It was still days before the battle of Mila and the end of the war had taken place. Natsu meandered off through the city on his own. He wore the scarf that his father had given him as further questions for the old dragon. After his fight with Sting and Rogue the two of them disappeared, vanishing off into the wilderness of the country. Gajeel went off in search of his own father to ask him personal questions. Natsu had no idea where Igneel flew off to, but he remembered seeing his father fly off towards the mountains.
As Natsu neared the mountains he heard the sound and felt the gust of dragon wings behind him. He turned to see familiar crimson scales glittering in the sunlight as Igneel stood before him.
"I heard you had something you wished to discuss with me my son," Igneel said as he leaned his head close to the youth.
"How did you know?"
"Dragons have keen ears, and the trees whisper the things that they hear through their branches. And all those whispers find their way back to me. There is nothing that goes beyond my notice."
"You're lying," Natsu replied with an unbelieving smirk.
"A little bit," the dragon chuckled. "However, many of the dragons still do not trust you or the other boys. You may be our sons, but you are not beasts like us, you still maintain your human forms. They fear that your intentions here are not pure. You cannot blame them after what they have endured."
"How is it possible for them to hear us at all?" Natsu asked. "I don't see them flying nearby or even hovering around. And they are rather difficult to miss."
"As I said," Igneel grumbled standing upright, "dragons have keen ears. We are capable of hearing the soft breaths of our prey from as far eight hundred meters. But never mind the ways we hear you, what is it you wished to discuss with me?"
"I wanted to know, who was it that betrayed our people? Who was it that cursed you all as dragons?" Natsu demanded.
"It is a long tale, one that stretches back many, many years, even before the Dragon Wars. Before we were betrayed by those we once called friends. Back in the time of our former king and traitor of the Draconian people . . . Ancologia."
Ages ago, back when the land of Draconia was at peace and the citizens enjoyed the life of tranquility they led, a king ruled the people. Igneel was young, vibrant, and as eccentric as his son. The city was just as vivacious as the youth himself. The streets were a buzz with merchants, traders, and travelers from all over the continent and even beyond the sea. The citizens wore fine robes of cotton and while young lovers enjoyed the cherry blossom trees whose leaves fluttered down onto the river.
Igneel walked through the cobblestone streets: bobbing and weaving past carts and people as he rushed to the center. His red mane gleamed like strands of flames with each step. His eyes were an amber stone color, with streams of yellow and green that winded their way around the pupil. Most of the citizens smiled and waved as he passed by. He returned their friendly gestures with his own as he continued to make his way up the street. His crimson robes glistened as though they were weaved from fine gemstones, and he had a golden belt that tied them together.
On his left breast was a golden pin. The pin was carved in the shape of a dragon from the side viewpoint.
"Igneel," a voice boomed as Metalicana rounded the corner.
He was the same age as Igneel, with long, flowing silver hair. His eyes were a hollow gray color. Though the color was faded they still gleamed like moonstone in the sun. He wore elegant robes similar to Igneel, only his shimmered like strands of chrome. He too had a belt of gold to tie his wardrobe together. The silver haired Draconian had a grimace upon his brow, but was something that Igneel just ignored. It was not out of the ordinary for Metalicana to appear displeased. Even when he wasn't angry he had a demeanor that came off as angry. He too had a golden dragon pinned to his left breast.
"Metalicana, good to see you," Igneel replied as he shook the other man's hand. Igneel was slightly older, only a year or too compared to Metalicana.
"Aye, and you as well," Metalicana said. They continued their stride towards the center of the city.
They wound their way through the streets until they came to a large keep at the heart of the city. It stood erect on top of a large hill that held it above all other buildings. Carved with gothic architecture it had the appearance of a cathedral, with colored paned windows of a rainbow of colors. Two pillars had ivy carved into the stone and on top two gargoyles hunched over as though they glared at those who would enter into their domain. The colored panes had various designs of legendary knights and dragons incorporated like a mosaic. Engraved in the entrance door was an array of roses that surrounded two figures, one man and a woman at the center. The man was burly, depicted as an enormous figure that wore thick armor and a warrior's helmet. The woman was a young maiden with long robes and hands held out in a holy stature.
When they entered they were encountered by a woman with long pink hair that she kept tied up in a bun. She wore a similar robe to the two men, only hers were a soft cream color. She too had a golden dragon pin placed just above her left breast.
"Igneel, have you seen the king?" the woman asked rushing up to the two of them.
"Well hello to you too, Grandine," Igneel mumbled. "No I haven't. Is he not in the council room?"
"We've looked, but he's missing," she replied. "Atlas said that nobody has seen him all day. People are starting to grow concerned."
"I think I have an idea where he's at," Igneel replied as he walked by her.
"Where?" she asked.
"It's just speculation, but I'm going to go look," Igneel told her as he quickly rushed towards a marble staircase at the end of the corridor.
The corridor was long, with black and white marble outlying the floor. Ivory pillars lined the side of the hallway with the painted windows in between each of them. Igneel glided up the stairwell and up towards the top of the building. He passed through another hallway until he reached the far end where he came upon two large cedar doors.
Igneel pushed the doors aside as he entered a rather large library. Columns of shelves containing thick, leather bound books extended along a wooden floor. Igneel marched down the center, winding his way the shelves, eventually turning around a corner before he came upon another room. He placed his hand upon the handle and walked through.
Once more he found himself in another room, though this was smaller and quaint. A chandelier lit with candles hung above illuminating the room with a bit of light, though most of the light came from a window that mounted above an enormous mahogany desk. The walls were lined with shelves of books apart from a fireplace on the west side. Carved of stone with two dragon statues on eitherside and a painting of a young man with shaggy black hair and pale skin, dressed in kingly robes holding a scepter.
At the desk sat a relatively young man reading over a tome. He was a man in his mid-thirties that wasn't so old to have any wrinkles or grayness in his hair just yet, nor was he in the prime of his youth. His age fell right in between, in the midst of transition from young to old. His raven hair was long and greasy. It swathed along his shoulders like threads of twisted lace. He wore a silk robe of pale blue with outliers of gold that stitched it together.
"Your majesty," Igneel said as he closed the door behind him. The other man peered at him with dark, hallowed eyes. His skin was milky pale from constraining himself inside for too long. His murky hair draped low over his brows as his bangs hung loosely over his eyelids. He brushed them aside.
"Oh Igneel, pleasure to see you. What brings you here?"
"Your majesty, Grandine says that the council members have been searching for you. They say you haven't shown up for the meeting."
"Seven hells, is that today?" the king said blankly.
"It is," Igneel said as he approached the lord. "Are you reading through spells again? My Lord I don't mean to offend but should you be spending so much of your time reading magic books?"
"I have acquired quite a gift for it in the past month though my old friend," he said raising his hand. He muttered some foreign words under his breath as a flame erupted from his palm and instantly engulfed the log in the fireplace.
"Very good my Lord," Igneel said, "but there are more pressing matters at hand. The kingdom is not going to govern itself and the council cannot proceed without your authorization when it comes to sensitive matters such as the country's defense. There's already rumors that war is looming on our people."
"Igneel, you worry too much," the king replied. "The country is safe. Who would attack us? We're a neutral country and we do trade with every country on the continent. There's nothing to stress ourselves over. The country is wealthy, the people are happy and we're at peace. Yet here you stand anxious over some rumors that are only just that. Rumors."
"That is where I believe you are wrong my Lord," Igneel said. "If we do find ourselves at war we barely have a defense to protect ourselves. I believe that we need to discuss the expansion of our military. If not, than we should at the very least discuss hiring some sell swords that can protect us. Ancologia, please."
"If I can master magic, than I can protect our country no matter who decides to invade," he said as he pulled out a pen an paper from the corner of his desk. "Igneel, I give you full authority to speak on my behalf at the council meetings while I continue my studies," he said as he scribbled down. "This letter will convey to the other council members my intentions."
As Ancologia continued to write Igneel peered over at the tome he was reading. The title of the book made his eyes go wide in horror.
THE BOOK OF ZEREF
"Ancologia, this is dark magic," Igneel gasped as he snatched the book away. The king looked at him with a confused and subtle glare. "You know how dangerous this is."
"Magic is magic my friend," Ancologia replied as he signed the paper. "Zeref's magic is no different than any other. I even found one spell that can transform me into a dragon. Can you imagine? A dragon! The sigil of our country. How amazing would that be?"
"There is a huge difference when it comes to the art and practice of magic," Igneel snapped. "Dark magic has turned men mad! It has caused nothing but destruction and despair. There is not one man who practiced dark magic who did not eventually lose his mind and soul to it."
"It was not magic that did this but the men who used it," Ancologia retorted. "I am one who would use magic for good. I would use it for the betterment of my people and country."
"The Book of Zeref offers nothing but destruction and death. How did you come upon this?"
"It took some time and some favors, but I finally managed to purchase it from a hermit up north. And I would appreciate it if you would handle the book delicately. It is very old and very delicate. Not to mention it cost me quite a sum of money." Ancologia held out his hand half expecting Igneel to give it back to him.
"How much exactly?" Igneel asked.
"Let's just say the old hermit has enough money to buy his own castle and live the rest of his life in luxury," Acologia replied. He waved his hand, gesturing more demandingly that the book be returned to him. "All magic has its price," he laughed winking.
"It is dangerous, too dangerous for you to practice this type of magic," Igneel said. "The wizards eradicated themselves a long time ago due to the practice of dark magic. Nothing good can come from this. I am pleading to you my Lord, as your friend do not pursue these studies. It will only lead you to madness and despair."
"Igneel," Ancologia said impatiently, "give me the book." His voice was serious.
"Not before you promise to cease this pursuit into the dark arts," Igneel replied. "As you've said, all magic has its price. It cost the lives of hundreds who used it before, and those unfortunate enough to seek it. It will cost you greater than you could ever know!"
"IGNEEL! Give me back the book or so help me I will strip you of your power and banish you from this land. Now give me the book!"
The king glared at the redheaded council member. He stood back to his feet, glowering.
"As your friend and servant I cannot," Igneel said as he turned around to leave.
"IGNEEL!" Ancologia roared.
Igneel ignored him as he continued to walk towards the door. Suddenly he found his body stiff as though bound by an invisible force. He struggled but he could not move. He then found himself floating in the air and twirled around. He saw Ancologia standing before him, his arm outstretched and his eyes smoldering eyes. It was as though his eyes were burning with white flame that consumed the sockets. His lips trembled with fury.
"I said, GIVE ME BACK THE BOOK!" He exclaimed as he whipped his hand and hurled Igneel into one of the side bookshelves.
Igneel collapsed to the ground as several books fell on top of him. His body was motionless. The air had been knocked out of his lungs as he coughed lightly while lying on the floor. His body was stiff but his back ached awfully from his collision with the shelf. The Book of Zeref had fallen out of his hand and now rested on the ground before him. The book drifted into the air as it sailed back to Ancologia's hands.
"Get out," Ancologia said softly as he flung his hand once more, flinging him towards the door. Igneel skidded across the floor before the door slammed behind him.
"That was when I knew my lord and king was beginning to lose his mind," the dragon sighed.
Natsu was sitting down, one arm resting on top of his knee was he listened to his father's tale.
"What happened next?" the youth asked.
"Over time we saw less and less of our king. He locked himself in his library where he continued to study and practice magic. I tried to talk to him,tried to compel him to leave, but he would not be removed. When he emerged he would escape off into the wild, often to the mountain alone to practice. He said that he was doing it to clear his mind and to meditate on current issues, but I knew. I tried to follow him, but he would disappear. Vanish into the air. Then when he returned he would just reappear at the keep. No one ever saw him return, it was like he materialized out of thin air. After a year had passed the council finally took action," Igneel said as he continued his tale.
It had been over a year since Igneel's incident with the king. As time had passed people were beginning to grow more and more concerned with the disappearance of their king. The council decided to call an emergency meeting to discuss the issue. There a dozen members in all who met in a chamber inside the keep around a large rectangular, mahogany table. The sunlight shined in through the colored paned windows positioned around the circular brick room. At the head of the table was a large throne covered silk cushions with a dragon encircled around a triangular crown etched into the top of the chair.
The throne was empty, but there were six chairs on either side that were occupied. Igneel sat in the right hand chair closest to the throne. The council had debated for hours, though this was the final meeting, they had often conversed the subject throughout the course of the year.
"So it's all settled," Igneel sighed leaning back in his chair. "We will vote on whether Ancologia will be deposed from his crown."
"What we are talking about is treason," a large burly man with thick brunette hair rumbled from the far end of the table. He had a long, brown beard that he stroked with his fingers as he talked. He wore a long dark blue robe. "Usurping the king will only lead to a potential civil war. The people will not take kindly to such brash action."
"Master Levia, the people are the ones who demand a change in government," Grandine replied. "They cannot trust us if we sit back and do nothing as our king, the one who is supposed to be leading the people, locks himself in a room all day to read books. He has a responsibility to his people and he is not living up to that obligation."
"I know he is hard to reach, but we should at least discuss this with his majesty before we decide to remove him completely," Levia replied.
"The king has had more than his fair share of chances to change. We've tried to talk to him but he can no longer be reasoned with," Metalicana said. "It does not have to be permanent, just a short exile until he relieves himself of this unhealthy obsession with magic."
"Things have been working just fine as they are, and they will continue to do so," Levia retorted. "We have been governing the country just fine on our own."
"Which gives us more incentive to remove Ancologia," Grandine insisted. "If we're already doing all the work, then why shouldn't we just be put in charge officially. "We're wasting our time negotiating something we already know the truth to. Ancologia has done nothing but serve as a political figurehead for years. He has made no significant contributions to this council in years, and yes I mean years as in before he went mad."
"The king is not mad," another official insisted. Like Metalicana he had long silver hair as well, but his face was flat and he had a pig like snout for a nose. He had a menacing glare in his cold, green eyes that matched the jaded robe he wore. He had a long beard similar to Levia, only it was tied into two separate strands. "He practices magic in his spare time. Granted the wizards of old were a bit on the loony side, but the king has only shown that he is obsessed, not insane."
"Obsession and insanity are not so different Master Zirconis," another man replied. He sat at the seat next to Igneel. He had long, wavy hair of red and orange as though his cranium was a flame. His eyes were dark amber and were almost yellow in their appearance. He wore a robe of orange, with outliers red. "The king's obsession could drive him to insanity if it hasn't done so already.
"Thank you Master Atlas," Igneel said, "but I too understand the cause for concern. It might change your minds if you were to discover that the king has been practicing dark magic as well as regular magic."
The room went silent as they all stared at him with horrified eyes.
"Yes, this does change things tremendously," Zirconis replied.
"You can so easily change your mind?" Levia snapped.
"Silence! We all know that this new information changes everything! I am not the only one who thinks this."
"The king has no children, no heirs to take the throne. Who will ascend once we depose him?" a council member with short raven hair asked. He wore a black robe with a hint of purple.
"This will not be a permanent usurp Master Skiadrum," Igneel replied. "This is only temporary until the king comes to his senses and is healthy enough to rule like he should."
"That does not answer his question," replied another council member. He had short cut white hair and fair skin. He wore a robe of white.
"Master Weisslogia I think that it's obvious at this point that the council will rule over Draconia in the king's stead," replied Grandine.
"Aye, I agree with that notion," responded Atlas. "As Master Igneel has said, it is not a permanent removal from power, only a short one until we are sure that the king is capable of returning to his duties."
"And if he is not?" Metalicana asked nonchalantly. All eyes fell on him. "If he is unable to return to his duties what then?"
"Then the council has no choice but to continue ruling," Igneel answered.
"Until when exactly?" Weisslogia asked. "Until we find a new king or an heir arises to the throne?"
"I would have to say that the duty falls on the council to maintain rule permanently if it comes to that," answered Atlas.
"Then we are deposing the king," Levia grunted.
"Yes," Igneel sighed. "Let's not lie to ourselves. This vote is about deposing the king and from the looks of it, it will be a permanent removal. That is unless the king does show that he can rule appropriately. Each member of the council oversees their territory of the country, and each member here was born into their position. There are other nations out there that are governed by a body rather than a monarch. Those nations do well on their own, and I believe that we know what is best for our people since we have the most to lose."
"And gain," Zirconis spat.
"I am more concerned that this notion has been brought forth by you Igneel," Levia grunted. "You are the closest to the king, and yet here you stand opposed to him."
"I will receive no more power than what I already have. This is an equal vote for all members. There will be no personal gain. This is about establishing a system of government that we know will work. The law that was established at settling of this country even states that if the ruler is no longer fit for duty he can be replaced by the council. That is why there is a council in the first place. Our job is to ensure what is best for the country, and not for ourselves, which is why we all have equal authority here. I may be the closest to the king, but it pains me more than any here to go through with this. But Draconia comes first, and we might possibly be on the brink of war. How can we protect our own borders if we are incapable of settling our own internal matters?"
"Enough arguing," Atlas interjected before anyone else could speak. "Igneel is right. There are far more urgent matters that need attending and we cannot deal with these issues without the king's authority. We're letting bureaucracy cloud our judgment. Let us vote now and determine what shall be laid. We can debate the formalities later. All those in favor raise your hand!"
Ten members of the council instantly raised their hands, all except Zicronis and Levia.
"I thought you were for deposing the king a minute ago Zicronis?" Skiadrum said.
"I'm thinking about it."
"There's not more time to think, this must be unanimous and we've already precious time arguing this. We have to resolve the issue now!" Igneel barked.
"Fine," Zicronis sighed as he raised his hand. The eyes in the room fell on Levia.
"I don't like it," he grumbled. I don't like the idea of us deposing our own king. What will the people say? I fear rebellion in our own walls, but if this is what the council has decided I see no other choice." He reluctantly raised his hand.
"Very well, the decision has been made," Igneel stated standing up. "The council will now serve as temporary rulers of Draconia until Ancologia is fit to return to office. Meeting adjourned."
"So you betrayed your king," Natsu said.
"We did what we had to for the sake of our country," Igneel retorted.
"So, you removed him from power, what happened then?" Natsu asked.
"We never wanted to exile him, instead we just struck him of his authority and allowed him to continue to live in the keep. Though we didn't want to exile him, we couldn't. He would disappear whenever someone came looking for him. He constantly vanished, so it was like we never had that meeting. But that was not the worse of the problems that we faced. The deposition of Ancologia caused a rift in the council. Levia, Zicronis and half of the other council members formed their own union that almost erupted a civil war in our country. If not for the invasion we would have had our own war."
"What happened to Ancologia?" Natsu asked. "What happened to the other council members?"
"As I told you, after that council meeting the council itself had split to two sides. I was busy trying to coerce them back to work together with us, but they soon realized that they could seize more power for themselves without the king. And even discussed a preemptive strike against the countries we presumed had plans on invading us."
"I'm not entirely sure they were wrong," Natsu said.
"I am not sure either. I traveled to Konvern to meet with the then young Prince Jude, and a new nobleman who had ascended the ranks to become a member of Jude's council."
"What was this man's name?" Natsu asked.
"Iwan," Igneel replied. "At least, that is what he told me."
"His true name is Ivan," Natsu replied.
"And how do you know this man?" Igneel said baffled.
"He helped raised me," Natsu answered. "He is a close friend of mine. He took care of me."
"Natsu, heed my warnings, that man is not to be trusted," Igneel growled. "He is the one who manipulated Jude into uniting the countries against us."
"I do not!" Igneel roared. "But I must admit I bear some responsibility as do the other members of the council. You see, Iwan was not wrong when he said that they should not trust us. We acquired a surplus amount of wealth, a vast trove of treasures that made us capable of building the largest army on the continent. And due to the other council members forming their own faction only gave our enemies more incentive to invade."
Igneel continued, "Many countries refused to recognize the council as the official government of Draconia, and even worried about our intentions as said rulers. We found ourselves in a catch twenty-two. We were afraid of being invaded so we knew that we had to build a larger army for defense, but building a larger for defense only made us look that much more guilty."
"So what happened to Ancologia?"
Igneel took a deep breath as he finished his story.
The council was divided and though Igneel attempted to keep them together, a few years had passed and the country was on the verge of an invasion. The people on the other hand lived in blissful ignorance of the potential danger, and Igneel wanted to keep it that way. There was already uneasy due to the missing king, and now the strife between the council was causing uneasiness throughout the country. During that time Igneel desperately searched through the wilderness hoping to find a trace of his king. At one point he could have sworn he saw a large, black dragon glide over the trees and mountain tops. Though he dismissed the idea as his mind playing tricks on him and he was only seeing a large black bird.
He returned to the city, after another failure. The people were still enjoying their lives in the capital as they had for years. Igneel kept a fake smile upon his lips as he passed by the citizens, hoping to give them a false sense that everything was going to be all right. But perhaps it was him trying to convince himself more than the citizens.
Igneel returned to the keep, hoping to speak with some of the other council members. As he approached the building he saw a shadowy figure in one of the windows near the top. He dashed inside, but not before he bumped into a young man with long greasy, chestnut hair.
"Oh, Gildarts, good to see you again," Igneel greeted as he tried to bounce by the young sell sword. Even though he was in a rush he still had to be formal with certain people. "Excuse me I have something I must attend to."
With that Igneel ran through the corridor and up the stairwell. He returned to the library that he found Ancologia in earlier. He walked to the far end, where he found another desk stacked with books and papers. Sitting in front of the desk was a man who wore a long, tattered black cloak. His greasy hair swirled down below his shoulder blades.
"Ancologia?" Igneel asked as he drew closer to the dark figure.
"Who's there?" the man squeaked as he spun around, his face hidden in the shadow.
"It's me, Igneel."
"Igneel? Igneel! Yes, Igneel, I know that name. I know it well. Very well. Come, come my friend." He waved his hand beckoning the council member closer.
"Your majesty are you okay?" Igneel asked as he crept slowly towards the former king.
"Okay? Okay! I'm better than okay! Igneel, I've done it. I've achieved that which no one else has managed," he leaned in closer, though Igneel could still not see his face. "Igneel, I've managed to transform into a dragon!"
So it wasn't just his eyes playing tricks on him, he did see a dragon.
"Ancologia, are you telling me that you've actually practiced dark magic?"
Ingeel moved closer, as a faint light revealed Anclogia's face. Igneel recoiled in horror at the former king's grotesque face. His skin was as pale as snow, and so thin that it appeared that he was nothing more than bone. His dark eyes were now cloudy and hollow, devoid of all color. Igneel thought he was looking at death itself, perhaps his friend was already dead and he did not know it.
"And I've succeeded," giggled licking his chops.
"My Lord you are unwell, please let me take you to a doctor," Igneel said extending his hand.
"Stay back!" Acnologia hissed. It was then that Igneel noticed a spider crawl across the king's shoulder and disappear into the hood of his cloak. "I have to finish my research, I haven't perfected it yet."
"Have you seen what it's done to you, you have to stop. For your own sake, please my Lord, I beg you!"
"No, no, I cannot," Ancologia said panicking. He shoveled books into his arms before rising to his feet.
"GET AWAY FROM ME!" Ancologia shouted, and with a mere glance he sent Igneel soaring through the library until hit the wooden floor hard and rolled over. When Igneel looked up Ancologia had vanished in a plume of black smoke. And once again the king was gone.
"That was the last I ever seen Ancologia until our country was invaded," Igneel sighed as he laid his head down to rest. "My friend was gone, consumed by his own lust for the dark arts."
"What happened during the invasion?" Natsu asked.
"I will tell you."