Book II Chapter 35: From the Ashes
"Valadreni! Wyre Valadreni!"
Casarilinia winged her way over the ruined landscape with her brothers and sisters in tow, her heart aching at the sight of what must have been ancient trees twisted and mutated into ghastly, crystalline objects mere shadows of their former selves.
The Flarions behind her gasped and snapped their jaws in distaste-- if only they had tried to save this place long ago! It was likely nothing could be salvaged here, which made them question their leader's decision, in turn.
Why would the wandering prince have come to a place like this and left it unscathed?
But Lady Casarilinia had served the Firestarters for an age as an expert tracker-- far more skilled than any mortal could dream, capable of finding anyone over air or even sea by tracing their very essence-- and she had no reason to doubt her abilities now.
"We press on! He was here, and we will find him!" She bellowed, her powerful voice sending a tremble through the crystal-studded canopy below.
Searching out a clearing, the flarion tucked her wings in at her sides, diving down to land and continue on by foot. Satisfied that the other dragons followed suit, she lifted her great head, at once staring in horror at the surreal, ethereal scene unfolding before them.
"Look at this," Casarilinia gasped, reaching with a talon to snap a branch away from a tree. "Not a trace of vitality left in this.. and yet, they sway in the wind, they flower and grow leaf, they seed! This is..."
"Milady!" a younger flarion gasped, gesturing with his head to a small group of leupaks eyeing them warily from beneath the trees.
"One of the first things we do," the old female rumbled, narrowing her eyes and lowering her great head, "Is to purify this place."
"Why not start now?" the younger whispered to her, moving slowly to stand by her side.
"Why not, indeed."
The smell of charred flesh and smoke stung Dietrich's nose, rousing him from his nap. Wrinkling his muzzle, he snorted, lifting his head and slowly opening his eyes.
These forests had been his home for longer than he could now remember, and in all honesty, he remembered his time here with greater clarity than his years of service; they seemed a fleeting dream now, something he had made up to pass the time between waiting, and waiting, and having a bite to eat, being groomed by his loyal subjects so graciously sent in from the nearby cities, or squashing some unwelcome tresspasser (described by the very same subjects so that he might know who would give them trouble-- and thus jeopardize his regular meals) between his big paws.
As the wood had long since turned to crystal, fires were not something he saw in this land of eerie, almost alien beauty.
Nevertheless... something had managed to set the trees aflame not far from his bed, and they blazed with a brilliance that nearly blinded him.
Rising to his feet, Dietrich made his way deeper into the forest to find the source, paying no mind to the tiny lizard-creatures galloping past him, shrieking in terror in their strange, flowery language.
"Flari! Exodei, Flari!"
This word, he had been taught by his servants; it explained the inferno, but raised new questions. He picked up his pace, drawing in a breath and bellowing to warn any around of his approach.
"You would torch MY lands, whelps?! I'll have your heads!"
The Flarions, already startled by the sudden shout echoing through the trees, were ill-prepared for the gigantic white lion that came soaring out of the nearby clearing in a rage.
Golden wings snapped open, scales glinting in the firelight as dragons took wing, as much to size up the new arrivel as out of fear.
No less a great cat than he ever was, Dietrich's initial pounce had struck true; he crushed his jaws down around the throat of the little flarion he'd snatched up just as it turned to flee, proudly shaking the twitching corpse to display it to the rest of the flock.
"You have no place here! The first that came through was given a reprieve, but you..." Dietrich glowered, his eyes reflecting all of the heat and light of the fires dying down before him.
"Begone, before I drown you in your own damn ash!"
Casarilinia hovered far above, watching the beast with her sharp eyes. "We're here searching out our own, swine, and once we have him, we'll deal with you in turn! Come, all of you. We're finished here!"
At once, the group of dragons hissed and spat, swooping away into the distance before the lion could think to leap at them.
Dietrich growled with an irritable flick of his tailtip, stomping out the last of the flames with his paw.
In the ash, tiny green buds and flowers had miraculously begun to sprout and curl from the scorched earth and remains of some of the little lizard-beasts, pulsing with new life.
"...how peculiar," he breathed.
Next Chapter: Book II Chapter XXXVI
Category: Book II | Story