"For years I have waited for your return," the dragon sighed as it lingered closer to Natsu. It slouched on its hind legs as it leaned in close to the pink haired teen. "For years I waited through over a dozen winters and summers, while the leaves of the forest blossomed and died. Through the seasons and through the nights I have waited for you to come back home to me. My son." By now the dragon was within reaching distance of as Natsu stared into its amber eye. He could feel the dragon's warm breath blow on him.
Natsu stared up into the amber eyes of the dragon still in disbelief by the words the dragon had spoken to him. His son? Did the dragon really just say that Natsu was his son? Gajeel watched on from a distance, watching carefully in just as much stunned bewilderment as his counterpart. He dared not speak a word as he lay motionless on the ground.
"Wait, you're my father?" Natsu asked.
"Yes," the dragon nodded half smiling. "I am Igneel Dragoneel; one of the Five Lords of Draconia."
"Five?" Natsu asked. "That's cool! I didn't know that my father was one of the Five Lords! Then again I didn't even know there were five lords in Draconia. Actually I didn't even know that there were any lords in Draconia at all. So have there always been lords or is that something that was added in after you were all turned into dragons?"
"Natsu," Gajeel grumbled. "Don't go asking dumb questions that don't have anything to do with why we're here."
"Who's asking dumb questions?" Natsu barked as he raised a fist at the black haired Draconian. "I'll teach you to ruin this touching moment!"
"Enough Natsu," the dragon sighed. "Now is not the time to argue. There is much to discuss and this is not the place to do it."
"Okay, so then what's the plan?" Natsu asked.
Gajeel took the moment to stand back up to his feet as he brushed the dirt from his legs. The tension that was strong and the atmosphere had a weird ambiance about it. He was still stunned by their encounter with the dragon, but he was starting to get a bit more comfortable since Natsu and Igneel began talking with one another. Though it seemed like Natsu and Igneel were on friendly terms, Gajeel kept up his guard.
"Come with me," Igneel told him. "We should find place more suitable to have this discussion. Hop on, I'll take you two to the capital and then I can answer any questions that you have."
"Hop on?" Natsu asked skeptically.
Igneel leaned forward and lowered his head. He then motioned for the both of them to climb onto his back. Natsu shrugged as he slowly scrambled up Igneel's claws and sat himself on the back of his neck. Once he was situated he looked down at Gajeel. The black haired Draconian was a bit more hesitant as he wasn't sure that he was comfortable climbing on top of a dragon. Natsu gave his companion a disgruntled leer as Gajeel gave in and climbed up behind Natsu.
"Hold on tight," Igneel warned as he leapt off his feet and flapped his wings. The sheer power caused a fierce gust of wind to begin blowing as Igneel ascended into the air. Natsu and Gajeel shielded their face from the wind as they both held on tight.
Within a few moments Igneel was already high into the air as they soared above the tee line. Natsu looked out with an excited expression until he felt himself become queasy. Igneel ripped through the air, hurtling towards the mountain as the wind lashed Natsu and Gajeel. The strong gusts barreled down upon them like the swift winds of a hurricane. Natsu felt like his skin was going to be frayed from his bones as Igneel dove down towards the trees. Both Natsu and Gajeel kept firm grips on Igneel's horns as they saw the dragon close in on the ruins of a large city before finally slowing down.
Igneel finally stopped as he flapped his wings to keep him from crashing into the ground. Natsu felt as though his bones were going to collapse in his body and his organs flattened. Natsu shut his eyes feeling like they were going to pop out of their sockets. It was as though his brain went hurtling through his body and down into his feet as he held firm onto the horns as Igneel slowly descended into the heart of the city. The ground composed of burned and broken cobblestone, and the buildings in the midst of crumbling and collapsing.
Igneel landed in the middle of the open square as Natsu and Gajeel slowly climbed down. His legs were still shaky but Natsu did his best to keep his composure. Gajeel was just as wobbly as Natsu as he practically fell down but caught himself midway. He heard Igneel laugh as the dragon lifted off into the air, once again creating a strong gust of wind that nearly knocked the two of them down as he rose up and perched himself on a pile of debris on the other side of the young men.
Natsu and Gajeel managed to gain their composure before they heard the several cries as dragons began to land around them. The two watched in the amazement as several dragons landed around them of a variety of different colors. One was black as coal with streaks of blue like streams weaving through the night sky and another was a glistening white like untouched snow a top of a mountain during the frozen winter. There was one of jade, like each scale was a carved jewel polished to the point that it reflected blinding light. Another that caught Natsu's eye was that of a cerulean blue like the calm ocean. All of them were glaring down at the two teenagers.
There were dozens of them perched on top of buildings and rubble. Each dragon had a fierce glare in its eye, and sharp teeth like jagged daggers of ivory lining through their jaws. Beasts of legend now surrounded them on those stone ruins. Each eye was like a carved orb of a rainbow of colors that ranged like burning balls of frozen fire.
"Welcome to Drachen, my son," Igneel exclaimed. "This city was once the capital and jewel of our country. A long time ago this city was the center of all trade throughout Fiore; a buzz with merchants from distant lands that came from far and wide to trade. It was the center of our lives, and since I was born this was my home, as it was once yours my son. But now, it is nothing but a shadow of its former glory; nothing remains but ruins and shattered dreams of our long lost people. All our homes, all our livelihoods, everything that we once held dear was destroyed by the greed of jealous men. Men whom we once called our friends that, in our time of need, betrayed us and attempted to slaughter us."
"I am sorry to hear that father," Natsu said apologetically as he saw Igneel's anguish. The dragon may have been standing firm and with a powerful presence, but it even his scales of armor were incapable of shielding his true emotions from Natsu.
"So, now tell me my son, why is it that you have returned to our land after all this time?"
"We came here in search of out two friends," Natsu answered. "One is a man with white hair and the other is a man with long black hair. Their names are Sting and Rogue. We received a letter from them a couple weeks ago telling us that they were traveling here. We hadn't seen them since our escape from Konvern several months ago and we promised to meet up again. We need to talk to them about the war that is waging throughout the continent that is devastating everyone. We need their help," Natsu said determinedly as a thought suddenly struck him. "And maybe you could help us too?"
"Two men, one with white hair and one with black?" Igneel said outloud. "I know of them, they arrived a short while ago themselves. However, they are somewhere outside the city I would suspect, but where exactly I do not know. It should not be long before they too return to the capital. You are more than welcome to talk about your business with your comrades. However, we cannot help you with the war, nor would we even if we could."
"What? But why?" Natsu asked demandingly. He leered at the dragon with disgruntled glare.
"We are forbidden from leaving the borders of Draconia," Igneel told him. "If we tried to leave we would die. It is part of our curse that we are forced to live with." Once he had finished speaking Igneel thought back to the night Natsu was taken from him and the boy's mother was killed. "I do not know exactly why the wizard decided to keep us trapped here, but that is the way things are. So even if we wanted to we could not leave."
"Is there anything we can do?" Natsu asked as he peered over at all the other dragons. "To help free you?"
Gajeel stood in the back as his eyes wondered from dragon to dragon as he tried to discern which of the dragons could have possibly been his own parents. After a while he realized that perhaps they weren't' there, if they were even still alive after all this time. Gajeel noticed that same stare that Natsu had in his eyes. After all this time he knew exactly what that glare meant, as he chuckled to himself. He knew Natsu was persistent enough that he would help, but the young man might just wind up getting himself killed. Gajeel knew Natsu was dumb enough and he wondered how the young man was even alive to this day. But maybe there was something to him. Maybe the fates were in the pink haired teen's favor.
"Only the wizard can break the curse," Igneel sighed. "That or he must be killed."
"Fine, then I'll make him break the curse or I'll kill him," Natsu exclaimed wrenching his hand into a fist. Igneel smirked as he watched his son. He could hear a cackle erupted from the other dragons as well. Though amongst their laughter they saw the serious glimmer in Natsu's eyes that caused them all to go silent. "Just tell me who it is I'm looking for and where I can find him." Natsu spat.
Igneel stood quiet as he leered down at his young son. The boy was hard pressed and there was an aura about him that made the dragon believe him. No, it wasn't possible for a young man like Natsu to defeat the dark wizard. Igneel could tell the boy was stubborn but he would get himself killed. But maybe there was a way that the young man could help. It was a long shot, and the chance was slim, but Igneel began to get an idea but it would never work.
"Such a noble person you grew up to be," Igneel said proudly. "And without the guidance of your mother or myself." Natsu blushed as he scratched the back of his head. Though even in his embarrassment he was unable to hold back his wide, goofy grin. "I am sorry, but there is no chance that you can win, but there might be a way to protect you from the same fate as us." Igneel looked at the other dragons as he thought about his plan, but opted against it. "You can't possibly defeat the dark wizard on your own."
"I'm not on my own," Natsu rebutted. Igneel became curious, and he was not alone; the other dragons were just as intrigued as the crimson one. "I have Gajeel by my side. And I could use the help of Sting and Rogue as well. Together we'll take down this dark wizard and end the curse once and for all."
"Yes, but for now we have much to discuss, is there anything that you would like to know about our home?"
"I have a question," Gajeel said as he stepped forward. "I want to know where my parents are as well."
"Gajeel," he answered.
"Gajeel? Gajeel . . ." Igneel thought the name over.
"There is no need to linger any longer Igneel," a voice boomed as a dargon landed behind the two teens with a gust of wind. "Gajeel is my son."
Natsu looked up at the enormous silver dragon with wings like steel flaps that glimmered in the sunlight. It was blindingly bright, brighter than any polished armor the young men had even seen. Eyes as dark as charcoal and a sinister glare that Natsu thought matched his dark haired companion perfectly. The dragon's scales were like metal armor that surrounded its tough hide. Rows of jagged teeth lined its jaws as the best appeared more machine that creature.
Natsu noticed that despite encountering his own son the dragon did not appear sentimental in the least. Natsu noticed that the two of them must have been related since they both had the same malice glare in their eyes. Gajeel crossed his arms over his chest as he stared at the dragon. The two of them looked at one another for a few minutes in absolute silence. Natsu and his own father exchange glances of raised eyebrows as they both turned their attention to the other father-son duo.
"You are my father?" Gajeel asked.
"Yes, Gajeel of the Redfox clan."
Igneel stepped down next to Natsu as the pink haired teen looked up at his father.
"Natsu, come with me I have something I need to show you," Igneel said as he walked down the road. The other the dragons watched as the two of them disappeared down the road before they scattered off into the wind.
"Where are we going?" Natsu asked as the two of them walked down the street. But the dragon did not answer as he continued to walk down the road in silence. Natsu just shrugged and continued to follow.
Natsu looked at the rubble of the old buildings, as large gaps and holes covered the majority of the surface of each of the buildings. They looked like at one point they were comprised of fine sandstone or brick, and even marble for the buildings that Natsu could have guessed belonged to the wealthy and the elite. The cobblestone streets were cracked. Even wild weeds were abundant between each of the cracks as plant life began to consume everything around it. Ivy leaves that were once used as decoration now grew uncontained as it swallowed up several buildings. Trees had grown wild through the years, finally free to spread their wings. Some of the branches were breaking through windows and even one that had toppled over a long time ago and was left to decay alone.
Eventually Natsu and Igneel arrived at a building that was still just half standing. All the windows were shattered, and what pieces of the panes that remained were caked with dust and dirt. The entrance to the door hung on its hinges as it creaked back and forth in the light draft that blew by. The stone steps that led up to the door were also covered with debris and pieces of the brick that had long since fallen from the walls. Natsu looked up at his father as the dragon motioned for the boy to move forward.
"What is this place?" Natsu asked as he walked toward the door.
"This place was once my home, a long time ago," Igneel answered. "Go upstairs to the room on the left. In the back you will find a wooden box. Go and retrieve the item within."
"What is it?"
"You will see soon enough," Igneel answered. "Now go."
Natsu entered as he slid though the doorway. There was a puddle of dark water that laid in front of him as he wiggled around it. The hallway was narrow, and their was not much light. The young man breathed fire from his nostrils as he lit up the dark hallway enough to let him see. The wallpaper was peeling off the surface revealing, the stone surface behind. There was pieces of rubble lying on the marble floor as Natsu began to wonder if there was any place in the city that was free of rubble, but more so he wondered where it could have all come from.
The ceiling leaked drops of water and mold covered most of the molding and walls. Natsu passed by a room that upon using some light he could tell that this must have been the den. A torn leather couch sat between two leather chairs in front of a marble fireplace. Two sculpted dragons sat on either side of the fire place as a portrait, with the picture now completely decayed and torn, hung over the mantle.
Natsu continued on as he came to the stairwell. Large mahogany banisters twisted and weaved down. The polish had long since lost its luster as the wood had already begun to crack and splinter from the weather and from being unattended for so many years. The steps were made of marble and were the only part of the house that wasn't completely covered in debris. There were still small puddles of water on the steps that came from the leaking ceiling above. Natsu wondered where all this water could have come from, but perhaps it had rained here recently but he didn't remember any rain, nor did he see any rain clouds on his journey. Each step made the atmosphere colder and colder but Natsu simply breathed out more fire to keep his body warm, but the further he ascended the more damp and chill the building became.
Eventually Natsu came to the top of the staircase to another hallway, only this one had a wooden floor instead of marble. Each step creaked and squeaked with every step. The floorboard even broke as the pieces of wood fell into blackness. There was some light that seeped in through a single window that resided at the end of the hallway. One of the panes was shattered, which allowed even more light to fill up the dark hallway. Eventually Natsu came upon an oak wood door, painted white but like everything else it had to decay that only small slivers of paint remained.
Natsu took a deep breath as he grabbed the ice-cold brass handle and opened the door. He was greeted by a hollow blackness and a chilly draft that blew from the confines within. Natsu used his breath to light his way once more as his eyes went wide upon what he saw. Inside the room lied a crib, a rocking chair and other furniture awaiting the arrival of an infant. Natsu knew immediately that this was supposed to be his room. He entered through the dark threshold and made his way up to the crib. He looked inside to see the moldy, decayed bedding within and a small white pillow embroidered with his name on it. Natsu picked it up and rubbed his hand along the stitching.
The boy took a deep breath as he fought to hold back tears before placing the pillow back in the crib. He looked around for the box that his father had spoke of when he spotted it lying on top of the dresser. He examined it carefully as he rubbed his hand across its surface leaving a clean train of polished pinewood along the filth and dust. The boy took a breath as he opened the box and pulled out the contents within. He looked at it as he saw that it was just a plain white with black-stripped scarf. He raised an eyebrow as he looked it over. There didn't seem to be anything too special about it, it just appeared to be a regular scarf. Granted it was a bit old, the fabric held tight but he could see that much of the luster and color had since vanished from it.
He wrapped the scarf around his shoulder as he left the room. He sighed taking one last look inside before closing the door behind him.
When he exited the building he could see Igneel waiting for him in the street.
"Did you find it?" the dragon asked.
"I think so," Natsu said as he held up the scarf. "But I don't understand, why did you want me to get this of all things?"
"Because that scarf is very special my boy," Igneel answered. "It has been in our family for many generations and it has the power to protect its wearer from any dark magic, or even any magic in general that does not already belong to the one who wears it."
"Yes," I received the scarf from my father when I was young, though in our greatest crisis I foolishly did not wear it. I had hoped that it would protect you from the dangers of this world and the dangers of the one who would eventually betray us, and that dream has now been restored." Natsu slung the scarf around his neck as he could feel its warmth radiate into his body. "But just because it has the power to protect you from magic does not mean you invulnerable to harm."
"Where did you get it, and what are you talking about?" Natsu asked.
"It is a long story my son, a very long story that I will tell you at another time," Igneel said as he turned around. "For now we must help you find your friends. I am sure there are other, more pressing matters that need to be attended to."
Ivan made his way down his own pathway towards Mila. He had hoped to encounter Duke and his forces soon but he knew the journey would be long. He headed towards a nearby town where he instructed his assassin to send a messenger pigeon to him regarding the task he had given him. He hoped that the man could pull through, but this was Brain's man so Ivan knew that the job would probably be done correctly. Though he thought it would be impossible the assassin had simply accepted it with a smile and the expectations of a king's fortune. Ivan would have gladly paid ten king's worth of gold for such a task to be completed.
When Ivan arrived at the town he passed through the wooden gates and down the dirt road. Much like the other villages, this one was small with buildings constructed of wood. Mostly just a town for travelers to bypass and farmers, but it was large enough to have a couple inns and taverns. Ivan made his way to one in particular called the Galloping Geese. The sign for the inn swung lightly in breeze as the old noble hopped from his horse and entered inside. This place was lit with a large fireplace and the people inside seemed to be more friendly. Mostly farmers enjoying a fresh ale after a long day's labor.
Ivan made his way to desk where he spotted a chubby old man with a white mustache and balding head.
"Hi there, what can I do for you?" the old man asked politely.
"My name is Iwan, I believe you have a letter for me?" Ivan said as he took a seat at the bar.
"Oh yes," the old man said immediately. "It just arrived this morning. Hold on a moment while I go fetch it for you."
The man disappeared in the back as Ivan waited patiently. It wasn't long before the old man reappeared with the parchment in hand.
"Thank you," Ivan said as he bar tender handed him the letter.
"Is there anything else I can do for you?"
"Yes, a nice warm plate of whatever you have and a cool ale to wash it down with," Ivan requested as he broke the seal.
The old man nodded his head and left as the nobleman opened the letter and began reading it.
The mission went off without a hitch. Gran Doma and most of the commanding officers from the allied forces were killed in the blast. The allied forces and in such disarray that I expect them to be quarrelsome long enough for you to make it to Mila and my master.
If there are any other tasks you need me to complete please send them by letter to the Demon's Spawn Inn in the town of Olgeson. I will be patiently awaiting further instruction there for the next week.
Ivan placed the letter down on the bar as old bartender returned with a mug of beer.
"Excuse me," Ivan said to the old man. He looked up at the old noble with a crooked, yet warm-hearted smile. "Can you bring me a pen and paper? I need to write a letter to a friend of mine."
"Of course sir," the old man said bowing his head as he wondered back into the kitchen.
"Finally," Ivan breathed a sigh of relief. "Something is going our way for once."