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Children of the Dragon Wars

By Paul Benkendorfer

Adventure / Fantasy

Chapter 1

In a world not unlike ours there lived a noble race of beings known as dragons. Though these dragons are not like the ones most people know from legend and folklore. They were large beasts, kings of the skies. Beasts whose flames could ignite the mightiest forests ablaze and whose roars could shake the sturdiest mountains. But there is something else about them that make them unlike the beasts that are known, these dragons were once humans.

The Draconans were a mighty people of peace and prosperity. They lived along rivers near hills, isolated from most other peoples around them. They valued the arts and education above all else. And from then they became experts in trade, able to sell their products for vast amounts of wealth. Soon they amassed large amounts of gold, jewels, spices and various other goods. Their villages were prosperous and their people advanced. They lived long fulfilling lives amongst themselves in their homes. For decades they had no need for war.

Though peace would not last, for there were others who grew envious of the Draconans. Soon they found themselves besieged by outsiders all around, plundering the Draconans for their wealth. Their riches were pillage from them, their people slaughtered at the sword or sold into slavery. The Draconans had no means of fighting back, and in their desperation they sought the help of a powerful wizard hoping that he could save them from their peril.

The wizard agreed, but on one condition; the people would have to forfeit over all their treasures. The leader of the Draconans was reluctant, but he saw no other choice. He agreed, but unfortunately the Draconans were deceived. The wizard did in fact use his power, but instead of using it to protect them he cast a terrible curse on them. A curse that turned the remaining Draconans into horrible beasts. Though they were finally able to fight back against their aggressors the cost was too high.

Unable to control themselves, the Draconans ravished their once lustrous and peaceful land eradicating all in their wake. The only one able to control the dragons was the wizard himself, but after taking all the treasure he could get his hands on he vanished. Disappearing from the world never to be heard of again. Even though he left, the curse remained, leaving the world at the hands of the dragons of which he created.

It was from that point the remaining human settlements banded together to fight and hopefully bring an end to the dragons. Army after army fell in their wake. Thousands of men were killed, their sacrifice only accounted for a few dragons. It seemed like an all hope was lost as the last remnants of each army decided to disperse and leave the native land of the Draconans to the dragons. It was in that same battle that Darius Heartfilia, father of Prince Jude Heartfilia perished, leaving his young son to inherit his throne.

After his father's death, King Jude Heartfilia, the new ruler of the realm that bordered the Draconans devised a plan that they would execute a sneak attack on the dragons when they were sleeping. He was a young king, one that had just recently ascended to the thrown after his father had been killed in a battle with the dragons. He was a stout man, burly with a well-toned build. He was often praised for his intellect and ingenuity on the battlefield. He commanded great respect from his peers despite his youth. He had a long mane of blonde hair and eyes like the bark of the redwood tree. He and several of his highest ranked knights gathered together and one night they made their way to the bosom of the large mountain in the heart of the Draconans' land where their lair resided.

Kind Jude had a fellowship of seven knights, those he considered to be the highest ranked in his kingdom. They wore silver armor with the crest of an eagle beholding a snake in its talons on their shields. They rode through the ruins of a Draconan city called Boga. The once great walls lied in rubble, the tops of each building desecrated by flame. The city lay scorched, and though it was King Jude's assumption that this was the work of the dragons, he could not honestly be sure. All life had left, not even a weed grew in the city anymore. This was one of the cities he believed his father's own soldiers had laid siege on back when they tried to invade the territory back before the curse.

They rode on, further down into the forests towards the mountains. It was late in the afternoon and they had hoped to reach the mountain before nightfall. As they rode King Jude noticed something, he could not hear the sound of bird or beast. Though they continued to ride on. He hoped that a small band would be able to bypass through the dragon's territory without being detected.

By nightfall they had arrived at the base of the mountain, and there near the edge of a river they could hear the rumbling sounds echo through the caverns. King Jude and his men knew that a dragon, or possibly dragons rested deep within. They were hesitant, knowing that they only had one means of escape and that a dragon's breath could travel great distances. So he had four of his men enter first to insure that it was safe.

Soon the men returned unscathed.

"My lord," said the first knight. "There is only one dragon that resides in the cave and it is deep in slumber. The noise we heard was nothing more than it's snoring."

"Very well," King Jude said as he stepped forward. "We shall go in and slay the beast as it lays in its slumber."

The men agreed and followed the king into the mountain. It was not long before they came upon the sleeping dragon, the only light came from the torches they carried with them. It was then that King Jude gave the order and he and his men plunged on the sleeping dragon and smite it where it lay. A loud roar bellowed from the dragon as it fell dead. It was then another noise erupted, the sound of a baby's cries. King Jude approached he noticed something near the stomach of the slain beast. There lying by the dragon's bosom was a baby dragon, only as Jude began to approach it the dragon slowly morphed into a baby boy. Astonish the King peered down at the child as he drew his sword above his head.

Every instinct in the flowed through King Jude demanded that he slay the child there at that moment. His mind and heart told him that he must do it, but against that judgment King Jude decided not to, and lowered his sword. His men watched, both with intrigue and worry, as one knight held the light closer to the boy revealing his spikey pink hair and tan colored skin.

"Sire, what is your command?" one of the knights asked.

King Jude sheathed his sword. "Take the boy," he ordered. "We shall take him back to the kingdom. Perhaps he could be of some use to us."

The King took the child and handed him to one of his knights, a young man with clean cut black hair, a large square nose and dark eyes. He was no older than a young man in his mid-teens. He took the child and covered him with a brown cloth before he followed the king and the other knights out of the cave. Once they were back outside a loud roar echoed from the mountainside. Horrified the king and the knights gazed up to see a large red dragon swooping down upon them with a blaze.

With great haste, King Jude and his knights galloped away from the mountain back down dirt road. The sound of the dragon's roar echoed behind them, mixed with the sound of the infant child's cries. The young knight held the baby tight as he felt a stream of fire sweep by him, consuming one of the knights next to him. He heard the wail of the man's pain as he was consumed by the fire, and then silence as nothing more than a burnt crisp remained. Though he didn't allow it to stop him, he continued to follow behind the rest of the group, King Jude up in the front. The cries of the baby still bellowed out

He kept his head down, his eyes up front as he could feel a gust of wind brush by him as he was knocked to the side, but not of his horse. He heard the sound of jaws snapping above him as the dragon passed by him, but continued to fly forward not missing the opportunity to snatch up one of the other knights in front of him and tossed his body like a rag doll to the ground in a lump.

The knights and King Jude continued to ride, seeing the ruins of Boga lay before them. The wails of men's screams continue to echo out with the shrieks of the dragons. The young knight kept a firm grip child close his cries persisting. They made their way to the walls of the city, hoping that it could provide some cover from the dragon and its flames. Then the beast began to make another swoop before flying back into the night sky to make for another attack. The dragon disappeared from view into the darkness.

They rode into the city, by then there were only a few knights remaining along with King Jude. The young knight held tight to the boy as the dragon came back down once more, breathing fire across their hides. Fortunately the buildings provided some cover, but not enough. Again the dragon swooped down, this time picking up one man and taking him up into the air. The young knight watched as his companion was carried off into the darkness with a shrill of terror.

They finally made their way out of the ruins of Boga and into open grassland. There was no hope for them out there in space. They had no room to hide, no place to take cover if the dragon were to come back for another attack. They could only hope that they can dodge it long enough for them to make an escape. But to the young knight's amazement the cries of the dragon had stopped, and he could no longer hear it flying above them. He peered back, though his mind screamed at him not to, seeing the beast perch itself on top of a tower of the old gate. He could only see the shadowy figure, but he knew it was the dragon. With one last breath it shrieked out to the night sky, and it was then that the young knight knew that the dragon had stopped following them. He didn't know why, but he didn't care to find out.

Finally after a few more hours of riding they finally came to a stop. It was in that moment that he realized that it was only he and the king that remained of their company. The infant still clutched in his hands was now asleep, while resting gently in the brown cloth. The sun began to peak over the hills in the east. They had been riding all night.

"It appears that we are all that remains, Arcadios," King Jude said to the young knight. "Bring the child, we're only a few miles from home."

Arcadios obliged as he followed him. He galloped behind the king but he could feel the child stirring in his hands. It wasn't long before they finally arrived at the castle grounds near the front gate of the castle.

The castle was a large fortress built on top of a hill overlooking a cliff. The jagged edge met the ocean where waves crashed the wall of stone. The castle itself was a vision of brilliance, two towers stood on either side of an enormous wooden gate.

When they arrived inside the walls of the castle, King Jude was greeted several noblemen as he stepped down from his horse. Arcadios followed behind him, the boy still in hand.

"King Jude," one nobleman said as he approached the king. He had long black hair and beard. His skin was tan, and though he was of short stature, he had a very strong build. His eyes were dark and deceptive. He stood as a man of respect and authority but his smile would suggest that he was not to be trusted. "I am thankful to see you unharmed." He peered behind the king to see only Arcadios riding behind him. "And where are the other knights that rode out with you?"

"It is good to see you Iwan, my old friend. I am sorry to say that they have fallen," King Jude sighed, but Arcadios could hear the lack of sympathy in the king's voice.

Of course they expected some casualties, and perhaps he should have been thankful that at least he and his majesty were able to make it back unscathed, but still the king didn't seem the least bit upset at the loss of his men. He decided not to dwell on it too much, but instead turned his attention back to the child. He was still asleep, nestled in the man's arm.

"What is it you have there, Sir Arcadios?" the Iwan asked as he approached the young knight.

"A child," King Jude answered before Arcadios got the chance. "A Draconan child."

"Interesting," Iwan answered. He wasn't the only one that grew some interest as the others began to surround Acradios to get a glimpse of the boy.

Though Arcadios was more concerned with keeping the child from Iwan. He didn't like the air that the man had. He dressed in robes of black and lavender outlines. He had his hands covered in rings to exemplify his wealth. Iwan was a count, but he did not get there by any honorable means. Arcadios had heard rumors about Iwan that stirred some concern in him. The one thing he had to make sure was that Iwan did not get his hands on the child.

"Is it a dragon?" a lady asked as she stepped closer.

Arcadios came back to attention as he realized that there were several noblemen and women around him now.

"No," King Jude answered as a servant walked over to unlace his gauntlets. "At least not at the moment." The crowd became confused at his words. "At least not at the moment. He was a dragon before we had slain the mother, but then he turned back into a human child."

"And what are you to do with him?" asked Iwan as Arcadios leapt down from his horse and passed by the other nobles.

"Send him to the slave chamber with the other slaves," King Jude ordered. Arcadios was a little taken back by his own king's order.

"I thought you wanted the boy for a purpose?" Arcadios asked in disbelief.

"He will have a purpose," King Jude answered as he made his way towards Arcadios. "Perhaps we can find a way to make the dragon work for us," he said as he pulled aside the cloth that covered the child's face. "Just think about it? A dragon in our ranks, nobody would be able to defeat us. We would be unstoppable."

Arcadios could see the glimmer of greed in King Jude's eyes. There was something in the man's eyes that made him uneasy. He may have been young, and even with his recent admission to the ranks of knighthood but he remembered that it was only just a short while ago that King Jude's father had invaded the Draconans. Even when he was younger King Jude's father was known for being a man with a unquenchable hunger for power and wealth. He was the man who originally started the attacks on the people before other kingdoms grew envious of the riches he was stealing.

Arcadios had hoped that Jude would not be the same as his father, but with that glimpse in the man's eyes he could see that same hunger, that same lust.

The boy flailed a bit the young knight's arms as the infant's small arm fell out of the blanket. Inscribed in black ink was the word Natsu.

"Natsu eh?" the king said as he threw the cloth back over the infant. "Put him with the slaves," King Jude ordered.

"What? Why?" Arcadios asked.

"He is a Draconan," King Jude answered as he began to walk away. "He should be put with the rest of his kind."

"Yes sir," Arcadios said as he held the boy in his arms. He was reluctant, but he was not about to disobey a direct order from his king.

It was from then on the boy's fate was determined. He was raised as a slave, while being trained in the art of combat. King Jude had hoped that the boy would one day be compelled to join the ranks of the military. Much to King Jude's surprise the boy grew to become incredibly powerful, far stronger than any man. The boy seemed to posses the strength of a dragon but he was never able to transform.

Natsu was only five when his training begun. But even then he was a level that was far more mature for his age. King Jude had ordered Natsu into a ring with four soldiers. It was just a typical day for Natsu. He stood there in the center of the ring in the training square outside the courtyard of castle grounds. To be fair to the child they had removed their armor and were only given wooden swords to fight with. Each man stood on either side of the child, except for two in the back. King Jude watched from a balcony above with the other noblemen including Iwan and a little girl with long blonde hair that was about the same age as Natsu.

Once the signal was given a man from behind charged at the young kid from behind. Natsu could hear the sound of the man's footsteps on the rubble. As soon as the man was behind him, he swung the wooden sword down at the boy's head. Natsu ducked his head, sensing the on coming blow letting the wooden sword pass over his head. He jumped into the air where he landed on the soldier's back. As the man tried to throw the boy from his back two other men rushed in from either side.

Natsu could sense the man on the right was closer and waited for the swing of his sword to come down before he leapt down, causing the man with the sword to strike his comrade and knock him to the ground with a loud yelp. The same man spun around bringing the sword towards the boy's face where he took a step back letting the piece of wood graze the tip of his nose. The boy stepped in punched the man square in the groin causing him to drop the sword as the clutched at the sport of the strike and toppled over in pain.

Natsu could sense the third man coming down on him. Natsu dropped down to the ground and rolled towards the dropped sword. The first man picked himself up from the ground as the second man still writhed in pain. Natsu picked up the weapon and was just in time to parry the third man's blow, and in one swift motion he leapt up, swinging the sword in his own hand and struck the third man in the cheek. He dealt a painful blow as blood ejected from the man's mouth as he collapsed to the ground.

Just then Natsu sense a man coming from behind him. He spun around swinging his sword meeting the wood of the fourth and final opponent. What he missed was the first opponent as he felt a bear hug grab him from behind and lift him up in the air. The fourth man came brought the sword barreling down, but was surprised as Natsu kicked it to the side just before he was hit. After that he flipped backwards, his arms still tied, but he was able to do it with such force that he brought his opponent with him and they both fell to the ground. Natsu was able to place his hands underneath him to catch himself.

Natsu leapt up to his feet, the first man turning to regain himself. Natsu grabbed him by the scruff of his neck and slammed the back of his head into the ground. He repeated the process three times before he sense the fourth man coming from behind him. He rolled away before the man could strike him with the wooden sword. He ran over to where another sword on the ground lay, sliding across the rubble grabbing it as he slid by.

Once he had it he stood up facing his final opponent. The man ran at him, swinging the sword down with great fore. Natsu stepped to the side dodging it. Though the man used the momentum to let it carry his body as he brought it back up with an upwards swing. Natsu used his sword to block the oncoming blow. He felt his sense causing everything to go slower. He could see the man's movements become sluggish, but not because he was tired, but it had the appearance of though he were fighting in water. He watched as his opponent's sword pass by him, and in one swift movement he brought up his sword, striking the man in the nose knocking him into the air.

For one so young there was an unusual strength to the boy, so much so that he sent the man a foot into the air before he fell back to the ground with a loud thud. Natsu took a couple of deep breaths as he peered around the grounds seeing that all of his opponents were either immobile or unable to fight any longer.

"Impressive," Iwan said as he raised an eyebrow, grinning widely. "The boy shows an extraordinary amount of strength and poise. His reflexes and the way he counters is well beyond the limits of not only a child, but even that of an adult. Perhaps it is just the power of the dragon that resides in the boy?"

"Indeed, Master Iwan," King Jude answered. He had to admit, even he was impressed by the boy's performance. "What do you think Lucy?" King Jude said addressing the little blonde girl next to him.

"Is he a dragon?" she asked gazing up at her father.

"He is something like that," King Jude answered. "He is a Draconan child, and maybe one day he will be."

The blonde looked disappointed as she peered back down at the pink haired boy. Natsu in turn looked back up at the people watching him from the balcony. He was drenched with sweat breathing heavily. Though above all else his eyes fell on the blonde girl, their eyes meeting with one another.

He lost in her gaze, her eyes a deep chestnut brown. She had long flowing blonde hair, like strands of gold silk. Her skin was a pale milky white. She wore a baby blue suede dress that glistened in the sunlight, along with her skin that made her glow. Natsu could feel his heart beat even faster now as he gazed up her. He saw that she was smiling at him. A comforting smile that he couldn't help but return.

"I like him," the blonde told her father as she grinned widely at Natsu.

"I see," King Jude said as he gazed back at Natsu. He began to scowl as he peered back down at the pink haired boy beneath. He could see that Natsu and Lucy were still exchanging glances.

Arcadios watched from afar, behind a pillar as to stay out of view from the nobles above. He kept his distance and stayed in the shadows waiting near the entryway of the training facility. He was a little disheartened to see the boy forced to fight. His gaze turned back up to the balcony where the nobles watched in interest. He shook his head and slid back into the castle walls.

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