Chapter 48 - Fortification
Kitaraiya looked at her hands, her fingers slightly thicker, furred with sable and dark greys on the back and nails that almost doubled as claws. The howl of the blustery gusts off Silvast’s wings had calmed and Rhyker had gone above to check. She glanced up from where she stood in the upper gallery of Escorath, noting the glow in the stone stairwell. Slipping the hood back off her head, her ears flicked as she listened for her brother’s footsteps, nodding to herself as picked them out over the low shakes and rumbles from the dragon’s movements above.
She resisted the urge to run to his side as he came into view, instead leaning further back against the wall and physically stifling the twitch of her tail. Glancing at him, she caught his knowing look.
“Is it that bad?” Rhyker asked, walking over to her.
She nodded quickly, “I just want to run to you and act all excited and rub against you, tail wagging and everything.”
Rhyker nodded, absently reaching and rubbing her head, watching as she immediately reacted, tilting into his touch with eyes closed and ears slicked back. He shook his head with a smile and stopped, withdrawing his hand. Immediately he saw her eyes glaring at him in frustration, the sky blue glowing gently.
“Damn it, Rhy. You went that far, you might as well do my ears!” she growled under her breath.
“You want me to?” he asked tentatively, meeting her eyes in concern.
“Yes.” she said, looking at the floor in embarrassment and shifting forward, “You have no idea how much I have missed being petted like this.”
Rhyker frowned slightly and reached out again, gently rubbing between her ears and around them.
“Further back.” she said, dipping her head into his reach, “Yes, there.” she looked at him, half dazed, “Stop playing around, harder.” she said aggressively, leaning in further and resting a hand on his chest as her tail went limp, “Gods…”
After a few long moments she reached out and touched his arm, nodding with half-lidded eyes, “You can stop now, Ven.” she said with a sigh.
She stepped in and bunted her head against his chest softly, gently nudging with her forehead until she rested there, “Ven?”
“Why does it have to be this way?” she said after a long silence, feeling his chest expand as he drew in breath to speak, she shook her head.
“I know what you will say.” she whispered, “Don’t.”
“Please, humour me for just a little bit longer.” she said.
Feeling the heat off the Seal of Destiny against her head she pressed her eyes tightly together, a faint gleam at their corners. Withdrawing a little, she traced the outline over his shirt with a finger, keeping her eyes averted from his. A rumble shook the stone gallery, then another. Clenching her jaw together she moved back, quickly drawing the hood over her face as she stepped away.
Rhyker watched her in concern as she headed for the stairwell. The hood obscuring her face but not the faint glow of moisture that trailed to the floor. He frowned and nodded to himself, leaving the space he knew she needed and following as another deep rumble sounded through the Sanctum. Slowly mounting the steps he came to the remains of the outer temple. Kitaraiya stood a little way off with a hand to her face, wiping at her eyes.
The haze had receded, leaving a light fog to the air after the remaining sand and dust had quickly settled. Quickly stepping up the heavy rubble they had cleared the previous evening he looked out, his elven eyes adapting readily to the low light, akin to the light of a full moon bathing the surrounds. The stone top of Escorath spread out further than they expected. The remains of the temple sat raised and the great stone iris was now exposed. Closed and interlocked sections creating a solid surface. Other stone buildings had been exposed, some still serviceable but most heavily weathered by the steady onslaught of time.
Sweeping his vision over the expanse, he picked out the distant beacon of a spear. The far edge of the sand still lost in the haze. The shimmer of Silvast’s natural scales made her difficult to focus on directly in the night, her natural silvered camouflage making it difficult to see her without a light source, despite her size. Another dull thud and rumble rolled over the exposed stone and a gentle gust of air passed over him.
He looked up to see the large twin crescent moons looking down at him from a short distance away. They drifted closer, appearing to be disembodied in the night until they were nearby.
“How do I look?” said the voice of the great silver dragon that had brought terror to him and his sister years earlier, only moments after they had appeared in the forests and slopes a stone’s throw from Scarosant.
Rhyker smirked as he felt Kitaraiya beside him, her presence building once more, “Slippery, it is hard to tell.” she said, brushing against his arm, “How did the Rakshasa take it, seeing what does not exist with his own eyes?”
A rumble of laughter echoed over the stone, “He did not.”
Rhyker glanced back over to the beacon, seeing movement in the distance and Rhuthain’s dwarven form casually walking to the edge of the stone to where the sand was still piled high.
The twin crescents turned, the dragon’s broad head barely visible as her scales absorbed the light. She followed his gaze, her great luminous eyes blinking and her lips turning up.
“You both know what to do. As we discussed.”
“But a glass wall?” Rhyker asked.
One of Silvast’s eyes fixed on him, “See it as an opportunity to try something new, Crimson Demon.” she said, turning to look at the perimeter of the Sanctum, “Heavy fortifications that will keep the sands and the rodents out. Thain will keep everything in place. Rhy, you control and direct my flames and Kit to quench.”
Silvast came in close, her eye looking down at them, “You’ve done it before.”
Kitaraiya nodded slowly, “Not on this scale.”
“The blood of my kind has been renewed in your veins, I can lend you my strength, Winter Wolf.” Silvast said, “Besides, you slept well this afternoon.”
Kitaraiya glared at her as she turned to look over back at Rhuthain again, now closer and surveying the sand.
“So Sil, this is going to be a little bit of fun, ain’t it?” he yelled out, his voice carrying to them clearly.
Rhyker and Kitaraiya leapt down and walked out to meet him at the nearby edge. Rhyker shook his head at Rhuthain’s excitement, the dwarf rubbing his hands together.
“Finally, going to be making a sand castle! Apart from finding this place, it makes the trip out here worthwhile.” he said, looking up at Silvast, his eyes cutting though the deceptive play of light and shadows on her scales to see her impressive form.
“Aye, majestic as always.” he said with a covetous glance, “A scale maybe?”
Silvast’s crescent eye focused on him, sweeping closer, “A scale?”
He squared his shoulders boldly, “Aye, a scale, how much?”
“Gods, you’re asking this again.” she shook her large head slowly, “An eternal supply of your best, every last drop of every harvest, delivered by yourself so you can watch me drink it all as a dragon in one sitting, yearly.”
Rhuthain glared at her, “That’s a bit steep.”
“So is the request for a material you cannot smith.” she said.
“Aye, but they are just so…”
“Shiny?” she said
“I haven’t made a set of armour for you yet, have I?”
Rhuthain’s eyes grew wide, watching her in surprise, “An what’s that going to cost me, if I agree?”
Silvast looked away, her focus elsewhere as Rhyker and Kitaraiya reached them.
“It is time, Thain.” she said, her eye again drawing close, “I am bored, and I feel like doing something with my craft.”
Rhuthain stared at her greedily, “How tall you wanting this wall?” he asked, watching her nod.
A deep chuckle came from the dragon, “Give me something worthy of my flames.”
He looked at her, a broad smile breaking his features, “Aye, that I can do.”
“Ja’Sessh, how much longer do you intend to stay kneeling?” Jesse whispered near his ear, shaking her head as it flicked from her breath.
She frowned and stepped around him with her hand resting on his heavy shoulder. Following his blank gaze, her eyes rested on the sleek yet monstrous form of the Stormarrow.
“Impressive, isn’t she? I almost did not believe it myself.” she said softly.
“Impossible, the dragons cannot bear young, they are…”
“I am sure it is obvious that it was not a matter of being unable to, but not wanting to, Ja’Sessh.”
“But the Ebony and Alabaster, they are still alive?” he asked, his eyes straying momentarily to Jesse.
“Of course,” Jesse smiled, “But they are not who you remember them to be. They can not remember much from before the fall of the world.”
She stood before him, blocking his vision. She gently reached out and guided his face to look up and into her eyes, “Ja’Sessh, do you know your purpose? Do you not know why you walk the mortal realm?”
His large pale eyes searched hers, shaking his head in confusion. She smiled knowingly.
“My sister, Ja’Ekavira. She…” he said, frowning, “Are you using some kind of control over me?”
“I do not need to.” Jesse said, rubbing his cheek and back to his neck before once again placing her hand on his shoulder, “The Eld is shifting, the Three are preparing to wake the dragons from their slumber. The truth will be set free.”
Ja’Sessh stared at her in surprise, “Truth?”
Jesse nodded, the flash of fire from behind throwing the stark shade of her silhouette over him, “Why the world had to burn.”
A deep rumble shook the stone beneath them and Jesse shifted aside to stand behind him, watching the spectacle, “We are more alike than you realise. Soon you will feel purpose thunder through your veins as I do. You will become an instrument to its will. In doing so, you will be free.”
Ja’Sessh watched in mute fascination as the starlit sands shifted and heaved, the walls of fortifications both deep and tall, growing from the dunes to ring the Sanctum of Escorath. The wash of divine might as he had seen in the split second before being struck by Winter that afternoon was strong, the form of the dwarf, Rhuthain at its centre and acting as a conduit. Squinting slightly, he could see Rhuthain standing with splayed hand raised to the heavens and the other buried in the sand at his feet. The sandy walls defined and shifting to his will. Lightning crackled around him as he compounded the will of his goddess, channelling it. After a few short moments he watched the dwarf plunge his hands deeply, the sand appearing to ripple as it grew before him until he stood before a wall.
Ja’Sessh quickly glanced up, his eyes catching a flicker of movement on the peripheral. The webbed trailing edge of the Stormarrow’s tail swept past far overhead, the whistle and rush of air being cut reaching his ears, despite the rumble of the impossible taking place before him.
“Who are these people?” he said to himself in mute fear, his breath catching as the air over Escorath exploded.
Flames of white brilliance and silvery streams spewed from the great maw of the Silver dragon, her scales shimmering and reflecting, a mirage that was not of the heat haze or imagination. Her exact size eluded him as her form seemed to blend into the night and surrounds, both there, yet not. The only true certainty that his mistress, the Firebrand of Dusk would be dwarfed by the Stormarrow’s aggressive stature. Again, more flames poured forth, the roll of explosive might tearing at the steadily cooling night air.
It was in that moment that he saw the forms standing in the path of that blaze. The children of the Aletere. The ones that bore the names Rhyker and Kitaraiya stood firm, unconcerned as the dragon’s fire engulfed them, swallowing them in its fury. But instead of that flame dying in the night, it remained, slowly reducing in size but no less brilliant.
Black ink seeped from the cracks and edges of the stone they all stood upon. Ja’Sessh reached down and tried to grasp it in his hands to find it leech through his fingers faster than water. Drifting to meet the ground before rushing along toward the call of another. He stared, watching those tendrils join and snake their way to the centre of the dragon’s fire. Gathering about the form of a man that now stood before it, a tattoo of red-hot flames wrapping his body and fire where eyes should have been. That man stood before the Stormarrow, bending the ferocity of her flames to his will and lighting the towering sand fortifications from within until they glowed a rich vermilion, their molten fury being contained by Rhuthain’s elemental strength.
The heat off the fiercely glowing walls in the distance washed back over Ja’Sessh and the valkyries, stealing his breath and burning off the gathering moisture of night over the desert. With dry eyes being shielded with a forearm he forced himself to watch. Feeling the squeeze of Jesse’s hands on his shoulders, he looked to the white brilliance behind the fire-demon shrouded in black mist. After a long stare he slowly realised that it was not more of the dragon’s fire, but a woman wreathed in a web of blinding white power. As the elemental threads of fire tore about the man in an almost unchecked rage, the strands of a snow-crested mountain’s frozen bite laced its intricate web of elegant fury about the female’s form.
He frowned, his eyes burning, Jesse’s voice at his ear, “The Crimson Demon and Winter Wolf, bound and delivered to us by the fates.”
Thunder rumbled over the surrounds, the clash of rising heat meeting the relentless chill over the first of the molten walls. Sudden steam, the steadily dropping ice-cold chill of the quench while the frozen air snapped about the glowing wall, the hiss and rumble. Further around the perimeter, more heavy fortifications grew from the sands with a rapidly increasing fiery glow as they were made molten from within. A gust of frost-laced wind rolled over them as the snow started to fall, the rakshasa watching the swirl of the flakes while they blew past. The skies were no longer clear, instead, low clouds churned and rolled angrily above Escorath, reflecting the white light of the Winter Wolf’s power and the flaming blush and flicker of the Crimson Demon painting the underside of the skyward tempest with a violent display.
“To think, Ja’Sessh. Do you ever remember a time where the children of the gods would work together in harmony?”
Ja’Sessh’s eyes continued to track the wildly violent display of heavy fortifications being smelt from the sands of the desert, surrounding the place that he once called home.
“Why is he resurrecting the ruins?” he asked, “Antrandis is at the centre of this, isn’t he?”
Jesse smiled, a predatory glint coming to her eye, “Toth’s will aligns with the will of the three sisters. Soon, this desert will be a desert no longer.” she said, suddenly running her hands through the mane of course fur at the nape of his neck, letting the strands catch as she grabbed a soft fistful.
She leaned against him, pressing herself against his back and bringing her lips to his ear, “The demon god offered his hand to Toth as an equal. Sworn brothers to bridge the powers of the old world to the new. Allies to keep balance between the planes of existence, to reign in those that seek to usurp it. Our master, our keeper, the true child of the Three is who the Host should have been.”
Ja’Sessh winced slightly, the feel of her hands grasping his fur forcefully, the tickle of the valkyrie’s breath in his ear.
“Azzar Kah'Sharn has met with that man?”
She shifted, pulling him back and whispering directly into his ear, her lips brushing the fine fur of its edge, “Eight hundred years ago, he and my Master worked together to close a rift that threatened the existence of both the realms. A war that demanded the sacrifice of my Master’s daughter. Do not underestimate that ‘man’, my Master and what he is capable of.”
The flicker of lightning arced through the angrily roiling clouds above before lancing toward Escorath. It struck. The deafening crack of the electrical discharge and sparks throwing sharp light over the scene before him, halting his breath as the terrifying size of the Stormarrow was on clear display, her scales absorbing the lightning and flaring blindingly. The monstrous wings folded as the crackle of lightning struck again, sending the charge running down the spine of the dragon, the heavy plates and serrated webbed fins opening then relaxing as the discharge ran down them and to her tail. A sleek war-breaker of frightening capacity.
Placing a hand on the ground, he moved to stand before being roughly pulled back. His eyes widened fearfully as another flash of lightning cast Jesse’s shadow over them both, the spread dragonesque wings of the hellspawn.