Chapter Five - Barback, Dominance and Zachary
Lord Barback was furious. Rafael, back from his journey into Darkness Forest, had gathered new guards to replace those he had lost and finally stood before his master. Lord Barback was sitting on the royal chair and staring down at him from behind his dark red robe. The hood covered his face, never been seen by anyone, only Rafael himself who stared up at his master, trying to hide his fear. He was kneeling, his head bowed low whilst his men stood behind him.
Out of the corner of his eye, Rafael noticed that one of his men could not stop shaking. The guard was young, only just turning twenty, and was new to being a guard, being brought up to guard status early due to Rafael's previous loss of comrades. He was built, being raised as a farmer, helping him develop well. His messy black hair hung around his face, covering his light green eyes. His uniform was still a little too big for him, but he would grow into it. He was the best fighter in the younger group, capable of holding his own against Rafael himself. If Lord Barback noticed him twitching like that, it would not end well for the boy.
‘The forest is not where they are. I am sure by now the centaurs have learned of our plan. They have spies in my palace,' Lord Barback spoke with an eerie calmness. His chilling voice echoed across the hall as he continued. ‘They would have been informed of my discovery and fled. The boy is alone - now will be the time to strike. Find him and kill him. I want the amulet.'
‘My lord, we shall. We will find him,' Rafael replied, bowing down.
Lord Barback looked up and finally noticed the young one shaking. He slowly turned his head to see another guard, Samuel, looking at him. He raised his hand slowly and pointed to the second guard, ‘You.' Samuel kneeled, bowed and looked up at him. He now looked terrified as he was commanded, ‘Come here.'
Samuel was hesitant. He knew what was going to happen. He was too scared to move, but he knew he had a better chance by going up there. He passed the new guard, shaking so much now he looked like he was having a seizure. As he reached the bottom of the large staircase, Lord Barback raised and walked to him. He grabbed the guard in an instant and snapped his neck. As his body fell, the other guards stared in horror as Rafael turned away, disgusted.
‘When I speak, you all listen. This man was held accountable for your comrade's failure in the forest. This will happen to any of you who disobey me. The rest of you may leave … now.' No one waited around to be asked twice, the young one practically running out of the room first.
Rafael did so and stared at his master. He noticed they were alone, the doors now shut and, he knew, also locked.
‘Rafael, what do you think of this boy? Do you believe he is the same child you let escape years ago?'
‘My lord, I have no doubt. He had the same amulet the child wore. His clothing is … was not from our world. He is the same.'
‘It seems your mistake is starting to slowly correct itself,' Lord Barback spoke softly. ‘It was a good idea to spare you.'
Rafael hated the way he spoke. It was always in a soft manner and always with a chilling tone.
‘Yes, my lord.'
‘What word of the assassin? How did he fail?’
‘There is no word my lord. I can only assume he is dead,’ Rafael replied, facing his master with no fear. ‘Either way, he has led us to the boy and the amulet.’
‘Yes, I believe you are correct,’ Lord Barback replied in agreement. ‘The centaurs would have abandoned the forest. They will no longer reside there. We have our chance now. Send men to search the forest and send only the ones you know you can trust. Tell them what they need to know and nothing more.'
‘Yes, my lord.'
‘Have you discovered the centaurs' spy yet?' Lord Barback asked, turning to look at Rafael. Even though his face was covered, he could feel what he remembered to be his burning red eyes staring at him.
‘Not yet my -' he began.
‘And why not, Rafael? I have given you enough time. Should I give this task to someone else? You know what that would mean.' He started pacing. ‘I hate delay as much as failure. To me, it is the same. Have you failed me, Rafael?'
‘No, my lord. I do have a lead I am trying to follow up on.'
‘And what lead is that?'
‘I believe the centaurs are using fairies to spy on us.'
Lord Barback stopped pacing and stared at him. ‘Why do you believe this? The fairies and centaurs have not been civil with each other for centuries. No magical creature has been with another.'
‘That we know of, my lord. A few weeks ago, when you and I were discussing the location of the centaurs, one of my guards stationed at the door thought he saw a small light. It appeared and disappeared in the blink of an eye and it was not the first time he had noticed it. He had brought it to my attention a few times prior. I believed he was slowly going mad until I remembered the stories of the fairies.'
‘Ah. Your theory seems to fit. Only a fairy could move that quick. What they would gain from working with the centaurs? If the centaurs have left the boy, they will meet up with him again. This could be our chance to catch both the centaurs and the fairies and eliminate them all.'
‘My lord, you do not believe that would have serious repercussions?'
Lord Barback turned to look at him, again burning him with his invisible stare. ‘And what do you mean by that, Rafael?'
‘My lord, an attack on one is an attack on all. I do not disagree with you. I only believe we should take this next step very lightly.'
‘Thank you for your concern, Rafael, but no, I do not believe there will be any repercussions. They have defied me long enough. Without the location, I cannot succeed. If they are plotting against me, it is treason. If the fairies are working with them, they are in league with traitors and they too shall be destroyed. This is no longer their land. It is mine. This will teach them all that no disgusting creatures shall dare interfere with my plans. That is final.'
‘Yes, my lord.'
‘That is all, Rafael. Keep me updated. Find the boy and bring me his head.'
‘Yes, my lord,' Rafael replied. Bowing once more, he moved to the door before a thought crossed his mind. Stopping halfway, he turned back around to face Lord Barback. ‘What of the girl, my lord? She can be an excellent bargaining tool. Her father -'
‘Yes, her father.' Lord Barback went quiet and thought for a moment while Rafael stood there, waiting. Lord Barback slowly spoke, his next words chilling. ‘Bring her to me.'
* * *
Rafael headed down the large stone steps towards the station of the guards. As he entered, he noticed the new, young guard standing at his post, still shaken from his encounter with Lord Barback. He walked up to him and slapped the boy across the face with the back of his palm.
‘Stop shaking!' he barked, and the young one snapped up. He stared at Rafael with apologetic eyes.
‘I … I'm sorry, sir.'
‘What is your name?' Rafael demanded.
‘Zachary,' the boy replied with a whimper.
‘Next time, do not make me look foolish again. Or it will be your head that he snaps and not a good guard like Samuel.'
‘Yes … sir,' the boy stuttered.
Rafael walked off. True, he had been disappointed that Samuel was the one that had been killed. He would have Samuel on his team any day, rather than this boy. Yet he was also grateful, for if Lord Barback no longer had use for Rafael, Samuel was next in line for his job. Now Rafael would have to search for a new guard to be second fiddle. This time, not someone who could outlast him or prove better than him, he thought to himself.
He knew who the boy was. He did not need to ask his name. He felt that if the boy believed he did not know him, did not consider him worth knowing, he would believe he was up front on the chopping block. This way, Rafael could control him through his fear.
As he headed down to his quarters, he stopped and stared out the window. In the courtyard lay Lord Barback's pet, a massive black heap that never moved or left the courtyard unless it was feeding time. Rafael had never liked Dominance. That was what Lord Barback had called it.
Dominance looked up at him as if it knew he was staring at it. Their eyes met and Rafael continued his descent, Dominance's fierce red eyes burning into his mind, continuing to stare at him even after he was out of eyeshot.
He heard the sound of Dominance heaving itself up into the sky and the loud sounds of the beating of its wings as it gave flight. How Rafael hated dragons. Probably on his way to meet its master, he thought.
Rafael remembered when Lord Barback first brought Dominance to the castle. Rafael was in awe. He had never seen a dragon. It was massive, even for one so young. Its black skin was covered in black scales that shone like pebbles in a river at moonlight and its red eyes gave the same cold, calculating look Rafael had seen Lord Barback had on his face. Lord Barback must have use for him, he thought. It does not matter. I will find the boy and eliminate him myself.
* * *
Zachary breathed a sigh of relief as soon as he knew that Rafael was gone. ‘How did I manage to escape being killed just then?' he whispered to himself.
Lord Barback just killed Samuel because he was angry that the other guards had failed. Sure, Samuel had been one of those guards and not himself. He was not even a guard when the group had left for the forest, but what about next time? Could it be himself, now that he was a guard?
Zachary paced his post, still trying to calm himself. He finally understood why he could not stop shaking. He still could not believe what had happened to him in such a short time. A year ago, he was a farmer with his father. When he was out one day in town on errands, his family had been killed. He still did not quite know what happened. All he saw was smoke. He ran back to discover the burning fields he had once called home. Rafael came a few days later and he was enlisted into the guards.
Since being here, he had seen things beyond his imagination. Until the other day, he had never seen a dragon. He thought they were myths. Yet everything he had ever believed to be myth was proving to be truthful. Fairies, centaurs and Zachary himself had even seen a harpy. He could not believe what was happening. He had heard rumors of the Lost Son having returned to the land and he hoped that it was true. He knew as soon as this rightful king overthrew Lord Barback, then peace will be restored and he would be free to go.
He had always believed the stories of the Lost Son, the heroic savior of Bomcard. When he was younger, his father would tell him about Lord Barback's defeat at the Lost Son's hands. He told him of epic battles and he always finished with the same words: when the time comes, he will call for you and you must answer. He had never understood. Then, he was nothing but a farmer. Now he was a fighter. He could hold his own against the guards, even against Rafael himself.
Zachary looked out over the land. The sky was dark and stars filled the skies. He wanted to leave this horrible place but was too scared. He knew the repercussions if he was caught. Being a dragon's dinner was not a pretty thought. He imagined the crushing sounds of bones against its teeth and shuddered.
‘I guess I could try to escape. I could go down to the secret entrances,' he whispered to himself.
On his first day of training, Zachary had gone exploring around the castle. He also received a beating for leaving his area and disobeying his superior, but as a positive, he had discovered a secret way in and out of the castle. He had watched it over the year he had been at the castle and no one else seemed to know about it. He was always tempted to go through the tunnel, find where it ends and how long it really was, but he knew he couldn't risk it. If someone found out about it, then he wouldn't be able to use it when the time was right.
Zachary looked around and noticed that the other guard near him was asleep. He looked down and noticed that not only was no one around, but the dragon had disappeared as well. If he wanted to make a break for it, now was the time. With that in mind, he made his decision. Zachary stared out over the land and brushed the hair from his eyes. He knew somewhere, out there, the Lost Son was in need of help. He just did not know how to help him - yet.
With that, he ran as fast as he could to the secret entrance, hoping against all odds that he would not be caught.
* * *
Dominance flew over to his master in the tallest tower, hanging off the tower itself and sticking his large head against the window. Lord Barback walked over to the window and stroked his head.
‘My most loyal, perfect companion,' Lord Barback whispered. ‘We are so close to discovering the location. Very slowly, the pieces are falling into place. I can only hope that we discover the amulet and the location soon. We have waited too long.'
‘My master, we will succeed,'the cold, flat, dead voice spoke in his mind.
Lord Barback looked into the eyes of the massive creature and smiled.
‘I know, Dominance. I will need your assistance for an important task.'
He placed a piece of Lucas's clothing in front of the dragon's nose. He sniffed it and grunted.
‘I need you to fly ahead of the guards. Search for a boy and girl travelling alone or with any other magical creatures. Do not interact with them. Just observe and report back.' Lord Barback patted his head and Dominance roared. Down below, people looked up in awe and horror.
As soon as the mighty dragon spread its wings, Lord Barback leaned in and whispered, ‘Oh, and one more task. There is a little place nearby I need you to visit for me.'
Dominance listened closely as his master spoke his instructions silently in its mind, roaring again in agreement before it sprang away from the edge, flying away deep into the darkness of night.
Zachary looked over and noticed the evil beast flying away. He knew that dragons have excellent tracking skills. It would find what it was looking for by nightfall. Time was against everyone. He now had no choice. If he stayed, he would be involved in murdering innocent creatures and if he fled, he risked death. Whatever he did, death would follow. His decision would depend on the person or persons he was worried about the most.
He knew what his father would say: only you can make the right decision for yourself. No one else can determine your destiny. He shook his head and tried not to cry at the memory of his father. He had made up his mind and now time was of the most importance. Zachary was so lost in his own thoughts that he did not notice the two bright lights sitting next to his hand.
‘Why are you crying?'
Zachary glanced up and looked around but could not see anyone. ‘Who … who's there?'
‘Down here, human.'
The voice was very soft. He could hardly hear it, yet strangely, it seemed to be louder inside his head. Very odd, he thought. He slowly looked down and finally noticed the two small people, one female and one male, each no bigger than his middle finger. They each had shiny crystal wings on their backs, brown tops and pants with a tiny sword attached to their backs and each had a coloured aura surrounding them, green on the male, purple on the female.
‘Hello. Who are you? You shouldn't be here,' he spoke to them softly, looking around to make sure no one was around or in earshot.
‘Neither should you,' replied the male fairy, his black hair a mess over his small head.
The brown-haired female looked at him and asked, ‘Why are you here?'
‘I was enlisted. I … I had no choice. I had nowhere to go.'
‘Well, that is a stupid answer.'
‘Your destiny is not here. You have prolonged it long enough. You are who we need to assist the Lost Son.'
‘Huh?' Zachary mumbled in confusion. ‘What are you talking about?'
‘We have been observing you since you first came to the palace. You do not belong here as a guard. We need you to come with us. We will train you to ride the skies. Your skills will help the Lost Son when the time comes,' the female answered.
‘What do you mean?'
The male whispered his answer, staring at him with kind eyes. ‘When the Lost Son calls us all to arms, you will be the only one standing between Lord Barback's dragon and all of our destruction. Nothing can defeat a dragon …'
‘Except another dragon,' the female finished.
‘You want me … to ride a dragon? I … I… What? I don't know how. There are no other … what?' Zachary asked, looking even more pale and in shock than before.
‘Breathe. You are braver then you believe,' the male replied. ‘You are a Dragon Master. Only the bravest can ride. You will protect and defend this land when the time comes.'
‘How do I get out of here? There is a secret entrance I was thinking of using,' Zachary asked, turning in the direction in which he was planning to escape the castle.
‘No,' the female answered. ‘If you use it today, it will be discovered. We may need it later. We will take you.'
‘How will you do that?'
Without answering, the fairies flew above him and started circling him. As he stared up in awe, he noticed the green and purple lights beginning to blend into one colour. As they flew faster and faster, they moved further down and in a small light that no one below noticed, the young boy disappeared.
Zachary opened his eyes the moment the bright light faded. He was in different clothes, the guard's uniform replaced with a green top, brown buttons down the front and brown pants. He immediately noticed he was now in a small hut. He raised his hand to instinctively move his long hair from his face, as he did every morning, but realised his hair had been cut short. It is still messy, but at least now it will not get in my face, he thought to himself as he patted his hair to feel his new cut.
He stood to his feet and walked outside. He could not see anyone in the field at all and took a deep breath as he took in his surroundings. He was in a large paddock, surrounded by gigantic green trees. Across from him lay an ancient rectangle stone table. Around it, he counted ten stone chairs. In the middle of the table on both sides, there were empty spots that were massive, too large for an animal. Frowning, he pictured Lord Barback's dragon sitting in one of the empty spots quite comfortably.
Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed the purple and green lights moving closer to him; however, when he turned, he was surprised to see a young girl with blonde hair. She was the most beautiful girl he had ever seen, but as he looked on, he noticed that her bottom half was that of what could possibly be a horse and had the same colour hair as that on her head. He stared at her in awe, realising he was finally staring at a centaur.
‘Greetings,' the girl centaur smiled. ‘I am Leah. And you are?'
‘Zachary, but you can call me Zach,' he replied in a shy mumble.
‘Well Zach, do you know why you are here?'
‘Ah … well, if I am still dreaming, which I strongly believe as this is totally impossible, then something about a dragon?'
Leah smiled at him. ‘You are correct. Except for the dreaming, I mean. We always intended for the Lost Son to be the one who rode the dragon; however, the dragon chooses it master. The dragon had seen the Lost Son from a distance and knew instantly that he was not its master. We can only hope it is you.'
‘How do you think it is me?'
‘The dragon told us its master was an orphan farm boy in the palace, who did not belong there. You did not belong at the palace. The fairies read your mind and found out your past from your thoughts. Your destiny does not descend the dark path. Either way, if you are not the dragon's master then you are an important ally. Follow me.'
Leah turned around and started walking away. Zach followed, having to jog to catch up.
‘You're a centaur, right?'
She smiled and turned her head to stare at him. They had stopped walking and stared at each other in silence.
‘I am,' she finally answered, breaking the silence. ‘You are not that bad for a human either.'
He blushed, ‘Yeah, right.'
She just continued to smile at him. ‘You are not a very positive person, are you?'
He looked at her puzzled, and asked, ‘What do you mean?'
‘Well, you have no confidence in yourself. You should because you are strong. You are courageous and I do believe you are the one to ride the dragon.'
‘How do you know that?'
‘You ask a lot of questions.'
He smiled at her. ‘I'm sorry. I'm curious.'
She returned his smile. ‘I was told.'
‘By who?' he asked in confusion. Who would know he could be a Dragon Master? Who in the world could know his destiny?
‘I was told by someone who can see the future. She said I would know. You are. Trust me.'
‘I don't know you. No offence.'
She raised her eyebrows, smiling. ‘No offence taken.'
‘You don't talk like … you seem more human than magical creature. You don't talk like them.'
‘I am different from other magical creatures. I may speak like them in front of them, but that is not me.'
‘What do you mean?'
‘That is for another time. We must continue our journey.'
With that, she turned and continued down the path. They continued walking in silence until they found the familiar green and purple lights. Leah smiled at the lights as she approached.
‘Hello, Marrett. Hello, Neomi.'
Marrett, the small male, flew up to Leah and kissed her cheek, followed by Neomi who did the same.
‘Is he ready?' Marrett asked.
‘Yes. Zachary is ready,' Leah replied.
‘Let us continue further ahead,' Neomi spoke.
The fairies led the way, and after a few moments of silence, they came upon a dark cave entrance with the rocks of the walls and roof disappearing down into the ground itself. Large, overgrown shrubs covered the front of the entrance, thick vines stretching from the ground as high as they could, covering most of the stone. The two lights flew inside the dark entrance whilst Leah and Zach waited outside.
‘What are we -?' Zach started.
‘Hush,' was all Leah said.
After a few minutes of silence, the ground started to shake as out of the entrance, the two lights flew out and hovered near Leah. Zach looked at the entrance in horror as a massive, crimson red dragon stepped out. It stared at Zach and after a brief moment, began to move forward.
The dragon continued to stare at him when Marrett spoke very softly. ‘Zachary. Move forward.'
Zach, white in the face and shaking like a leaf, fell backwards to the ground and fainted. Marrett looked at the fallen boy in confusion before turning to Leah and asking, ‘What happened?'
She smiled and shook her head, leaning down and shaking Zach. Stirring, he rubbed his head and she helped him to his feet. His eyes widened with horror when he saw her, realising that finally, this was no dream. Turning to face the dragon, Marrett once again spoke. ‘Zachary. Move forward…and do not pass out.'
He could not, though. He was petrified. He could not even feel his feet. ‘You're kidding, right?' he mumbled. Yet somehow, he managed to move a few steps towards the massive creature. It stared down at him, its golden eyes burning into his very soul. They stood there staring at each other for what seemed forever.
‘Young human man, what is your name?'
Zach jumped. Where did that voice come from? He looked around, but the other creatures stood there in silence, completely oblivious to the voice they could not hear. Slowly, he turned back to the dragon.
‘You have not answered me.'
It's the dragon speaking inside my head, he thought to himself, unsure how it was possible.
‘Ah … hello there. My name is Zachary, or Zach.'
‘Hello Zachary or Zach.'
‘No … no. I mean Zachary or Zach. You know …' He shrugged his shoulders as he added,
‘One or the other? Pick one. I answer to both.'
‘Ah. Zachary it is. Young one, do you know why you are here?'
‘The fairies and Leah, I think it is, said something about me helping the Lost Son. I don't understand all of it though.'
‘You are here to be judged whether you are my rightful master. If you are, you shall be my master, my equal. Together you and I shall help the Lost Son defeat the evil in this land.'
‘How would you know? If you and I were equals, I mean?' Zach asked in curiosity. He began to hope there were no tests involved - he could tell they wouldn't exactly be the easiest for him to complete. And what if he failed? Would he have to return to the guards?
‘I already know.'
‘How do you know?' Zach asked in shock.
‘You can hear me.'
‘Because I can hear you means …'
‘Only my master can hear me. Not even the fairies themselves.' The dragon turned his head on an angle and it reminded Zach of someone analysing him. ‘You have questions. Ask and I shall answer.'
‘Why would you choose me over the Lost Son himself?'
‘I do not choose my master. It is already determined. I had seen the Lost Son from a distance and knew he was not my equal. He was more than that. I would follow him to the death, but if it was a choice between my master and the Lost Son, it would be my master.'
‘So, what is he then, if he is more than your master?'
‘He is the future.'
‘I don't understand,' Zach mumbled. He turned to the other magical creatures. Leah smiled at him and nodded. He turned back and asked, ‘How is he the future?'
‘The Lost Son is more than human. He is half human and half elf. There has never been a hybrid in any species. Whenever two different species fall in love and have children, they have become either one species or the other. Never has there been an exact half. His human strengths power his elf strengths. He will have power no one has ever imagined one person could have. He is the only one powerful enough to destroy Barback.'
‘That is amazing. How do you know all of this?'
‘The fairies cannot understand me, but I can understand them.'
Zach turned to his other companions. ‘What do you know of the Lost Son?'
Leah smiled. ‘I have met him. He is very kind and indeed strong. Yet, he is like you.'
Zach smiled in response, eager to hear how he and the Lost Son were alike. ‘Really? Like how?'
Leah frowned, replying, ‘He is not very confident. Not as bad as you though.' Zach frowned as Leah smiled at him. ‘He is discovering how strong he can be. He is growing confident and you will as well.'
‘She is correct.'
Zach turned back to the red dragon. ‘The Lost Son will grow strong by finding his true strengths, as will you. I have a gift for you.' Zach smiled at the dragon as it spoke. ‘Come closer.'
Zach's smile disappeared and fear crept into his face. The entire colour was once again gone from his face as he stared, frozen, at the dragon.
‘I will not eat you as you are thinking.' Zach, eyes wide with doubt and fear, slowly moved forward as the dragon commanded, ‘Place your hand on my body.'
He did as the dragon commanded and noticed immediately how the dragon's red scales felt like stone and seemed to reflect in the sunlight. He was beautiful. As he placed his hand on the dragon, its eyes closed and it started to hum, which sounded very weird to Zach. All of a sudden, it tilted its head to the crowds and roared. Fire breathed out of its mouth, but it did not stay in the air. After reaching high into the sky, the flames fell down and surrounded Zach. It began to circle him and slowly raised him off the ground. He began to float in the non-burning flames to the astonishment of the fairies and Leah. Yet for some reason, he was no longer scared, his fear disappearing.
‘Zachary, for you the Dragon Master, I give you my courage.'
The flames spun around him faster until they seemed to merge with him. He felt the burning fire in his body, warming every part of him. ‘You and I are now one. I shall know your fears and you shall share my courage and strength.'
Zach slowly floated to the ground, looked at his hands and felt his body. He looked up at his new companion and asked, ‘Does that mean …'
‘Yes, Zachary. You are my master, but only if you wish.'
‘Yes! I do. I mean I don't know anything about - ' Zach started.
‘It does not matter. Neither do I, but we shall learn together. The only thing I require now is a name.'
He looked at the dragon, confused. ‘You don't have a name?'
‘It is my master's honour to choose my name.'
‘Your master's honour … honour …?' He thought of that before slowly smiling. ‘What about Honour?'
‘Honour is a -'
‘No, I don't mean what is honour. I meant as a name. I will name you Honour.'
The dragon thought of it for a moment before it replied, ‘I am Honour.'
With that, Honour the dragon raised its head to the skies once again, roared a deafening roar and breathed a massive trail of flame into the air. Leah, Marrett and Neomi looked in awe. They had finally found their new, powerful ally.