Igneel sat at the council table looking over papers and documents spread out before him. He sat there alone with only the candlelight to keep him company. He heard the sound of footsteps as someone entered the chambers. He peered up for a second to see who it was. Much to pleasure it was someone he had been expecting. He was a relatively old man with long silver hair and a beard that reached his belt. A black eye patch covered his left eye.
"Hades, thank you for coming," Igneel said unmoving from his chair. He fidgeted with his papers. "I hope you have what I requested."
"Indeed," Hades said as he tossed a piece of fabric before Igneel. The councilman picked it up.
"It's a scarf," Igneel grumbled.
"Of course it's a scarf," Hades grunted. "What were you expecting? A pearl necklace? Golden armor?"
"I was expecting something other than a scarf though," Igneel retorted.
"You wanted something that would protect you from dark magic, and there you have it," Hades sneered. "If you don't want it I can go out and find a buyer that does."
"It's not for me, it's for someone else."
"I don't care who wears it as long as I get my money," Hades said coldly.
"And how will I know if it works?"
Igneel leaned back in his chair and leered at Hades with a questioning glare.
"Cause I'm one of a handful of men left that practice magic on this entire continent," Hades replied, folding his arms across his chest. "If you want me to prove it, I will."
"Very well," Igneel said as he wrapped the scarf around his neck. "Shoot."
"Figuratively or literally?" Hades snickered. He held up his hand as a ball of black smoke encircled his hand. He spewed it forth, striking Igneel in the chest. The ball of smoke bounced off and dispersed into the air as Igneel let out a soft chuckle. "You see I told you it works."
"Very good, here is your money as requested." Igneel pulled a purse from his pocket and tossed it towards the old man.
"Thank you," Hades said as he dangled the purse before him. "But I'm curious, if the scarf is not for you, than who?"
"That is none of your concern," Igneel replied returning to his work.
"Doesn't matter to me really, but I thank you, your Grace."
Hades bowed his head and left. Igneel watched him go from the top of his eyes. Once Hades had left he went back to reading and much to his distraught none of the reports looked good. An army was being summoned to ransack their city and take every piece of gold they could get their hands on. And now he was charged with the task of creating an army to protect their borders, whilst enduring the challenges presented by rival council members thwarted his attempts.
"Still toiling with paperwork Igneel?" Metalicana said as he walked in behind Igneel. He plumped himself down in a seat next to the redheaded council member with a goblet of wine in his hand.
"Yes, as you should be," Igneel sighed. "We are on the brink of war in case you didn't notice."
"True, but only you, me and a handful of other council members know this for certain," Metalicana said sipping his wine. "Unfortunately, despite all the calm that won't help us. We need an army."
"We can't establish one without the consent of every member of the council," Igneel sighed. "I thought things would be easier if we were left to delegate our own affairs. Turns out I was wrong."
"Those other bastards are making things far more difficult than they need to be. Should we perhaps find a way of retuning Ancologia to the throne? Maybe we can have him delegate with our interests?"
"Seeing as how we were the ones that deposed him in the first place I don't see how that would work," Igneel replied dropping his pen to the table and leaning back. He let out a long breath as he looked over at the other councilman. "For now we have to conduct our business in secret. If need be, we'll go through the other council members."
"That's treasons. The moment you sign a contract to do so you'll be hung," Metallica replied.
"We have to do something, otherwise our children will be doomed to live a life in vassalage," Igneel said sorrowfully. "I cannot allow my son or daughter to live that life. Could you?"
"I don't think I could let Gajeel live such a life," Metalicana sighed. "Perhaps it was wrong for me to sire a child during such a time."
"I hate to say that it's not out fault, but we have to take some responsibility," Igneel laughed. "Mine is due any day now. If I didn't have enough stress, but hopefully this child is a blessing."
"They always are," Metalicana chuckled with a smile. "Gajeel may spend almost every waking moment, or sleeping moment for that matter, crying and screaming but I love him. I feel like he's the only thing that brings me any joy anymore. This whole thing with the king and the council members is going to be the end of me."
"Yeah," Igneel sighed. He didn't know what else to say.
"Igneel! Igneel!" Atlas panted rushing into the chamber. "I have terrible news."
"What is it Atlas?" Igneel said worried.
"We have reports that a large army is moving towards our borders at this very moment!"
"What? When did this happen?" Igneel exclaimed as he rose to his feet. Metalicana did the same, as both men were both shocked and frightened. We have to assemble the troops and protect our walls. Send word that every able bodied man that can wield a sword is to make their way to the keep and arm themselves. Send pigeons to Konvern, Junelle and everybody. Tell them we need them to come to our aid."
"Igneel, rumors have it that Konvern are the ones leading the strike against us!"
"What? You're telling me that Prince Jude is the attack. He was supposed to be our ally!" He fell down and slumped in his chair. "How could he betray us? How could he violate the treaty we had? That stupid greedy fool! Regardless, send word to the other countries."
"It won't do any good," Atlas sighed. "All our neighbors are against us."
"How can this be happening? Why is this happening?" Igneel cried.
"Because our trade is destroying the other country's economy," a cold voice uttered.
All three men turned to see a dark, black cloaked man standing in the corner of the chamber room. His face concealed by the shadows as a slight icy chill radiated from where he was standing.
"Who are you?" Metalicana barked.
"I know who it is," Igneel hissed as he stepped to the side. "Ancologia. When did you appear, and how long have you been standing there?"
"My ears hear all things in this country Igneel," Ancologia said as he stepped into the light. His long, black greasy hair now fell over his face as a singular glowing, white eye stared at them through the bangs, like a full moon in the night. His skin was now a very faint blue, the skin of a corpse. There was one strip of glowing, cerulean blue under his eye. "Like when you decided to depose me and take my crown away."
"If you truly are capable of hearing all things uttered in this country, than you know that we never intended it to be a permanent choice," Igneel spat back.
"True, which is why you are all still alive," Ancologia chuckled. "But now you are hopeless with your enemies barring down on you. How will you handle this now Igneel? How will you save the country from annihilation? All your wisdom and patriotism and for what? It all amounted to nothing in the end."
"Why are you here Ancologia?" Igneel growled annoyed.
"I've come to see what will become of my country," he replied. "After you have led it to utter ruin and death." He paced around the table, his eyes drifted off to the distance. "But there is still a way you can save Draconia, and her people."
"What?" Igneel asked.
He had a bad feeling in his gut, and though he did no t know the answer he still suspected it would be something terrible. What it was though, he hadn't the faintest idea. But he wanted to know.
"I can save the country, all you need to do is ask."
"Why not just save the country on your own anyways?" Atlas demanded. "After all, it was the realm to which you ruled, and were supposed to guard. You expect us to beg?"
"Aye, but I am no longer the ruler of Draconia now am I?" Ancologia scoffed. "I am not the king, I am not a member of the council, I am not a soldier . . . what reasoning do I have to protect this country any longer? This country has forsaken me, so why should I not forsaken it?"
"So you want us to reinstate you is that it?" Metalicana sneered charging forward. Atlas pulled him back, otherwise he feared that the silver haired council member was going to get a little too aggressive. "You who have gone mad, and insane with your lust for dark magic. How do you expect us to trust you to govern when you locked yourself away to tarry away with you studies and books? We were the ones that over saw the country! We were the ones who tried to maintain order when you disappeared. Now you hate us for doing the only viable thing we could at the time? If you hat us than so be it. You want to punish us? So be it. But do not leave you country and her people at the hands of invaders to do with them as they like. Do something to help your people. As the former king, you must feel some kind of obligation."
"And yet I don't," Ancologia replied smugly. "Where was the public outrage when their king was deposed? I saw no protest, no avocation to support me when I was tossed aside. Now you're saying I have an obligation to the very people who did not feel the same?"
"I warned you this would happen. Did you listen to me? No. You were obsessed with becoming a dragon that you left your own country to rot. Well Ancologia, now you have a chance to make things right. Protect and save your people and we will bow our knees to you as king once more," Igneel stated.
He received disapproving glares from Atlas and Metalicana but what was he to do? There might not be any other route for them to take.
"I'm no longer interested in the title of king any longer," Ancologia said shrugging the offer off.
"So what is it that you want Ancologia?" Igneel growled. "If you wanted to kill us you would have already done so. Easily. If you wanted to watch Draconia burn you never would have appeared here, so clearly there is some reason why you showed yourself here and now of all times. There is no longer time to play any mind games, what is it that you want?"
"The treasury," Ancolgoia answered. "All of it."
"All of what? The gold? You could take that on your own why in the seven hells would you demand it from us?" Igneel spat. "If you can just appear anywhere you want, surely stealing the gold would be good enough. Why do you want all that gold in the first place? As king you would have access to the abundance of wealth already."
For a moment Ancologia said nothing as all eyes in the room focused on the black cloaked man. He walked over to a painting that hung on the wall at the far end of the chamber and gazed upon it. Igneel recognized the image of a dragon sleeping upon a pile of gold just like in folk lore. It had a reddish hide and it slept pleasantly over a hill of gold and treasure. Above it was the image of a castle, as though the compartment in which the dragon rested was a lair deep in the dungeon. Approaching the castle was a knight waving a white flagged banner.
The image depicted was one that told the story of Sir Cado, a brave and valiant knight from an old legend. It was just a fantasy story from what Igneel figured, nothing more than a fairy tale that parent's told children before bed.
"My reasons are my own. But if you forfeit all of Draconia's gold to me, than I will save this country."
"Fine," Atlas sighed. Ancologia smiled at the response.
"No," Igneel blurted. He folded his arms across his chest and stared sternly at his former king.
"No?" Ancologia chuckled. "You'd doom Draconia."
"I may not be one to trust magic, but there is an old saying . . . actually, more of a warning," Igneel said. Ancologia peered at him in interest. "It was something that was always uttered amongst wizards, 'Magic always has a price.' Especially dark magic. If that's what you will use to 'save' Draconia than I don't know if we're better off fighting a war on our own."
Ancologia stormed up, his eyes flaring. He glowered at Igneel, his pale skin trembling along his skull as though worms were wriggling through his flesh. Igneel however did not flinch. He stayed stern in his decision and returned the glare with his own.
For a moment the room was tense and though Igneel could not see it, he sensed the presence of an invisible force around him. He knew that at that moment Ancologia wanted to kill him, and most likely would. The scarf that Hades had brought him still rested on the table, and he did not forget that. Maybe what he was doing was a mistake, but it was a bigger mistake to trust Ancologia.
"And you will be alone," Ancologia hissed. "You will die as your city and country burns to ashes!"
"Our city and country," Igneel retorted. "You may no longer be king, but you are still a Draconian; same as every other man in this room. You cannot escape your blood."
"Very well," Ancologia said as he walked towards the chamber door. "Oh, and when you do change your minds, Igneel, you can call on me. Just say my name. Don't worry, I'll hear it."
"What is going on?" Levia demanded as he and the other council members entered the chamber. Igneel and the others spun around a bit surprised to see that all the council members have assembled. "Igneel, Atlas, Metalicana what are the three of you scheming?"
"What's going on?" Igneel asked. "What are all of you doing here?
"We were summoned for an emergency meeting," Grandine replied. "We were told it was arranged by you."
Igneel's face went blank, baffled by her response. He didn't summon a meeting, how could this be happening? Then it hit him; it must have been Ancologia, there was no other possibility. He must have planned this as a fall out if Igneel had refused his offer. Now he understood, this must have all been orchestrated by their former king. But the reasons why he could not guess. The man had gone mad, that much was for certain.
"No, I didn't. Regardless, it's good that this has happened," he strutted over to the table. "We have to discuss the city's defenses. Our enemies are bearing down on us and we have no means of thwarting them. There's no time to waste waiting for what friends we have to come to our aid. And even then there's no armies. What we need is for them to send letters declaring any act of aggression against Draconia is an act of war—"
"Silence Igneel!" Zicronis snapped. "You've done nothing but lead us to distraught. You continue to delegate like you're in charge, but you seem to forget that all members of the board are equal members! So don't think that you have somehow replaced Ancologia amongst all this chaos. Otherwise it will be you whom we depose next!"
Igneel glowered at him as he and Levia stepped forward. There wasn't any more time for them to argue and Igneel had all but lost his patience. He knew he needed the support of the other council members, but if all they were going to do was bicker and squabble he might have been better off just doing what he wanted. Yes, he knew it meant that he could be tried for treason, but times of desperation meant that even the most noble of men would take desperate measures. Even if he knew how grave the consequences would be.
"We don't have time for this," Igneel sneered. "Atlas," the council member snapped to attention, "send word to everyone that we need their help!"
"Everyone?" Atlas asked. "Who's everyone?"
"EVERYONE!" Igneel roared slamming his fist against the table.
A fierce pain throbbed in his hand. He might have broken a few bones after striking the oak with enough force he could have shattered the wood. He could feel the pain but that was nothing compared to the pure boiling rage that erupted inside of him. His vision went blurry, but whether it was from the pain in his hand or from his anger he could not tell. He didn't care anyways.
"Igneel calm down!" Grandine demanded. He could see how frightened the other council members were.
"Don't tell me to calm down Grandine," Igneel barked. "All I've done, all I've been doing is trying to figure out how to save this goddamn country while all of you do nothing but complain about it. Well either get off your fucking asses for once and fucking help me! Otherwise, shut the fuck up and let me figure this shit out before we're all killed! Does that sound good to you people or do you want to continue to argue as Draconia burns? Honestly!"
The room went silent. Igneel's eyes shot straight to Atlas as the orange clad council member bowed his head and fled the room to do as instructed. The others gawked at him both horrified and confused.
"And what of Ancologia?" Levia asked. "Have you consulted him?"
"What do you mean?"
"Hasn't he been practicing magic? Shouldn't we at least attempt to ask him for help?"
"I will not leave this country in the hands of a madman to do with it what he wishes. There's one key thing about wizards and that they can rarely be trusted," Igneel spat. "Atlas, why are you still here?"
Levia stormed up to the red council member. Atlas bowed his head as he turned to leave the room.
"This is not a decision you should be making on your own! And you Atlas," the orange garbed council member stopped mid-step, "you stay here. You're a member of this council as well."
"We don't have time for this!" Metalicana said interjecting. "I stand with Igneel. He's the only here who's doing anything about the current issues."
"Well there's no surprise there now is there?" Zicronis snarled.
"Igneel, perhaps it would be better if we did take Ancolocia's deal," Atlas said. The room went silent as everyone stared at him. He cringed as he realized what he had done.
"What deal?" Zicronis demanded.
Igneel remained silent.
"Igneel what deal?" Grandine said persistently.
Igneel did not speak, but Metalicana did.
"Ancologia was just here," he said. "He said that if we gave him all the gold in the treasury he would save the country."
"And you turned him down?" Zicronis cried outraged. "Why would you do that?"
"As I said, you can't trust a madman," Igneel replied. "All Ancologia would do is lead this country to ruin."
"The country is as good as ruined anyways," Levia snapped. "The least we could do is attempt someway of saving it."
"No! Now I don't want to—"
Igneel was silenced as a loud explosion was heard blaring outside and the foundation of the keep shook violently. The council members nearly toppled over, each one as shocked as the next.
"What was that?" Grandine gasped.
"Invasion!" a guard shouted as three men entered the chambers. "The city is under attack!"
"I told you we didn't have any time left!" Igneel bellowed as he ran past the other council members and out the keep door. Metalicana followed fast on his friend's heels.
Igneel sprinted towards the city gate as fast as his legs would carry him. Even a horse could be jealous of his speed. But even before he was ten blocks from the wooden barrier, it burst forth as a flood of armed soldiers penetrated through. Even more soldiers stormed over the wall as what few archers and soldiers that were brave, and foolish enough to stand their ground were cut down.
Igneel stopped dead in his footsteps. If his heart weren't beating so ferociously in his chest it would have come to a standstill. But now was not the time for him to panic. As the invaders poured into the city a battalion of sell swords fled back, men he had hired to protect the wall. They looked as though they were caught off guard and astonished.
One young mercenary was running with his sword still out as he struck down a few invaders as he ran. Igneel made a dash at him while there was still time.
"Gildarts!" the young mercenary ceased fighting as he heard his name called out.
"My Lord you should not be here," the young Gildarts shouted. The two men were panting. "There's a battle going on."
"The battle is already lost," Igneel sighed as he noticed a group of invaders running towards them. Igneel grabbed the young sell sword and rushed back towards the keep. "What happened? How were we caught off guard this badly?"
"I don't know," Gildarts replied. "There was this thick fog that came out of nowhere earlier this morning and then suddenly the army appeared. We had no word from our scouts, or warning. It's like they were ghosts."
Igneel knew what happened. His suspicion was correct. Ancologia had to have a hand in this. It wasn't just a hunch any longer.
"Gildarts," I need you to find my wife and take her to the mountains where it's safe."
"My Lord I'm needed here!"
"No! You're needed where I need you to be. The battle is already lost and I need you to do this for me. Please."
"Very well my Lord," Gildarts said bowing his head. He turned and sprinted down another street.
Before Igneel could take another step he was struck in the back of the head, and fell hard to the ground. Everything went dark.
When Igneel awoke he found himself in a prison cell, deep underground. The stench of the mold and every other vile thing, both living and non-living perfumed the entire hall with such a vulgar stench.
"Igneel . . . Igneel!" Metalicana whispered. Igneel shook his, still in a daze. "Igneel get up."
"What happened?" Igneel asked once he collected himself.
"We were invaded," Metalicana replied. "Half the council is dead, including Zicronis and Levia."
"That's the best news I've heard all day," Igneel grumbled. "So where are we?"
"Well due to the lack of sun, I would say we are most certainly not in Magnolia," Metalicana said sarcastically. "We're in the prison under the keep. After the capital was taken Konvern arrested the remaining council members and threw them in prison. All except Grandine that is."
"And our families?"
"Don't know," Metalicana answered shaking his head. "Once you were knocked out, it was pretty much over. I surrendered, as did Atlas and what council members didn't go running for their lives were killed."
Igneel let out a deep sigh. What was he going to do now?
"Maybe we should take Ancologia up on his offer," Metalicana sighed. "It's not like we have any other options at this point."
Igneel wanted to say no, he wanted to say that he was against asking the lunatic for a shred of help, but he had no other option now. He was as good as dead and the capital was sacked. It was only a matter of time before the whole country was brought to ruin.
"Ancologia!" Igneel shouted.
Silence. What was he expecting? He should have known that Ancologia wasn't sincere. He was probably laughing like the maniac he was somewhere. Maybe the country was already destroyed and Ancologia wasn't interested any longer in helping them. Perhaps there was no point, no hope.
"Well, it's about time you called for me," a voice said from the corner. Of course, Igneel thought to himself, he always appeared in the corner. He was starting to get repetitive. He concealed his face behind his cloak; at least that was something new. "I thought you were going to let the whole country burn. It wouldn't surprise me all that much, after all, you are one of the most stubborn men I've ever known."
"Let's skip the formalities, you know why I called you here," Igneel sneered.
"So, you now realize I am the only one capable of saving Draconia," Ancologia said rubbing his fingers together. "Just say the word and it's done."
"Fine, take the treasury, take ever god forsaken piece of gold in the city, just save the city you greedy son of a bitch!"
"Very well," Ancologia chortled.
Igneel felt a burning sensation in the pit of his stomach as he hunched over in pain. His eyes flared and his skin trembled. He puked and hacked as it felt like his bones were shattering. Igneel looked over and saw Metalicana was experiencing the same ordeal as he was. The two of them let out howling screams that echoed through the dark hallways.
Igneel stared at his hand as crimson scales broke through the skin and strands of hair disintegrated from his crown. He took deep breaths, but he finally managed to blurt out one last response before he was completely lost to the pain.
"What did you do to me?"
"What was necessary my old friend," Ancologia said before vanishing.
"What's going on down here?" one guard shouted as he and two other armed men entered the chamber. They were horror struck when they saw the two council members hunched over. "For the love of the gods!"
Igneel and Metalicana let out callous bellow as they finally transformed into dragons. The roof crumbled as they stuck their heads out of the floor of the keep. There were even more soldiers standing in the hallways who lifted their weapons up upon seeing the beasts. Igneel stopped taking a deep breath as his body returned to normal. He saw dozens of soldiers standing below him cowering in fear as they were astonished by the mere sight of two beasts.
Igneel opened his mouth as a river of flames poured forth and devoured the invaders.