Long after humans had died off from the results of the End Times, and many years after the roads of asphalt and buildings of stone had crumbled, Earth’s children populated the lands. Creatures of myth and legend walked the land once owned by mankind. Evolution and generations of intermingling created beings descended of mankind called Humanoids. Physically, they differed little from what had been homo sapiens. However, magic from their mythical forefathers ran through their veins, and many had brilliant and overwhelming powers.
It allowed them to live as equals alongside their legendary brethren, though the relationships between them and many of the creatures they cohabited with were strained at times. But life was still peaceful.
The murder of the draconic royal family ended that two thousand year peace and threw the world into a fifty-year-long, all-out war between races. Distinctly, there were three major factions:
The Dragons, whom were the most common and powerful of races. They were seen as protectors of the weak and innocent. They cared for their own and for any who asked for help. It was they who received the hardest of blows early in the war.
Then, there were the Humanoids. Hardy and fast-breeding, they were formidable foes. But they were not the driving force behind the attack.
No, that blame was on the darkest of the factions. Enemies from the Dusque lands---fiends whom had no real place in society, the evil and wicked spirits that hated the two millennia reigning peace. The leaders of the lands, beings call Drakerian Lords, ruled with power that matched that of the Dragons. Their soldiers, the Drakes, were the long-lived rivals of the Dragons and gleefully massacred the weaker races, reveling in the bloodshed.
It wasn’t until the end of the war that a small group of soldiers and warriors took to the Dusque lands and ended the Lord’s life, thus finally ending the feud.
The Clan Draconum, as they became known as, became a staple in the world. A group that could be called upon for various jobs and needs. They were the new ruling force of peace in the world, and in the years following the war, they kept it.
It was one of the few reasons Frost even took these assassination jobs.
Granted, it was only after many hours of investigation and study that he would take these jobs, but the Leader of the Clan was thorough in his work, and Frost never had a reason to doubt the imposing figurehead. So off he went, dressed in black from the hood and mask he wore all the way down to his boots. The sliver of skin that peeked from over the edge of the mask was the color of pale moonlight, and from the darkness glowed intense, ice blue eyes. He blended well with the shadows and slipped through the darkened alleys of the village he had been sent to.
It was a small village, full mostly of the rich or nobility. Despite being of noble standing himself, Frost hated intermingling with them. Assassinating them was more his style. In particular, he was after a corrupt noble official. The bastard had started trafficking minotaur, peaceful creatures who avoided conflict. It was easy to connect how well they would work as slaves. One had escaped and fled to the trade village where the Clan was located and begged for help in ending the enslavement issue.
The Leader took what money the minotaur had to offer, had their Infiltrator do some investigation and sent Frost on his merry way. Honestly, though, Flame would have taken the job even without the money, but the minotaur was insistent on payment, so he took it without argument. It would probably end up in the palms of the ones Frost frees, if he knew his Leader well enough. Hell, Frost would have just offed the noble without knowing it was a job, if he had been privy to this whole situation beforehand.
He hated those that abused their status and wealth. It was why he invested so much into the Clan. They took donations, mostly, and whatever was offered in payment for jobs. But in a situation such as the trafficking of other beings, the Clan never hesitated to help even without payment. They were respected and looked so highly upon for their good deeds as a result.
Frost caught the scent of minotaur--a very distinctive smell--and followed it. There was a lot of them, located all in one place, that much he could tell. It had to be the trafficking ring. Frost inhaled deep to keep the scent fresh in his senses, it grew stronger the closer to the ring he got. Lights, and a small crowd of nobles and slavers, had him hiding in the shadows once again. They were around the official’s house, chatting and drinking. The scent of frightened minotaur was almost overwhelming, a stench that made his nose wrinkle. He bristled at how cheerful and comfortable the crowd seemed to be. How sick could you be to have a good time at the expense of such frightened people?
No matter. He wasn’t here for the entire crowd---though surely he could take them all out, if the need arose---he was here for one person. One person, and a group of very scared minotaur.
“Judging by your appearance, I’d say he didn’t go down very easily?”
Flame’s deep voice drawled out the question in barely hidden mirth, Frost sitting down heavily in an armchair. The Assassin shot an icy glare, pulling off his mask and cowl, both of which were ruined in the skirmish with the noble official. “Nei. I hope the bastard burns for eternity,” he muttered, eyeing a cut on his forearm before dismissing the small wound entirely. It would heal quickly enough. Dragons were gifted with accelerated healing rates, so minor wounds were usually just ignored. It was believed back in Ancient Times that a dragon’s blood could heal the mortally wounded. As it turned out, dragon blood was extremely deadly to most other creatures.
“And the captured minotaur?”
“Released and given supplies. They plan to travel across the seas to the Northern Plains, where they were borne from. Apparently, this has been going on for a while now. Many of the minotaur are leaving to go back to their homelands,” Frost frowned as he sent Flame a long, meaningful look. “Something dark is stirring. I’m not the only one who has noticed. People are nervous to travel after sunset, and they don’t know why. I’ve seen more Gryphem traveling, more Rogues banding together.”
Flame released a long, weary sigh, and leaned back in his chair. It was a heavy, ornate wooden chair; one that could have easily come from that of a powerful noble family. The family crest, however, had been carved off many years ago. Frost always had a suspicion about the leader of the Clan’s heritage, but kept it to himself. It was, after all, none of his business. “I can feel something going on,” he admitted. “But until there is absolute proof of...whatever this is, it’s best we keep it quiet. Disturbing the masses will only cause unrest and panic.”
Frost was silent for several minutes, his eyes glazed as he thought, still as a shadow in his seat. Then he heaved a great sigh and pushed to his feet. “I’m going to bathe and rest, before another client decides to make their way here. Don’t bother me until tomorrow.”
“Try to avoid freezing the baths again. I had to listen to Marks bitch about it for over an hour the last time you did,” Flame stated, earning a smirk from the pale male.
“No promises,” Frost replied as he exited the room, stalking down the hallways of the large fortress that had been the Clan’s home for close to a century now. There were two communal baths--one male, one female--and four different saunas. Being an ice-born creature, Frost tended to avoid the saunas altogether and only bathed in the communal when it was just him. Otherwise, he would bathe in the lake, where the water was coolest. The last time he used the communal, he went a little overboard in cooling the water down and ended up creating actual icebergs. There were several members who were less than amused, as they had to then spend the next hour heating the water back up just so that they could bathe.
Tonight, though, he was going to wash in the lake. It was peaceful and private, and he didn’t have to worry about the only female in the fortress peeping since he usually washed himself underneath the cover of the willow tree that draped over a piece of the lake. Mya had no actual interest in him, but it never stopped her from trying to catch a peek at the males.
Frost made a stop at his room to grab a robe and a towel, before continuing outside towards the lake that was nestled behind the fortress in a small valley. The moon was bright and full, and made his pale hair look silver in the light. He draped his robe and towel over a low-hanging branch of the willow before stripping off his grimy attire. Frost took a moment to give himself a once-over, making note of any bruise or scrape that came from his latest assignment. He slipped into the cool waters after shrugging to himself, sighing in relief as the chill sent a wave of comfort through him.
Frost submerged himself completely to wet his head, then let himself float around for a while to soak and ease the aches in his muscles. He mostly just worried about washing away the grime and muck that he often was covered with during a job, he would worried about how he smelled once he returned to his quarters. Frost was very particular about his scent--of which, he eliminated completely with a mixture of oils and lotions to avoid detection from any of his more scent-keen targets. He was more lax about it when he didn’t have an assignment for several days, usually using more lightly fragranced oils to feel refreshed.
Nearly an hour had passed before Frost realized he was starting to prune and dragged himself out of the water, drying off and wrapping up in the robe. He gathered his soiled clothing in the towel, using it as a make-shift pack to carry everything back inside. Frost ran his fingers through his still dripping hair, shaking the water droplets from the platinum strands as he walked noiselessly down the corridors to his quarters.
“Ah, the moonlit prince returns from his skinny dip in the lake,” a low voice laughingly called to him. Frost raised his gaze to see who had spoken to him, less than amused by the jest. Leaning against a door frame was a lean, sweater-clad male, his shoulder-length hair pulled back from his face to allow his bright aquamarine eyes to be seen.
“It was that or freeze the communal again,” he drawled. “I figured I would give Flame a break from your whining.”
Marks grimaced a little, “It wouldn’t have been so bad, if those damned icebergs would have actually melted. But no, it took three magical flames and Dragon’s Breath to finally get them to disappear.”
Frost smirked as he passed by the Marksman, “Then quit bothering me about bathing in the lake.”
He could hear Marks grumbling as he entered his room, shutting the door with a soft chuckle. Frost tossed the makeshift pack into the corner of the room and pulled off his robe, using it to dry his hair as he walked to his wardrobe. The low temperature of his room bothered him very little, and it was often a relief for when the air outside grew muggy and hot. Enchanted runes along the tops of his walls kept his room cold to accommodate for the ice in his blood. Getting too hot often made for a useless frost dragon.
The walls were the color of snowy skies, a soft grey that reminded him of his homeland, furs on the bed and floor kept him comfortable. The cool marble floors often had a thin layer of ice on them in the mornings, and he’d be damned if he would ever admit slipping once or twice because of it.
Frost pulled out a pair of soft leather pants and tugged them on, the fabric was snug but easy to move in and quiet. Important when one’s main job was to be a silent killer. He briefly considered a shirt, but decided he was just going to eat and go to bed anyway, so why bother? He finished drying his hair and ran a hand through the short locks to remove any tangles, walking out and turning right to head to the dining hall.
From the appetizing smell, Ryu was back from his most recent spiritual journey and had made an edible meal for the fortress inhabitants. Frost meant that with every bit of insult as physically possible, considering the few that actually did cook, did it very poorly. He was looking forward to enjoying his dinner that night.
Stepping into the dining hall, he saw he wasn’t the only one with food on the brain; Marks had followed his nose to the kitchens, and apparently their Infiltrator had even been summoned from his nap to fill his stomach. As entertaining as it always was to mess with a half-asleep post-pubescent, Frost was more interested in grabbing a plate and returning to his quarters. Marks, on the other hand, had no such qualms and was asking the young dragon random questions just to hear his sleep-addled response.
Though, judging by the look on Miles’ face, he was starting to wake up enough to get more annoyed at being disturbed. Maybe Frost would stick around, if only to watch the young dragon flip Marks’ chair over with the sharpshooter still in it. Bemused, he wandered towards the kitchens to pop his head in, finding it still occupied by their local spiritual master. Ryu was a martial artist of the highest caliber, and possibly one of the wisest dragons Frost ever had the pleasure of meeting.
He was a tall, slender male, dressed in loose, Eastern styled clothing and black flats. His hair was long and silky, almost always kept braided and pulled over his left shoulder, and he had the softest black eyes. The only time Frost ever saw Ryu even remotely irritated was if his hair was messed with. He never understood why, and never bothered to ask. Everyone in the fortress had secrets--he was no different.
“Smells good in here, Ryu. I don’t recognize it, though—something else from your homelands?” Frost asked as he leaned over the large cooking pot to peer inside. Ryu often made meals that reminded him of the Eastern Territories, the lands he had been born and raised in.
“Shì, it is a recipe I remembered while I was wandering the Islands,” Ryu responded. His voice was soft and lilting, a soothing melody to the ear. “A chicken hot pot that I added my own flair to. The others seem to approve, so I assume it was a success.”
“Honestly, Ryu? Anything you make is considered a success—you’re literally the only one here who can cook edible food,” Frost chuckled a little darkly as he grabbed a bowl to scoop some of the hot pot into.
“Mya may disagree.”
“I can’t even taste anything Mya makes, because she uses so much curry,” Frost pointed out. A crash in the dining room made him smirk. “Sounds like Miles finally got tired of Marks annoying him. Idiot.”
Ryu shook his head with a soft smile, chuckling softly under his breath. “When will he learn? A growing dragon should not be interrupted while they eat.”
“Never. He’s a glutton for punishment, as long as it means entertaining himself for even a minute,” Frost grabbed a spoon from the sink, already walking out of the door. “Thanks for the eats, Ryu.”
“I don’t have any.”
He heard Ryu chuckling again as he walked back through the dining room. Marks was picking himself up off the floor, cursing under his breath as Miles continued to eat his meal in his strange half-asleep way. It was reminiscent of watching a cow graze. He just kind of….chewed on it for a while before swallowing. Rinse and repeat. Frost rolled his eyes and continued on to his room.
The diversity between the twelve beings living in the fortress sometimes amazed him. From all parts of the world, they had somehow found each other and worked towards a similar goal—ending the Dragon War. Various backgrounds and lives lived, different moral codes and future prospects. Yet when push came to shove, they worked as a unit and took down the enemy.
And now they all lived in a worn down fortress, driving each other insane and taking odd jobs to pass the time. What strange turns the Fates took.
Frost pulled his door shut behind him, setting the steaming bowl on his roughly hewn desk to cool while his eyes hunted the shelves lining the walls, looking for one book in particular. A book of memories he dared to peruse occasionally when he was feeling thoughtful. He wondered sometimes about the others’ pasts. He knew some of Miles, that Flame had found the youngling some twenty years prior of their eventual conjunction. He had been orphaned when his mother was horrifically torn apart by Drakes, and if he hadn’t made himself known to Flame, he wouldn’t have been found at all. Miles had an uncanny knack of being unseen when he wanted to be.
Come to think of it, Miles was a strange dragon in general. Extremely sensitive hearing and eyesight, perfect memory recall, and with those strange violet eyes of his, it was hard to believe he actually was a dragon. Yet, their healer had confirmed he was indeed very much of the dracon race, despite his abnormalities. He was a good kid, even with the oddities. A flirt to anything female, but still good-natured.
The biggest mystery, to everyone within the fortress, was the leader himself.
It was obvious to everyone who looked at Flame that he was of noble descent. That was clear from the way he held himself, spoke, and conducted business. The jewel-encrusted sword he kept at his side was just another indication of that. Aside from that? They knew nothing else of him. His name was an alias, as was all of theirs, he kept his abilities a closely guarded secret, and he had access to some impressive resources. He was leader for a very good reason.
Frost found the book he had been searching for and his fingers closed around the worn-down binding, pulling it from the shelf to let it lie in his hand. The cover was rather plain, no indication of what was inside and he laid it gently on the desk next to his cooling meal. He traced along the cover, following some hidden design only he could see, fingers light to the touch. Then he opened it and read the faded writing scrawled across the first page of the book.
'For your dearest memories, may this bring you happiness’
Frost sighed softly and let the cover fall back into place again. It had been many years since he actually had opened the pages. A journal, a sketchbook, an album, it was everything. It held pictures and dates, thoughts and memories of his youth…all the way up to the day his world fell apart.
“Happiness, huh?” He murmured softly. “Then why is it I only feel sadnesanytime I lay my eyes on you?”
The book remained silent and Frost turned away, grabbing his chilled meal as he sat with his back to the desk. Today was not the day to open it again.