By L. D. Dailey
Copyright 2014 L. D. Dailey
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Dexterous fingers, more accustomed to stringing the harp strapped to his back, clutched the eyelid of the water dragon in a fearful grip. To the bard’s great shame, his girlish squeals filled the salty air as the sea drake uncoiled and stretched toward the cavern underneath the mysterious sky-town floating above the sea. As the beast accelerated toward the small opening, Krastyo Gurav surmised a problem and shouted to his sister, calmly meditating at the creature’s crown within an ebony cloud of wind-whipped robes. “Bakarne, its head’s too big!”
Bakarne’s tattooed hands waved him closer, as milky eyes stared with a blind nonchalance that unnerved the musician. Krastyo shook his head and slammed frightened eyes closed, shoulders hunched as he braced for impact.
Something thick with corded muscle seized him as prideful laughter filled his ears. “Come brother! No one will sing of the bard murdered by a flying mountain.” Air currents shifted about him as realization dawned that his younger brother threw him. He threw him- amid the sea- atop a suicidal dragon- and laughed!
A crash interrupted the sensation of flying toward a grim death. Krastyo dared to open his eyes. A network of caves surrounded the trio of invaders. “Move,” Bakarne ordered, her raspy voice dry as dust, before leaping to a random cave entrance, “the beast will break free of my control soon.” Vacek grunted in annoyance as he followed, perhaps upset that the youngest of them took the lead. Krastyo stared up at the cave, a mere one span above, and groaned. Old wounds from a dragon’s claws along his right leg stole the strength to leap, so Krastyo climbed, ruining elegant hands in handholds and outcroppings. What was the point of collecting the greatest story in the land if he could not play anymore?
Vacek’s calloused hands rubbed together in anticipation as he strode toward a cluster of paths. “Now, which do we choose?” Krastyo marveled at the brawny warrior, recalling a childhood with a sickly brother dreaming of knighthood and fighting for the empire. Surveying his armor of boiled leather and the accoutrements of the shaman tribes, the songster wondered where the dream failed and if the story was worthy of a ballad.
An unnatural scratching echoed throughout the cavern, interrupting his musings as it delivered a sensation of dark things crawling along the spine, an eerie itch beneath skin, a ghastly wail within his mind. Horrified, he remembered the sensation from an old battle- a slaughter. “Veilspawn.” The bard suppressed his shock at Bakarne’s nod, many did not know of the creatures from beyond the Veil.
Vacek seethed, “It can’t be. Not here! The answer to defeating them is here. The Mother brought me to heal her.” Krastyo agreed with his raging brother’s theory, but held his peace about the primitive religion. From afar, the floating paradise held a natural, azure sky while the violent, wine-soaked, otherworldly firmament dominated the background. His master surmised that the translucent dome held the key to barring the invaders before forcing this ordeal upon him. Their presence within the dome induced doubts.
Bakarne growled and strode through a pathway, “Stand and die if it pleases you.”
The way she navigated without difficulty spooked the storyteller. “Where, sister?”
She stiffened mid-step at the title, “Anywhere but here. We do as humanity has always done with Veilspawn. We run.”
His brother concurred with a purposeful nod, unsheathing shortsword and axe from his belt. He stared at Krastyo. “This is what the elders meant. I understand now. ‘This has happened before- and will happen again’ they said, unless we stop it. We three, united after a lifetime apart. Yes. Yes! Go brother. I’ll guard the rear.”
They raced through the endless dark as silent pursuers skulked closer. The screaming inside Krastyo’s head made him want to vomit. He wondered if Bakarne used some dark power of the Magissa to guide them as she trekked a sure path through the winding labyrinth. Abruptly, the path ended, trapping them. Perhaps she was not so omnipotent.
Vacek unleashed a hopeless sigh, but the determination behind chartreuse eyes belied his despair. “You two must find the answer. I will charge them and draw-”
Bakarne interrupted with a disgusted growl. “And become one of them when they corrupt you? I’ll kill you first.”
Vacek’s visage appeared hurt, but his square jaw clenched with unrelenting resolve. “We must find the key. The Mother brought us all together for a reason. I feel it. We must-”
“I care nothing for this world, Vacek,” Bakarne whispered. “I stopped caring when you all abandoned me to the pirates, and when they were done with me, they left me to the witches, and when they were they finished preparing me, they tried to sacrifice me. No. You can all burn, and this miserable world with it.”
Krastyo turned away in guilt spying Vecek’s denial with a shameful headshake. The encroaching doom seemed trivial as the storyteller basked in his sister’s pain. He fled home before the attack, heartbroken over failed love, selfish in his pursuit of fame and women. A sudden fount of inspiration mingled with dread blessed Krastyo with an answer. Perhaps some universal force did break them apart only to reunite them at the end of days, when a lavender veil scarred the sky, unleashing malignant horrors feeding on existence, corrupting it into an ethereal terror hungry for the life it lost. Perhaps his own dark history prepared him for this exact moment. Power comes with a cost, the ancient dragon, his master and tormentor taught long ago, take care you understand this final lesson.
The cave darkened as shades filled the corridor, coalescing into countless man-shapes, human at initial glance, but the twisted contours along the face, elongated limbs, too-wide maws lined with pointed teeth, clawed fingertips, contradicted the assessment. The singer purged his fear with hatred. Somehow that old dragon knew the time to use his so-called gift would come. Still he hesitated, was the cost too high? Abhorrence melted hesitation as Krastyo reached for the sword sheathed to his hip. He extracted an ancient blade, dulled and pitted, useless in battle. Pain coursed through his wrist as the curse began its torments. The Veilspawn ceased before the naked blade, as a foreign power barred their progress.
Bakarne appeared to feel the ill effects first as her diminutive frame convulsed. Vecek’s thin lips frowned in disapproval. “Ogestralt. Where did you get that?” The warrior reached to snatch the blade. His arm throbbed as the metal fought his touch.
The bard gritted his teeth against the dreadful blade forced upon him by the dragon when the beast caught him stealing its treasure. “We need to move brother.”
“Where- did- you- get- that thing.” Vacek lowered his arm and snatched his own sword of good steel, a dangerous gleam dancing in his eyes. “You’re one of them, aren’t you? Dragon-worshiper.”
With Veilspawn thirsting for death, and his brother poised to kill, Krastyo searched for a way out. He could not fight this brute, and leaving them here to their fate seemed worse than losing an honest fight. Desperate, the bard tried a third way. “You have the look of a shaman. You moon on-and-on about this so-called Mother. Well! Get us out of here, if you can. Bakarne has shown us the power of her goddess, and I’ve shown you mine. What can you do, besides swing that stupid axe about?”
Krastyo floundered backwards under Vecek’s angry countenance until his back huddled against the wall. Perhaps he pushed too far. Vacek crept toward him, malevolence marring a stern face. Krastyo squealed as his brother raised a hairy arm and closed his eyes as a hardened palm cl
Vacek nodded once. “There’s a breeze. It’s faint.” He tasted the air. “Not saltwater. Come.” His voice sounded resigned, forced, “keep your blade out. We’ll try to flee the Veilspawn before it kills us.” Bakarne moaned and collapsed. Vacek carried her, despite foul threats, and raced through the tunnels. The shades fled before Krastyo’s Ogestralt blade, but pursued from a short distance.
Time dragged on mercilessly as the path crawled upward. Blurred vision betrayed Krastyo as he crashed into an overhead and crumpled to the ground. Vacek spat blood on his sooty boots tipped with silver. “I didn’t know you dragon whores where such goatmilk drinking harlots.”
“Was that how you lost your maidenhood, you little cabbage?” he taunted when the bard tripped over loose debris. “Did you flounder into some sleeping maid’s treasure?”
When Krastyo dropped the blade and prayed for mercy, his brother remained pitiless. “Is mi’ lord sleepy?” He snatched the storyteller by the collar of his silver doublet. “Mayhap the Veilspawn will sing you a lovely song and you never wake.” He pushed Krastyo onward. “Up, before I let the demons take you and
Legacy by L. D. Dailey / Fantasy have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on20 votes