Book VI Holiday Special: The Legend of Midwintre Finale
Valdrensoared across the sea again,his fatheratop his back andAqkriding the currents not far behind him.
The old eagle had been eager to visit the country ofSchalleafter its cleansing; father and son alike told her tales of the strange magic that had transformed the dying woods into lush and expansive forests, themagical giant flowerswhich had taken bloom to revealgolden dragons, and the triumph of the people of the woodlands over Joscha's terrible undead armies.
They stayed long enough for Valdren to rest his wings before they were off again, already dreaming of the place which had become more of a home to them thanAensdounever was.
Aensdoun was their birthplace-- but they had rebuilt Schalle with their own hands.
As they flew over the deep white-on-green of Schalle's snowy forests, an acrid scent tickled Kelan's nostrils. Frowning, he glanced down over Valdren's wings.
"...No. Valdren! Fire!"
Turning a hard right, the golden dragon caught sight of a nearby outpost, burning brightly in its clearing between the trees. Swearing loudly, he homed in.
"Valdren! Hold your wings steady!" Aqk cried. Behind him, he heard her whispering something in a strange, breathy language. Before he had time to react, a set of shining white runes danced over his wings, and he shot through the air like lightning, Kelan pressing himself hard against his son's back to keep from being tossed away.
With a cry of surprise, the dragon tucked his limbs in tight against his stomach as he rode the wind, swooping just over the burning outpost.
Already abandoned, several corpses burned on the ground nearby, undead and Aeneski alike.
Just as he turned to fly over a second time, he saw something metallic slither swiftly past just out of the corner of his eye.
"Valdren! They're attacking a nearby town!" Aqk shouted. The golden dragon screamed in rage, spinning and barreling through the air after her just as a great explosion shook the forests nearby.
Like a scene from a nightmare, mutilated corpses and crackinggargoylesswarmed after the people of Schalle, battling with sword, spear, bow and anything they could reach to fend off the hordes.
The dragonlings swooped past overhead, torching what enemies they could when their allies were out of harm's way, dropping from the sky to cleave through former friends with their wicked claws and jagged teeth.
Aqk vanished into the trees just behind the settlement, her form seeming to melt away as she crashed down into the canopy.
Valdren threw himself into the fray, landing on all fours upon the frozen earth with a mighty roar, snapping several foes in half with a single snap of his great jaws.
Kelan dropped from his back at a run, pullingLifesedgefrom his back as a bow, transforming it into the twin golden longswords with a crack, and dashing across the town to dive into a nearby skirmish.
Blood and viscera splashed across the ground as the living and dead clashed, elf slashing through frozen white flesh as ghoul bit into hot, red throats, scrabbling to stay upright and continue fighting despite wounds that might have killed a living man.
Men and women fell in battle, writhing upon the ground before lurching upright again, grasping for nearby comrades to drag them into the grave after them with tooth and nail.
As the loathsome creatures rose to fight again, shining bolts of blue crystal shot through the air, lancing through their throats, skulls, and chests and slaying them-- once more-- where they stood.
In the shade of the trees, a sleekAeneskiwoman with shining golden eyes leapt across the branches, carrying a a bow seemingly sculpted from solid vitae as she ran, aimed, and fired one barrage of mystical arrows after another.
Spitting frozen, dead flesh and befouled gargoyle fragments from his mouth, Valdren whipped his head around as one of his sons galloped towards him down the road, his eyes wild.
"Father!" The young Flarion cried. "Father, the vampire is here! He's killing us! He's turning us into--nnngh!"
Valdren broke into a run, watching in horror as the dragonling dropped where he stood, clutching at his throat and gasping in desperation for air.
"You abandoned them, dragon. They belong to me, now."
Before Valdren could react, a powerful force threw him backwards, sending him tumbling helplessly across the dirt.
"Valdren!" Kelan shouted to him.
"Guh... don't worry about me! Help him!" he snarled, climbing to his feet once more. But as he lifted his head, it was all he could do to gaze on in horror.
Joscha stood proudly beside the young Flarion, now lying still upon the cold dirt; just behind him, two more dragons emerged from the clearing, horrible wounds marring their dull, muddied golden hides, their eyes glowing an unnatural sickly green in the low light.
"...No," he groaned, disbelieving.
Rushing to Valdren's side, Kelan fused his swords, raising Lifesedge to fire an arrow aimed for Joscha's throat.
Cutting through the air, it was suddenly deflected by an invisible force, lodging uselessly into the ground at the vampire's feet.
Beside him, the risen dragonlings hissed with malice.
Unmoved, Joscha lifted a clawed hand to the sky, dripping with ichor the same hue as the light in the dragons' eyes. "You have defied us for long enough, fools.
"No one challenges theBroodand lives," he snarled, gesturing sharply downwards. "Your children will make a fitting gift for the master-- and so shall you!"
The noxious ichor dripped down onto the dragon's corpse, discoloring the golden scales into an ugly, rotted bronze as it flowed steadily downwards, seeping through the armor and into the flesh.
In an instant, the dragonling got to its feet, screaming in pain and fury as its eyes snapped open again-- blazing green.
Joscha laughed, and Valdren did not hear. His world went silent, his head weightless and his chest tight.
The vampire gestured dramatically, and the three dead dragons galloped forward to meet him.
He watched them run for what seemed an eternity, blackened claws on frozen earth, eyes the color of venom, scales like old, tarnished metal.
The smell of smoke caught his nostrils; he ignored it. His children were running to him.
Valdren stood still, tail waving slowly behind him, his fanged jaws parting with a thick, hateful hiss as suddenly all sound came rushing back to him.
"By the winds... no, NO! Valdren, STOP!"
Kelan watched in horror as Valdren tensed, his attention fixed on the zombie dragonlings and the vampire commanding them. The ground had begun to thaw, swiftly softening into mud that sucked at the villagers' shoes, oozing, then bubbling, then steaming beneath them, nearby tufts of grass and small shrubs withering from green to brown before bursting into flames, wooden cabins starting to smoulder and smoke.
Like lightning, the Aeneski woman dashed out of the forest, herding the remaining villagers away as swiftly as she could as Kelan watched his son helplessly, screaming at him.
Kelan's armor grew uncomfortably hot against him; gritting his teeth, he cast a magical barrier around himself, focusing every ounce of his will on keeping it steady.
It was not a moment too soon.
As Valdren's former children rushed forward to embrace him with their rotting claws, the elder Flarion stood on his hind legs and spread his golden wings, lifting his head in a cry of fury and anguish powerful enough to shake the earth.
In an instant, the entire village burst into flames, and the vampire's dying scream echoed with Valdren's avenging cry.
"Father, the ceremony is going to begin soon. We need you-- please...?"
Valdren sat silently in a small clearing of thePetalforest, his eyes closed as the titan flowers overhead reflected their myriad colors through the icicles upon their petals and the snow that dusted the ground below.
No snow touched his scales; it melted away just before it reached him, leaving a small pit of damp soil which he sat within.
If he heard his daughter, he made no indication of such; his breathing slow and even, his head held steady.
"Father! Please? This is as much about the... the others as it is--"
"Am I a bad parent?" he finally asked, gently; the young flarion frowned, shaking her head without a moment's hesitation.
"How could you be? You did everything you could. Please, don't blame yourself for what happened. You fought to keep us all safe... now, it's time we honored and remembered the ones who aren't here with us any longer.
"We need you."
Valdren sighed, rising to his feet and opening his eyes, tinged with sadness and a thousand thoughts weighing on his mind. "I'm coming."
Smiling softly up at him, the younger dragon reached to nuzzle his chest before rushing across the clearing, down the path towards the village.
Valdren turned to stare up at the great flowers towering overhead, slick with frost and shining in the light.
"Spring will arrive before long," he said to no one in particular.
"Ice melts with warmth, and wounds heal with time..."
"... don't they?"
No one answered him.
Satisfied with that, he folded his wings tightly across his back and followed his daughter's footprints in the snow.
Next Chapter: Book VI Chapter XIII
Valenth>VWiki Home>Story>Book Six>Book VI Holiday Special Finale