I left my erstwhile bodyguards gathered about the Voice and his protective shield, not having anything further to accomplish. Deneir himself had sheltered his Voice, there was nothing more that mortals could do there. My steps turned south, back to my home in the heat of the desert.
Naturally, as a storyteller of some skill and renown, I had little difficulty on my travels. Harpers were only too happy to share their camp with me, and there were enough little hamlets along the road to make the trip feel much like an old pair of shoes; comfortable and familiar.
After spending a few days, maybe a week or two within the fine City of Splendors, my path continued south, down the Great Road. This one wasn’t as populated as the Northern Road, I’ve never really known why. There’s plenty of space, but I suppose settlers would run into issue with trolls spilling out of the forest or perhaps that crazy wizard would unleash his elementals upon the road. Obviously somebody of civilization had lived along the road once, the ruins were as fascinating as ever.
After a fine camp with Mistress Cleona - she kept herself well supplied with all manner of foods that she brings out for special occasions - I went on my way. There was a strange hush in the air, a quiet that was out of place. Of course I pressed on, who would dream of harassing a storyteller? The gods know there are few enough of us with any real ability, after all.
It was then that I noticed one of the hills was out of place. And discolored black. Oh, it was eating a buffalo. Before my eyes, a short distance away, the black lump I’d taken for another of the hills was a massive black dragon. I’d never before seen such a large specimen. I was left to the conclusion that this was one of famed Sleepers. It was obviously quite intent upon its freshly… melted meal and I had no interest in interrupting. Only a fool comes between a dragon and the object of its desire, after all.
And then, out of the cloudy sky another dragon appeared, landing so suddenly and with such force that the ground trembled where I stood. Another black dragon, and I recognized this one. Sakaslan, terror of the kingdom of Nizari. His landing had placed him almost possessively over the hindquarters of the other, and his wings slowly settled back as he stood… triumphantly over the other.
I hunched lower, quite certain that neither of these creatures would respect my role as a Storyteller. Perhaps my role as a light buffalo garnish, but certainly not the respect I enjoyed amongst civilized beings. Well, humans at least.
Before my eyes, I watched the other dragon look up from its meal. Yellow eyes stared... at ME? Then turned to stare up at Sakaslan as he stood possessively over… her?
Definitely a she, I decided as her sibilant hiss sounded clearly to my ears, and then she opened her maw; those were big teeth and a lot of them; and spat a small stream of acid at Sakaslan’s eyes. He recoiled instinctively, and a moment later was shoved aside as she stood, slowly turning about so that she faced the other dragon where he stood belligerently. To my surprise, she was even larger than he was.
“My mate,” he hissed, broad chest thrust forward and sinuous black neck held high. Proudly, for Sakaslan knew no superiors. “My hoard is the greatest of all dragons, I have laid entire civilizations to ruin,” he continued, thick black tail twitching behind him as he slowly stepped toward and around the other dragon. “You can do no better than Sakaslan, Destroyer of Civilizations, for your mate, Tocx’enth’orix.” I wondered how I was able to understand their speech, but I didn’t wonder too much. This was such a rare opportunity, so long as I didn’t get eaten of course. Lots of people have had THAT opportunity.
Her eyes narrowed, jaws parted slightly as she shifted ever so lightly, making sure not to present too much of her flank to her suitor. “Big hoard?” she almost purred, continuing the strange slow orbital dance they were doing. What WERE they doing? Was I going to see dragons couple? But she was still speaking. “Destroyed whole civilizations, all on your own? You show some promise, but tell me, Sakaslan. Can you truly fight? Or must I teach you?" She hissed eagerly, scales suddenly glinting as she gathered her weight squarely onto her legs.
In answer, he roared, a dragonroar of power that nearly had me scrambling away in fear before I realized that movement increased my possibly being on the menu, like that poor buffalo. Then the sky darkened, as Sakaslan’s great wings unfurled and beat viciously, kicking up a swirl of dirt and small debris with the force of his wingbuffet.
The two dragons clashed, ebon scales flashing as talons ripped and gouged. The sound was terrifying in its majesty, the mingle of dragon's roaring and the grating shriek of their claws on armored scales. Not being a judge of draconic combat, it was hard to say who was winning at first. But then Sakaslan staggered backwards, blood seeping from a vicious wound and Tocx'enth'orix almost playfully craned her neck around to lap at the jagged talon on her wing. Then they charged and clashed again.
And then, over the ruckus I heard something quite clearly. A hissing gurgle, that slowly built into a raucus bellow from Tocx’enth’orix. She was laughing, a mocking laugh designed to cut straight to the quick of Sakaslan’s pride. The wind died as he glared at the dragon he courted, never ever having been truly laughed at in his entire long life. She mocked his might and majesty, and he stood there, awkwardly off-balance, until her laughter finally stopped and Tocx’enth’orix spoke again.
“You haven’t learned anything yet, hatchling. Try to learn how to fight this time,” she hissed eagerly.
With an outraged roar, Sakaslan charged the larger dragon. He only managed a few steps before she reacted, and the blur of movement concealed whatever it was she did, but the thudding smash that was the Terror of Nizari crashing into the ground at full speed was unmistakable. Again I heard the hissing, mocking laughter of Tocx'enth'orix as she almost daintily sidestepped his tumbling body. He tried to recover his footing, but she fell upon him viciously, claws gouging and that wicked maw tearing at his body ruthlessly. As he frantically drew upon his magic to disappear with a word, Tocx'enth'orix laughed again, a satisfied, mocking laugh that would surely echo in Sakaslan's heart for years to come.
I watched while Tocx’enth’orix, looked very pleased with herself, quickly snapped up the now cool buffalo she’d felled before the encounter. With a final satisfied draconic chuckle, those piercing yellow orbs stared at me one more time before she gracefully took to wing. Shaken, I stayed there for the remainder of the day, my mind remembering the Destroyer of Civilizations, routed by the instruction of a Sleeper.
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