The name was an echo on Halvadere’s memory. And with it, the image of the mage never left him as he had departed. Reluctantly. If not for the pressing threat that was approaching the surrounding farmsteads and villages winding its way to the capital city, then the dragon may not have been so hasty in leaving the mage behind. It was not for a lack of trust in the sorcerer, quite the contrary. It was for the lack of guard he seemed to display in the sorcerer’s presence…
The dragon shook his large, black head and refocused his sights on the approaching woodland at the foot of a cliffside just west of the city. It was difficult to navigate the open sky over these mortal kingdoms when the threat of being seen would instigate a mass hysteria among the populace. The kingdom seemed to be under enough pressure from a myriad motley of distasteful sources. If anything, Belatore certainly did not need the additional concerns in further complicating his rule. Besides, Helvadere thought, the tidings I bring will already add enough weight to his crown. He had not believed that evil had risen so fast…
Miraculously, time had been bought. Catastophe had been turned on its side, all by the doing of a single mage. Halvadere had not known what he would find as he had rushed from the capital under the cloak of night. At the heart of the city, a dragon could not merely unfold his wings and lift himself high above the spires to cast a shadow on a drunken city guard.
So, with the assassin in tow, they had blitzed down through the city’s tiers along unwatched alleys, and quiet roads, until they reached the outer wall. Through the quick immobilization of the watch on duty, and through some incomprehensible slight of hand by the assassin, they had slipped out through the ‘impenetrable’ wards of the bastion of the kingdom’s might. Hastening through the darkness, Halvadere thought of making a mental note in telling the king to perhaps sharpen the city defence.
Only well without the reach of the city border, did he surge into his draconian form and cut his way through the receding night. He flew toward the increasingly louder clangour of arcane force wreaking havoc in the distance.
He did not expect to find the burnt and broken battlefield which met his eyes as he flew over the last rise of the horizon. Strewn with the twisted bodies of a fel and unholy enemy, he had been met with the sights of the first clash with an ancient evil that had woken far sooner than any could have anticipated. But instead of the sound of clashing steel, and the desperate warcries of a mortal army standing valiantly against the dark, he saw but a lone figure – one that wrought devestation to swarms of those fiends – a ruthless juggernaut of arcane wrath.
The display of battle magic in all its resplendent mastery had left him awestruck. It had flowed from the mage’s hands in effortless opalescent pulses that pushed back at the unholy number that sought to overrun him. But nothing was as scintillating as the mage himself, who in his tireless zeal kept his ground, even when he had had fallen to his knees. Had he been a younger dragon, he would have made the sorceror out to be a fool. But Halvadere was captivated by the fervour of Tystnad’s spirit… one he would not have seen fallen that day.
And then, hours after, within the cave… looking upon him….
Looking upon Tystnad was like looking upon a storm – a storm caught in those eyes that brew golden lightning at its centre. His spirit was barricaded at first. Injured.
In the cave, the mage was headstrong, and defensive. His mind had been a sharp blade that he had swung at the first hint of challenge. Halvadere had felt his own fire rising to retaliate, until something he said had toppled the mage’s walls. Tystnad had shown a vulnerability then; an openness that revealed an entire antithesis to the cold fury the dragon had seen but a moment ago. In that moment, he prodded the mage’s true nature to find a sensitivity and compassion that belied the outward appearance of a reckless maverick or a warmonger.
He was neither.
In that unguarded moment, Halvadere sensed a far older soul wading beneath that youthful visage. Had Tystnad not been wearing the attire of a spellcaster, Helvadere would have never taken him for one. His sunkissed hair was as yet untouched by the years of scholarly mastery that was evident in his magic. His face, though shadowed by the stubble of manhood, remained uncracked by the scrutinous nature that most wizened and insatiable scholars possessed.
And his eyes… there was far too much of a rebel in those eyes. Those were the eyes of a soul that could never conform to the conventions of a guild. Lonely eyes, filled with passion, and sorrow, and a mystery that had drawn the dragon ever deeper the longer he had stared into them–
A raucous of snapping branches erupted as his wings grazed the treetops of the forest, ripping him from his idle mind-wandering. Refocusing on his flight, Halvadere leaned back to allow the wind to hit his outspread wings, breaking his forward momentum as he tried to instead climb higher. However, seeing an open clearning just ahead, he decided to remain low. Half-crashing and half-gliding, the dragon came down for a hard landing that threw a ton of dust and gravel up into the air, dousing the clearing into an ashy veil… Damn it Hal! Level the forest why don’t you… Rouse more unwelcome spirits while you’re at it…
Annoyed at himself, he started shifting, shedding his form as a dragon as much as his distractions – distractions he had not felt for centuries.
“Coming in a bit low there, ancient one. Was the sun in your eye? Or were the trees in the wrong place? ” The assasin walked toward him from beneath the spruces, looking equal parts amused, and confused at what she had just witnessed. Her cowl was dropped, and her hair was loose as she walked into the mid afternoon sun.
It was good to see her calmed somewhat from the ordeal of the Dreadwood. Though, he had to admit… the hint of sarcasm was an unexpected development. Mortals have become daring of late.
“How is he? The mage… Did you talk with him?”
Blackblade was staring in the distance… his mind still distracted. “Yes… we did. We– …. He… thought it best to stay there for the moment. We can arrange a reconnaissance tonight, if you feel up to it. ”
“Tonight?! Well… we may find it difficult to slip out again. Your absence would have been noted by now. But, perhaps that is a worry we can attend to later.” She looked at Blackblade then, knitted her brow, before asking, “Are you…all right? You seem less yourself than when we parted…” She looked toward the east mountains, in the direction he had flown in from, and then turned her gaze back to regard him. “Did something happen… between you and the sorcerer?”
He kept looking into empty space, thinking. Was he that readable? Blackblade had to admit, that he was wondering the same thing. What had happened there, with the mage? The dragon warrior was beginning to suspect that something far more significant was tying him and the young wizard with the tempest eyes. More than he could control…
Surprised, the assassin looked up, and gestured for him to do the same. Casting his eyes east, Blackblade saw that a star streaked across the sky. It lanced through the distant stormclouds that had come across the mountains, making them give way before its fiery path. It was oddly reassuring in its rarity; in its coincidental appearance. So very new. A lot was in fact, very new. “You better catch that…” she said. “May offer us some luck for the task at hand”.
“I’ll let it stand as a sign… let others draw from its fortune as well. Besides, my pockets don’t have space for shooting stars.”
The assasin smirked ever so slightly, as she fastened her hair and drew up her cowl. “I believe that is wise… those pockets are too filled with the feelings you caught today…”
Had Blackblade been a dragon and in flight at that moment, he may just have fallen out of the sky at those words…
You may want to read the following interconnected stories within the Inktober series: