Butterfly Enigma I

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Talons

Kallima groaned. Ignatius had insisted that she reread the chapter in her history book about the War of Talons along with two other chapters on Council plus another book he had picked out specifically on the war. And she had to rewrite her paper. And do her other schoolwork. As much fun as she had the day prior with Gabriel and his family, she regretted having gone out.

At least she had already done the alchemy homework: design a manipulation ring that can cook an egg.

Jasmine had been kind enough to provide her with some helpful “tips” on the subject and give her some notes on the references in the poem they were supposed to read for Classic Literature. Not that Kallima understood half of them.

The redheaded fae glanced up at a clock and sighed. Ten to four, and she was exhausted. She rose with a grunt, stretched, and slipped out of the tiny but well-lit room.

The library, as she had been using one of the private study rooms that it provided, buzzed lightly with the sound of pencils, turning pages, and hushed whispers. Even though they were certainly talking about the homework, Kallima imagined they were discussing her. Her nerves prevented her from wandering far from the study room, but she needed to move. Her legs were stiff, and her neck was sore. As she exercised her limbs, a flash of gold caught her eye.

“Iggy?” she muttered, turning towards the figure.

“Hey,” the tutor said with a grin, “how’s studying going?”

“It’s... awful,” Kallima admitted. “I just... can’t wrap my head around it. Just because one dragon gave some general a bit of lousy advice-?”

“But it wasn’t one dragon, Kali,” Ignatius said softly. “Ugh, I hate when the library’s full. Is there-?”

Kallima waved the boy into her little study room and sat down again. Ignatius pressed an ear to the door, listening intently before turning back to Kallima.

“What made you think it was one dragon?” he asked, pulling back from the door.

“The book said Murky-ton-.”

“Myrkherton. Is a- was a clan. Not a single dragon. A whole family.”

“But... I thought they were solitary!”

“Shh! They are. But they still gather frequently to share ideas, to discuss problems, to... mingle.”

Kallima raised a brow at the gesture Ignatius made when he said that. He shrugged.

“Sorry. Most fae are more comfortable with it than I am,” he said. “But Myrkherton was a clan of shadow dragons-.”

“There are different kinds?”

“Duh. What, you think all dragons breath fire?”

“I- I did.”

“No. They’re more common, but they ar- weren’t the only ones. Anyway, Myrkherton-.”

The senior froze, pressed his ear to the door, and held up a finger to silence his student. Then he sighed in relief.

“Sorry, it’s just... With Dad in prison, I can’t be too careful,” he whispered. “Myrkherton was renowned for their military advice. When General Tsun needed a strategy, he called on them. But you weren’t exactly wrong, either. One dragon- Dad said his name was Radjigor- got tired of Tsun taking credit for the clan’s work.

“He fed Tsun the false information. None of the other Myrkherton even knew. It cost Tsun hundreds of soldiers. But Radjigor got what he wanted. Before they executed Tsun for his recklessness, he confessed that all his battle plans were designed by dragons. What started out as a minor rebellion turned into the War of Talons.”

“But Rad-gor.”

“Radjigor.”

“-was the only one who did anything wrong. Why punish all dragons?”

“Mostly fear. Haldadrald, that’s a fire clan, was too big. These water clans, Logaeta and Ormrunveit, got too daring. Started sinking some ships they maybe shouldn’t have. Too many Skelon- er, spirit dragons.”

“How do you know all this?” Kallima said, gaping.

Ignatius flushed and tugged his ears, saying, “W-well… Swear you won’t tell, Kali. I swore I wouldn’t tell anyone about you. You swear you won’t repeat what I’m about to tell you.”

“I swear I won-”

“On the stars. Swear on the stars.”

“I swear on the stars,” Kallima restarted, “that I’ll never repeat what we discuss in this room today to another. Now. Where did you learn this?”

“Dad taught me.”

“So he does associate with dragons?” Kallima whispered in shock.

“No, he just empathises. He taught me everything he knows about dragons. He said they’re beautiful, rare souls that easily qualify as intelligent beings, but because of the war, they were dehumanized. Dad just knows a lot about them, because he was around before they were completely wiped out.”

“Is that why the war lasted so long?” Kallima asked, picking up her textbook again. “Because it took time to get the numbers down to where the people were confident they won?”

“Exactly. I mean, a hundred, fifty, even twenty years ago, you could still see dragons around, if you looked hard enough,” Ignatius said. “But then the laws really got strict. That’s when they started arresting people for helping dragons.”

“That’s when they really started vanishing?”

Ignatius chuckled painfully, “Oh, you could still find dragons. Pieces of them.”

“Pieces?” Kallima asked, eyes widening.

“Mm-hm. Scales, claws, teeth, and blood have powerful magic in them. Hearts and meat are still a delicacy. I’ve even-,” Ignatius shuddered and gulped before continuing. “I’ve even seen preserved fire-bladders for sale.”

“Wait, is that what this is about?” Kallima said, pulling out her literature book and opening it to a poem. “‘For I and you Combine as bile in a dragon bladder, Erupting Undisturbed by the expulsion Around us?’ He means a fire-bladder?”

“Uh-huh.”

“Nice!” Kallima said and jotted down this new information.

“Here, I got you something,” Ignatius said as his student wrote.

He pulled off his pack and removed a small orb that reminded Kallima of Sable’s beacon, only blue. Kallima tipped her head at the sphere in confusion.

“It’s a recorder. This one is about the war. It covers some of the major battles, some of the tactic behind it,” Ignatius told her. “I figured, instead of reading everything I assigned, you’d rather just watch it.”

“Oh, it might be easier to understand, yes! Thank you, Iggy,” Kallima said, smiling.

“Thought so. Um, you tap it up top like this to turn it on and off,” Ignatius explained, demonstrating how to use the orb. “If you tap the side, it’ll freeze it. Swipe to the left to go back, to the right to skip ahead. Make sense?”

“Uh-huh. Neat,” Kallima said, watching the figures moving inside the ball as Ignatius played with it.

“Then, to make it louder, swipe up. If it gets too loud-.”

“Swipe down?”

“Exactly! You’ve got this. How is the revision going?”

“Pretty well. I’ve made Rogers and Inez my scapegoats, and I figured out a way to prevent lords from taxing their people so much.”

“Great! I look forward to reading it.”


A pale, dark-haired man sat upon a black horse with fiery eyes. He watched the sky with one bright, green eye. The other was covered by an eyepatch that matched his black studded leather armor. A much younger man in brown attire and a green cape rode his own clydesdale to the dark man’s side.

“General Christian,” the youth said, “the men are tired. They request a break.”

“Allow it. Keep your eyes upward, Striker. These monsters could attack any moment.”

“Ay, General.”

The young Striker nodded and snapped the reigns, and his horse trotted off.

The man in black pat his own steed’s neck. The horse stamped a hoof, and a puff of fire and smoke erupted from the ground around it. The rider chuckled.

“You feel them, too, Grimm?” he grunted. “Oh, they’re coming, all right. Just can’t see ’em yet. I hope they bring that bastard nature dragon along. We’ll get revenge for what he did to my eye, then, won’t we?”

The mount took a wary step backwards as the man spoke. The general growled and put a hand on his sword, drawing it swiftly.

“Striker!” he screamed. “They have a digger-!”

The ground in front of the black-clad general exploded, sending boulders and sod everywhere as a massive beast, at least fifteen meters long, launched skyward from the hole. The grey creature, which vaguely resembled an impossibly large komodo, landed quickly on the ground again. Bronze quills ran down his spine. He swiped the general deftly from his horse and pinned him to the ground as all manner and color of dragons shot from the crater and into the sky. A thin, smaller brown dragon slithered to the side of the first. A necklace of vines adorned his long neck, holding a dismembered, emerald eye to his throat, mimicking the color of his underbelly almost perfectly.

“Morskrud,” the grey dragon asked, “is this the man?”

The lithe brown dragon lifted a sharp claw to his macabre necklace with a sinister grin, and spread his wings, revealing a long rip in one.

“Kill him,” the brown dragon, Morskrud, said.

Kallima tapped the side of the orb, stopping the scene just as the massive grey dragon raised its mace-like tail to bludgeon General Christian to death. She dropped her head and ran her fingers through her bright red hair.

Ignatius had said that only one dragon hated mankind, yet the reenactment seemed to paint all of them as murderous beasts. Whenever the dragons spoke, Kallima scowled, unable to believe what she heard. Each and every battle was a clear act of vengeance or defense in her eyes, though the recording alone would have convinced her otherwise.

If Ignatius had not told her about Radjigor acting alone, she would have believed the documentary: that the dragons were violent, unpredictable monsters. Much like sharks in the Mortal Realm, the dragons were vilified by their actions, regardless of their intentions.

Then again, how true were Ignatius’ words? He was only sixteen himself. How much, Kallima wondered, did he really know about it?

She wrote herself a note to ask the tutor about the dragon Morkskrud. And, as an afterthought, she added to ask what sort of horse that general was riding.

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