Prologue - War
There was a time when dragons ruled the lands, reaching far and wide, over mountains, across seas and rivers and all through the forests.
But after hundreds of years of ruling the lands their race became weak, old and frail, bitter and twisted. The races of mankind, elves, and beastmen had risen into power. It was now these people who were the dominating force, and they did not take competition lightly.
It was the year 800 in the realms, and battle had ensued for control of all lands.
Groups settled in the areas they could dominate; stronger races forced the weaker to flee the areas; ruthless forces began to form leaving the weak to cower in the shadows.
Some eventually decided on peace and would co-habit to prevent any more bloodshed, but what would become of the dragons?
Driven to the corners of the lands and beyond, no place to go, no place to hide. These once dominant reptiles were suddenly branded as thieves, pests, and terrors of the sky.
With all this hatred it was hard for them to exist anywhere without hordes of protesters brandishing swords and baying for their blood.
King Gaprone would form a great army by joining his own royal troops with the northern and southern soldiers, along with the beastmen of the north-west and the elves of the east.
Elf King Jodfelli Bolsaveir was a close friend of King Gaprone, as a unified alliance these leaders would make sure all dragons would face their last days.
The whole of Colltalios united to bring down the greatest of dragons and rid them from this world. Despite their best attempt, a handful of dragons still remained. Although these dragons were cornered and trapped north of the main city, completely surrounded from every direction.
Days and months had passed and the final flight of dragons had been tracked down, these were the elder dragons, the ones who held great power and knowledge. They stood strong and gallant but were still no match for the four realms of the lands. A dozen or so dragons now remained as armies approached from all directions.
Not far from the City of Chillington the dragons were forced towards the narrow mountains in the West. They fought with every ounce of strength, but slowly their small numbers faded some more.
Victory for the human race was now close but they could not settle until these beasts were eliminated.
Elven archers drove arrows into the scales of the elder dragons, Beastmen infantry threw spears in vast amounts, but still each and every earth shuddered pound of the ground sent the soldiers flying in many directions.
Their armour scorched and burnt to a crisp as the elders breathed their fire, causing mass destruction.
Eventually it was just too much, only seven dragons remained, the brothers Tremor and Colossal spearheaded the defences from the front, protecting the smaller male and female dragons that remained. They were backed into the narrow caves and now Colossal was at the very front. He took the full brunt of the iron tipped arrows and spears as the realms forced its enemy down a narrow pathway. Colossal was an enormous dragon and his broad shoulders now grazed the sides of the cave, it was becoming difficult to manoeuvre but he still roared back at the advancing army with all his might.
King Gaprone sat on horseback outside the cave awaiting his victory. His long grey hair and beard waved in the low winds. His gold plated armour glistened with hints of red leather.
The king’s steed was jet black and covered in similar golden armour, adorning more red leathers.
He knew that even in his elderly years this day would stand as his greatest victory of all his years, a legacy to pass down to the younger princes and princesses.
The lords and the dukes would speak of this day for a hundred years to come, for it would be King Gaprone who rid the lands of evil and led his people into a world without fear of fire breathing demons.
King Gaprone studied the cave entrance and began to worry about the shudder’s which were clearly making the loose rocks tumble down from the edges of the narrow entrance.
“Get those men out of there.” cried the king in a haggard voice. He coughed and spluttered attempting to clear his throat.
Meanwhile the battle was as good as over; Colossal could fight no further, and despite calls from his brother to retreat, Colossal stood firm. His front right leg buckled, causing the advancing soldiers to back away through fear of being crushed. Tremor called towards his brother, begging him to get back before it was too late.
The remaining dragons had sunk deeper into the cave and with no way out but forwards they had to accept that this was likely to be their final hours.
“Colossal! Get back my friend, they are leaving.” Tremor tried to calm his weak and wounded younger sibling, but he was too upset. “They... They killed them Tremor...... All of them.... Our brothers..... Our sisters..... Our family.” He wept at the very thought of the devastation caused.
“I know Colossal but we have to be strong, they will not stop until we are all dead, we cannot let that happen.”
“But it will happen won’t it brother?” questioned Colossal.
Tremor didn’t reply, instead he turned himself towards the younger surviving dragons.
Outside, all the Soldiers had retreated. Bringing with them any wounded. King Gaprone was now ordering a large group to destroy the cave entrance.
“They are weak they are wounded, let them die in this tomb.”
Gaprone roared rallying his troops, thousands of the remaining soldiers cheered with approval. At which point hooks had been thrown on to the higher arches of the rocks, and now hundreds of men were pulling them down. After a few minutes the grunting soldiers had brought down huge chunks of the cave entrance sealing it off leaving no escape for the weary dragons.
“They will die in that cave. Let no man fear dragons a day longer. This will be a sign of our victory, and this place shall become a shrine celebrating this victorious day.”
King Gaprone ordered a large amount of beastmen and elves to remain behind and protect the collapsed cave. He then led a group of his soldiers back to the city of Chillington and was followed by King Jodfelli.
“What now Gaprone? Are we to tell tales of a great victory?” Jodfelli spoke to his king as they rode alongside each other on horseback.
“Do you not think this was a victory?” Gaprone sarcastically snapped back.
“Victory? Yes... great?... I’m not so sure...”
The short silence between the two men gave King Gaprone time to reflect.
“My friend, you sound like you almost feel sorry for the dragons.”
Gaprone turned to glance at Jodfelli; he smiled and then turned to face the road ahead once more. Jodfelli didn’t reply but simply stared straight ahead focusing on the path back to his friend’s city.
After the long ride back, both Gaprone and Jodfelli rode through the city towards the west entrance of Chillington castle. Soldiers helped the leaders dismount their steeds and they walked up the long stairway to the castle gates followed swiftly by their respective officers.
King Gaprone made the long walk across the grand halls up to his throne. He unbuckled his belt removing his sword and handing it to his servant. The sword was placed carefully onto a weapons stand which sat to the left of the throne.
“Gone almost a week and I return to an empty throne room, what does a king have to do to get a drink around here?”
His servant scurried to a side door prompting that some wine be brought to his highness immediately. Jodfelli had now slowly walked across the grand halls and stood in front of the thrones with his hands on his sides. “Gaprone, where is your dear Queen?”
“It’s King Gaprone to you my friend. I thought thee wiser to remember where you are.” a slight tone of harshness cracked from the king’s lips, almost whipping the elf king with his tongue.
“Your highness, please forgive my manners.” Jodfelli bowed his head in shame.
“Humph, No harm done my good friend, as to your question, I simply do not know. It seems that her highness has not embraced my return.”
King Gaprone seemed puzzled by the sheer lack of servants and lords in the grand halls. “Come Jodfelli; let us make our return known in the courtyard.” Gaprone stood up and hastily made his way to a side door which would lead to the main courtyard area.
A servant returned with a wine decanter. King Gaprone swiped the decanter, took a large gulp and slammed it back onto the tray. The servant struggled to keep the decanter from falling from the force in which it was slammed down.
Outside in the courtyard the main tall wooden gates had been opened, and hundreds of soldiers were returning. The soldiers of Chillington entered first, they were followed closely by elven warriors who mostly remained on horseback.
The beastmen of the North-West were led by Zartagen. A large man, whose upper half was boar like. His facial features included that of a wild boar with curled tusks protruding from the sides of his stubby snout, his skin dark and hairy. He stood tall and muscular, brandished in heavy metal armour.
He quickly approached Gaprone and Jodfelli who had made the journey down from the higher regal quarters of the castle. “My kings.” he snorted in his deep voice, “Most of my men have remained ‘snort’ to seal the cave with more rocks and boulders as your request.”
“Lord Zartagen you have done well, the city of Chillington owes you a great debt for your work.” replied King Gaprone.
“See to it that one of my officers finds you and your men some quarters here in the castle. As my guests you can stay as long as you need.”
“Thank you your highness.” Zartagen snorted back,
He then made his way back over to the few dozen men he had brought back with him.
Jodfelli stood and watched as the more soldiers came through the gates.
“Zartagen is a good man who has lost so many in this war.”
Gaprone coughed and spluttered again trying to clear his throat.
“Yes that is true.”
“It is good that they can rest here though, it was a very generous offer your highness.” Jodfelli clearly showing his approval.
“I’m going to need them here; his men have a lot of hard work to do.” Gaprone said with a sigh in his voice.
Jodfelli seemed puzzled, “Work your highness?”
“Well they have to earn their keep like everyone else around here, we have much to do, and the War isn’t over yet.”
Gaprone made his way down the small set of steps and over towards his officers who were sorting out the troops.
Jodfelli stood looking at the king. He no longer understood what the grand plan was behind this war, was it to rid the lands of dragons to protect his people? Or was this simply to gain popularity from his people by giving them something that benefits his own standing as their ruler, whilst forcing their hands to work to show their gratitude?
The beastmen from the North were now seemingly first on this list. The king now had firm control over a strong race of people who were instantly available to start obeying.
Jodfelli didn’t like the look of this and wondered how long before his king would ask for further greater deeds from the elves.
The next few days were spent sending supplies to the narrow mountains. Gaprone made vast and urgent plans to seal off the cave entrance completely. His men built supports and continued to place more boulders and rocks in front of the collapsed opening. The final stage was a large tall watchtower which took several days to complete. It was built upon flat stone with supports that stood directly in front of the mountains. The watchtower would be manned and guarded all day every day. Groups of soldiers would change guard daily, and King Gaprone asked that he be notified of even the slightest change. There was no way out of the mountains only via the narrow entrance which had been felled, and with vast amounts of rubble and stone blocking any exit, the king knew the dragons had no escape.
Almost two weeks had now passed since the end of the War of Flames, as it was now known. King Jodfelli had overseen his men complete the work on the watchtower. The beastmen of the North seemed drained as they had done most of the hard work, but they soon settled back at Chillington Castle as King Gaprone’s guests.
The rain had been lashing down for several days now. It was late in the evening and King Jodfelli was stood on his guest balcony overlooking the courtyard. He leaned forward onto the rail and stared down to see guards scurrying around to find cover under the many wooden sheltered areas.
There seemed to be a lot of fuss and movement near the gates and Jodfelli watched closely to see what was going on.
A guard high above the gates called out, “Riders!”
More guards were now beginning to open one of the large wooden gates,
Two men on horseback rode through the gates and slowed to a halt. They spoke to the guards as they quickly dismounted their steeds,
They wore long green cloaks, and a glimpse of silver armour could be seen across their chests and on their boots.
Jodfelli let out a gasp, “Elves.” he whispered to himself.
“I am here to see King Jodfelli, I have an urgent message.” The young elf spoke. His thin pale face soaked from the rain, his eyes narrow and dark, his pale white hair drenched through his hood,
“Jodfelli is in the east guest towers, I will send for him straightway.” The plump elderly guard ordered another guard to find the elven king.
“Bit dark in the day to be sent out delivering messages. Must be urgent.” shouted the guard, as they all made their way under shelter.
“Indeed it is my sir.”
“Not Bad news is it?”
The young elf did not answer.
Jodfelli was now running down a long side path and towards the awaiting men.
“Casiaowse? What is it? Why are you here? I saw elves enter the gates but did not expect it to be you.”
“My king I bring news of Helena.”
“My wife? What news? Where is she? Is she ok?...”
Casiaowse bowed his head, this news was not good and he worried how his king may react.
“My King, your wife... she..... she.”
Jodfelli snapped angrily “What is it? Tell me, tell me now!”
“She has gone missing my king. She left six days ago to set off for Chillington Castle.”
Jodfelli was stunned, he didn’t know what to think, and why would his wife, his queen leave?
“Did she speak to anyone or leave any notes?”
“No my King, she did not, she took one of your ships and nobody knows where she has gone.”
Jodfelli wracked his brain as he tried to take in what had happened.
“All we know is that she took your ship and docked it near the southern tip, a few of her belongings were on the ship but there was no sign of her my king.”
Jodfelli once more puzzled at why his wife would follow him to these shores, and then in a bold and angry manner he straightened his back.
“I must leave and go back to our island.”
Casiaowse looked shocked “My king? But should we not search for her this side of the sea?”
“No” Jodfelli replied bluntly. “Gather all of my men, we head back to Brinderlay Woods, today!”
And hours later they set off from Chillington Bay. This was the large divide of sea between the northern and southern curves.
The elves set off home and as they cleared the Northern and Southern Docks, Casiaowse once more spoke with his king. “Why are you going back if your queen is behind us on those lands?”
Jodfelli didn’t answer at first but then spoke calmly. “Once word reaches the realms of my return, then so too will Queen Helena. Searching for her in these vast realms could take a month or more. News travels much faster in those lands. Wherever Queen Helena is, she will hear of my return and make her way home, I know she will...”