Tris ran through the tower. Up sets of stairs. Over railings and through rooms. Her lungs burned and the muscles in her legs screamed whenever she moved. It also didn’t help that her ankle hasn’t stopped burning since she twisted it while fighting the guards outside. None of that really mattered though. She had to get to Vale.
Suddenly, her vision went white as pain lanced through her mind making her stumble, but not collapse. It was hot and terrible and Tris had to stop and lean against the nearby wall for support as she gasped out unsteady breathes of air. A screech echoed from somewhere higher in the tower but Tris couldn’t pinpoint if it was in her mind or if the scream had actually come from inside the spire. It didn’t matter. Only Vale mattered.
“I’m coming…” Tris panted, pushing herself off the wall, her dark skin dripping with sweat as she bounded up the stairs, two-by-two, “Just hold on Vale! Please!”
As she leaped up the staircase, nearing the top slower than she wanted to, Tris heard a scrape of claws on stone and a shriek and stopped in front of a large metal door, reinforced with iron and glowing red hot as if someone where attempting to melt through the metal. Tris swallowed and reached out, feeling the heat radiating off the door before she could even touch it. Belloour… Tris thought, spitting in disgusting. The only metal that could fully repel a dragon’s flame – something only the Escheat Kingdom could afford to reinforce their doors with. So they did double cross me… Well never again! Tris growled and reached into her pouch, taking out a pair of thick, brown leather gloves and pulling them over her trembling hands with a nod.
Alright Tris. Whatever happens, you gotta get Vale out of this place. Doesn’t matter what happens to you… Just get Vale out. Tris pushed her dark violet, nearly black hair out of her face. It was so matted with sweat and blood; she didn’t even need to tie it back anymore. With a silent prayer to the elder dragons, Tris rushed forward and grabbed the belloour enforced door and pulled with all her might. Her hands hissed against the heat that had gathered in the metal, but against her leather gloves the heat didn’t even reach her fingers. Thank the elders for dragon leather! Tris thought, feeling the door begin to open with a groan of effort. Her feet threatened to slip out from under her, from the weight of the door or her twisted ankle, Tris didn’t know or care. A roar bellowed from within the room and that alone gave her newfound strength.
“Vale!!!!!!!!” The girl screamed, stumbling back as the entrance opened and she ran inside, gasping for air.
It was horrible. Tris didn’t know where to set her gaze first because it was all just…horrible. Blood drenched the floors in fresh and drying patches and tools of torment lay scattered around, dripping black. Glittering amber scales littered the floor and Tris almost wretched right there, her stomach twisting as she forced the bile out of her throat. The echo of chains rattling made Tris dizzy for a moment and combined with the smell of blood, burning leather and her own exhaustion, she almost fell over. The screech of talons and grit woke her up though and the woman whipped toward the sound, her breath getting caught in her throat.
Vale screamed at the pair of armor clad guards that herded him into a corner, teeth bared and claws ready. The dragon had a large gash scored across his muzzle that oozed with blood and pus and portions of his body where his auburn scales had fallen off were red and raw. His leathery wings were pressed tightly against his body, making him seem smaller than he actually was. He was only still a child in terms of dragon sizes, but now he just looked pitifully small. Tris felt rage burning in her belly as she saw her companion backed into a corner, forced to stare down at belloour reinforced weapons helplessly. Tris swept her gaze around quickly and saw a pile of bodies lying in the corner, their bodies slashed and charred. At least he’d managed to take some of them down.
“We should just kill the damned thing right here!” One of the remaining guards growled to his partner, shoving his glittering spear closer to Vale who hissed, slithering his head forward to snap at the weapon. Even without his fire, a dragon’s bite was still deadly – especially a poisonous dragon like Vale.
“You know we can’t do that. First we gotta break him – the crown prince wants him for himself.” The second guard laughed, slashing at the dragon’s neck with his short blade. The other guard joined in on the laughter and Tris didn’t need any more coaxing. With a scream of rage, she leaped on the closest guardsman, wrapping her arms around his neck and her legs around his torso. He wasn’t about to throw her off so easily! In the confusion, the second guard stumbled back in surprise and Vale took his chance and wrapped his jaws around the second knight. Tris only heard the crunch of metal and bones and tightened her grip on the guardsman’s neck, leaning close to him with a wicked grin.
“You and your prince really are bastards, you know that! I hope the elders have a hearty feast upon your wickedness for eternity for what you’ve done,” Tris hissed in his ear, listening to the guard sputter and gasp, flailing around with her on his back, “And remember my name and speak it to the elder gods when they ask you who you fell to: Tristana Yilivia!”
The guard let out a gurgle of words before collapsing to the blood soaked floor, Tris falling with him. Gasping as her head met stone she looked up as stars danced in her eyes, darkness threatening to consume her vision when Vale’s angular head poked into her vision. The dragon leaned down, nudging her in the stomach and the girl let out an exhausted huff, rolling onto one side with a hoarse laugh.
“No time to play Talenvale! We gotta get you out of here…” Tris groaned, pushing herself shakily to her feet.
“What about you? You look absolutely ragged.” Tris sighed, pressing the heel of her hand to her forehead as Vale’s voice entered her mind. Of course she was familiar with the feeling of his warm, soothing voice wrapping itself around her consciousness but never while she was half-starved and exhausted to high hell.
“F-forget about me Vale. I’m getting you home! If we can get to Dobra Pass then Torche-Cul will be a breeze. We can tell the others and – “ Tris trailed off, leaning against the amber dragon as her exhaustion threatened to overtake her right there. Weak as he was, Vale leaned into the girl with a warm growl that rumbled from his chest into her muscles, giving them strength. Reaching toward him, Tris scratched against his scales gently with a smile.
“I know you don’t want to go back to Torche-Cul, especially with me, but we need to warn everyone that this region isn’t safe. If the Escheat’s are really trying to build a dragon army that’s the first place they’ll go…” Tris sighed, reaching into her bag, pulling out a pair of what looked to be clumps of dried mud stumbling to the nearest wall and began pressing the mud into the stone with a grunt of effort. Nearby, Vale watched her, his golden eyes glittering and tail flicking back and forth.
“I understand Tristana. ..I only hope that the chief will understand the reasons for our return.” Vale huffed, steam billowing from his nostrils before he wrapped his head around, nudging the raw patches of flesh between his scales.
“They have to!” Tris snapped, stepping back from the wall once she was finished pressing the mud into the wall. Awkwardly, she limped her way back to Vale and moved his head to inspect the wounds and furrowed her brow. They had a long way to fly and Vale had a lot of wounds that would need to be treated as soon as they could otherwise he could get an infection and…
“Tris. Focus. There are more guards coming.” Vale snapped, head whipping toward the door while opening his jaws in a scream of disdain. Tris followed his gaze and narrowed her green eyes and grabbed onto one of Vale’s protruding spines on his neck and pulled herself onto his back with a wince. As much as she loved riding Vale, without her saddle to cushion her against his scales it would only make her already terrible day even worse. That’s the least of your problems Tris… She thought, grabbing onto the other spines of Vale’s neck, turning his head.
“I know you probably don’t have a lot of fire left babe, but I’m gonna need just a little bit of heat!” Tris coaxed, earening a low, silken chuckle that wrapped itself warming around her mind.
“For you Tris? ..always.” Vale purred, opening his mouth as the temperature of the room dramatically increased.
“Get them!!” A voice yelled from behind and Tris whirled atop the dragon, eyes wide as she nudged the beast beneath as urgently as she could as soldiers began to pour into the room.
“Vale!!” She screeched, looking down at the dragon as a ball of flame shot from his jaws, hitting the mud smeared wall with a deafening bang that shook the entire tower. Tris blinked, dazed, as the blast deafened her, her vision spinning. Thankfully, it looked like the effect of her Blast Caps also stunned the soldiers who were pouring into the room. Many of them were scatted, blasted to the sides and others stumbled into one another dizzily. Thankfully, the Blast Caps also did just as she had intended – crumble away the tower wall. Early morning light poured into the dungeon room and Vale screeched with glee, wings opened and haunches bunched up as he prepared to leap into the crisp open air. Tris groped for anything to hold onto and squeezed his neck tightly with her thighs, her voice caught in her throat. It didn't matter anyway; Vale understood and with a powerful flap of his wings, the dragon was tens of feet in the air, screaming victory to the wind.
Squinting against the rush of air to her face, Tris glanced before, watching the soldiers stumble around one another and felt her stomach twist as she stared down at the castle grounds below them getting further away with every flap of Vale’s wings. She’d done it. She snuck into the Escheat fortress – the Impregnable Throne – and rescued Talenvale. Tris sighed deeply, pressing herself close to Vale’s neck, relishing the feeling of his warmth beneath her. It had only been three months since she had lost him and she already didn’t want to let him go.
“Never again…” She murmured against his scales, running her leather bound finger tips over his neck.
“Hmmm? What was that Tris?” Vale murmured gently to her. Tris swallowed hard, closing her eyes to stop the threat of tears spilling over and just shook her head.
“Nothing. Just that I missed you.”
“…I missed you too, itov.” Vale whispered to her gently. Tris stroked his neck once more and sat up, adjusting her position on his back and glanced back at the wrecked tower, satisfied. It would take a while for them to repair the damages and regain the number of troops they lost. If anything, that gave Tris plenty of time to reach the hidden canyon Torche-Cul – home of the Earth Dragons and Vale’s hatching ground. They just had to keep fly –
Tris stopping thinking, pain shooting like a flame through her chest. She looked down, eyes wide in wonder when she saw an arrow protruding from her chest. How did… Tris thought, looking down at Vale who shrieked, beginning to flap his wings wildly. Then she turned and caught a glimpse of a figure standing at the top of the fortress gates, crossbow in hand and a billowing crimson cloak floating behind him like a wild flame.
It couldn’t be.
Prince Edris… was here the whole time? Tris though as she fell back against Vale’s neck, the warmth of his scales suddenly scorching her. How could she have been so stupid to forget about the most infamous marksman in the Escheat kingdom? ..how could she have missed him..? How could she… Tris tried to blink, tried to think, but her mind and body seemed to be weighed down by an invisible force. She touched the arrow and felt wetness on her fingers. Opening her mouth to speak, she found even that to be too hard. Instead, Tris pressed herself as close as she could to Talenvale and let a wave of darkness pull her under.
At least…he’ll never get Vale now…