Chapter III - "Infinite Wings"
Shadows cast from Taelondria’s dual moons were unique, unlike those upon a planet with one such sphere in the void. Often, when both moons were at polar opposite ends, and each reflected sunlight upon the terrain... shadows appeared ‘crisp’. It was a phenomenon which few understood.
In fact, humans of Earth would never have comprehended the monumental scale of the planet which the dragons inhabited. It was easily closer to the diameter of Saturn or Jupiter. But it was difficult to be certain, as the Zell of Taelondria retained no chronicled explorations of space; or, so historical records expressed. Although they could fly with great haste and resilient endurance, as any atmosphere grew thin, a Zell’s lungs would dearly suffer. Had any chanced a voyage into the darkness, few to none would have endured. Even the mightiest of Zell were bound by finite resources.
But like dozens upon dozens of other planets, the environments in Taelondria bore some similarities. Oceans, forests, deserts, mountains, and swamps certainly existed. However, upon this particular night upon their planet, all regions appeared magically surreal. And during this mysterious eve upon their planet, an epic battle took place in the star-decorated skies of their lands, far, far away from Kessoshaero...
Amidst the gaseous clouds of the dark night, dozens of Zell swooped, dove, spun, flipped, and twisted. Symphonic bursts of elegant energies and flickers of flame countering ice glowed as gaping jaws unhinged. But the devastating destruction was often evaded by their magnificently poetic, helical aerobatics.
So many variant powers blasted throughout the skies (‘Oos’), it was easiest to collectively identify them all as ‘violent arrays of elemental fury’. Streaks of fire versus ice, and vectors of lightning dissipated by acid--just to name four. But there were far more energies in play than solely these base four.
As the battle raged in the skies, they clawed and stung. There were far too many wings to count within this ‘battle royale’. Too many to describe by name, type, age, demeanor and their individual histories. However, perhaps by focusing upon a mere TRIAD of these Zell, it would allow even the most common being to grasp an inkling of understanding. Certainly, creatures of legendary intelligence (with lifespans of similar duration) might one day begin to study just how multi-faceted the Zell of Taelondria truly were, but, overall...
...Zell were not for humans to understand.
Soaring like a bolt of lightning, Jackralvian, a white and silvery-grey dragon valiantly fought alongside his Zell Amals (‘dragon friends/allies’). He was of no special regard, and seemed most like any other Zell, save one major difference. Jackralvian was not born with the power to breathe fire, ice, lightning, acid, nor otherwise. This was not absolutely unheard of, but it was most certainly rare.
As Jackralvian swooped and slashed at shadowy assailants upon the eerie night, his closest ally and Amal, Link, battled more enemies not five wingspans away. But Link was not a dragon; she was a dragonfly!
Link the ‘Ys Zell’ was smaller than all of her dragon allies--about half (or less) the size of any traditional Zell--but she clearly understood her strengths and weaknesses twelvefold. Her immense speed made her a sight to see. Her rainbow-like wings and multi-colored patterns left a distinctive blur in her fluttering wake. As the cat-like sprite zipped about the skyline, she distracted and deterred their enemies.
Link had narrowly saved Jackralvian’s scales on more than one occasion. This eve seemed to be an odd exception: Jackralvian was crushing his attackers--smashing through them like wildfire! Normally, this result was unheard of; most certainly rare. Kessoshaero’s enemies were sinister monstrosities of glowing bone, known as ‘Zen’th Zell’ (bone / ghost dragons). Somehow animated even after initial death, these ghastly calamities fed upon the souls of the living in order to perpetuate their now undead existences. Normally, they were beyond deadly, but tonight, somehow, they were less so.
One Zen’th in particular sought to destroy Jackralvian. He (or ‘it’) was the most behemoth of all ghost dragons: Nitrozite. Nitrozite was a phantasmal, skeletal beast--oft referred to as the ‘wraith of souls’, and he commanded unspeakable demonic power. Despite his ghastly visage and vampiric existence, Nitrozite was as intelligent as any living Zell of flesh and blood--perhaps more so. He was no monster with which to be trifled. A gargantuan nightmare which not even the Grim Reaper itself seemed able to subjugate. Clearly.
And clearly, Nitrozite was poised to burst a destructive stream of doom right through Jackralvian’s heart!
Fortunately, Raeniya, the red Zell of fire and brimstone flanked the foul monolith of bone, and Nitrozite’s poisonous assault missed by a wing’s length! Raeniya not only fought alongside Jackralvian and Link--but she was also a best friend (‘Amal’) and mentor to both. More experienced and slightly older, her powers of Flam (fire / flame) were among the most extreme--even compared to her instructors!
Intervening, Raeniya charged Nitrozite and executed a mighty tail bash to his bony abdomen. Turbulently knocked out of control, Nitrozite tumbled through the skies as dozens of Zell engaged dozens of Zen’th.
Jackie, Link and Raeniya--the three Amals (‘friends’)--engaged in combat with their numerous ghostly enemies. On this surreal Starseve--there, folded into the maelstrom of Vas Tach (‘massive war’)--were far too many winged beasts to count. No matter where one began nor ended a tally of Zell--even when one fell from the Oos (‘sky’)--no final calculation could be made. Beginning a count of flying foes again--once more (as in, forever)--would yield more data, but nothing definitive: there were simply hordes beyond dozens. Results which seemed to be, or Nae--were endless Zell about the stars (‘Vas Oos’). Beside this fact, a final sum was of no use to humans anyhow--it was not for them to understand (for all of Ziwalos).
Fire collided with ice. Lightning negated meteoric obsidian and dissipated poisonous gas. The Starseve’s moons grew closer as the Zell and their dark foes clawed, tore, burned, and ripped at one another. Mad hordes flew, and countless skirmishes raged on. It seemed that there were more beasts and elemental streams splitting the airwaves than there were stars.
Thunder and lightning. Saturated clouds wept streaks of ice and water as the two moons moved in parallax. In a chaotic flurry of wings and claws, Jackralvian was separated from Link and Raeniya. He soon discovered that none of his superiors were in-range to render aid, nor did they have line-of-sight. Oblivious, each warrior fought their own battles elsewhere. Somehow, Jackralvian was isolated.
The ice fall and rain intensified as a dense fog swiftly rolled in. Jackralvian was alone, but not for long. Six hidden Zen’th Zell wraiths detected him, congregated, and engaged in breakneck pursuit! Jackie fled from the apparitions, unable to face such overwhelming odds. But the six spectral Zen’th kept pace, hot on his trail, closing with every snap of their insubstantial wings. They were nearly in range to overtake him.
Rumbling. Lightning and thunder struck once more. Six pursued. Three and three.
Jackralvian began to panic. Being physically assailed was one type of burden. But the overwhelming fear he experienced was paralyzing. Imprisoned behind these mental bars, his mind began to drown in a sea of what deaths might befall him. Every Zell of Taelondria knew that there was something beyond the horror of never again awakening. Something far, far worse. The soul-shattering fear that once a Zell was killed and thus, ‘dead’--Nae, it was not the end: it could be raised again.
The six wraiths closed in. Jackralvian flew harder and faster, but it was no use: his stalkers seized him, mid-flight. Speared by their ivory stiletto claws, the silver Zell was trapped. Helplessly suspended in the rain as blasts of lightning flashed, Jackralvian’s adrenaline masked his pain as he wrenched left and right. But a ravine of sharp rocks loomed far below. Three Zen’th bashed and cut with brutal disregard while the other three demons immobilized his wings and lower appendages. Jackralvian was crucified against nothing but the Oos itself. He clawed and struggled to no avail.
Slashes! Wounds! Seething acidic breath seared his flesh. Ethereal claws raked. Jackie’s blood-curdling anguish echoed into the blackness above and down toward the ravine below. But--oddly--no allies heard nor aided him. Only the six Zen’th listened, reveling as his unbearable cries of suffering fueled their hatred. Their stares were blank--emotionless. Strangely, the battlefield now seemed devoid of everything and everyone except the six Zen’th and the one Zell named Jackralvian.
He was alone. Hail and rain intensified. All at once, a blinding splinter from the sky struck Jackie’s head! Smoldering, it left behind branching, burning scar lines upon his skull--types of ‘Lichtenburg figures’.
Ironically, the blast of lightning was both a blessing and curse. Electrified and shocked, the six Zen’th Zell dispersed like flies driven from a cache of raw meat. However, although freedom from their clutches was the blessing, the curse was the very same: released, Jackralvian instantly plunged toward the perilous chasm. Spiny razors of stone littered a murky acid pit far below, shrouded by low-lying fog.
Booming thunder rumbled once more.
Time seemed to slow. Barely conscious, oozing blood, and his scattered vision blurred, Jackralvian tried to regain control. But his fractured mind was obscured by harrowing fear. His wings were paralyzed in similar form. He could not command them, but internally, Jackie prayed that they would right his descent, that they could stabilize his flight, and must slow his fall. But, Nae, Naesst--it was all in vain. No response.
Jackie was about to die.
Below, the tines of doom loomed. Closer. They grew devastatingly closer. Closer! Jackralvian’s death-rattling howls echoed throughout the cold evening’s air.
The silvery white Zell fell, helpless and alone. Raging blood inside his thick veins pounded and pulsed as he tried to cry out, but he could not even hear his own screams. Closer--mere wings-lengths now! His vision began to fade. All of his physical senses were stricken inert, totally useless. Paralysis and frozen nerves seized every single synapse as he fell victim to gravity, and to that of terrified, blind horror.