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Children of the Dragon Wars

By Paul Benkendorfer

Fantasy / Adventure

Chapter 2

Natsu may have been just a five year old, but he was still put through extensive training. It was tiring, and he was often pushed to the point of collapse. He didn't understand why the king was so persistent that he go through it when none of the other boys his age had to. Wat made it worse, was that the other slaves hated him for it. They hardly talked to him, and they often shunned him leaving him alone most of the time.

He would often pass his free time sitting on the top of one of the guard towers and watch people as they moved in and out of the city, but he kept most of his attention on what was going on in the town square. Venders and merchants were busy selling and trading goods, and sometimes, if he was lucky, there would be some strange item from a distant land. He often dreamt of what it would be like to travel outside of the city walls, but since he was a slave he was forbidden to leave.

The square was rather large, venders and travelers that lined up every side of the crowded road. Carts of hay were dragged by horses and driven by grumpy old men that smothered their own bodies with slimy blankets and rags. Children ran to and fro kicking a ball down the street, occasionally pushing each other, a small husky barked as it played along. Women shaking blankets clean outside of their windows. Slaves stood by their masters, some cleaning, some carrying large crates, while others attended to animals such as goats and cows.

Natsu knew the difference between the slaves and the regular citizens. Slaves wore collars around their necks, and dressed in dirty rags that were hardly ever clean. For a slave they would have to hope that their masters were generous enough to let them wash their clothes or give them new rags. Though it would often just be the family's old clothes and worn out rags.

Unlike the other slaves Natsu was often free to roam about the castle grounds and through the streets, but only after his training was complete. Perhaps that is why most of the other slaves detested him. He was too young to understand, and maybe when he grew older he would. For now, he would let his body rest as his eyes wondered amongst the many visitors to the castle. As he did so he pulled a small green apple from a pocket of his jacket and began to nibble on it.

While sitting there he noticed the gates to the castle itself opened, as King Jude walked through with Iwan and several other noblemen at his side. Though that's not what caught Natsu's interest. What really stirred him was the little blonde girl that rode next the king. Her long radiant honey hair flowed down her back, draping the shoulders of a dress as bright and pure as the untouched snow on top of the mountainside.

The sight of the king arose everyone's attention as the people stepped aside to clear a path for him and the men he rode with, bowing as the did so. Natsu grew a little edgy as he stood up as well. He rushed down the corridor towards the stairwell, hoping to catch the king and the others before they were off. But mainly it was to get a chance to get a better glimpse of Princess Lucy. Or maybe he would get a chance to say hello.

As he made his way down the stairway, he nearly leapt down each step. He came around a corner and bumped into three men who were making their way up the tower. Natsu fell down onto the step knocking the man in front down, but he was caught by the other two men behind him.

"Sorry," Natsu apologized as he picked himself up.

"Well, well, well, if it isn't the king's dog," the man snickered. The other two men laughed at the remark.

Natsu peered up and noticed that the three men were slaves as well. They weren't Draconans like himself, they were of a different race. Their hair was long and curly, brown as the mud in the wet streets. Their eyes were stagnant and yellow. Their skin a deep olive color. Men who looked like they were from the somewhere with beaches and sun, not the cold winters that plagued the northern forests where they lived now.

"I am no dog," Natsu growled at them. "Now if you'll excuse me I have somewhere I need to be."

Natsu attempted to bypass the slaves but he was grabbed and pushed back. The force of the push was enough to cause him to trip over one of the steps and fall back down.

"Where does the king's bitch think he's going?" the first man said tauntingly. Natsu glared up at him with fierce eyes holding back the anger brewing up inside of him. "Going to beg your master for another treat? Maybe if you bark loud enough, and perform some more tricks for him he'll let you eat some scraps from his table?"

Natsu became infuriated as he pounced at the man, grasping him by the throat. The man was taken back, not expecting the boy to lunge at him so drastically and suddenly. The shove caused Natsu and the man to topple down the stairway. One of the men stepped to the side, pressing his body up against the wall. The second man was hit by the falling man, but grasped onto the railing to keep him from falling.

Natsu and the other slave fell hard on each step, their bodies being tossed around, their bodies hitting the stoned walls and steps. Natsu felt his head slam against one of the steps as they plunged further and further down. Eventually they hit the bottom floor, Natsu bouncing on top of the other slave and eventually rolling over the man's body. Natsu was surprised that he felt little pain throughout his body, but his head ached terribly and he noticed that his vision had become blurry. He felt a warm sensation leak down the back of his head. When he reached up to touch he gazed at a hand that was covered in blood.

"You little shit," the slave moaned in pain as he twitched on the floor. Natsu on the other hand was able to pick himself up, but he could hear the loud clamor of footsteps echo through the stairwell as the other two slaves made their way down. "I'm going to wring your fucking neck," the first slave said as he finally managed to pick himself up to his knees, but his body was still battered.

Natsu didn't say anything back to the man he just turned for the doorway to escape. His head was throbbing, and he could feel that he wasn't right. He couldn't sense his surroundings like he normally would, and staggered forward. Unfortunately he didn't get far before he as grabbed from behind by one of the other slaves.

"And where does the king's bitch think he's going?" the man said as he threw Natsu against the wall. The other slave helped the man that was on the ground back up to his feet.

"Hey, why don't you leave the boy be?" an elderly man said as he stepped forward. He was a hunched back slave with skin as thick as leather and a few strands of gray hair jetting from the back and sides of his head with a scraggly beard to match. His eyes were dull cesspools of grimy gray. He was as pale as a ghost and just as close to the grave. He carried himself with a walking stick.

"Stay out of this Draconan," the man growled. "Unless of course you want to fight yourself?"

"I am sorry," the old man muttered with a heavy breath, "but I well beyond my youth to get involved in conflict."

"Of course you are," the other slave taunted, still grasping Natsu tightly by the throat. "You and your entire worthless race were the biggest cowards there were. It's not wonder you got whipped out on a whim and sold into slavery."

"Are you not a slave yourself young lad?" the old man sighed.

"I am a prisoner of war, captured after I suffered an injury to my back. I fought hard and with much pride for my country, though I cannot say the same for you."

"My people had no need for war young one," the old said. "My people became prosperous on good trade and education. We had no need for the weapons of war, only the weapons of knowledge. Is there much pride in taking another man's life who is no different than you?"

Natsu noticed the man's grip loosen on his throat. He was able to take in some fresh air but he was still held on tightly by the other slave. He turned to look at the old man who exchanged a gaze at him and a slight smile. Natsu had no idea that the man was actually using the conversation as a distraction, and hoped the boy would not struggle too much less the draw the attention of his attackers.

"Say what you will about you and your cowardly, pathetic race," the slave growled spitting at the old man. "Me and my brothers in arms would not be so ill contempt to allow our people to be slaughtered like dogs simply because of some useless principles."

"Shut up!" Natsu yelled as he kicked the man in the groin causing him to lose his grip and fall to his knees. Natsu took the opportunity to swing his arm in for a punch to the face sending the man to the floor.

"Get him!" the slave who had fallen down the stairs with Natsu yelled. He teetered forward as the third slave ran at him. Natsu couldn't sense the man's approach, something really was wrong with his head.

Natsu ran towards the exit and out to the castle grounds. He stumbled forward and tripped over a rock that was lying near the doorway. He tried to keep his balance, but eventually he fell to his stomach onto the ground. He heard the sound of the three slaves rushing towards him, but that wasn't all; a horse's wail.

When Natsu looked up he saw the three slaves come to a sliding halt, a look of sheer terror in their eyes. Natsu then heard the sound of hoof beats and murmurs. He turned his head to see King Jude, Princess Lucy and the nobles standing still on their horses peering down at him. Natsu gulped but he did not move. His eyes fell onto the young blonde girl feeling embarrassed.

"What is going on here?" King Jude demanded as his eyes fell on both Natsu and the other slaves. "Why are these men chasing this child?"

"My Lord," the first slave said, a tone of freight in his voice, "this child attacked me and my brethren in the staircase."

"You allowed a child to bully you around?" Iwan said raising an eyebrow. "You? Soldiers of the Southern Peninsula? Well then it's no wonder that you were so easily captured by the King's army."

The men glared at him but said nothing.

"Pick yourself up child," Iwan ordered. Natsu did as he said and stood to his feet. He kept his eyes down, not daring make eye contact with any of the nobles.

"What is the meaning of this?" King Jude demanded. "Guards arrest these men for causing a commotion. For the love of the Gods can I not even venture to a neighboring country without some rabble breaking out? Natsu, I am disappointed in you."

Lucy gazed at her father with shock and an expression that revealed that she believed her father to act so brash to the young boy. Natsu felt incredibly embarrassed and ashamed. For the king to speak of him in such a way was humiliating. He could feel the stares of hundreds of eyes on him, and even worse shaking heads with glances of disappointment.

"Now, now, my Lord," Iwan interjected. "The boy might not have done anything wrong. We know that this slave in particular is always well behaved."

"Like a dog," the first slave scoffed. Natsu glared back up at him with a spiteful gaze.

"So I propose a solution to this endeavor," Iwan continued.

"And that would be?" King Jude asked raising an eyebrow.

"Let the slaves finish their quarrel," Iwan answered. "Would the town not enjoy some free entertainment at the behest of their king?"

The crowd cheered at the suggestion as Iwan threw his hands in the air to encourage them. The other nobles scowled in displeasure and disagreement. They did not feel it necessary to have the boy fight with three other slaves. Other on lookers were bewildered that a noble would even suggest that a child fight three men. They thought it would be such a joke, but many others cheered regardless. A fight would probably be the most interesting thing they would see all day, regardless if it was a child or not.

"Father no," Lucy pleaded. She could see some blood oozing down the back of the boy's neck. "He's injured, it would be dangerous to have him fight."

"I did not know you cared so much for a slave my dear," King Jude said displeased. He sighed taking a deep breath, looking back that the nobles and then to Iwan. "Very well," he finally said. "We will let the slaves exact their own punishment. And give these good people a show worth watching."

"My lord please he is not but a child," the old slave interjected. "And these three men are prisoners of war, soldiers who fought on the battlefront. To have him fight them would be leaving a sheep to the slaughter."

"Silence you tongue slave!" Iwan ordered. "The boy will fight as the king has instructed. Now Natsu go on," he said waving his hand, "prove yourself."

The boy nodded his head as he turned back to face the three slaves. They were hesitant at first, but when they saw that they were given the go ahead by the king and his company they moved towards the boy. Natsu took a step back, his vision still blurry, and his senses were still awry. He was actually starting to become a little afraid.

The first slave ran at him, and to Natsu's surprise his vision didn't pick it up, and before he knew it the man had him by the throat up in the air. A gasp of horror could be heard from the surrounding crowd. Natsu felt the man's grip tighten as the slave turned to king to make sure that it was okay for him to proceed. Lucy looked at her father in desperation but said nothing. King Jude nodded at the man allowing him to continue.

"Well dog," he hissed through a sinister smirk, "looks like your master has left you out to the wolves."

Natsu struggled under the man's hand as he could feel himself suffocate underneath it. The man raised his fist ready to strike the young child. As he did Natsu could feel a surging burn radiate from the pit of his stomach. Soon it made it's way up to his chest and then his throat. Natsu thought that maybe he was going to vomit, or burp. It may have only been half a second, but for Natsu it could have been minutes. He felt the burning in his eyes, as his vision began to slit.

Then as soon as the slave's hand was coming down for a punch, Natsu opened his mouth wide, and out burst a roaring flame directly into his opponent's face. The man screamed in torment as he let the boy go, causing him to fall flat onto the ground. The slave fell to the ground in agony, grasping at his now charcoaled face. The other two slaves took a step back and watched their friend squirm. They weren't the only ones, everyone in the crowd was stunned by what had just happened.

Natsu watched as the man wailed and flailed about in pain. He was frightened, more so than anybody else. He didn't know or understand what had just happened. He breathed deeply, peering back at the king to see him and his company with their mouths agape. For a few moments no one said anything. The two men just stood there shocked, as Natsu had made an effort to stand back up.

"Well?" Iwan said in annoyance. His eyes fell on the other two slaves as they in turn gazed back at him with worry in their eyes. "What are you two waiting for? This fight has only just begun. I thought you warriors of the south would be able to handle a mere child. Are you just going to let him scold your brethren and not do anything about it? Come on then, these people expect a good fight. "

They exchanged glances with one another, but neither was willing to attack the child. They were hesitant as one of them finally stepped forward, but was weary.

"Well then go on boy," Iwan called out. "You just going to sit there and let these men harass you?"

Natsu peered up at him too frightened to move. It wasn't that he didn't want to fight anymore he just hadn't gotten over the fire breathing stunt he just did. Then again no one had. The king and other nobles were still in awe, all except Princess Lucy who stared at him with worry. His eyes fell upon hers, as they met once more. He blushed turning to face the other two slaves. One of them inched his way forward but made no attempt to rush at him. Natsu knew he had to continue fighting.

The other slave was within feet but he wouldn't go any further. He kept flinching every time he wanted to get closer. He was just out of the reach of Natsu's flame, or at least he thought he was.

"For crying out loud, is a former soldier really that afraid of a child?" Iwan taunted. "Get him!"

The slave was reluctant but he rushed at Natsu. Once more the boy felt the surge of burning flame radiate through his abdominal. His vision began to slit once more as his mind went blank. It was over in a flash, when he came to he realized that the other slave was bent over him, gasping for air, the sounds of a woman's shrill burst from the crowd while everyone else went silent.

Natsu looked up to see his hand in the gut of the slave, blood began to trickle down his forearm as the man continued to gag. Startled Natsu retracted his hand seeing it caked in blood, but the wound in the slave didn't appear that deep. His fingernails had apparently turned into claws, if not for just a second before retracting back to normal. Natsu looked back at the slave he had struck, blood poured from the wound, and the slave grasping at it to cover it, but he didn't go down.

"You little shit," he cursed under his breath. He was infuriated now. "I'll kill you!" The man roared as he charged at the young boy.

Natsu felt it come again, the burn, except this time it felt more natural, more in tune with his sense. It felt good. He felt his vision slit again as the man came closer to him. He swung his fist at him. Natsu grabbed him by the swinging arm and hurtled him through the air. The man was sent flying towards the crowd, the people ducked out of the way or moved aside as the slave barreled into a market table, shattering it to splinters.

"Since when has the boy been able to breathe fire and turn his hands into claws?" King Jude asked out loud as he continued to watch the boy.

"The boy is still young my Lord," Iwan said to him. "You knew just how special the child was when you brought him back from the mountains. I believe we have yet to see all the gifts he posses."

Natsu felt the surge of power overwhelm him again as he turned to the third and final slave. The man backed up, not willing to fight any longer. Natsu could feel the power overwhelm him as his mind went blank. The finally slave was far too afraid to proceed with the fight. He began to take a step back as he saw the boy's eyes turn into a deep amber color. Natsu's skin even began to grow scales, his hands transformed into claws and his teeth into fangs.

"He really is a monster!" a woman shrieked.

"Well what are you waiting for slave?" Iwan addressed the final slave. "The boy is just standing there. Do something."

"Iwan you cannot be serious?" King Jude interjected. "That man stands no chance against the son of a dragon. It's suicide. The battle has already proven to be in the favor of Natsu. It was over the second Natsu turned into a savage beast. Anymore and the man will be killed, if the other two haven't been already."

"My Lord," Iwan answered, "these men were willing to gain up on the boy three to one. These cowards decided their fate the second they were willing to go after what they thought was a helpless child. I say let them suffer their crimes at the hand of whom they have wronged."

King Jude said nothing further but turned his attention back to the scuffle. He could see the madness in the boy's eyes as he took a step towards the last man.

"Father," Princess Lucy interjected grabbing onto King Jude's sleeve. "Father please make them stop."

"I am sorry my dear," the king sighed. "But Lord Iwan is right. I have already given the by my permission to fight, and the slaves permission to exact their own punishment on him. The fight will finish out."

"But father—"

"No buts!" King Jude shouted. Lucy complied with her father's demand, her attention falling back on the pink haired slave in front of her. He wasn't the same boy she had seen before. This was someone completely different then the one she was used to seeing train in the arena.

The final slave decided that it was best not to fight. In panic the man bolted for the main gate. Natsu chased after him with great speed. Before the slave even had a chance to escape, Natsu pounced into the air onto of the man. The slave rolled to his back in attempt to throw the boy off, but Natsu sank his claws into the man's hip. The man cried out in pain as Natsu raised his hand into the air and swung it down slashing the man's chest.

"Natsu!" King Jude called out. The boy came to an abrupt halt, but he peered down at his prey with eyes demanding blood. "That's enough, the fight is over. Stay your hand."

Natsu didn't comply at first as he scathed the man one more time with his claws coming dangerously close to the slave's throat. The man attempted to swat the boy off of him, but Natsu bit it, sinking his fangs deep into the man's flesh. His mouth filled with blood. He liked the taste and only sunk his teeth deeper into the hand.

"Natsu!" he heard a young girl call out his name. He came to an abrupt halt and let the hand fall from his mouth. "Natsu please stop," the girl wept. "Please."

In that moment Natsu felt his claws retract back into normal fingers once more. The scales that had aligned his body faded into his skin, as did his amber eyes. He sat on top of the defeated man looking into his terror-ridden eyes. He sighed as he stood up to his feet, the pain in his head had all but vanished and his vision was clear once more. He felt his heart beat in his chest and the burning from the pit of his gut was gone. He was back to normal. It was strange but he could have sworn the wound on the back of his head had healed.

His gaze fell back to the three slaves he had just fought. The man beneath him clutched at the gaping wounds on his hips and torso; a pool of blood formed around his body. The slave he had hurtled into the table lied still underneath shards of table and broken pots. No one dared touch him or even go near him. The man he had burned was now lying still, but he could see he was still breathing as his chest moved up and down. But he kept his face covered with his hands.

"He really is a monster," a woman shrieked.

"He is a demon possessed!" another man called out. "He should be hung before he kills us all!" A roar of agreement came from the crowd. Natsu flinched as he heard their cheer.

"ENOUGH!" roared the king as the crowd went immediately silent. "The boy is my slave and no harm will befall him. If any man here is to even touch the boy I will have him hung by his entrails and left to feed the crows. Is that understood?"

The king glared at the now silent crowd. No one dare protest against him.

"Well done young slave," Iwan said as he rode up to the boy. Natsu said nothing to him, he was far too ashamed of what he had done. "I congratulate you on a job well done. Shall we be off your majesty? We are already running late."

"Of course," King Jude answered as he kicked his horse to get it to move. The rest of the company followed him, the crowd returned to their chores.

"And as for you young slave," Iwan said with a smirk, "I will be observing you progress with great interest."

Natsu stood there in silence, still peering down at the suffering man. He could hear the footsteps of the horses walk on by from behind him. He kept his head down in shame, not daring to look at anyone. He could hear the horse's wail and felt the cold of the king's shadow over him. Natsu could sense something coming but he knew better than to react to it. The king struck the boy in the back with a whip, causing Natsu to cry out in pain as he fell to the ground.

"If you ever disobey my orders again slave," the word slid of his tongue like poison, "I'll have you gutted. Is that understood?"

"Yes Sire," Natsu exhaled though teeth, his back still aching from the pain.

"Good," the king growled as he continued to trot on. "Remember it."

With that the king led his horse to the main gate. The other nobles of the company followed behind him. Iwan was quick to catch up to the king as he rode beside him.

"I think you were too hard on the boy," Iwan said as they rode out of the gate. "He was only fighting as instructed."

"He disobeyed me when I instructed him to cease his fighting," King Jude grumbled. "He's lucky I didn't take his head."

"But he did listen my Lord," Iwan said in disagreement. "Or at least he listened to some member of the royal family. Did he not stop at the request of the young Princess Lucy?"

Iwan smirked at the king, a deceptive one that made the young princess tremble in her saddle. King Jude scowled at him, though he had to admit the nobleman was right.

"Perhaps it would be better served if you gave the slave over to Lucy," Iwan suggested.

"And why would I want that savage beast anywhere near my daughter?" King Jude asked; his scowl growing even more fierce.

"You saw it as well as any of us," Iwan said. "He listens to her, so why not let the beauty control the beast. Plus she already said she like him." He could see the king's glare hardening on him. "And what's not to like? The boy is strong and powerful beyond any slave in this or any kingdom. What do you say young Princess?" Iwan turned to her, a wide grin across his cheeks. "How would you like to have a slave of your own?"

The girl looked up the nobleman with weary eyes. She said nothing, and remained quiet. Her eyes fell to the mane of her horse, she bit her lip shut to make sure that she did not utter a word. She did not want to have any business with that man, nor did she want to talk about slaves.

"All the boy demonstrated was that he lacks restraint," King Jude grumbled. "Maybe if he shows some more control then I will consider it. Until then the boy will remain in my care and serve in the manner I find most suitable. He is given more leave than any other slave in the kingdom. He should be content where he is now."

"Well then I guess you'll just have to wait my Lady," Iwan said to the young girl. "But in due time all good things come. In due time."


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