Note: This is the twentieth chapter of a small novel I wrote. If you would like to read it off-site, you may download a PDF. The PDF will be updated every week with the next chapter. This project is now also available on DBooks
Tides of Magic - Dragon Tears
Chapter 20 - Ultimatum
“We have arrived”, the city guard left the carriage, offering his hand. Lia took it and exited, while her gaze was fixed on the seamless walls. “Please follow me.” He was waiting for her. He seemed out of place in his dark grey armor made of steel.
She followed him, ascending the few stairs up and through a big door. The walls were so seamless and highly polished that she could almost see her own image in them.
It felt like they had traveled half a mile until she found herself in a larger room, the statue of a praying woman surrounded by a dragon, was placed in the middle, facing her. “That’s Aerith”, whispered the guard next to her.
“You may leave now”, she heard another voice. Lia turned towards its source, observing another man entering the room. He had white hair and golden eyes. He was probably half dragon. Was he the King? How should she behave now? Kiss his hand? She would never do that.
“As you wish”, the guard answered and left, making a few steps backwards, then turned and left. She found herself alone with the strange man.
“Is that my new mother?” A girl appeared behind him, clutching to and hiding beneath him. Lia could only see her head.
“We shall know shortly, Riko”, the half dragon put a hand on the girls head, patting it slightly. He approached her with a few more steps. “At least she isn’t showing any fear or lying about her obedience towards me. She also has not made a move to attack.” He started to smile. “I like that at least.”
“Are you the king?”
“I am Ray Luxana, King of Naverin, Son of Aeris, the highest and mightiest of the white dragons.” He stopped, opening his arms like a priest telling them of Aerith’s heroic actions … he seemed very full of himself. At least she had remembered something else. “Who are you?”
“My name is Lia. Lia Luxana …” She still couldn’t remember if there was a third part to her name.
“I didn’t know that there are other families that share my name.” He looked at her quizzically.
“Why do you have two differently colored eyes?” The girl suddenly stood before her, looking up to her out of her large golden eyes. Even her hair was white.
“She is a dragon priest”, Ray explained. “She carries another dragon within herself.”
Rikos eyes seemed to grow larger still.
“I want to know how you got that mark.” Ray came a bit closer, his stern gaze fixed on her. “The dragon priests don’t let girls join their ranks, even if they had known you were half dragon, they wouldn’t have sealed one within you.”
“I don’t know”, Lia shook her head. “I lost my memory.”
Ray stared at her as if judging the truth of her words.
“Can you show me your dragon form?” Riko pulled at Lias clothing.
Lia squatted, getting to eyelevel with the girl, putting a hand on her head. “I don’t know how”, she told her, stroking gently over her head. “That’s why I can’t show you.”
“The other dragon?”
Lia shook her head again.
“But it is sooo easy! Let me show you!” Riko closed her eyes and turned into a dragon. The little dragon was just as large as Lia was high, so she could see into her eyes while standing.
“Some need time to find their dragon form”, Ray explained, “just give her a bit more time.”
The little dragon frowned. “Okay”, she heard the girl's voice in her head.
“Well my daughter seems to like you”, Ray smiled, “so I am willing to let you join the family.”
“I need to know what you mean by having me join your family. Is it just a royal decree?”
“You’ll be my new mother”, the dragon rubbed her head against Lia's.
“I will make you my wife.”
Lia felt something tingle down her spine. She opened and closed her mouth, her instinct told her to run. “I …”
“Please? Pretty please?” Riko looked at her with overly large dragon eyes, making another shiver run down her spine. If she would do it for her …
Lia shook her head. “So, if I decline you will kill me?”
“Why do you …”
“Sir!” A guard ran towards the room, his armor clinging loudly with every step. “Sir!” He stopped in front of Ray. “A black dragon just landed in the courtyard. It wants to see you immediately!”
“We will talk more about this later”, Ray said, leaving the room, passing Lia. “Riko, please stay with our guest. This won’t take long.”
“I shall protect my new mother”, she growled.
Lia sighed. “I hadn’t even had a chance to decline”, she murmured to herself.
Phobos gave an audience to the black dragon as replacement for Dikon. The once strong and proud ruler had become silent and lethargic after his daughter had left. He was in no shape to rule. Because of that Phobos return trip to Gajoan and Magneis had been delayed, but he knew that Serin would have everything under control until he returned.
“I am Yamira”, the female dragon explained, her head held high, as she approached him in human form. “I bring you a message from our new chief and the ruler over Gajoan: Edward L. Bradley.”
Phobos breathing stopped for a moment. Since when were dragons interfering with humans, conquering lands … his land! But there was something else about this that was strange. That name didn’t fit a dragon. Then he remembered that bastard that tried to attack him before.
Yamira produced a small piece of paper from her cloak, opened it and began to read: “Bradley would like to have your immediate capitulation and that you give him full authority to rule your country in your stead.” She squinted slightly, looked a bit closer on the paper. “Should you decline, Bradley won’t ask nicely again and there might be casualties as he searches for other ways to get what is rightfully his.”
Phobos snorted. Rightfully his. “He threatens war.” He clenched his teeth trying not to attack the messenger right there. Bradley had taken over his land and was now threatening him with war. He had to stay calm. How did he get the dragons to side with him? He didn’t stand a chance against him only a few days earlier.
Sending a black dragon as messenger and being called chief of their clan was just a demonstration of power, taunting them with the knowledge that they wouldn’t stand a chance if the whole clan attacked. Not even Dikon would have been powerful enough to defeat the whole clan, especially now that he had lost his sword.
“I await your positive answer in about an hour.” Yamira returned the paper to her coat.
Phobos nodded and turned to leave.
“Oh, there is one more thing.” Yamira started searching her cloak for something. “Edward is promising those”, she found another paper, “that help him find a certain Lia Luxana Dias, to keep their position as a governor under his rule.” She showed him a drawn picture of her. “Dead or alive.”
Phobos noticed how all his muscles started to cramp up. “Why is he searching for Lia?” Phobos growled and came very close to the envoy.
“I don’t know”, she shrugged with her soldiers. “But if you are hiding her, then you should hand her over. Otherwise his wrath will be terrible and that is nothing anyone of us wants, right?” She crumble the picture and hid it in her cloak as well. Then she turned, searched for a place within the shadows and leaned against the castle walls. “I will wait exactly one hour. Shouldn’t I hear from you until then, I will assume that you have declined his proposal.”
Phobos bit on his tongue to keep his wrath in check. He turned and went back into the castle. After a long walk into the inner reaches he hit the wall and shouted out his wrath.
He desperately needed to know what had happened in Magneis. He also needed to neutralize Bradley, to get past the black dragons and end his life. He should have done it before. Now … he had to get through to Dikon and ally himself with his former enemy.
“… and then I showed them my teeth. My dragon teeth!” Riko grinned. “Those boys never bothered me again after that.”
Lia smiled awkwardly. She had never heard of a dragon speaking as much as the one next to her. And she was still in her dragon form.
“Since then I can transform whenever I want. Flying is great. But it is also exhausting. Have you ever flown?”
“I don’t know”, she answered, still unable to recall most of her memories.
“It’s very easy, you just flap your wings and read the flow of the air. But dad doesn’t want me to get far from the castle.”
“And for good reason.” Ray had entered the room once again. “Riko, I would like to be alone with Lia for a while, can you play alone for a bit?”
“It is important, young lady.”
The small dragon frowned, going a few steps on all fours than changing back into the form of a small girl. Riko left the room going slowly, very slowly.
Ray closed his eyes for a moment, holding one hand above the other, creating a small transparent sphere between them, that started to grow, enclosing both of them. She vanished as fast as it had appeared. “It will be better if she doesn’t hear this.”
“Why? What happened?”
“The black dragon clan just declared war on us.”
Lia gulped. “The whole clan?” Should the whole clan attack a country … then that country had already lost before the war had even begun. There weren’t even enough dragon priests to deal with such a threat. Wild dragons were one thing, a whole clan going rogue another … The humans didn’t stand a chance and the few half dragons … She shivered as her brain made some more connections. “But why?”
“Because they proposed me an Ultimatum, one that I can’t accept at all.” He started to pace up and down in front of her. “Why should I give my country, my rule to this Bradley, who or whatever he is?” He squinted his eyes and looked to her. “And why should I give you to them, Lia Luxana Dias?”
Another cold shower ran over her back, as she recognized the name as a part of her lost memories. “I don’t know what they want from me. I don’t understand!” The name wasn’t the key to her full memories.
“I don’t understand either, but I think that you should be able to tell me. There might be reasons why you either don’t want to tell me or you have really lost your memory.”
“I lost my memory!” She shouted at him, tears in her eyes.
“It is not important. I won’t give you to them. Riko likes you and that is enough for me.” He sighed. “But I fear I have to request help from the others.”
“Dikon and Richard, maybe they even know what has happened to Phobos.”
Phobos. Another name that made her head hurt. “Are those half dragon as well?”
Ray nodded. “The rulers of the other countries. If we stand together, we might have a chance. Maybe we could even enlist the dragon priests.” A sad smile could be seen on his lips. “Our chances to win against the whole clan of black dragons is very slim even then.”
“W… what about the white dragons?”
“I would like to ask my father, but he has disappeared for more than sixteen years. He seems to avoid humans suddenly.” Ray frowned. “And he is the only one that can make the clan of white dragons help us. They won’t do anything otherwise.”
He turned and left the room, his shoulders slumped, his head hanging low. Lia went after him, unable to get rid of this bad feeling in her stomach.
Bradely clenched his teeth while pacing in his tent. All of them had declined his offer to end this peacefully and not even one had bothered to say anything to his messengers.
Did they have some secret weapon? Hoped for help from outside?
“My lord?” Yamira entered the tent and bowed slightly. “Aeris has followed your call.”
Bradley had to smile. This dragon lady had been a perfect counselor so far. It had been her idea to send a message to the head of the white dragons, so he could pull them to his side as well. He didn’t want one of his enemies to do that, after all. “I am coming”, he said, leaving the tent with his head held high.
An unfamiliar man stood about two dozen feet away from him, on the place they had left open for dragons to come in and leave from. He was probably Aeris. He went to him slowly, setting one foot in front of another, radiating an aura of invincibility and greatness.
“So you are the one that is nowadays the chief of the blacks?” Aeris face was unreadable. He had short, white hair, even eyebrows, golden eyes and a mostly angular face. He had a short beard, as if he hadn’t shaved for three days. Somehow it made him seem as if he didn’t respect Bradley at all.
“Yes. I have sent you a message to propose an alliance between us.”
“No thank you”, Aeris turned.
“Then I shall challenge you!”
Aeris turned back. “You want to invoke the right of the mighty?” Bradley felt Aeris eyes judging him. “Well, if you would defeat me here, it won’t mean that the white dragons shall follow you. It might turn to the opposite: They start to chase you, maybe even ally themselves with my son.”
“But …” Yamiras voice sounded desperate.
“I am not bound by the rules my brother had once set for you. Especially not since he kept his rule by being more wise than any of those who had challenged him.” Aeris turned back into a dragon. He was even larger than any of Bradleys black colored allies.
Bradley hesitated. It was not that he doubted that he would win. It was more that he didn’t want to risk losing the white dragons as well. Even if Aeris had lied there and then, he hadn’t had a white dragon as witness. He might even turn some of the black dragons against him, if he attacked Aeris now.
“I shall hold council with my children”, he heard the voice of the white dragon within his head. Aeris jumped into the air, flapped his wings and was almost out of sight in a matter of minutes. This plan had backfired on him.
Bradley turned to Yamira: “Who are ‘his children’?”
“All white dragons as well as possible all half dragons that are his descendants.
Bradley frowned. Holding that large a council was a ridiculous sentiment. But still, it raised the possibility that he had to fight against an alliance of white dragons and other countries. He had to make an example of one of the countries. Now. Immediately.
“Who is our strongest enemy?”
“I think … Eien to the north”, Yamira answered a bit hesitantly. “Letoa is riddled with problems, their original ruler is in no state to rule and his replacement … well, his orders are oftentimes ignored. Naverin is also quite strong, but Ray Luxana keeps most attackers in check just by stating that he is Aeris’ son.”
Bradley clenched his teeth again. It was tempting to attack Naverin to teach Aeris a lesson, but it would also set a clear signal, declaring war on them. Ray wasn’t even half dumb by stating that. Attacking the north, however, would tell the others that he could defeat a stronger foe within a short period of time. That should sent a signal in his favor.
“Tell the others that we shall purge Eien from the face of the earth!”