouring Dragon

by Ben Billups

An orange hue colored the afternoon sky as several stone towers engulfed by ferocious flames creaked and swayed. Support beam after support beam were eaten away by the immense blaze. One of the many tall spires along the perimeter wall surrounding the city finally fell toppling onto several cottages with a loud crash echoing throughout the area as dust and embers cascaded over the other buildings with hey tops allowing the fire to spread more.

As people screamed in terror, some of the village men went the nearest wells within the stronghold and carried buckets towards the flames to save their homes.

Do you see this princess? hissed a black ore scaled dragon. The menacing creature poked its long head through an opening it had made through the castle wall. Its winged arms wrapped around the building with claws anchored into the masonry. The creatures yellow eyes held a sense of madness in their glare. With one breath of my flame, Ive leveled your tallest tower of this miserable kingdom and started a fire in your city, the dragon started. Suddenly another loud crash sounded and the castle shook. Two towers, the dragon rectified in a dismissive tone. Its voice sent a chill down the spines of all before it.

  Before the beast stood several solders in plated armor with halberds ready for attack. Behind their line of defense of a dozen men stood the king with a sword at the ready and his daughter behind him. Collapsed rubble littered the floor along and blocked the only two exits from a hasty escape. The kings green eyes met the beasts gaze as his lips curled under his thick brown beard and stash. His purple tunic and black trousers were in tatters as well as.

Be gone Devourer! She is not your prize and never will be! shouted the king as spit flew from his mouth.

Then the city burns. You cannot stop me, the dragon said as if stating a fact. I will leave this pathetic country in fire and ruin; ready for your enemies to pick it away at their leisure. Come with me or watch Emerald Glade fall. Choose child and be quick.

No one made a sound. The kings face grew red with rage and the man began to raise his sword as his mouth opened. Before he could utter a single word, the king felt a devastating blow to the back of his head. As he fell, the world grew muffled as his men slowly turned around, their shouts going into a whisper.

Lady Sedeane. What are you doing? shouted one of the guards as his eyes widened.

There the princess stood with a vase handle in her clenched fist and its remains scattered over their kings body. His crown fell to the floor, beside her feet. Her eyes were burning with the same rage as her father. Layer of dust fell onto her purple and black dress as her long dark brown hair covered half her face. The woman then dropped the vase piece and straightened herself up and held her chin high. With shoulders squared the young woman walked toward the dragon and through the crowd of men. Some were baffled and a few glared at her as she passed them.

Lady Sedeane, The same guard whispered. His lips quivering as he tried to grasp what he just saw.

When the woman was only a few feet away from the dragons reach a large rushed forward in attempted to grab her before she could make a fatal mistake. Instead Sedeane twirled around and met the eyes of the guard. She then shouted, Stand down. Thats an order.

The guard stopped in hesitation, he could feel the pressure of his decision weighing on his shoulders as. The fate of a kingdom versus the fate of one child he was sworn to protect was all he could consider. Out of his stupor the, guard lunged forward and tried to wrap his arms around Sedeanes waist side and carry her away. In anticipation, the princess lunged backward herself and pulled on the back plates of the guards armor sending him tumbling forward from his momentum.

The dragon laughed as the guards then charged forward in defiance. The dragons long tail then slithered inside and curled around the princess with the spikes on it spine pointed outward.

The men halted as the princess then ordered, When my father awakes, tell him that I am not worth the kingdom.

The dragon then opened its mouth and a short jet of flames shot toward the ground beneath the princesss feet. Immediately several circles and strange symbols were scorched into the tiled floor. When the incantation was completed, the flames grew larger and twisted around the princess. Once she grew out of sight from the roaring inferno, the fire formed into a large ball and flew into the air and sailed across the sky toward the mountains east of Emerald Glade.

In a fit of rage the men attacked and hacked at the dragons tail only dulling their swords and halberds with every blow. How dare you? shouted the same guard that had address Sedeane earlier. How dare you kill her?

Enough! said the dragon as it withdrew its tail. Its disembodied voice was magically projected and overwhelmed the guards as they covered their ears. Now for my orders, the dragon started. Tell your king to send his greatest knights and warriors to the base of the eastern mountains. Have each warrior come one at a time and wait at the clearing at the end of the road. There I will give my terms to your warriors on how you will receive your princess unharmed.

Liar, shouted the guard as he shook his fist toward the abductor.

The dragon roared as it then added, Would you rather she were actually dead? This stumped many of the men as they stayed silent. The beast continued, Princess Sedeane waits with me until I see a fitful warrior. The dragon then opened its mouth and another short flame appeared and carved into the floor the flames rushed up and then began to slowly fade away only to be replaced with gold coins flooding over the floor.

This should help you persuade some challengers to hunt me. Ill be waiting, the dragon finished. The beasts tail then reentered and lashed at the floor to destroy both carvings and blew fire to melt the tiles for good measure. The dragon then unhinged its claws from the castle side and fell into a short dive for speed. It pulled up to begin flying leaving powerful gales to knock over solders in crowded streets. Within minutes the beast was near the horizon and out of sight.

Hours passed as the sun sank below the western mountains as their shadow cast over the kingdom. Workers scurried about removing debris from the throne room. The carpeted red floor was scorched and ripped in several areas around the gaping hole in the castles side. Aside from the guards yelling orders, everyone was quiet. Everyone averting their gaze from the king seething as he sat slumped in his throne, cradling a grail of wine. His majesty glared at the others in his room. Again and again, he replayed the same memory in his head of the dragons ultimatum and a hard strike against his head and then the world going dark.

Breathing heavily, the king stayed silent knowing he could do nothing; his men could do nothing as well. A small tear started to well in his eye as the king then thought, Sedeane, dear child. Please be safe. I will send help. I will free you.

Months had passed since spring and fall was coming to an end. As the winds grew colder, Sedeane shivered as the icy gales cut through her body. The princess stood at the entrance to a cavern in the steep eastern mountains. Their deadly slopes and iced over ledges made traversing the mountains virtually impossible. As Sedeane shuffled closer to the ledge, as snow fell to the lower basin.

Where are you, you infernal lizard? she breathed as puffs of fog jetted from her mouth with every word. Sedeane then tilted her head down. Below her, clouds gathered at the tip of the mountains cloaking the mountain base. The morning sun left a red and violet hue on them. A wry smile grew on the womans cheek as she thought of her home being ransacked and her best way to keep them all alive was for her to face a possible death alone. Death? the word rang in her head. A full smile then spread across her shivering lips as she stepped forward and began to plunge to the floor below.

As wind whipped passed her ears and drowned out every sound, Sedeane began to laugh heartily as she plummeted further. She continued as her descent slowed. As wind rushed around the princess and formed a sphere, Sedeane was suspended in the air for a short moment until the wind started to lift her. With a gleeful smile on her face, the woman extended her arms and flapped her limbs to imitate a bird. For a brief moment, faced towards the clouds as if seeing beyond them and her shivering subsided.

Once she was risen above the cave ledge, the vortex of wind carried her several feet into the cavern and gently set her down and Sedeane merely sat where she was placed. She maintained the same distant stare into the looming darkness of the caverns depths as a frown replaced her enthusiastic smile. For hours the princess sat there as the sun rose to the very center of the sky.

Just outside, sounds of thunder echoed throughout the mountains and into the cavern. The princess turned about quickly and rose to her feet. A small black dot appeared in the distance of the clouds and grew larger by the second. Worthless beast, The princess shouted as she straightened out her worn and tattered dress. She had many and a coat that the dragon had pilfered long ago.

As the strong snaps of the dragons wings sent rushing wind and snow all about, the dragon descended on to the ledge with a loud thud as the ground shook. The Princess held one hand in the other as she waited for the dragon to deliver its news.

Dragon, Sedeane greeted.

Princess, the dragon hissed as it walked forward and passed his company.

As the beast breathed, the scales on its sides clanged and rattled. The princess glanced and saw how much the flesh beneath the dragons armor had receded. She laughed for a moment as the thought of a pinecone popped into her head. The dragon then snarled at the sound as it continued further into the cavern. The princess soon followed behind, her lips pursed and chin just as high. As she followed, the cold began to make her shiver once again, but she refused to let the elements weaken her as the dragon appeared.

The cavern eventually widened into a space capable of fitting a small town inside as the two made their way toward the center. Several stacks of spell books and scrolls littered the floor. Next to a small sleeping bag, cushioned with hay, sat a pile of gold and a few clothes for the princess, and small enchanted fire that never went out.

Eat child, ordered the dragon. The beast then turned its neck and into something in the dark. The dragon then turned back with a large dead cow in its mouth with blood dripping onto the cold stone floor. The princess cringed at the splattering sound of the crimson liquid and turned her head toward the sleeping mat and headed straight for the destination. A loud thump sounded off and Sedeane stopped.

The princess breathed in heavily before turning around. Before the small flame lied a dead bovine in a pool of blood. As the dragon entered into the surrounding darkness, the princess then shouted, So how many have you sent to their death today, Devourer?

Be happy to know that five well-armed and foolish men attempted to take my head instead of listening to the terms. Such pride with no sense is wasteful, the dragon stated.

What of you dragon? Sedeane then challenged. What makes you any different than those men? Youve captured me, but what for? Why not kill me and capture your champions.

In a deep raspy voice emitted from the shadows, the dragon answered, And have the men flee in sight of me? No champions and dreamers step toward danger and face challenges head on. The dragon paused for a moment as it released a small stream a fire to reveal its presence and eyes that glared like a maddened creature. Unlike me, I solve my challenges with wit not brawn.

Why am I alive? The princess emphasized.

The fire ended and the dragon was once again cloaked in darkness as it answered, You are the bait and a means to an end. Gold is tantalizing, but you are the true flame that draws the moths in. No point in harming an asset.

Suddenly a deep growl sounded off and the dragon then began to thrash about and release jets of flames several yards out as it dislodged stones from below its feet. Sedeane ignored the dragons outburst and instead retrieved a small knife from beneath on of the many parchments with incantations in a language she had never seen before. The woman carved out a few large chunks of meat and ignored smell of the dead cow knowing full well that she too did not sport a lulling fragrance.

The princess took part of the flesh and through it into the fire where it floated. As the flames roasted the meat, Sedeane failed to notice when the dragon had stopped moving. Her first few nights in captivity, she was terrified by the dragons berserk behavior. But now, things were different. She could barely notice the hulking creature thrash about when her attention was called to other matters.

Humph, she sounded as she removed another sliver of flesh from the cow. Sedeane then strolled toward the dragon. The small flame barely outlined the dragons figure only with help from its glistening scales. The dragon lied with its back to the wall and mouth wide open. Its chest rose and fell slowly with every puff trying to regain what little energy the beast could in his rest.

As Sedeane made her way around toward the beasts front, she held her chin high still as the cow meat clutched in her hand dripped a trail of blood onto the stone ground. Sedeane then made her way toward the front stood within the gaping jaws of her jailer. The width of the dragons mouth was high enough to reach her chest. Nearly a hundred teeth protruded from the creatures gums and each the length of a short sword. Sedeane smirked at this as she dangled the meat in front of the dragons nostril. As the beasts nose quivered, deep growl sounded from the depths of the dragons throat. Sedeane then remembered the sound she heard a boar make when her father took them out on a hunting trip.

Maybe even more dangerous, the woman put the thought out of her mind as she took comfort in the beast warm breath that bathed her and held the cold at bay. Months without food had left the large beasts breath free on from any strong stench aside from smoldering flames. Hmm? A warm death, Sedeane thought just as the beasts eyes widened. Energy rushed through its body almost faster than its sense as the creature almost snapped its jaws shut. It had seen Sedeane standing before it and was able to ebb the yearning sensation in time. The woman took notice of four markings carved into four teeth in a squared formation. Each was glowing green along with what seemed like a green star at the center of the mouth just before throat.

What are you doing foolish child? the beast lamented with its disembodied voice. The dragon then stood and only dared to close its mouth once it held its head over twelve feet above the ground. Sedeane sat down now and looked up as the thickened shadow returned with only two yellow eyes peering down at her. What were you thinking? I could have killed you or worse, the dragon scolded.

Im alone with a creature in worse condition than I in a place where I cant die by any other means than by your han er claw. Tell me a story about the light or could you please kill me? The princess said bluntly as if it were merely a small favor.

The dragon leaned its head forward until its snout was inches away from Sedeanes face before saying, It seems your respect has withered away, princess. Mind you that my conditions have allowed you to live. Dont let this cold and loneliness break your will child. Hope still lies ahead.

The princess sighed then retorted, So then may I have my story dragon?

Sure, the dragon replied as it turned and made its way toward the small fire and curled around the flame carrying nothing for the small scrolls and books it destroyed beneath its girth. The dragon wrapped its tail around encircling the bed of hay and pile of gold on the opposite end. Sedeane soon followed and, using the knife, retrieved the slab of cow meat before sitting down and faced the dragon.

As the dragon spoke, commotions began stir in Emerald Glade. A lone figure wearing dark blue plated armor strolled through the streets making their way toward the keep. The figures armor was streaked with several light gray lines that resembled lightning that went in several directions. Some crossed one another as other lines lead and rooted into each other. Each plate was shaped and engraved with small feathers along the edges.

The warriors helmet was the strangest piece of all as it embodied the image of a crane. The cranes neck started at the top of the forehead then looped down to the head that rested in between to eyes slits where cool blue eyes peered through. The makeshift wings were folded to the sides and had metal feathers splayed across the edges to protect the back of the neck. Underneath the blue and gray armor, the figure wore chain mail over a dark green tunic and trousers.

Many people stopped and looked at the strange warrior walking about. Many began to whisper and laugh as the stranger continued on toward the castle keep.

Halt, came a call. The figure did so and turned around to find several town guards were approaching on horseback and in full armor as well.

Good morning sir. What may be the trouble? greeted the figure as the four men surrounded the figure and drew their swords.

One of the men dismounted as his allies glared down upon the strange foreigner. The guard looked the figure up and down inspecting for any sign of trouble. He then asked, Why have you come to Emerald Glade?

The figure shrugged and blurted, Eagerly, I would like to chance my skills for your kingdoms mysterious, yet generous bounty of course. Surely stranger beings than I have come before and proclaimed the same.

The guards eyes narrowed as he looked upon the figure. He nodded his head unsurprised as something puzzled him. The figures voice was clear enough to understand but was too distorted like a rasped voice in echo and he couldnt tell whether the figure was a man or woman. Take off your helmet and show me your papers, the guard ordered.

Little I can do for I am cursed. It cannot be removed, The figure replied.

Oh. Then why dont you give use a name, challenger, The guard snapped as he tightened his grip on his sword ready to swing. His shoulders flexed and he readied himself in a fighting stance.

The figure lifted their left hand a ball of blue light then appeared in the palm of their glove. The gray streaks along the armor began to shift and tremble as the light to the shape of a scroll. Once the shape was complete the light died down leaving a small ordinary parchment in its place. Two of the other guards quickly dismounted and stood on opposite sides of the first guard.

Magic, the first guard scoffed as he then spat on the floor.

The figure merely held out the parchment then informed, Knights should show more respect to their guests. Especially those whove come to help.

With that said the guard snatched the parchment away and unrolled broke its seal. Reading aloud, the man then began, This is Gelk The man paused to glance at the figure then continued. Gelk of Nyagenzo and Sword of Cranes. The guard examined a crest in the middle of the page surrounded by foreign markings he couldnt read. Handing the parchment back, he then asked, Well if you want to take care of our dragon, come along.

Gelk took back the parchment and said, Good. The paper then shined a bright blue glow once again then disappeared.

The guard still remaining on horseback then spouted, Dont trust this fiend, sir. For all we know, this mans a spy or a thief trying to steal from us.

Calm yourself, ordered the first guard in a calm voice. Too late however as his companion reached for the loop on the figures helmet and wrenched backwards to pull it free. The guard heaved and grunted as he strained to remove the figures helm as Gelk stood undisturbed and helmet fastened. The others yelled at their partner to stop, but the guard paid them no mind.

Enough, Gelk sounded as the figure stepped forward and caused the guard to topple over his horses side. The others smirked as their companion tried to gather himself.

Forgive us sir. We would however like to ask what proof you have that you could even match for our problem. I see no weapon on you or must you conjure that as well, the first guard challenged.

Gelk raised a hand and a sword with a saber, similar in color to the figures armor, appear after a flash of light. The stranger then replied, Little you know, but I am well armed. As for proof of my prowess

This time Gelk removed a long chain of bones coiled beneath the right hip guard as the blade disappeared. Several bones and claws of various sizes were tied together.

Hmm. Why dont you follow us sir? suggested the guard after giving a nod of his head.

Some of the town folk stopped to cheer on the new challenger and wish Gelk luck as the four guards escorted the warrior to the castle keep. As they passed through the gate entrance, Gelk noticed as several soldiers walked about carrying parts for ballistae along with several lords and ladies huddled in groups arguing amongst themselves. Wondering who the kingdom was mobilizing against, the foreigner started to notice many glances and stares directed in their direction. They strolled through the barren halls of the castle where servants were removing carpets and other furniture.

As you can see friend, we are a bit busy at the moment. We hope that your presence will at least help ease some tension, the lead guard exclaimed. Although, your magic may prove to be a sore subject.

Gelk said nothing as the party entered into the throne room. Several groups of people stood about and were arguing back and forth. Amongst the debating crowd was their king looking over several scrolls presented to him by his subjects. When the king looked up, he told his servants to wait as the guards approached with the new challenger.

Once the guards and Gelk were only a few yards away from the king, the people cleared the throne room floor and grew quiet.

So is this our next challenger? The king questioned as he looked over the odd figure.

Yes your majesty, the lead guard replied as he and the other guards did as well.

The king squared his shoulders and turned to face Gelk completely as his majesty questioned, Welcome to Emerald Glade. So tell us your name sir knight.

With a bow, the warrior started, King Leryss, I am known as Gelk of Nyagenzo, Sword of Cranes. I have come for the bounty you offer.

Gelk stood back up as King Leryss glared at the warrior. Is this fool here to insult me? No sword and such ridiculous armor. Ill see his worth, the king thought. The king then bellowed, Impress me warrior!

With that statement alone, the lead guard unsheathed his sword and turned with a back swing toward Gelk as the other guards lunged toward their gest ready to stab. With four quick steps backward, Gelk easily dodged the back slash and was out of the guards surrounding formation. The men turned around to face Gelk just as the warrior brought up their boot and kicked the closest guard in the side and leaving the man stunned. As the second stepped closer with their sword raised over head, Gelk stepped closer. The warrior leaned to the side as the slash passed by and grabbed the guards blade arm and twisted the mans limb until it was wrenched into the middle of his back.

As the guard tried to resist, he couldnt prevent Gelk from confiscating the broadsword and kicking him into the two untouched guards. With other guards movements impeded, Gelk took advantaged and moved forward with the stolen sword raised overhead. The warrior brought down the sword hilt onto the shoulder of the man at their left. Their leader stepped forward with a stab, but caught nothing as Gelk stepped to the side and brought the hilt down once again onto the guards sword hand.

The leader winced and cursed as he released the blade. The figure then grabbed the sword before it hit the floor. Not wanting to kill, Gelk continued the bout striking the guards on their limbs and dodging swings and tackles with ease and grace. When the men were too worn to move, Gelk stood up straight and waited for anyone else to attack. Just then out of the corner of the warriors eye, Gelk saw an archer firing an arrow.

Unable to dodge the projectile, Gelk flexed an arm. As the missile trailed through the air, a bright blue light then glimmered in the air and the warriors saber appeared in the air. The arrow then glanced off the blade hand and was then sent into the stone wall just below the large opening in the castle side as the saber danced fell to the floor.

Magic, the king uttered with a smirk as he stared intensely at the challenger. Gelk merely bowed toward the king as the saber disappeared once again. The guards however stretched and moved slowly as they tried to ignore the aching blows they suffered. Well youve managed to best four of my swordsman alone, and magic none the less. I think you are capable, the stated.

Great king. Your words are too kind, Gelk replied.

Maybe. However, let us show you your prize if you succeed in our bounty, the king imposed as his smirked disappeared. He then called out, Captain we have another warrior up for the task!

Out from the side hall entered a well-built man with shaggy black hair and a thick beard wearing a brown tunic and trousers with red boots. His eyes were sunk in with dark bruising underneath his left eye. Gelk turned to the face the man as he came closer to the group.

This is Erin. He will show you your prize, if you are to win, the king stated.

And dont try to steal from the vault either. You wont get far with me, Erin interjected. The last warrior to try gave me this The captain pointed at his black eye with his hand still holding a metal flask. and gave his body the wolves.

Ever more skilled you must be, Captain. However, may I ask for the details of this quest instead so I may move out immediately? Gelk asked.

The kings smirk returned as he then replied, Sure. Take a small meal before you go though. Captain Erin will take you there by carriage and can explain the news along the way. Gelk bowed to the king as a servant then lead the warrior to the kitchen.

What do you think? Leryss then asked Erin as the captain stepped closer to his majesty.

The man then whispered, A waste of time and life. You should send me to the mountains to kill the demon. Save the money for war if I die.

No, the king said softly. You are needed elsewhere captain. Youve provided us with enough information to about the mountains traps. This will be the last one free agent we send to the mountains. It is time we give blood and save Sedeane ourselves. The king was breathing heavily now and his fists tightened enough to drain away the color.

Understanding his frustration, Erin merely nodded his head and replied, My king.

An hour later both the captain and Gelk were on their way to the mountain base. The weather was getting colder by the minute the further they travelled east. Few words were exchanged until Erin pulled out a sword and sheath from his luggage. Here, the captain said as he passed it over to Gelk.

Gelk took the blade and unsheathed it. The exquisite blade glimmered even in the dimmed light under the clouded sky. The guard was garnished with many precious stones of different colors and engraved with intricate designs that made the weapon seem more for show than for use. Little you must know of me, dear captain. I have my own blade, Gelk stated and sheathed the weapon.

As the warrior tried to hand the blade back, Erin held up a hand as he then said, Take it please. It will serve you better possibly than I.

Kind one, arent you captain, Gelk inquired. And what has your dragon taken from you all that makes even a king strip his castle bare?

With that said, the captains brow creased as his grasp on the reins tightened. The beast has the kings daughter and for months more warriors have come to claim the prize. But, all have failed in the attempt.

So now it is the kingdoms turn? Gelk inferred. Erin stayed quiet and only nodded. Fear not. I will save your princess and kill this beast.

What could you do?! Erin snapped. Ive driven and lead warrior after warrior to the mountain field only for them all to disappear forever or die in a skirmish against the beast. There are men who disappeared just from the just the dragons shadow passing over them. What power do you possess to best the beast?

Gelk then replied, Your sword.

The captain paused for a moment before laughing hysterically. Tears welled in his eyes as he tried to control himself as he assumed, I must have become a morbid man to be laughing during a time of death. You are a strange one, Sir Gelk. Still I must ask what makes you so sure.

Gelk then removed the coil of fangs and scales from beneath the armor side plate. The warrior then explained, I have a little experience dealing with dragons. The captain raised an eyebrow as he looked down and saw one of the fangs trembling on its own. So, now a question for you captain. Why give me your blade if you a so sure that I will perish like the others?

Erin spouted, To bury a sin. I am a knight of Emerald Glade and captain. I will not carry a weapon that has failed me if I am ever to renew myself. He turned to Gelk then muttered, Sorry, I have asked you to carry my burden and die with it. The captain reached out with a free hand expecting to have his sword returned.

Instead, Gelk stated, What are you doing? Your sword will slay the dragon.

The captain smirked once more as he retracted his hand. Then may you win against the Devouring Shadow, Sir Gelk. May ask who you are hiding from? Erin questioned.

Hiding? Gelk repeated and the figure turned their head to driver.

Well, yes. You seem to be hiding from something. Your voice is so strange and you have yet to reveal your true face, the captain explained.

Oh no my friend. A curse comes with wearing this suit of armor, Gelk informed Erin. I may have magic, but this armor devourers my soul little by little with every use and does remove itself.

What made you choose such a prison for power? Erin questioned just as they reached over a hill. The view before them revealed the rest of the dirt road cutting through the forest and leading to the large clearing at the mountain base.

Desperation always calls for rash thinking, Gelk answered.

After an hour had passed, the carriage had reached the clearing and Gelk stepped down. All around them, abandoned tents and carts were spread about along with skeletons and half eaten bodies.

Erin then announced, despite the grim atmosphere, Welcome to the Great Challenge of Emerald Glade. May the god Burogi protect you in your venture. Know this Sword of Cranes. We will be on the march for this very settings in three days once I return. If you havent won by then, we will assume you have died.

Fair enough. Dear captain, thank you, Gelk concluded.

Erin then rode off and turned back toward the trail. As he grew further away, he started to feel an inner voice telling him to stay. The sudden urge was too strong to ignore. Pulling the cart closer toward the forest line, he waited just at the bottom of the hill where he could see the entirety of the clearing and remain a safe distance. Curious of what events would unfold, Erin waited along with Gelk to see when the dragon would show.

Gelk moved about the campsite and upon the remains of the fallen challengers. Some had scorched armor; others had gaping holes in their chests. This will be fun. A dragon that uses magic. Gelk concluded and continued to study the area. The warrior then approached a large bell hidden behind several bushes. Deciding to strike it, the warrior retrieved a large stone and struck the bell three times. The loud rings echoed through the forest and into the mountains where the sound amplified.

Within the mountain cavern, the dragon had finished his story and was now studying one of the hundreds of scrolls in his possession. As Sedeane slept, the dragon focused its attention on a spell and slowly chanted the incantation. The pain from its stomach dulled slightly. The beast growl in triumph knowing it could now separate its mind and body without succumbing to severe pain from ravaging hunger.

Suddenly, the ringing continued through the mountains and entered the cavern, softer than when it started. Sedeane then awoke only to wince and quickly cover her ears as the ringing amplified once again. The dragon released a powerful roar and drowned out the ringing. After the dragon stopped, the sounds died out and the cavern grew quiet.

Sedeane turned over attempting to return to sleep as she complained, With a dragon with such impressive magic, you couldnt chose a different way for challengers to summon you? The dragon trained its red eye on her for a moment then chuckled sounding similar to deep coughs from a heavy old man. Sedeane knew better though as she asked, What is so amusing, dragon?

Your hope must be lost little flame if you believe no moth will ever dance around your light ever again, the dragon accused as it trotted on. The princess turned and strained to see the dragon as she furrowed her brow and was about to speak, but stopped when she saw the beast was leaving. Once on the edge of the cavern entrance, the dragon unfolded its leather wings and felt to cold rush of wind brush along the underside of its limbs. Despite its months of fasting, the dragon well with energy and puffed out its chest. With one monstrous flap of its wings, the beast launched into the sky with snow and cloud scattering from the burst of wind.

Once above the tall mountain peaks, the suns rays struck the Devouring shadows armor giving its scales a silvery glow. The dragon then flapped its wings again and floated in the air as it looked down. Looking upon the clearing to the west of the mountains the dragons powerful eyes could see a lone figure waiting near the bell. Strangest of armors I have seen yet, the dragon concluded as it leaned forward and glided toward Gelks direction. The beast then increased its speed immensely until it broke the sound barrier.

As Gelk wandered about the abandoned campsite, the chain of scale and bones vibrated violently and made a noisy clatter. Understanding the warning, Gelk Quickly ran to the tree line then shouted, Enosj mewritau! (Water barrier)! Once the warrior retreated several meters into the forest, moisture from the air quickly collected forming into a dome around Gelk. Just then a menacing roar filled the sky as a sudden rush of fire pour over the tree tops and a fierce gale made the flames explode. The barrier shook and jittered like a bubble, but held strong as the dragon passed. All around Gelk, the brush and trees were inflamed. The warrior quickly moved to the clearing, hoping to escape the inferno. The rising smoke blocking all sight.

Erin leaned forward in his seat. His fist clenched tight and eyes widened. He hoped the new challenger had survived the surprise assault. As the captain watched the dragon circle above the tree line where the trees burned. Show me your tenacity, little moth, the dragon thought to itself. Gelk then emerged from the tree line still encased within the liquid barrier.

Gelk then faced a palm in the direction of the dragon. As the water began to concentrate into an orb inches in front of Gelks hand, the warrior then shouted, Quolum Cesrat! (Ice Shell)! All of water fired into the sky, faster than the dragon could react. The water then struck the dragons left wing and quickly covered the limb in a sheet of ice. The dragon struggled to control himself as it twisted about while plummeting to the earth.

Yeah, cheered Erin as he watched from the side lines. However, just before hitting the ground, the dragon flapped its free wing and righted itself. The beast landed on all fours and the ground shook under the dragons weight. When the ground settled, Gelk rose and drew Erins sword.

Well now dragon. Let us test your fire, Gelk said more orbs of water began to form and float around Gelk. Each was no bigger that a human head.

The dragon chuckled once again and replied, Impressive. You might be up for the task warrior. Gelk then removed the chain of scales and bones from beneath the side armor skirt and held it high. The dragon fixed a massive eye on the item and recognized the contents. The beast then asked, Is that supposed to impress me? From what carcass have you pilfered those remains?

Oh these are the trophies of each prey, dear dragon, Gelk announced in confidence.

The beasts eye narrowed and, with a quick breath, released a jet of fire careening toward the challenger. Gelk jumped back and ordered the water orbs to collide just before the blast. The warriors spell formed a column of ice as thick as a mans torso, but was easily blasted through. Shards of ice then struck Gelk and knocked the swordsman on their back. As the Crane of Swords tried to rise, a red bolt of electricity from the dragons direction then struck the warrior in head. Gelk sat paralyzed as small lines of crimson static danced about the warriors armor.

The dragon then prowled forward growling with a deep rumble vibrating its gullet. The captain began to chew on his thumb and look about the carriage for any remaining weapon as the creature close in on Gelk. Seeing nothing of use, Erin jumped from the carriage and sprinted toward the battle. The dragon took noticed and then lamented into the air as his mental voice laughed maniacally. This made the captain stop as he looked upon the beast and blinked rapidly in succession.

Gelk then rose immediately once the dragons spell was undone. The warrior then questioned, What is the meaning of this, devourer? Why have you released me?

Why have you let me win? the beast then challenged. Gelk remained silent. The dragon its head to one side and fixed an eye upon his opponent. A caster strong enough to down a dragon with one spell could surely remove a mediocre binding cast as that.

Gelk then replied, If I were to kill you, we wouldnt be able to find the princess.

Oh, but that is not all, is it, the dragon pressed. Yes, the winds are nice today.

Running at full speed now, captain then interjected, Enough! Give back the princess! You better not have harmed her!

She lives and is well captain, the dragon replied. I will take you to her once the warrior is sent for the real threat.

The two humans glanced at once another just before Gelk asked, And what is this real threat?

The dragon raised its head similar to a cobra as it answered, The reason I am now the Devouring Shadow.

The beast then explained how its bout with a witch had turned for the worst many months ago. The casters attempt to steal his mind and make him a slave backfired. As the sorceress tried to escape, the beast snapped at her. Just as he closed his jaws, the witchs casting formed magical runes along four of his teeth that created a one way portal. Because of this, the beast scoured the countryside, attempting to eat anything it could fit in its mouth as its hunger drove it to madness. Desperate, the beast started searching for a means to remove the portal from different spell books, other casters and warriors who were willing to help. With the beasts constant hunt for food, the dragon soon became known as the devouring shadow.

In madness of hunger, I slowly thought of a solution that would sate my hunger and free me, the beast concluded.

And what could the warriors do to help you? Gelk questioned.

Through several means of research, I was able to discover that the portal within my mouth is still active only because the key runes for the spells have anchors on the other sides that must be destroyed, the dragon explained.

The captain spat to the side as he cursed, Damn you creatures and your spells. I want the princess back.

Gelk held up a hand toward Erin in hopes to stay the captains anger as the warrior said, Surely the dragon is telling the truth and doesnt need a cunning story like a wolf. The story must be true.

Sensing a hint of sarcasm enraged the dragon as it flapped its wings breaking its left wing free of ice as it shouted, And what need for trickery would I need for your kind? You little things lead your lives for treasure and lust flocking to my offer because of your so called sense of duty and greed. Calming down the dragon leaned closer to the warriors who were covering themselves. Its maddening eye dart about as the dragon and said, Listen to me dear knight. Your magic is strong. Find the rune anchors and reverse them. Kill the witch if you can, but that is not a task I need done. Just free me please. You are the last hope.

Gelk then stood straight and said, Show me the portal.

The dragon then leaned forward and opened its mouth. Passed the rows of long serrated teeth, four sickly green light gleamed on the back teeth. The air rippled in the space between the ivory blades like heat waves distorting scenery. The dragons breath smelled of nothing, but fire and soot. The Sword of Cranes noticed the clean stench of the beasts breath lacking the smell of death and almost failed to notice how thin the beast looked in comparison to others the warrior had faced.

I will go, but what is your name dragon? Gelk questioned.

Cebwandi Scoamati. (Shadow Claw), the dragon replied. And yours warrior?

Gelk nodded his head and stepped forward. As the knight began to enter through the portal, the gateways surface rippled at the sudden touch. Gelk halted, then replied, The Sword of Cranes. As the warrior disappeared into the shimmering doorway, Cebwanidi then closed his mouth and lifted his head.

What of the princess, dragon? Allow me to see her, the captain demanded.

The dragon turned his head to face the man and released puffs of smoke from its nostrils before it answered, As you wish, dear captain. It narrowed an eye at the man before gradually lowering its head low enough for the captain to climb. Erin noticed the dragons glare and tried to ignore its large yellow gaze as he stepped with care and mounted the dragon between its shoulder blades.

Hold on tight human, the dragon instructed as the beast rose and extended its leathery wings to their full length. With one massive flap, the two ascended into the clouds and headed toward the mountain cave. As they soared through the air, the clenched on to the dragons neck as his teeth continued to chatter. The biting cold cut through the knight. His thoughts trailed back to his kings instructions and knew that he was endangering the mission.

I must see if she is alive. Forgive me dear king, Erin thought. As wind passed by, it rattled the dragons scales making an ear drowning clatter. The captain ignored the noise as turned his attention to maintaining his grip. Almost every point of contact with the beast was berated by constant striking from Cebwandis scales.

Closing in on the mountain entrance, the dragon instead flew hire and began the circle the mountain peak. How do you like my work, knight? the dragon bellowed.

What? the captain breathed straining to cock his head to the side. Peering down, the scene showed that his kingdoms efforts would prove useless. As the two encircled above, below, thick clouds of surrounded the mountain base and hid the nearly vertical walls of the mountains. The sides were smooth and polished resembling more of an enormous pillar.

Your people plan to attack, do they not? Cebwandi inferred. I have seen your kingdoms army grow. Do you see a weakness, any flaw in my defense? Do not think I would not prepare.

I am here to deliver challengers and to prove that the princess lives. That is all, The captain claimed.

Certainly, the dragon uttered as it mentally released a chuckle. Erins teeth halted for a moment as the man stared at the dragon. He knew that his denial meant nothing. The dragon felt that his point was made angled his decent to land on the entrance edge. With a familiar thud from grounding, the dragon then folded its wings and its way inside. Do not dismount until I tell you to, the dragon ordered as the encroaching dark surrounded them. The captain looked about in the dark expecting some form of trap to spring despite being unable to see. He wished hed at least brought some weapon for himself in defense.

As Cebwandi lumbered on, the voice of a woman cut through the eerie dark, Youve been gone for a while, beast. Was this new warrior any worth?

The captains mouth quivered as his eyes grew wider. Please let it be true, he echoed in his mind. The reflection of the small flames light began to grow larger as they grew closer to the widened cavern depths. The dragon stopped and lowered itself once the two reached the small fire. Sedeane squinted as she noticed and extra detail added in the dragons usual silhouette.

She then lamented, What is this? What is going on, dragon?

You may climb down captain, the dragon informed Erin as he lowered himself once again.

What trick are you playing? Why are doing this? the princess challenged and stepped back slowly. A scowl fixed in place and her small knife in her hand.

The captain quickly dismounted from the dragon as all of his attention focused on the distraught woman. Princess its Erin. Your captain.

Not a step closer, Sedeane commanded as she pointed the blade tip at the man.

Erin stopped shy of a few feet away from the flame where the light revealed his face. The captain paused and gave a smile as he watched Sedeanes eyes widen from disbelief. She sank to the stone floor, unable to answer. She then whispered, Am I free? Erins smile faded. He left his arms to dangle at the sides and remained silent.

No, Cebwandi bellowed making its way to the usual spot along the wall. He is here for proof and to see how fortified this mountain is. Isnt that right, Captain?

What? the princess questioned and glared at the man with.

The captain looked away. With the dragon pressing the matter and the princesss gaze adding to the weight. He then confessed, We didnt know if you were alive or not. The King has told me to send that we will begin your rescue three days after my return.

Oh. So soon? I thought your people would at least wait an entire year before attempting to save the princess yourselves, the dragon mocked.

Erin wanted to give a retort, but knew better than to argue with a beast still capable of killing them both. He instead added, We followed your conditions dragon, but now we will do what we can to save her ourselves.

Father why? Sedeane grunted as she dropped her blade and stuck her face into the palms of her hands. Erin stepped forward holding out his arms and attempted to embrace her for comfort. He soon learned this was a mistake as the princess looked up and slapped him. The man was astonished as he stepped back. Before him wasnt a weeping maiden abducted from her home he was expecting. No, this was a true maiden of Emerald Glade.

You are all fools! Sedeane shouted. Cebwandi could level the kingdom on its own before I was taken, but now the beast knows more magic and spells. This time, the princesss voice grew softer and began to crack as tears trailed down her cheeks. No matter how many men father brings, the dragon is too powerful. Sedeane could only think to herself of the many of lives that could be destroyed if the men were to even attempt scaling the perilous mountain sides. The captain looked about, finally taking heed to the hundreds of scrolls and books littering the floor along with many gold trinkets and various items.

Sedeane this time stepped forward and began to jab a finger into the captains chest as she ordered, Now when you get back, tell my father that he is to focus his efforts on the kingdom. Tell him that if there are no other champions, then then he must leave me. The princess couldnt help but stammer as she felt the last ounce of hope sink into a deep void.

Erin grabbed her by the shoulders and said, Child you will be free. Good will come. I promise.

Doubting the mans assurance, Sedeane then questioned, How could you possibly know?

Trust him, the dragon interjected. He has brought an impressive challenger to face my, challenge. The warrior has accepted and is most likely to succeed.

Yes, but why do you trust in Gelks ability? Erin asked. Many questions had arisen ever since the beast revealed its dilemma.

In truth, if Gelk were to face me before my knowledge of spells, that child mightve had a chance in defeating me. But the warrior will need to be twice as cautious facing the witch, the dragon stated. The dragon then rose its head and turned its massive eye, illuminating in the dark. The dragon then added, Besides your kings ultimatum seems, entertaining.

Sedeane nor Erin liked the sound of the dragons words as they kept silently. Sedeane stepped forward and pleaded, Please dragon, leave my kingdom be? The lives of those men arent worth killing.

The proud princess now groveling for the lives of a kingdom. Poetic, the dragon uttered. Oh, but what about the moments where you dared to face my wrath and attempted to take your own life? Sedeane said nothing as she merely held a hand over her heart. Every beat drummed loud enough to echo in her ears. Yes you did try to end your life. Did it ever occur to you that I might attempt to take another maiden or whomever your kingdoms deem important for the same means?

The two remained silent as the dragon then instructed, For now, rest. Tomorrow captain, you will ready your forces for your battle. Three days is as long as Gelk will have to succeed. If the warrior isnt present then let us hope your people learn a few spells themselves.

With that said, the dragon rested its head and shut its eyes. Erin and Sedeane sat around the fire quietly for nearly an hour until Sedeane then asked, So who is this warrior? Sedeane sat with her legs folded and her arms wrapped around her knees as the small fire made small popping noises.

The captain merely replied, The strangest warrior Ive ever met. Yet, Ive seen the warrior almost bring down Cebwandi with his own powers.

Really, the princess replied. Erin then went into detail as he explained all that he had seen of the warriors abilities. After the captain finished, the two sat down on the stone floor and eyed the petite flame. Thoughts swirled through their minds as the threat of the kingdoms destruction was all too possible at this point. Erin turned to gaze upon the sleeping dragon as a scowl started to fix on his face.

Stop it, the princess blurted out.

Excuse me? Erin questioned as he turned his head to Sedeane.

Sedeane continued to stare at the fire as she said, Stop glaring at the dragon. Its suffering and is giving up hope no differently than us.

The captain snickered as he retorted, I know a few good men who would disagree with you princess. With all the legends of dragons and immortality and, and confound magic. Now heres one clinging to its life like a stray and desperate beggar.

Even beggars can rob with knives, Captain Erin, Sedeane sneered. Erin turned his head and raised his eyebrows as a sign of agreement. Either way, your new warrior sounds impressive. Hopefully, he will come in time.

Sedeane then stood and left briefly. She then returned with two blankets and handed one to Erin. They both left rested their heads against the hay and began to dose off. Erins last conscious thought then echoed in his mind as he repeated, Hopefully.

Through a wall of dim green light, Gelk stepped through the portal. The warrior found themselves beneath an archway built into the wall of a large stone building. Completely through the portal, Gelk turned around and found the same runes spaced evenly along the archway along with several small runes. Looking about, the warrior found themselves standing upon a stage made of stone as well. Several small runes carved into the rock, in circular formations, started to glow with the same light.

Without hesitation, Gelk then shouted, Utoya. (Repel.)

In response, the runes burst into bright lights for a moment with four men in armor similar to those of the Emerald Glade kingdom. Gipuni cotine! (Lightning spear.) The men shouted in unison with their hands held out toward the blue warrior. Tendrils of lightning erupted from the fingers of the warriors and streamed toward Gelk. Each line of energy stopped against a transparent wall that merely rippled as the energy struck against it. The noticed that their attack had failed.

Two of the men instead drew their swords and began to approach. None of the warriors confronting Gelk noticed the visitor flex a small finger. The gesture immediately triggered the lightning to fire out from invisible wall and return the strike back at the soldiers with even more power. Victims to their own spell, three of the men stood momentarily with large gaping holes through their armor and chests. Static ran about their armor as their corpses fell with the remaining soldier shielded with his own spell.

The remaining guard then barked, By order of her majesty, we order you to surrender at once or be cut down. And drop that sword.

In reply, Gelk quickly charged forward and swung at the mans right arm. Caught off by the blue warriors speed, the soldier barely managed to angle his sword in a position capable of protecting the limb. Taking advantage, Gelk kicked the man in the torso and sent him flying down a set of stairs running off the stone platform. The solder landed hard onto a pebbled walking path groaning from pain.

Gelk quickly sprinted off. Running passed several large trees and exotic flowers, the blue warrior found themselves confused. In attempt to navigate the garden, Gelk found the perimeter wall. Several more warriors seemed to appear. With swords drawn, several more soldiers began to appear from hall ways opening from the building. In an aggressive pursuit, the warriors fired at Gelk with several spells. Low level wizards, Gelk thought while dodging bolts of fire, ice, lightning, and tendrils of grass sprouting from the earth to entangle the warrior.

Racing toward the perimeter wall, the distance between the guards and their intruder increased with every step. Without holding back, Gelk fired an orb of energy at the wall. In a small explosion, a section of stone and vines cascaded about from the blast as a cloud of dust bellowed out. Despite the visual impairment, Gelk ran forward and jumped at the last moment to clear the bottom portion of the hole. Just as the warrior made it through, every stone and pebble flew up and instantly reassembled.

Gelk stopped and noticed the walls self-repair, but moved on as the eyes of several towns people began to linger on the new visitor. The mercenary continued running down several corridors and alleyways until they were hidden from sight. Peeking out from the alleyway, Gelk found the city to be quite strange. The town was enormous and filled with towering buildings; each structure made to house dozens of town folk at once however the number of people walking about was far too small. The sky however was violet and along with red clouds. With a closer look, the warrior noticed that everything seemed to be distorted color wise. The stones and dirt had an orange tinge along with many blades of grass holding a slightly light blue hue added to their green texture.

This world looks to be quite strange, Gelk whispered to themselves. Judging the amount of light outside, Gelk assumed that it was still day. Just as the warrior stepped back, a glint was caught at the corner of their eye. Gelk squatted down just as a blade whipped over head with a whistle. With Erins sword still in hand, Gelk snaked the weapon around and thrust the blade through armor and into the assailants knee. Gelks attacker released a wail, but was never heard as Gelk held a hand over the attackers mouth.

The attacker was a guard and fell to one knee. Without a time to delay, Gelk removed the blade and plunged it a second time into the guards chest. Their body went limp after struggling for a moment. Gelk retreated back into the alleyway only to find more guards.

Stop right there or die, one of the guards ordered.

Gelk stood still and counted off almost twenty guards with swords drawn before them. Knowing there was no way to escape, Gelk placed Erins sword on the ground and submitted to the guards.

Good. Take the weapon and anything else you find on him, Gelk didnt resist as two guards bound the warriors arms behind their back and removed the coil of dragon bones.

What is this? one of the guards questioned Gelk.

Trophies, Gelk uttered abruptly.

A dragon hunter, ay? the guard asked. Wouldve thought youd at least put up a fight.

Doesnt matter, another guard on horseback interjected. Take him to the prison lets see what the queen wants to do with this one.

They all returned to the building where the portal was held. After several failed attempts to remove the warriors armor and Gelk explaining again and again that it couldnt be taken off, the guards merely tied up Gelks arms and legs. Out of frustration, the guards suspended Gelk from the ceiling by the ceiling.

Youve killed some of our friends, one of the guards exclaimed as another retrieved a club. So heres a little disciplining.

Idiots, Gelk thought as two guards took turns wailing on the mercenarys legs. Gelk released subtle grunts to make them feel better, but felt nearly nothing from the impacts. During this time the blue warrior noticed the ropes were cursed and prevented magic from being uttered. This might make things difficult, Gelk assumed as the guards continued.

Hey! Look alive! Her majesty is coming another guard bellowed as he ran through the prison entrance. The men took to the sides and stood at attention as a woman with dark blue hair and light brown skin entered into room. She had a slender face and wore a purple dress that hugged her toned figure.

A cynical smile crawled across her face as she then said, Oh isnt this a treat? Are you here to retrieve me for the kingdom?

I am here to kill you, false queen, Gelk replied.

Gipuni cotine. (Lightning spear.), the woman whispered as she extended out her hand. Suddenly, three streams of light fired from her hand and struck Gelk. The warrior shrieked as the electricity continued to flow into them.

When the queen dropped her hand, she then exclaimed, Silly boys. A club will do nothing to this agent. Use your spells on this one until he submits to the oath.

Yes your majesty, the guards replied in unison.

Another guard entered into the room carrying a scroll with large writing. He then rested the scroll onto a table in front of Gelk. The warrior knew the scroll was laced with a binding curse and refused to even look upon it words in fear that it would take affect whether read aloud or mentally. The scroll was placed on a table in front of Gelk.

Read, ordered on of the guards.

Never, the warrior shot back.

The second guard walked up to Gelk and uttered, Aposh. (Fire.) A ball of flame appeared in his hand. He then placed his palm against Gelks breast plate and waited as the warrior squirmed in response to the heat.

You will break. Just like the rest, the queen declared as she turned toward the doorway.

Oh really? Gelk replied as the warriors saber suddenly appeared. The blade quickly spun with immense speed and severed the closer guards arm. The man fell back wailing as the queen turned back with a look of horror on her face. The saber then flew up and sliced through the warriors binds. The queen took off down the hall as the two remaining guards stepped towards Gelk with swords drawn. The moment Gelk landed onto the floor, the warrior grabbed the saber and quickly beheaded the two guards with immeasurable speed.

Gelk quickly made their way down the hall where an iron barred gate separated the dungeon from the rest of the keep. On the other side six guards began to fire arrows down the hall.

Efira jiromu! (Wind guard!) Gelk blurted at the last moment as the arrows were stopped by a wall of wind spinning in a fierce vortex. The guards then began to fire multiple spells down the hall; each getting closer to breaking through the powerful gale. Placing a hand along the wall, Gelk then chanted, Spigraix. (Crumble.)

A crack then opened along the stone wall and travelled along the wall until it reached the gate and climbed to the ceiling until it aligned with the gate. With the metal binds loosened, Gelk then chanted, Quontula japulgwo. (Iron gale.) The cyclone of wind strengthened as it travelled through the narrow hall focusing its power. The fierce wind struck the guards like a full body club and sent them all along with the iron-gate flying down the hall.

Gelk was now breathing heavily and knelt down for a moment. The simultaneous use of each spell quickly drained the warrior. Despite their fatigue, Gelk stood and sprinted down the hallway. Coming around a corner, Gelk found themselves in a large room with twelve guards standing before them. At the last minute, Gelk leaped over a magical ice trap written on the floor at the halls end.

While airborne, one of the guards fired a lightning spell, but Gelk reflected the spell with their saber. The spell then struck the wall and sent a small cascade of dust. When Gelk landed, another guard was upon them with a great sword held overhead for a down swing. Gelk merely used the mans momentum against him and flipped the man over. The guard landed onto the spell trap which exploded with three foot long spears of ice that skewered the man instantly killing him.

Six more guards, came toward the intruder with shields and pikes. Without time for a chant, Gelk rolled to the right, barely clearing the groups charge. Now flanking the guards, stabbed and tackled the closest guard into the others. All seven of them fell to the floor. The warrior quickly rose to their feet as the remaining five guards began to close the distance.

Aposh! (Fire!) Gelk shouted as crimson flames enveloped the mercenary the expanded with immense force. All of the guards thrown back by the blast with a few screaming from the immense heat and other not unconscious from striking against the walls. Gelk felt fatigued, but continued on through another hallway until they came upon a throne room. The queen sat upon the throne as if never bothered by Gelks presence, yet her cold glare reflected her fury.

Are you giving up already? Gelk asked as they strutted over toward the woman.

Hardly, the witch retorted.

Gelk then heard voices coming from behind and quickly ducked as two bolts of ice sailed over and struck the opposite wall near the throne. The queens rage then showed as she cursed aloud and covered herself. Not wasting anytime, Gelk turned around and in a wide swing struck down the two guards at the rear before tearing off toward the queen. The queen then grabbed a staff with a golden eagle head at the top laying at her side and began to chant, but was unable to finish as Gelk through the saber forward and struck the witch in the chest with the hilt and knocked the air out of her lungs. The queen collapsed as she tried to breath. Gelk was now standing over the woman with saber in hand.

Are you done yet, Ezrin? Gelk then asked.

The queens eyes widened as a she looked up. The warrior removed their helmet as flowing dark blue hair flowed down to the warriors mid back.

A mirror stood before the queen as she pleaded in gurgled words, Sister please.

Gelk then plunged her blade into Ezrins chest killing her. She then slashed the womans face and retrieved the staff. Dont plead to me with mothers face, traitor, Gelk growled as she turned around and found the keeps remaining guards staring at her; many with their mouths agape.

You are all now free of the queens rain, Gelk announced. Are you ready to leave?

Yeah, they all cheered as they to off their armor and threw down their weapons.

Soon after Gelk found the same rune stones and reversed the portal. Stepping through first, Cebwandi felt a strange pressure on its tongue and opened its mouth to find Gelk exiting the portal.

Youve, youve made it through, The dragon exclaimed in surprise. The beast and the princess were alone in the cavern.

Im hurt that you doubted me dragon, Gelk replied.

Sedeane slumped to the floor and began to laugh as tears streamed down her cheeks. She had long since given in to despair and couldnt control herself.

Is the portal closed? May I feast? the dragon urged.

Gelk held out a hand to keep the dragon from leaning closer as she answered, You will. We must first return to Emerald Glade and release everyone who was captured.

Agreed, Cebwandi said. The three then flew to the kingdom immediately. The dragons immense speed almost removed its two passengers in its flight.

When they neared the castle, a shout then sounded, Dragon! In minutes dozens upon dozens of soldiers manned the walls with ballistas and crossbows at the ready.

The dragon then stopped and shouted, Emerald Glade. I return to you with your princess and champion. Your fears may lay at rest.

Everyone began to look at one another as the dragon landed in a clearing outside the castle walls and the two dismounted. As the kingdom forces gathered, Gelk returned the realm of the violet sky and escorted everyone on the other side through the portal. When Gelk returned she then destroyed stones and the indents in the dragons teeth disappeared closing the portal for good.

Soldiers poured into the open field along with their king on horseback to the hundreds of people out in the field. Before anymore words could be exchanged, Gelk and the dragon flew off to another plane where they could be alone. Gelk waited for several hours as the dragon hunted and got its fill from the nearby forests. With its full strength returned, the dragon flew back to Gelk in the plane. The sun began to set with its orange rays giving the land an amber glow.

Are you truly prepared to face my power, little one, the dragon challenged Gelk.

The warrior then revealed Erins blade and retorted in a sinister tone, Of course. I have a promise to keep lizard.

So be it, Cebwandi roared as it took to the sky and began to encircle the warrior.

Gelk removed her coil of dragon scale. With a quick flick of her wrist, the roped changed into a dragon hide whip and every bone into a protruding three inch blade. As the dragon came in for a charge, Gelk quickly wound the whip lash forward at the approaching beast.


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