Dragons of Fire & Ash

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Chapter 1: Airens Learn the Prophecy

King Balendin stood beside his wife, Queen Marina in the Court Hall. There was heavy tension in the hall, one that was drowning everyone, but most of all, Balendin. Uncertainty was the sharpest pinch of pain. He looked at Agusta, the highest sorceress of his kingdom with tensed brows. Marina moved towards him and clutched at his arm with a supportive intent before facing the woman who was going to change everything in their lives forever. Agusta, the sorceress.

Agusta was seated in the middle of the hall on a raised platform. Her eyes were shut and brows were creased. It was evident that she was using a lot of her energy to concentrate. The answer she sought was a point of flash in her mind that she desperately wanted to catch. Using another surge of her energies, her hand sprinted forward in her mind towards the point of light. The moment her hand touched the point, all answers dawned on her. A grim realization indeed. Her face scowled at the revelation, and she ever so gently opened her eyes.

Just as her eyes opened, she gently lifted herself off the elevation. All eyes in the hall were fixated on her. She made her way towards the King with steady steps, a bleak expression on her face. The King mirrored her stance and moved forward.

“King Balendin, the spirits have spoken,” she told him softly.

Balendin nodded absently, and Agusta turned towards the crowd, continuing-

“Airendelle, years ago our former king, Adorjan did something that no mortal should even dream of doing. He used forbidden magic to strain a heavenly being, the Mighty Golden Dragon. The repercussions of his indecisive actions have come back to us, his kingdom in the form of the Mighty Golden dragon which is still circling the city as I talk.”

Agusta paused to take a deep breath, taking in the reaction of the crowd. Everyone had stern eyes, their face dipped in sombre emotions and their lips tightened in a thin line. Their stern eyes looked at her with despair but a small ounce of hope was visible too. Hope for unfettered freedom from the dragon, once and for all.

She continued, “Atonement is a dreary walk, one abundant in desperation and gloom, but its fruit is the sweetest of all- the righteous and virginal soul. King Adorjan made rash decisions, so it is only right for his blood to atone.”

Agusta turned towards Balendin.

“King Balendin, you are the guardian of this kingdom and cannot divert from its duty. The spirits have asked for your only heir, your daughter as the price for atonement. Her blood is legitimate as well as virginal.”

Balendin was struck on his weakest nerve. His dear daughter, how can she be the price for the atonement? He had never been angrier at his ancestor. His clueless daughter will have to pay for his father’s deeds. Despite his internal crisis, he asked her, “How?”

The people in the hall shifted uncomfortably. Everybody knew the kind soul, the king’s only heir, Adora. She was loved by all as their own child. Agusta could sympathise with the king.

“The spirits asked her to be left outside of the kingdom.” After a small pause, she added- “Alone.”

“As the dragon’s food?” Balendin’s voice boomed with anger.

Agusta retreated back a bit at his outburst. “That was not specified. They just told me to leave her at the dragon’s mercy and that would be the atonement of your bloodline.”

Balendin hissed at this. How outrageous could fate be? The most innocent soul having to pay for someone else’s sins, what is this jest?

“I will do it,” came a voice.

Everybody turned to look at its source. All eyes fell on the slender form which was called Adora.

She ever so gracefully strode towards her parents and the sorceress. Her almond-shaped eyes, a deep brown colour, skimmed all the three faces with an intent. Before she could reach any closer, Marina, her mother came in front of her, halting her pace.

“What nonsensical notion is this? Do not pay it any heed my Adora. You are still young and have a fulfill-”

“Marina, stop it at once.” Balendin’s sudden intervention made Marina turn to him and burst into long-held tears.

“You are her father. How can you-”

Balendin interrupted her again- “Marina, fate cannot be played with and it is unbecoming of a Queen such as yourself to act so out of place. Maids, assist her highness to her chambers. She is no longer needed here.”

His words held a stern promise. Marina looked at her feet before wiping some of her tears and leaving the hall with long strides. Her maid wing followed her swiftly like the wind.

“Father, I will go,” Adora brought back the attention to herself. Her voice content with resolution and her eyes filled with promise.

She stepped a bit closer to her father. “It will be my honour to save my people from this monstrosity once and for all.”

If his tears had not shown up till now, they sure were present now. His daughter, always so subservient to duty. She was a painful reflection of his own mother, strong and full of will.

“My dear,” he softly whispered, “When did you grow up?”

He raised his fingers and slowly creased along her cheek. She was too innocent for such business. If he had the power, he would always keep her safe close to him and not let the nefarious world pollute her.

Sending their princess to the dragon was equal to pushing her into a pit of fire. One of the elderly ministers stepped forward towards Balendin. “Your Majesty, if you do not want to send the princess, we understand it. No word of this will go outside these walls.”

Other generals and ministers also agreed in unison. Balendin shook his head. “Your princess has decided and it is her duty. It pains me, it does but fate should not be defied.”

Agusta had moisture in her eyes. She had practically raised Adora along with Marina and now she was the one to give her a death sentence. How cruel was fate? Adora was one of the purest souls on the land and for her to fall in this predicament was indeed heartbreaking. She wiped the moisture of her eyes and proclaimed in her celestial voice-

“I beseech you all to pray for the princess. Under the first ray of the sun tomorrow morning, Princess Adora will be left outside the Kingdom grounds. Hail Kalysta and her spirits.”

Everyone prayed in unison while Balendin still could not believe that his daughter would go away forever tomorrow. His pained eyes looked at her round face. These were probably her last moments with him.

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