Vision of Dragons
by Dominika Lein, 2014
The call drifts, weaving through time and space; fire rains from blackened skies, smoldering comets smashing into barren desert lands as thick smoke rises, suffocating – clashing battlefield – death cries, demonic screams warp pocketed bubbles of dire struggle between timeless currents of silence.
I rear my head, fresh blood dripping from fabric and flesh stuck between my jagged fangs; narrowing amber eyes, I scan the hill as fire crackles in a smoky ring around me. Snorting – for I cannot hold my breath any longer – my hind legs quiver as I lift off, my expansive wings stretching outwards – taut skin pushing out spears and arrows that’d been stuck in the folds; I barrel along the path that the summoning call beckoned me from.
Flying through the thick haze, I barely dodge a comet; as the flaming boulder crashes, I track infernal imps rushing from the shattered core, their maniacal claws seeking life that is not theirs. Some leap higher than the others, grabbing onto my foot and – with their razor teeth – biting through silver scales with enthusiastic ferocity.
With a deafening roar, I twirl, creating a cyclone of searing ash. All, but one imp, falls to the smoldering ground beneath. I screech, storing magica in my glowing claws; directly aiming, the essence slams into the last imp, who lands below in an explosion of overwhelming energy.
Tumbling from the blast, I regain my bearing – calibrating – streaming to the source of the summon, entering a pocket of space which glistens with a dome of magica energy; inside the protective barrier is a heated battle involving another dragon; familiar, golden-scaled.
She dodges overwhelming numbers of imps while an aggressive minotaur slams against her barrier, the magica flickering – weakening – with each smash. Wounds litter her wings as imps claw into leathery skin. Diving through the barrier, I draw in – charging – before exhaling blue mist over the fiery imps. They squeal as rounds of energy overwhelm and consume them from the inside, tearing them apart, their flesh fly outwards in all directions.
The barrier ripples as her magica dissipates entirely; as the dome fades from existence, I want to catch my partner as she falls – exhausted – to the ground – behind me, but my attention is commanded by the offensive minotaur who charges towards me with deadly horns aimed at my heart.
Drawing energy inwards, I hope it will be enough as sparks crackle in my eyes; two beams shoot outwards from them, the glittering magica impaling the minotaur’s chest like thin spears. The creature continues as the two columns tear raw, festering holes, but despite its determination, the minotaur drops – defeated – at my feet, wheezing as the rest of its body is torn from physical existence.
My eyes calm, fading to normal. Turning around, I crouch next to my partner; her golden scales had disappeared, giving way to bronze skin and her frame had shrunk into her humanoid bone structure, the head morphed into a less predatory shape, her eyes shut as she lost consciousness. Taking her into my claws, I hold onto her waist as we lift up into the dark, hot sky and fly away.
We fly for a short time before the fiery sky reveals a marble white arch, rippling with esoteric symbols. Gliding through the barrier, the contrast is always startling, no matter how many times I travel through.
Thin wisps of white mist replaces the thick, black smoke, raining fire dissolves into warm golden light that glows from the top of the arch and cascades down around the barrier. I land onto soft blue-green grass that surrounds a stone basin of crystal-clear water.
Gently laying my unconscious partner down, her golden hair pools around her limp, wingless body. With a fierce roar, I rear onto my haunches and begin my own transformation. My wings recede into shoulders as I shrink into human form, my head reshaping into an eloquent, long face framed by silky hair, the silver strands gleaming in the golden glow. Magica weaves around my body, swathing me in robes that hang lightly against my slender frame.
“Leviantius!” From the side of a pillar at the edge of the circular plaza, a wide-eyed woman – Mayalichea – glides forward, crimson curls bouncing softly, as she rushes to the fallen dragonling’s side, “Evaliania! What has become of her?”
“She’s terribly injured.” I inform though it is already obvious in Evaliania’s essence even if the wounds are not visible while in her human form.
“Talitantus is out, away. You must call him, Leviantius, I will sustain her.” Placing her hands – the palms embedded with ruby-toned crystals – on the unconscious woman’s stomach, Mayalichea begins patching the broken energy.
With a reluctant look, I head to the communication tower with fury in my step. Talitantus is not supposed to be out, he was supposed to be here – at the sanctuary – to receive incoming fighters. Unable to ignore my growing impatience, I break into a run as I speed up the stone steps in a flurry; my silver hair whips violently behind me.
Though my energy is weak, I can already feel it regenerating; by the time I arrive at the top of the tower, I feel strong again. Furiously grabbing the hollowed dragon horn, I blow long, hard, and repeat twice to summon Talitantus.
Staring out the carved windows, the landscape’s horizon is a ring of fire surrounding our small sanctuary in this primordial world. Looking down, I see Mayalichea’s healing taking place beside the fountain and I know it will not be enough.
Raising my gaze, I freeze in shock, my long fingernails scratch into the stone underneath as I clutch the edge. Squinting, I’m certain I must be hallucinating as the red of fire is replaced with pale green, the color spreading rapidly and soon, the black sky dissolves into a blinding white until I cover my eyes due to the burning sensation in them.
A rumbling shakes the tower around me, a tingling through my body signals more energy than I’d ever contained before. Unable to hold still, I step onto the stone ledge and leap. I morph into dragon form, gliding in a wide arch and trailing magica to keep the protective barrier standing as ripples of immense magica flood the land.
As I land, my dragon form dissolves away – my energy spent – I return to my humanoid vessel, my bare feet curling in the grass. Staring at the white skies, exhaustion overtakes me; I lie flat on the ground, unable to do much else as the white fades into light blue and a soft cleansing rain falls.
Water pools around me, but I can’t move.
My eyelids flutter against droplets as I cling to consciousness long enough to see Evaliania appear above me.
Her golden hair slides against my face, brushing gently against my cheeks, “Leviantius.” Her peaceful whisper makes me smile. Lowering closer, she wraps her long arms around me; I return the embrace though I am weak. I hope this is reality.
“You are healed.” My own whisper suggests disbelief.
“I am.” She responds, still holding tight as she rests her cheek against my shoulder.
“Talitantus?” I separate our embrace so I can look at her expression, caressing her jaw with feeble confidence.
“No.” Her tone is vaguely confused, “Mayalichea.” Following her gaze, I look at the redhead whose figure wavers beside the fountain with similar exhaustion upon her features. Moving slowly, I approach with Evaliania at my side.
“What has happened?”
“They’re gone,” She lifts her hands, revealing the crystals in her palms are gone – disintegrated – gaping holes left behind, “They must have been successful.” There is wonder in her tone as she looks towards the rain, inhaling deeply. Despite her loss, inner peace is obvious on her expression.
I’m disappointed I can’t share the sentiment, “What has happened?” I repeat, “What has who done? Where is Talitantus? Where has he gone?”
Closing her eyes, Mayalichea shakes her head, “We have won.” She smiles, “It’s over.”
I look to my partner, who shakes her head unknowingly, “What have we won, Mayalichea?” She asks for my sake, but it is not Maya who answers rather the deep rumble of a male’s voice commands our attention.
“Everything, my friends. We have won everything.”
We turn towards the source to see Talitantus approach; a wiry humanoid, taller than all of us and unlike our long hair, his scalp is naked – a shining dome of flesh – his caramel skin smooth and unwrinkled even with how long and narrow his neck is stretched.
Though he walks with ease, we can sense the injured energy within him; so blaringly obvious that Maya rushed to her mentor’s side, but without her crystals, what could she possible do? She cries his name, running her hands over him in desperate attempt to heal like she’d done before. I stride forward, Evaliania remains at my side, “What have you done?” Concern is purposefully heavy in my voice.
“Not I,” Talitantus answers, “Not I, my brother and sister, but we.”
Evaliania shakes her head, “I do not understand.” She confessed.
Talitantus takes Maya’s hands, cradling them with a somber look at the holes where her crystals used to be, “The Coalition of Light has completed the wards.” He said quietly, not befitting the nature of the information and this briefly angers me. I look to my partner, but she only meets me with matched frustration.
“I was told by Damascii the wards had been forwent due to a mishap in the materia collection.”
“And we are truly apologetic that we could not include you, Leviantius, but the noxica levels had been accelerating and we did not know who to trust beyond those within the highest ranks of the Coalition…” Talitantus bows deep, ignoring his apprentice as she worriedly murmured his name a few times.
Despite my reservations, I raise my hand to halt his gesture, ”Do not bow, my brother, if all you say is true, it is I who should be bowing to you.”
“As should I.” Evaliania adds, moving forward and taking one of Tal’s hands in hers, “But I am more concerned for your state of being, brother, if all is true, then we are safe and we must attend to you.” A small noise of agreement rose from Maya as her hands run over his back. “If we cannot depend on crystals, then we must care for you within your connected state, please morph to dragon so that Mayalichea and I might be able to help you.”
“I cannot.” Talitantus answers with a dark look looming in his violet eyes.
“What do you mean?” I ask even though I feel a familiarizing sensation as if I have heard this unspoken answer millions of times before.
“I do not know. I used the last of my magica to come here for the horn that blew.” He looks at Maya, “And for you, of course, my darling apprentice.” She frowns at him.
“The last?” Her voice involuntarily wavers, “Will you not regenerate like always? Is this not temporary?”
Talitantus shakes his head, “Alas, I cannot, I have already tried and it does not seem so.”
A silence hangs in the air, we are lost as to what to do. We’d spent our entire lives – as our parents before us – fighting all types of infernal creations and now the peace was secured, we have become the victorious generation; it seems stifling as if the clear skies above are a trick, an illusion that can’t be trusted. I look at Evaliania as she looks at me, we are both checking for reality in each other’s eyes. Inside her, I can see that we cannot transform either, our magica spent, gone, diminished, non-existent.
“We cannot either.” I inform, part of me feels shocked, so I try anyways, but there is no energy to do so with. Evaliania nods, “If it is so for you, then it must be so for me.” She confirms, having never gotten the opportunity to recharge after Maya’s healing. Talitantus walks towards the tower, Maya flashes us a concerned expression before hurrying after him with a plaintive sigh. Taking Evaliania’s hand, we follow as well. “What does this mean if they cannot transform or heal?” She whispers to me.
As we enter the tower, walking up the steps with conflicting emotions, we all notice flickering in Talitantus’ energy; a sophisticated illusionist, his features don’t convey what pain he must be in, instead leading to the third floor with a calm, neutral expression. Along the edges, vials cover the walls, scrolls messily compiled in tall vases of assorted material line maze-like pathways around shelves.
He retrieves a cyan vial, uncorking and sniffing it once before taking a swig. His brow furrows, corking the bottle and turning away from us. We watch, our horror increasing as we realize the regenerative potion isn’t working. Talitantus’ energy merely disintegrates further in front of our eyes. The edges of his aura are degenerating slowly and I am reminded of the minotaur. Moving forward as Talitantus takes hold of an orange bottle, I stare as he drinks, steam rising from the corners of his mouth.
“Talitantus, my brother,” My voice wavers, “The magica…” My voice breaks as Talitantus turns to me, shaking his head, with a sadness I’d never seen before in him.
“It has gone.” He replaces the orange bottle. Despite his words, there is disbelief in his eyes.
“How will you heal?” I had to ask as I felt the question weigh heavily in all our minds.
Talitantus shakes his head again, “I do not know.”
“Not all the potions! Not all can be disintegrated!” Maya exclaims, her emotions compensating for Talitantus’ forced apathy as she rushes to the shelves and grabs a green vial. Uncorking it, she offers the substance to him, “One must work!”
“No!” She cuts him off, her curls bouncing wildly around her as she pressures him to drink. He does, for her, but it does nothing, not even satisfy Maya. “There has to be something, just one!” She frantically searches through the vials, her frustration peaking as a couple smash on the floor.
Evaliania moves to stop her from shattering more, but Talitantus’ reaches his overwhelmed apprentice first, placing a hand on her shoulder and drawing her into a tight embrace. Maya breaks into tears, clinging to his robes.
After a long moment of grief, and whispers of weary instruction to be patient, Talitantus and Maya retreat to their quarters. Evaliania and I remain, somberly attempting to celebrate the new peace, but we cannot.
Weeks pass with a gradual fading of all we had known. We hear nothing from outside the sanctuary; no one comes to visit, no messages arrive, even our dreams become lonely, each sleeping session specific for each individual and no longer collective like it once was.
Maya went through the entire storage of alchemical concoctions in an attempt to find something that would help, but each test only made her sick in numerous ways. Now, she was deteriorating as well. Her aura is dissolving at an even quicker rate than her mentor’s.
Talitantus is not faring well, unable to stand on his own after the fifth day, his energy steadily fading into non-existence and the other day, I was horrified to realize that for a long part of daylight, I had forgotten Talitantus entirely before Evaliania reminded me of his existence.
Evaliana spends her time sending messages, waiting, for what before was an inevitable response. She sits each day on the stone ledge at the top of the tower, staring at the peaceful surrounding of the new world. In the morning on the start of the second week, I bring her flowers from the garden, but I quickly feel foolish about doing so when her sadness noticeably deepens upon accepting them.
“They are so faded.” She comments on how the colors have dulled; before the peace, a brilliant red, but now each rose has faded to a rusty brown. They weren’t the only item that lost their usual intense saturation; Evaliana’s hair had changed from shining gold to a pale straw color.
Placing the rose on the ledge, she sighs, moving her legs so I can sit beside her. I had stopped asking after the 11th day if there was word from anywhere. It pained me too much to see the despair in her eyes when she’d negate the possibility. She’d always been strong during the infernal uprising, but now that peace seemed to be secured, she’d become weak, easy to startle and cry.
Where Evaliania reacts with sadness, Mayalichea becomes angry. The healer no longer acts like her prior self and I am not sure if it is due to Talitantus’ health, the potions, or the loss of her crystals. I spend my days pouring over scrolls and manuscripts, trying to find an explanation of what is occurring to my brother and sisters.
There is nothing, but amongst the papers, I find letters upon letters of Talitantus’ correspondence with the Coalition of Light, explaining and describing their plans for warding using the nine lines of the dragonling’s blood. Eventually, the dialogue drifts into code that even I cannot entirely understand. There is nothing in my father’s journals speaking of this occurrence; no one seemed to have expected it to happen.
“Leviantius, whatever will we do? How will we survive if we cannot fly?” Evaliania asks me as she gently picks the petals from the flower I brought her and tosses them into the wind.
“We do not need to hunt, Evaliania.” I assure her, though I know she’ll continue to fret regardless, “The garden will provide with plenty and it may become lonely, but we have each other.”
She cried out in anguish, tossing the stem through the window, “Not for long, Talitantus is dying, Mayalichea will be dead soon if something does not change, if we do not find a way.” As she went towards the stairs – to run away like she often did when overwhelmed with these emotions – I stopped her, drew her into my arms and held her close.
“Shh, I’ll find something, there has to be something.” Guilt fills me for my words are empty and we both know it, but I still say them. As I hold her quivering frame against mine, something in the sky catches my eye and I worry that my desperation has conjured a hallucination. I say nothing until the object draws closer and I realize it isn’t merely in my mind, “Look.” She turns, following my gaze and reacts quicker than I did with a gasp.
“A falcon!” Evaliania exclaims with hope tingeing her voice as she rushes to the ledge to meet the bird as it lands. There is a note tied around its leg and she quickly unties it, the brown scroll unrolling and from over her shoulder I see a few words scribbled onto it, “It is from Caelioder.” She looks to me with wide eyes and a smile I hadn’t seen in weeks, “He is coming for us with Damascii and others.”
Caelioder is one of the leaders in the Coalition of Light, a stern human with little humor, but his strength and determination makes up for all else. I met him during an extended battle in the pits in which Damascii had asked me to help them retrieve a particular material to be used in ritual; his abilities in the wielding of magica exceed all that I know and it is a wonder to see him on the battlefield with his twisted staff and the way he manipulates energy.
There are not many like Caelioder in our world and so it is a wonder arrogance has not clouded him like it has for so many other commanders of organized resistance. Wherever he goes, Damascii follows and though Damascii is a dragonling like us, it is clear that he wishes to learn how to wield magica like Caelioder rather than like our kind. My father disapproved of this before he died, it was the last thing I remember of him in my mind.
Evaliania ran to tell Maya, but I expressed I wished to tell Talitantus myself. Any reason to talk to him, to remember him, but it isn’t easy as he lies in bed – helpless – and I have nothing I can do. When I mention Caelioder is coming, I see hope in Talitantus briefly, but restrain him from getting up when he tries. I will bring his colleagues to him when they arrive, I assure. It takes two days of long waiting and Evaliania expresses that she is worried Maya will not make it before they come. Neither of us know if when they do arrive, it will help the others, but we can only hope.
It was dawn on the third day when I saw the horses ride through the barrier. A caravan of familiar faces, I rush to the courtyard to greet the five or six of them. Damascii is the only dragonling of the group, the rest were humans that I have seen in the Coalition of Light halls the few times I have visited. Evaliania beats me to the group, excitement hurrying her steps as she rushes to Damascii first. Sometimes I forget that he is her blood brother, but I remember when they frantically embrace each other.
I approach as Caelioder dismounts his horse, but he doesn’t look at me. Instead, his attention is on the hugging siblings and something in his eyes switches my hope and happiness to fear and worry. Trying to ignore this bubbling sensation of apprehension, I continue on my path until I reach him and he looks at me with a sharp expression that fades in two seconds to a politely neutral look that is more befitting of how I know him, “Leviantius, it has been long.” He bows and I return the gesture, “Talitantus, he is here, is he not?”
I quickly reassure, though my apprehension is increased by the understanding that the Coalition has come for the sickly healer, not either of us, brushing the thought off as paranoia, I gesture towards the tower, “He is dying.” I say in a deep tone so they understand the gravity of the situation.
“Lead us.” Caelioder demands, handing his horse’s reins to a young man who remains silent. Only Caelioder and Damascii follow as we head into the tower. Evaliania whispers to her brother and they exchange private looks and conversations between each other that I try to ignore as I avoid the uncertainty I feel towards the human walking next to me.
Walking into Talitantus’ quarters, Mayalichea is kneeling beside the bed, her hands clinging to his and her energy wavering noticeably. “What are you doing?” Caelioder’s tone suggests he thinks Mayalichea is being foolish as he walks forward and brushes her hands away, “Your healing will not work any longer, crystal child.”
Maya stares at him with wide eyes brimmed with tears. She is too weak to stand, so she remains sitting as Caelioder wakes her mentor. Talitantus looks to Caelioder with heavy eyes and a weary gaze, “You came.” He comments.
“I did.” Caelioder responds, placing a hand on the man’s forehead, “You should not have left, why did you not listen?”
“I could not leave them to die.” Talitantus coughed the words out, looking to Maya and reaching for her, “My dear, my darling. Hold my hand again.”
Caelioder seemed annoyed at this display, turning to look at us and waving a hand, “Go. I must talk to Talitantus alone.” Damascii and Evaliania follow the gesture immediately retreating from the room with whispered conversation.
I linger, looking to Talitantus who is too weary to notice me, my heart strains at how the couple’s energy wavers dangerously. “Go, Leviantius.” Caelioder repeats sternly. I look at him and when we match eyes, the apprehension grew and I could not move until Caelioder repeated himself again, “Go!”
Turning, I rush out, furiously looking for the siblings, “Evaliania!” I cry out, searching for her and I find them in the libraries where manuscripts are strewn about from my hours of frantic searching for knowledge. Her brother is holding her hands and I wonder now what they could possible be talking about. She looks at me and most likely from my expression, she realizes something is wrong.
“What is it, Leviantius? What is the matter?” From her tone, I can hear similar concern and I wonder if she noticed too. Damascii places a hand on her shoulder, looking to me with a befuddled expression.
“I-Caelioder, he…” My words fade and I find I cannot speak any longer. Reaching up, I hold my throat and try again, but silence remains as my mouth moves in vain.
“Leviantius? What is it?” Evaliania leaves her brother’s side, hurrying to me as she looks over my body as if trying to decipher why I have become muted. Turning, she looks to her brother, “Damascii, what is going on?”
“I do not know.” The man says, but something in his eyes tells me he is lying. I point at him, hoping Evaliania can also see it. She cannot though as she has not seen her brother in so long, surely her emotions are playing tricks on her. “Perhaps you should get Caelioder.” Damascii suggests.
As if following a direct order, Evaliania moves around me with wide-eyes and hurries out the hall towards Talitantus’ room. I stare at Damascii. Something has changed about him, but I cannot express this as my voice remains elusive. A scream shatters my senses, making me forget the momentary suspicion as I recognize it as Evaliania’s. Hurrying, I run after her and I can hear Damascii following.
Evaliania is at the end of the hall, her blond hair tangled from her reckless escape from Talitantus’ room as she rushes out. I meet her eyes, reaching my arms out in silent attempt to guide her to me. She begins running towards me, frantically, “He’s dead, they’re both dead!” The cries are her last words as a spear suddenly appears through her midsection, the sharp iron point dripping with blood as it began to soak through her robes.
Her fingers tremble as she reaches to touch the spear, but it is retracted as quickly as it stabbed and she crumples to the ground in her blood. Behind her, Caelioder stands, the spear morphs into his familiar staff.
Anguish and rage course through me, but I rush to my partner and gather her into my arms, onto my lap, fixing her hair so that I can see her face as the light leaves her eyes. I cannot speak, though I try, my mouth moving and all I want to say is that I love her, that I was so happy to be with her for what time we had, that I would have vengeance and not all was lost, but nothing manifested and she died in silence.
“You muted him?” Caelioder’s mocking tone draws my attention. I throw a glare upon him. I’d never felt so much hatred for anyone until that moment, not even for the infernal demons that killed my parents. Lowering Evaliania’s corpse, I stood. Her blood was still fresh, dripping from my robes as I looked towards Damascii behind me.
“He was figuring it out.” The dragonling explained to his mage leader and this ignited my fury further. I rushed towards him swiftly and his eyes grow wide as I grabbed the front of his clothing and slammed him into the wall. He let his sister die in front of him, my senses were confused, I couldn’t understand, but I tried to convey it with my eyes.
He only laughed, cruelly, unlike anything I’d heard before from him, “What?” There was no concern in him even though I had him pinned, “Do you really think you can do anything? You’re powerless.”
There was no warning as a blast of magica hit me in my side and I went flying into a stone pillar, rolling onto the floor. My body ached from the pain and I looked to see Caelioder’s staff pointed towards me. Clutching at the ground, I forced myself back to standing.
“There’s nothing you can do,” Damascii continued, “We’re in a new world now, fashioned by Caelioder’s hand, and it is time our kind evolved or disappeared.” He held a hand up to stop Caelioder from sending another blast my way as he walked over, “Unfortunately for Evaliania and you, you haven’t evolved, so… you must disappear.”
I didn’t wait for him to finish, I couldn’t, he was being mocking, dramatic, they had claimed the victory over the infernal uprising as their own and there was nothing I could say, literally.
Turning, I ducked into the nearest room barely missing a blast of energy that tore the stones from the wall, “I said, wait!” I hear Damascii cry, “I want to execute this one.” Hurrying, I look out to see a far drop down into the courtyard where the rest of Caelioder’s men dwell. I look to the sides to see the smooth wall and then I look up to see the ivy vines… they couldn’t possibly hold me, but as I hear footsteps rapidly approaching, I must try. Grabbing onto one, it instantly breaks and I almost fall from the window. “Really? This hardly counts as any kind of escape.” Damascii gloats as he enters the room.
“How?” My voice returns, the words scratching out of my throat from pure agony and I don’t know if the spell was lifted, or something else, but it makes Damascii laugh at my struggle.
“How what? You must be more specific if you want any kind of answers, not that they will do you much good when you don’t exist any longer.” Raising his hand, his fingers morph individually into dragon claws and I stare, having never seen such a thing before. How could he be capable of specific morphing?
My astonishment blinds me from my options and before I know it, Damascii is upon me, his claws digging into my ribs, “I never did like you, Leviantius. My sister deserved so much better than to be stuck with a grunt like you, but she chose what she did and now she’s dead because of you.”
I feel him stab into my heart, my life force spilling out of me and all I can manage is a weak growl, “I will destroy you.” My threat is returned with a laugh as Damascii removes his claws and pushes. My weak, injured body falls through the window and I watch as he laughs from the opening before I crash upon the ground underneath.