Jasyra ducked for cover as the feathered dragon swooped past the castle tower and unleashed its fiery breath. She watched as her green skinned companion, Evooku, rolled out of the way and let loose an arrow from his bow. It struck home, hitting the winged beast between ribs. For a creature its size, however, the arrow was a mere annoyance. It arched a brightly coloured leg up and back to rip out the shaft, screaming out in anger.
“Quickly, to the throne room!” cried Jasyra. Her silent companion nodded.
They ran along the battlements and Jasyra saw the city below was burning. Screams and cries echoed as the crown guard and city folk tried desperately to put out fires lit by the Demon Emperor’s beasts.
Rounding a corner, Jasyra smelt the smoky scent of candles and heard the murmuring of the castle wizards. She saw her father, the high king, standing in his dusty armour. It had been a long time since he had needed to wear it.
“Summon the guardians!” the high king cried, and the robed wizards’ murmur rose to a shouted chant that echoed throughout the chamber. Blue and violet flames danced around the ancient throne, spreading throughout the room. Jasyra stood in amazement; she had never seen Dragon Fyre before. The air hummed with energy and the fine hairs on her arms stood up. Evooku’s amber eyes seemed to glow more strongly than usual.
Jasyra breathed deep. The guardians were their last hope. Ancient spirits had long protected the kingdom in its time of need and would listen to the cries of their king. They had to. The Dragon Fyre flared and she watched as her father reached for a massive sword that hung from the wall.
The chamber trembled with a sudden rush of wind that blew the Dragon Fyre out. Jasyra turned to watch as one of the feathered dragons, larger and fiercer than any she’d seen so far, pushed its angular head through the hole it had just punched through the castle wall. Clawed legs tore great marks in the rock as it scrambled in, growling and glaring at the soldiers who backed away. Its huge wings barely fit in the room. Even in her state of terror, Jasyra marvelled at their beauty. Each wing was made of feathers of every color imaginable, and some that were not. Legend had it that the feathers were razor-sharp and could cut through skin and bone.
A great figure, shrouded in shadows, leapt from the dragon’s back. Clad in golden armour decorated with white feathers dipped in blood, the Demon Emperor stepped into the chamber. His red skin shimmered like the ripples of a pond and Jasyra gasped as she looked to his helmet, the skull of some terrible creature covered with horns. A fan of brilliant long red feathers spread out like a crown.
In one hand was a large circular shield, white and battered. At its center, the skull of some long dead soul was embedded, its mouth open in an endless silent scream. The Demon Emperor smashed his weapon, a mighty axe, against the shield with an echoing clang. Shards of bone fell and tumbled to the floor, bursting into smoke when they hit the stones.
The axe handle was carved from dark wood and stained with what she could only imagine was the blood of the Demon Emperor’s victims. The two sharp faces of the weapon glittered in the light. She’d heard of this weapon: Zaratur, crafted from a volcanic glass called obsidian, cut from lava formed by the volcanoes in the Demon Emperor’s underworld home.
Behind Jasyra, the high king held out the Dragon Fyre Blade. “Mezolissi,” he cried, ”you will never take our kingdom!”
With that, he leapt forward. Her father was a tall man, well-known as the best swordsman in the lands. He swung the massive blade out to strike at the Demon Emperor who slid back easily and opened his mouth in reply. Black lightning danced over his tongue and shot out in a bolt, striking the high king in the chest. He fell back a step, but kept his footing.
Jasyra reached into her quiver and pulled out a silver-tipped arrow. She nocked it and drew back her bow, waiting for the right moment. Her father shook off the effects of the black lightning as the Demon Emperor lifted his obsidian axe over his head, preparing to split the high king in two. Zaratur glowed with a dark light, dripping gobbets of magical liquid like drool. The axe hungered for blood. Before the Demon Emperor could complete his downward swing, Jasyra loosed her arrow. It found a gap in the golden armour and sank deep into the Demon Emperor’s shoulder. He screamed in rage and his dragon roared with him, bringing shards of rock crashing down from the ceiling.
The Demon Emperor turned to face Jasyra, spitting another bolt of black lightning. Just before it slammed into her chest, green-skinned Evooku tackled her out of the way. The bolt exploded a column behind her, sending bigger sections of the ceiling tumbling all around the combatants.
“Jasyra!” cried her father. He ran at the Demon Emperor, swinging the sword with two hands.
The blade arced towards the Demon Emperor who stepped back and lifted his axe to defend himself, holding his shield of bone high. The blade of the sword struck the axe face with an almighty clang. A pulse of light filled the room, blinding Jasyra. Beside her, Evooku grunted and shielded his amber eyes. When she could see again, after a few seconds, she gasped. Her father, the high king, stood staring in shock at the broken hilt of his weapon. With a clang that echoed through the room, the king dropped the hilt to the stone floor.
“No! This cannot be!” she yelled. ”The Dragon Fyre Blade has no match!”
The Demon Emperor laughed, greenish-black smoke spiralling from his mouth. In a voice like burning coals he growled, “Foolish mortals. Without Dragon Fyre to power it, you have nothing but a mortal sword. And now I have destroyed it.”
He raised his axe and shield into the air, and the green-black smoke reached out like tendrils. It gathered up the broken sword pieces and they floated in the air before him. He spoke words that seemed to crackle and spark in the air and the pieces of the sword faded and disappeared one by one.
With a cruel smile, he pointed Zaratur, the axe, at the high king. With a word of dark power, Jasyra’s father was instantly transformed into obsidian - a statue of volcanic glass reflecting the chamber’s torchlight.
“Finish them!” shouted the Demon Emperor in triumph. His feathered dragon roared in response before flying out the huge hole it had created in the castle wall. Skeletal warriors swarmed into the room, rounding up the remaining guards with obsidian-tipped spears.
The Demon Emperor stepped towards Jasyra.
She stepped back, fumbling for another arrow. “You’ll have to stop me before taking the kingdom!” she screamed.
The Demon Emperor smiled again. “Dear girl. You are no match, even if you had the Dragon Fyre Blade. I have sent the six pieces to the farthest reaches of the world, each guarded by dangerous and deadly beasts. Only one who is not of this land can break my spell and unite the pieces. And without the blade, the kingdom will be mine again. Forever.”
Jasyra spat in his face as a reply, but her bow hung loose at her side. She knew it was helpless.
“I should kill you now,” said the Demon Emperor. “But knowing you failed your father and your kingdom is a better fate for you. Be gone!”
With that, the Demon Emperor slammed his axe against his shield. A cloud of lightning-sparked blackness issued forth, surrounding Jasyra. She looked down to see the ground swirling beneath her. Evooku reached out and grabbed her hand as the world spun away and they fell, tumbling downwards, spinning and falling through a whirlpool of darkness.