Prologue - Crossing The Endless Sea
There was a time, when I was not the last of the Elementals. Although that now seems like an eternity ago.
We were a proud and mighty race, spanning the length and breadth of the Crimson Plains. Over the summits of the Azure Mountains whose lofty crags gave save refuge to our eyrie’s nestlings. Through the lush forests and undulating hills of the breath-taking Claret Flats, all the way to the Sapphire Reaches of the Endless Sea. Yes, we were a great race, once…
But our downfall was not the swift felling like that of a tail-tripped youngster. No, ours was a slow and gradual decline like that of a meandering morning glide. At our height, many generations ago, we lived in peace alongside the wingless ones who in their short lived lives regaled our kind with lively tales and an abundance of rare and exotic foods. Some of our kind resisted the temptations of such earthly delights and instead chose to live humbly like the wise ones of old. Although many did not...they grew fat and their numbers swelled greatly on the charity of the wingless ones who, in turn, learned that appeasing the sky serpent’s appetites was no longer optional.
In one lifetime the serpents
beneath the crags overwhelmed their resources. And as the wingless ones
resisted the serpents pushed them to very edges of the Sapphire Reaches and to the brink of destruction.
With their backs to the Endless Sea the wingless ones' resolve to survive only seemed to harden. And in their final hour they’re cunning little minds devised a simple weapon of great power, a Wind Lance.
The Elementals watched on from the safety of their mountain eyries as this new weapon wreaked havoc upon the serpents below the crags. The wingless ones drove the serpents all the way back to the Crimson Plains. And so, for a generation an uneasy peace reigned as neither race would cross the threshold between the newly shattered realms.
In that time the serpent’s numbers still grew and their bodies became increasingly deformed. While some serpents lost flight altogether, others could do little more than glide from hilltop to hilltop. I now suspect the wingless ones had something to do with that...
In those hard times I was fortunate enough to find a mate within the eyries of the Azure Mountains. She was not as pure of blood as I, but her grace and her bearing certainly made up for any shortcomings I may have foolishly perceived. We had sired a nestling before the wingless ones departed our realm.
Many in the eyrie thought it was the swelling numbers of serpents below the crags and their impending invasion that made them board their winged ships and leave. But I believed that they foresaw an even greater threat from the crags of the Azure Mountains…the Elementals. We who watched on silently from our lofty perch and being the only ones with the strength to finally push them effortlessly into the Endless Sea.
And so, the wingless ones left our shattered realm and the serpents were briefly satisfied. But their backs were not turned to the crags for long. With an insatiable blood lust and little to do they began to encroach upon our mountain domain. I was away hunting for my kin when they overwhelmed the eyrie.
Only the strongest managed to escape. The assault on the mountain was so fierce and so unrelenting that the nestling’s tortured screams could be heard from as far away as the Crimson Plains, where I was that day…
I took flight and covered the terrain within the blink of an eye. But in reality I was far too late. In my dazed state I ignored the advice of those who had tried to claim back the eyrie ahead of me. And so, I alone assaulted that startled hive. With flame and tooth and claw I fought the abominations through the catacombs of the mountain’s eyrie, until I found them…my nestling, cradled in the comforting arms of her mother.
Until that moment I had not known the extent of the rage that could swell so quickly within a pure-blooded Elemental. I felt the flame within expand my chest and lost myself to its fury. I have no memory of what happened next, nor that of being dragged out of the burrows of the eyrie by my tail, by the one we later came to call our sire.
In time I returned to their tomb of stone, still uninhabited by either race. I saw why. They tell me that for two nights the eyrie glowed brightly with the heat my enraged flame brought forth. I saw the gouges in the hard stone my talons made as I was dragged from the mountain. And the cliff where my younger sire had wisely thrown my numbed body from. Instinct alone flared my exhausted wings that day as we left our ruined home.
Everywhere we went the serpents below the crags found us. Although they suffered far more casualties, they’re ranks still seemed to swell. Through the time that followed we grew old. Our numbers dwindled to a few dozen. And as fate would have it the only refuge left to us was within the wingless ones stone fortresses on the Sapphire Reaches of the Endless Sea.
Walking among the stone arches within the keep I realised something long forgotten, hope. Hidden within the wide promenades was the faint hope of the wingless ones. Even though they were in all-out war with the serpents, they still built their stone walls wide enough for us Elementals to pass through comfortably. Perhaps they hoped we would not watch their plight forever. What fools…we were, that is.
At that moment and with that glimmer of a thought in mind the serpents breached the walls of the keep. We fought them again with flame and tooth and claw, but still they came.
For two days we defended the inner citadel until we numbered only a talon full. I turned to our sire and spoke of the wingless ones hope. He looked to the Endless Sea and without a single glance back or word spoken he took flight.
Battle worn we followed...soaring out over the deep blue. And as if fate were finally on our side for once the fabled West Wind that seldom blows more than once a lifetime gave strength to our tired wings.
We soared on through the night with little more than a fool’s hope and a strong wind to guide us. A few fell from the air and many more trailed out of sight. Until it was only my sire and I left upon the fabled West Wind.
On the second day, what little strength left in my wings gave out and I tumbled into the deep blue. But what happened next surprised me most of all. My sire turned back and chose to land upon the blue with me. We both stared at one another without words, without malice or a hope of ever taking to the air again.
And then we heard it…the sapphire waters surrounding us turned to black and the creature from below opened its gigantic maws and my sire was gone.
Were it a simple choice I would have gladly given my being in place of his. But fate rarely gives us such gifts. I watched helplessly on as my sire was taken from this world. But what fate takes away with one talon, it often gives back something entirely different with another.
So, in the creature’s eager attempt to satiate its hunger it surged powerfully up and out of its own aquatic asylum. Instinctively, I set my clawed talons deeply into its rubbery flesh as it passed by and we were both sent into my skyward sanctuary. And if that were not as sweet a sign of my own survival, I peer down into the creature’s cold obsidian eye.
To this day I do not know whether in that moment the being behind that eye felt fear as my chest bellowed with that familiar heat. I like to think so though. For when we met the summit of our climb I let the immense creature below me know the full force of my swelling rage. Molten flames flew fast from my throat before the creature could reef its almighty head away from me. With new found strength, I flared my rent wings wide and caught the strong currents of the West Wind once more.
That was three days ago. And still I ride the West Wind in hope of landfall soon. He was the last of the great Elementals. Forever gone, but never forgotten. I do not know why I was spared, old and far passed my prime. So I glide helplessly on…
It is odd where the mind travels while soaring through the blue. I remember the countless hours of lessons my father put me through while learning to take to the wing. While others played, I was made to stretch my flight membranes. While others slept soundly during the daylight hours, I was made to memorise flying manoeuvres and proper hunting techniques.
I always silently resented him for that. But I suppose I was the first of our communal clutch to take to the wing and by far the most successful hunter. So they must have been right for all their perceived wrongs. And I was never left unguarded, nor did I ever want for food like others within the clutch. While my mother gave lessons my father hunted to feed us all. And when my father patiently instructed, my mother would hunt. That in itself was rare.
Although my father would never admit it aloud I believe he thought she was by far the better hunter. We would always see her off from the outer cliffs of our eyrie’s rocky crags. I would often watch my father as his eye followed her seemingly effortless flight. His breath would catch in his mouth ever so slightly as she soared gracefully over the distant horizon. They never lost that love and wonder for one another, even until the flames within them could catch alight little more than a talon full of branches.
When that time came they both chose to fly one last time across the Crimson Plains, over the Azure Mountains and glide through the Claret Flats. And together they soared out over the Endless Sea. I will always remember that final moment with peaceful longing.
I was raised in the time before the wisdom of age was replaced by the arrogance of youth. Perhaps that is why I have survived this journey so far…
I recall one day before they passed out over the Deep Blue. I asked them why I was the only nestling they reared when so many others raised so many more clutches of young. They laughed and told me that while the weather was favourable now and the food plentiful neither would last forever. They never knew how right they were. I am glad they passed before the realm descended into chaos. It would have broken their peaceful spirits.
You see they were Elementals as well. And while a belly full of fire is of benefit to any dragon. Elementals possess an even greater gift. We hold the memories of all our ancestors that have come before us, although they only surface when we are fully grown.
And all of mine tell me now that the wingless ones who left our realm long ago, did not just set out to cross this Endless Sea. They were returning home as well. So, I soar onwards…
And as the great sandy orb in the sky slowly sinks below the horizon once more I revel in the sight before me.
For I am an Elemental, I am old, I am weary and I am the first dragon to ride the West Wind across the Endless Sea…