Millaney swooped down over the city flying low to watch for any sign of her father below. A group of armed soldiers that were headed for the home she just flew from took note of her passing and changed direction to follow after her. The bright blue bow around her dress flapped in the breeze, as she whooshed just over the tops of the many two-story sandstone homes built in the wide desert valley. Hundreds of heads turned upward, as she made a couple wide circles over the top of the bustling market of tents set up near the tiny cool waters of the oasis searching the activity below, then turning her dragon toward the river docks off in the nearby distance. The path to the docks was lined with intermittent wagons of goods pulled by large desert reptiles looking like a cross between a turtle and a salamander.
It wasn’t long before she spotted a group of soldiers mounted on klaatu, large animals that were a mix of mountain goat and camel. The four soldiers sped along with Millorny mounted on a klaatu in the center of the group riding with his hands bound in leather restraints. They watched, as Millaney flew past them and turned Dahvy around in a wide loop and landed on the trail behind them. Millaney slid off the saddle, grabbed a longbow and put her arm through the strap of a quiver of arrows she positioned on her back. The soldiers stopped and turned to face her.
“We should just ride on,” one of the soldiers suggested.
“She’s trained to shoot arrows quite accurately while flying,” Millorny scoffed. The soldiers dismounted and loaded bows of their own and stepped toward the teen and her dragon. Millaney raised her bow aiming at one of the soldiers and Dahvy walked beside her with her head lowered and tiny whiffs of smoke seeping out of her flared nostrils. “Really unless you have a yearning to die young, I beg you to let me talk to her.” The soldiers paused keeping their bows lowered and one of them nodded his head. Millorny climbed off his furry desert beast and stepped up in front of the group, Millaney and her dragon kept moving forward.
“I’m not sure what words to use with you right now,” Millorny started to say. “I’ve really only been your father now for a couple years, but you are one of the bravest and brightest young ladies I have ever known.” Millaney and her dragon continued their purposeful stride toward the armed Shrkai soldiers. “You have been through so much. All I really want to do is give you a peaceful quiet life and watch you bloom into the great woman I know you will become, but I can’t allow you to take me.” Millaney pressed her lips together and aimed her bow first at one soldier, then the other. “Millaney please, I beg of you. Put down your bow.”
Millaney kept moving forward until she was about ten feet in front of the group of soldiers standing with their bows still lowered behind her father. She thought about which one to shoot first and if she could perhaps just wound them, then maybe load another bow before they shot at her. She knew Dahvy would spray them with fire, but her father would get burned too. She would have to shout out a warning to get him to duck so that Dahvy could fire over him perhaps. Different scenarios raced through her mind, as the soldiers stood uneasily behind her father.
“They will kill you father,” she finally spoke with moisture forming in her eyes. “I cannot allow that!”
“These are not the same Shrkai you knew from the island. I’ve known them for years and not only done business with them as a traveling merchant but also met with many members of their high council as an ambassador from Annuvin. I assure you I will be treated fairly,” Millorny pleaded. “These are their lands. We must abide by their laws no matter what the consequences.”
“But you’re my father,” Millaney cried out “I never knew my mother and only just found you. You can’t ask me to take that chance!” she hollered out and pulled back on her bowstring and her dragon sensing her heightened mood raised her head and opened her mouth wide.
“NO!” Millorny hollered and put up his hands. “Get closer together behind me,” he spoke quietly to the soldiers behind him, who quickly followed his direction. “Millaney please try to understand. Your actions could start a war.”
Millaney stood before the group. Her hand holding back the bowstring twitched, as she took careful aim at one of the soldiers crowded together hiding like frightened children behind her father. Tears dripped past her quivering lips and her knees started to shake.
“AAAAHHHGGG,” she screamed out and lowered her bow. She charged over to Dahvy, who looked quite confused, but lowered her body, so that Millaney could climb up onto the saddle. With a strong nudge of her knees and a pull on the saddle-horn, the dragon leaped out into the air and spread her wide wings. The soldiers cowered, as the dragon flew just a short distance over their heads and then angled straight up into the air and blew a swirl of flame out into the sky above. Millaney then flew off toward a nearby plateau. As she flew the small blue ribbon tying back her soft blond hair came loose and fluttered down to the ground surfing the air currents until it landed gently at Millorny’s feet. Millorny reached out with his hands still in restraints and picked up the smooth ribbon and tucked it in his cloak, as he watched his daughter fly off and land on the high plateau.
Beyond all eyes and even the most perceptive of senses, Sahn’s spirit had been traveling back over a thousand years to be reconnected with his body moments before his death. Sahn opened his eyes in the small room he had been placed in by the authorities when the Shrkai first arrived in the desert through the portal after escaping the eruption of a super volcano far to the north. He instantly felt the pains in his stomach, as he had refused to eat wanting then to die. He lifted himself from the bed of straw he law upon and looked at a plate of food sitting on a bench nearby.
He had once commented on how Darvin was awakening, but he was the one who had slept for a thousand years and now after the few years he was joined with Darvin’s mind he sat alone awakened himself near death from starvation and staring at a plate of food. It would be an easy thing to ignore the food and just wait for death to reclaim him, but what then? Would he just go through the same experiences? Would he die and be whisked away to the spirit realm to sleep another thousand years just to be again joined with Darvin’s mind? Sahn leaned forward and reached for the food, only to have his body painfully ripped away and travel ahead in time. He clutched at his aching stomach doubled over in pain, as his body traveled through the ages. He felt as if his flesh were being ripped free from him, pain far greater than he felt in the clutches of Darvin’s father back in the spirit realm, when he was trapped in the talons of the bird. He grasped at his head with both hands, feeling as though his brain was going to explode from the incredible pressures within, until he finally reached his destination. He arrived screaming in agony in the exact same spot as his body was in only more than a thousand years in the future. A spot that was no longer the room of his imprisonment, but an alley between long residential buildings built into the hills on the far east side of Shrkai city.
Sahn cowered in the shadows after he realized that not only had he not been wearing any clothes, but that several people had heard his cries including a young Shrkai woman and her daughter. Sahn grimaced bearing his teeth, hanging with one arm rested on a short stone wall and the other grabbing his pained stomach in the dark shadows of the alley. The young woman and her daughter along with a few others who came to see what was the matter, stood just outside the alley in the bright sunslight trying to see what had happened, who was there and how they could help. The viewers took a few steps forward, but that only made Sahn retreat further into the darkness crawling backward with only his arm on the wall truly visible.
The people stopped and murmured amongst each other, but the little girl who was holding a piece of sweetbread stepped forward cautiously. Sahn looked at the young girl and saw what he thought his daughter might have looked like at that age and he relaxed and breathed much easier, but still stayed hidden in the shadows. The mother stayed a short distance behind the girl, as she stepped forward and placed her sweetbread on the wall not far from Sahn’s hand then slowly stepped back to be near her mother. Sahn stared at the offering. He breathed slow and with purpose thinking of every breath. Starvation still weighing on his body, he inched his arm forward and grasped the sweetbread. He pulled it back to him in the darkness and resisted his instinct to devour it, and instead peeled off small layers savoring every delicious morsel that melted in his mouth and plummeted down his throat toward a very appreciative stomach.
After finishing his meager meal, Sahn raised his head forward enough to be clearly seen in the light and smiled.
“Thank you,” the barely recognizable raspy words struggled to escape from his lips. He then fell over, as he tried to stand. He saw a blurry vision of the young Shrkai woman coming over to him, then blacked out.
Further away to the southeast of the city Frolin and Sarnay walked through the desert heat still holding hands. Ahead of them with a backdrop of endless hard-packed desert clay with only the hardiest of bushes gripping to the arid soil were the tall windmills with the spinning fan blades covered in a thick canvas. Sarnay looked out over the vast horizon and pointed to the wooden structures with the stout fan blades spinning on top of the tower.
“What are those used for?” she asked with the curiosity of a small child.
“Oh you like them?” Frolin boldly replied. “I designed them myself, one of my first ideas actually. They pull water up from the lakes and streams in caves below the ground.”
“OH… Well why are they placed way out here?”
“Well you can’t see them from here, but the city isn’t the only place Shrkai people live. There are hundreds of small farms out there growing crops. Not all of our farms are underground with skylights carved out so they get sunlight, many are grown out here. You’d be surprised, but there’s actually a forest of trees not far from here with thick roots that are longer than the tree is tall in order to reach the water underground.”
“Oh I’d love to go see that.”
“I’d be happy to guide you someday, but it’s a long journey, we’d need to ride some klaatus.”
“Or we could just fly.” Sarnay turned and winked at him, as they continued to walk out of the city toward a mesa with hardy bushes and some palm trees growing like a wall of foliage in front of the tall desert mound. Frolin smiled back at her and gripped her hand a bit tighter in his.
The suns were nearing their peak, as they stepped under the shade of the mesa.
“Oh I sure am glad to get out of that sun,” Sarnay commented, as she leaned against the trunk of a shade tree and wiped the sweat from her forehead.
“Yes it’s a trek like this that really makes you appreciate the invention of those chillsuits.”
“Yes where exactly are you taking us anyway. I hope there’s water nearby because I’m quite parched.”
“You’re safe in my hands,” Frolin joked, as he continued to walk toward the mesa wall. “Come you’re going to want to see this.” He smiled to her, as he strode passed. Sarnay looked at him strange wondering why a normally feeble young man wouldn’t want to rest in the shade. She thought that maybe the heat of the suns wasn’t affecting him as much as it should, but the sweat stains on his clothes said different. She pushed herself off from the restful trunk of the tree and followed him to the edge of the mesa where he stepped behind a thick bush.
Once behind the bush he smiled and stepped into a narrow crack in the wall that was completely hidden, he had to turn sideways to slide through and disappear into the mesa wall. Sarnay shook her head and followed him into the dark crevice. There was no sign of Frolin in the dark passageway that expanded enough for her to move more easily, until Frolin removed a cover of a glow stone mounted on the wall. His smiling face was lit up by the green glow of the stone. “You haven’t seen anything yet,” he chuckled, as he turned to lead the way through the narrow stone passage. Sarnay followed behind his dark silhouette with the glow of the stone shining from in front of his body. The encroaching walls of the passage were at times just wide enough for them to walk with each shoulder brushing up against the dry stone.
Looking over his shoulder Sarnay could see the path ahead drastically widen with the glow of the stone being swallowed by the darkness of the massive cave opening. Frolin untied a rope with a basket at the bottom and removed his shirt leaving him in only a thin pair of short pants. He placed his shirt in the basket then handed it to Sarnay. He hung the glow lantern on a hook on the cave wall then took a few steps forward.
“What are you doing?” Sarnay asked with a wrinkle in her brow.
“Come now. Don’t tell me a great ‘dragon rider’ is afraid of the dark,” He laughed, as he leaped off a cliff and plummeted into the dark cavern. “AHHYEEHHH” his voice echoed in the dark cavern, as he dropped several feet, then splashed into a small underground lake. Sarnay took the lantern off the hook and stepped to the edge of the opening and saw a reflection off the water below with Frolin just coming up from under the clear water. She smiled then placed the lantern back on its hook. She removed her sweaty clothes and placed them in the basket leaving her in just some thin underclothes, then plunged into the cool water below. “Ahh you got to love a cool swim on a day like today.”
“I know you didn’t bring me all the way out here just for a swim,” Sarnay said, as she swam on her back alongside Frolin.
“Actually I would do something like that, but no there’s more to this private cave then a swim.” Frolin splashed her in the face, then dove beneath the water.
As Frolin and Sarnay swam together in the cool clear water in the darkness of the underground cave, and Millaney stood gripping the handle of her sheathed sword peering out over the desert city watching as her father was escorted toward the council building, the dark skin of a Shrkai hand hovered over a glowing sphere in the spirit realm.
Darvin’s father used the energy sphere imbedded in his control panel to guide a pulsating cloud of rage he extracted from Sahn out of the spirit realm. The entity floated unnoticed past the activities of the Shrkai in the desert city headed through the adobe buildings as if the walls were no barrier for its gaseous form. Further into the city the cloud of rage ventured seeking out its host, until finally it floated out of the city and passed through the stone of a tall mesa with stairs overgrown with dust and foliage leading up to a single rotting door high up the mesa wall. The entity passed through the door and into a dark chamber with just a trace of sunslight drifting in from a skylight above. The gaseous entity flew through the home where Darvin once lived as a child and back into the lab where his father and mother first summoned Sahn’s spirit a decade earlier. Other than the bloodied bodies of his parents being removed, everything of that room remained much the same. The incense young Darvin carried, as he unwittingly helped his parents to invoke Sahn’s spirit still lay on the floor where he dropped it and the faceless clay golem that was to receive the spirit still stood leaning on a wall.
In the spirit realm Darvin’s father passed his hands over the glowing orb directing the entity of Sahn’s rage through the room and up toward the clay golem. The pulsating red cloud hovered in front of the golem’s face where only small slits in the clay marked the eyes and mouth of the clay golem and a misshapen nose that was sculpted by an unskilled hand. The entity drifted into the head of the golem disappearing inside. Darvin’s father eased back a small lever in his control panel and the head of the golem took on an eerie glow. For a long moment the head of the golem shimmered and vibrated with energy that soon dispersed throughout the entire hideously sculpted form. The energy within the golem smoothed out the work of the unskilled sculptor until the golem was a much more accurate and life-like depiction of a Shrkai man. The slits that were once mere markings of where eyes and mouth would be soon transformed into shapes of actual eyes and mouth, and the misshapen nose twisted and re-formed into something much more realistic and nostrils opened as if they were breathing in air for the first time. A bright red aura surrounded the life-like statue brightening the darkened room with its pulsating fiery red glow. The glow continued, as the golem changed from a poorly sculpted pile of clay into a fully developed unclothed man that leaned against the back wall of the necromancer’s lab.
After a long brilliant display of pulsating red aura, the glow of the golem slowly faded. The Shrkai man that was now leaning on the wall in place of the clay golem slowly opened his eyes and the living clay that was now an exact twin for Sahn pushed itself free from the support of the stone wall and took its first step forward.
Later that afternoon in dragon tower high up in the mountains Gaitlynne opened the door to the room where Darvin’s body sat propped up on a wooden chair. She ducked her head in order to walk through the doorway and reached out with one arm and easily lifted the body which had stiffened in the shape it sat in. Throwing the body over her shoulder with its bent legs sticking up in the air, Gaitlynne had to nearly drop to her knees to get the body under the header of the narrow doorway. She trudged through the hallway and unceremoniously ‘plopped’ the body down on a stone table near the large hearth in the back room of the tower basement. She then proceeded to massage his limbs until they relaxed and she could lay his body out with his arms positioned across his chest. With no regard for sentiment of the deceased, she removed his clothing then reached for a set of knives that she had laid out on one end of the table. She lifted one she felt to be the sharpest up to her face and looked it over.
Gaitlynne placed her hand flat on the body’s chest and aimed the point of the knife with her other hand. She eased the knife closer to his chest then stopped. She reached over with her other hand and closed his eyelids, then proceeded to start to cut open his chest, when she notice his eyelids were open again and his eyes had moved to look straight at the knife in her hand. She again pulled the knife back noticing the eyes follow her action. She moved the knife toward the chest and back two more times in a way that appeared as if she was more teasing then testing the reaction of the eyes. She then smiled when she noticed the lips start to quiver. Gaitlynne almost laughed, as a moment later Darvin sat upright on the stone table.
“What were you going to do with that knife?” Darvin asked as his jaw muscles finally started to loosen.
“What this old thing?” Gaitlynne turned the knife in her hands mocking his obvious fear. “I was going to have some fun cutting your organs out and feeding them to my dragons.”
“My what?” he replied, as he tried moving his limbs in a slow-motion retreat and climbed down from the table with aches in his muscles as if he were a ninety year old man instead of his less than eighteen years.
“Or maybe I still will,” Gaitlynne teased, as she raised the knife to a striking pose and moved toward Darvin.
“You stay away from me.” Darvin shrieked, as he continued to feebly try to escape, when he suddenly realized he was naked. He then grabbed a cloak hanging on the wall nearby and covered himself.
“Oh relax,” She laughed, as she put the knife down. “I don’t want my dragons getting the taste of human flesh anyway.” She then reached over and tossed him his clothes.
With the blood just starting to again flow through his body, Darvin moved like he was more than a hundred years old with severe pain in his muscles as he bent his legs to put on his trousers. Gaitlynne turned her back on him and walked over to newly-built wooden cupboard hanging from the stone wall near the large hearth. She reached in and retrieved a bottle half-full of a dark red wine. She turned again toward Darvin and pulled the cork out of the bottle with her teeth and spat it on the floor.
“I’m not supposed to get involved,” she said to herself while shaking her head. Darvin flinched, as the cork ricocheted near him. He finished pulling on his trousers and pulled his shirt over his head. He slipped his bare feet into his leather sandals, as he started a painful slow-motion retreat toward a large wooden door on the wall with traces of sunslight seeping in around its sides. Gaitlynne sat in a cushioned chair that faced the hearth with her back to Darvin drinking from the bottle of wine and repeating to herself “I’m not supposed to get involved, I’m not supposed to get involved.”
Darvin stopped to catch his breath even though he had only traveled a short distance. He looked at the oversized wooden door with three cracked stone steps leading up to its massive bulk. He painfully lifted one leg up onto the step, then the other and reached for the door’s huge iron handle. He used the closed door to pull himself up the next two wide stone steps and threw his body against the heavy door as his fingers pulled the trigger to release the door clasp. He half-closed his eyes, as blinding sunslight burst in from outside, as the heavy door eased open. With one hand still gripping the door handle, and the other pressed against the door frame on the opposite side, Darvin opened his eyes and peered out at the scene before him.
Standing in the doorway at the rectangular base of the tall circular tower, Darvin remained still as all hope of a quick escape vanished. Not more than a few yards away from him, the high mountain peak the tower was built on dropped off dramatically. Haze the large male dragon was in his usual perch on top of the first level of the tower, the rectangular stone base that covered nearly all of the leveled ground of the narrow mountain peak with the rounded walls of the tower reaching up toward the sky behind him. Each level of the tall dark tower except the rectangular base, had large openings designed to allow dragons to fly into the tower. Some of these perches had dragons resting on them as well as several dragons flying around the tower and resting on the tower roof. A thin layer of white clouds engulfed the tower and the numerous peaks of the mountain range that spread out in all directions from the peak the tower was built in which was one of the highest in the mountain range.
Inside the birthing chamber, Gaitlynne swallowed the last drop of wine and tossed the bottle into the hearth shattering it with a loud crash. She got up from her chair and walked toward Darvin who stood frozen in the doorway and didn’t notice her approach.
“I’m not supposed to get involved,” she again said to herself, as she roughly grabbed Darvin by his shirt collar easily lifting him and carried him out of the building. She stepped passed some potted plants of various type lined up against the stone outer wall, mostly vegetable plants, but some hardy bushes and signaled to Haze. The dragon spread his wings and leaped down onto the ground near her and ducked his head, as she flung Darvin across his shoulder and climbed up behind him.