Diamond Dragons (Book I) - Ch. I-IX Only
by Matthew S. Carauddo
Copyright © 2018 - 21xx, Ziwalos Productions. All Rights Reserved. No reproductions of any kind are permitted without express permission. No portion of this work, nor its media, images, nor other materials such as: copy, text, icons, graphics, nor headers may be reproduced in any form without express, demonstrable permission from the publisher (Ziwalos Productions, L.L.C.), except as permitted by U.S. copyright law.
~~~ BOOK I ~~~
“Before I start, I must see my end.
Destination known, my mind’s journey now begins.
Upon my chariot, heart and soul’s fate revealed:
In time, all points converge, hope’s strength re-steeled.
But to earn final peace at the universe’s endless refrain,
We must see all in nothingness... before we start again!”
ABRIDGED CONTENTS (CH. I-IX)
CHAPTER I -- “The Road Often Traveled” (Prologue)
CHAPTER II -- “Barren Thrones”
CHAPTER III -- “Infinite Wings”
CHAPTER IV - “A Rude Awakening”
CHAPTER V -- “Shadows and Bones”
CHAPTER VI -- “A Living Legend”
CHAPTER VII -- “Words of Warning”
CHAPTER VIII -- “Courage Under Fire”
CHAPTER IX -- “The Last Stand”
~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~
CHAPTER I -- “The Road Often Traveled” (Prologue)
The battle was lost! But the elder dragon’s retreat flight was a serious, calculated strategy. As his earthen-brown wings rhythmically snapped in the relative wind, sounds of devastation echoed at the rear. The sun’s rays radiated a ferocious heat upon that Starsday, and the planet’s two moons were partially visible... but a deep sense of foreboding haunted the natural beauty of the lands known as ‘Taelondria’.
Far below, a worn but well-kept cobblestone road separated two swaths of towering, millennia-old trees. As the ancient dragon’s shadow rippled over the stonework and chaparral, he descended. At the rocky path’s vanishing point resided a glorious, multi-colored, crystalline castle. But this was no ordinary fortress--not built by the hands of a hundred men--Nae. It was forged by the claws of dragons.
These majestic creatures christened this keep ‘Kessoshaero’. It was not for humans to understand.
Wages of war continued to reverberate far behind the old leader as his altitude decreased. Ranged assaults from sky high still exploded far in the distance. The elder patriarch--named Leijimoto--gracefully touched down as his wings recoiled. Without so much as a pause, he effortlessly shifted into a stalwart stride down the wide track of sandy bricks. As he marched, his wings folded into helical layers at his back, grateful for the respite. But there was little time to spare: the vitric walls and hallowed grounds of Kessoshaero awaited.
Elder Leijimoto was a true warrior, but also facing the proverbial eleventh-hour of his life, well past his physical prime. But behind his majestically designed bifocals, Leiji’s aging teal eyes shrouded more important concerns. He feared that his orders to regroup at Kessoshaero may have come too late. Elder’s sharp claws bore remnants of what he’d faced in battle: fragments of glowing bone. His own wounds were inconsequential, but unfortunately, this was not the case for many others. Warriors. Friends. Family.
Reflecting as he paced down the path, Leijimoto considered a dozen tactical choices. Refracting in the sunshine, Leijimoto’s twelve sinewy digits displayed ornate rings of various gemstones. Subtle power swirled within the adornments; as if light, fog, and mist were trapped under glassy spheres of crystalline wonder...
Mysterious energy also seethed within Leijimoto’s fierce cerulean eyes. And lost behind those noble eyes... were distant memories. Chronicles of eons past; a society of dragons which embodied vast knowledge, true honor, selfless bravery, and immense history. These dragons (or ‘Zell’ in their unique language) were not merely soulless creatures buried within banal legends, nor were these winged titans hellish beasts to conquer. Neither did they hail from folklore of flying lizards hoarding troves of silver and gold. The Zell of Kessoshaero constituted a multi-faceted family. A society of writers, cooks, strategists, warriors and minstrels alike--but also: poets and dreamers.
But upon this foul Starsday, dreamers’ dreams were shattered. This war was Taelondria’s worst in Epochs, and Leijimoto brewed upon the land’s dire circumstances. As he marched ever closer to Kessoshaero’s drawbridge, several innocent, adorable woodland creatures peeked from the lush thicket at his left and right. These were familiar, innocent little loves (‘Gleckos’) which Leiji would have normally taken moments to greet, care for, feed, and even with whom to invoke ‘conversation’! But, Nae--no time--not now. Elder Leijimoto regretfully passed by each and every furry critter with little regard, offering only crumbs of forced smiles.
As he arrived upon the castle’s drawbridge, his footfalls echoed into its circular chasm below. After passing a dozen of Kessoshaero’s guards, he was soon but a wings-length from the colossal, crystalline main gate. He reached into his utility belt. Obscured by his leathery scales (and a meager purple cloak) was a regal, three-pronged, aureate key. This key was unlike any which humans would have ever created. The coppery, golden artifact contained multiple complexities--tiny gears, intricate designs, and ridged latches. It boasted a pistol-like, karambit-style grip with three holes. These openings allowed a Zell’s claws to slip through and to easily clutch the key--akin to a weapon--though it was nothing of the such.
It was not for humans to understand.
Before inserting it into the lock, with careful claws, Leijimoto skillfully shifted the key’s triad of metallic parts, rotating angled pins and jagged tines. He slipped the three-headed device into its matching port which was recessed within the bolted door. His hand twisted counter-clockwise about forty-five degrees, clockwise sixty clicks or more, then finally--counter to near ninety.
Kessoshaero’s complex locking system snapped and shuddered. Leijimoto’s arcane knowledge granted the venerable old dragon successful access. The giant gateway’s elaborately crafted merlons creaked and interlocking crenels parted, revealing the magnificent castle’s interior...