The Dragon’s Scion Part 206

Armin lead the group to the portal stone, after explaining how it worked and – more importantly – why the long dormant stones were working now. It give them an advantage Tythel could barely even comprehend, but she made notes to consider it more. If nothing else, being able to appears anywhere in the kingdom faster than even the Alohym could travel would be huge.

“One thing with this plan,” Eupheme said to Tythel as they were walking. “Why not just fly the ship up to the Vacuity Engine itself?”

“Size,” Tythel said without hesitation. “The Vacuity Engine, from what Armin uncovered, is larger than cities. We’d never be able to do enough damage to take it down before the Alohym pilots shot us down.”

Eupheme nodded, her face still tight. “I don’t like that this plan exposes you to so much danger.”

“I don’t see another option,” Tythel said. “But…that bothers me too.”

Eupheme looked at Tythel, then at Sarven. The little phoenix was asleep on Tythel’s shoulders again, and a tiny stream of drool was running from between his jaws. “You’re worried about him?”

Tythel nodded, careful not to disturb the sleeping form. “I’m all he has. Before we leave, I’m going to have enough energy to hatch some of the other eggs. No matter what, a few of them will need to stay safe, so our species can continue. But…Sarven only has me.”

Eupheme put her hand on Tythel’s back, directly between her wings. “No. He has us.”

That got a happy blink from Tythel. “Just so you know,” Armin said, now that the portal stone was in sight. “We’re going to the Sylvani’s home city. It’s…it’s something else. Like being inside of a ship. Because that’s what it was originally. The Sylvani came from the stars, millenia ago. They, uh, fought the Alohym before. On their world. And lost.”

Tythel froze and stared at Armin. “Light and Shadow, man, you’re just going to throw that out as an aside. ‘Just so you know?’ That feels like something important.”

Armin rubbed the back of his neck. “There’s been a lot going on, okay? I couldn’t cover everything, and that doesn’t impact what we do.”

“Well, it certainly makes me feel better about recruiting this automaton to help us with operating the craft,” Ossman said, grinning broadly at Armin’s discomfort.

Tythel huffed. “It’s history. Important history.”

“Important but not pressing,” Eupheme said, which got a laugh from Armin.

Poz just glanced at the group, watching intently. He was…interesting. Tythel had never met an Underfolk before. She’d seen woodcuttings, but they always depicted the Underfolk so differently than others. That was their metamorphic nature, although the books Tythel had access to didn’t agree on why and how they underwent so frequent transformations. “I don’t think I thanked you properly,” Tythel said. “For the return of the egg. I feel like I should reward you somehow.”

“Thanks are not important, your highness,” Poz said, giving her a small bow. “And I need nothing.”

“If nothing else, you have my gratitude,” Tythel said, stepping onto the portal stone. “And if you do think of anything I could do…”

The rest of the sentence trailed off as she saw her surroundings. Metal hallways like nothing she’d ever imagined. Unnatural light coming from softly glowing orbs. Strange doors that dilated at sensing their presence. In front of them was a collection of steel and wires attached to some kind of device that whirred to focus on them.

Someone shouted from inside. “Lorathor. There’s more meat outside. Tell them if they want to come in, I get to stab the winged one!”

Eupheme moved quickly to put herself in front of Tythel. Armin waved frantically. “She’s strange,” Armin said, as quickly as he could. “And likes to stab, but will usually settle for a prick on the finger or something like that. Nothing serious.”

“Haradeth got blood on my floor!” the voice inside said.

“Usually,” Armin said. Lorathor came rushing out, waving his hands to make sure they saw him.

“Your highness!” Lorathor said.

Tythel stepped forward, drawing a scowl from Eupheme. She patted the umbrist on the shoulder. “Lorathor. It’s been too long.”

“Likewise,” Lorathor said, giving her a bow. Tythel quickly motioned for Lorathor to right himself. As far as she was occurred, anyone who stood by her side in the fight against Theognis shouldn’t need to bow to her. “I’m glad to see you, princess. Although you come at an interesting time. Bix is just about to wake Synit.”

That last sentence was addressed to Tythel, but Lorathor’s eyes rested on Armin. He flushed and cleared his throat. “Something else I forgot to mention,” Armin said. “Synit is a woman the Alohym experimented on, an early trial of the half-Alohym you fought. She’s on our side. Was there in the lair, for the final battle with Theognis. Helped us slay him.”

Lorathor nodded to confirm. “The experiments damaged her body. She couldn’t move without pain. Bix has done something she believes will repair her body.”

“I do appreciate the warning,” Tythel said, trying to imagine how she would have reacted without it. Probably would have lunged for the poor woman. “I was hoping to talk to Bix.”

“She will…almost certainly want to draw you blood, your highness,” Lorathor said, choosing his words carefully. “Not for any malicious reason, but because she is something of a scientist. She’ll hope to glean insight from studying it.”

“And Haradeth bleeding in there?”

“Haradeth was incautious with his word choice when agreeing to be stabbed,” Lorathor said. “Likely due to his mother’s presence.”

“Ah,” Tythel said. From the way Armin was nodding along, this was not an unexpected response. “Given she’s involved in such an important project, perhaps we should come back later? We were hoping to ask her if she could pilot an Alohym ship.”

Lorathor’s skin rippled with colors as he thought. Before he could speak, however, a voice came inside the structure. “Anything that meat built, I can fly,” the voice – Tythel had to assume it was Bix – said. “Don’t insult me by implying I can’t, your scaleness. The question is – why would I?”

Tythel considered her words carefully. This one…she wouldn’t be tempted by talk of nobility or the grand destiny of Aelif. She wouldn’t be interested in liberating people from false gods that appropriated the True Alohym’s name for their own twisted purpose. Even with this brief exposure, it wasn’t hard to see that about this woman. So what would appeal to her? “Because if you do,” Tythel said, speaking as clearly as possible. “There’s a very good chance you’ll get to stab an Alohym in the face, and keep stabbing until it ceases to amuse you.”

There was a long silence from inside. “You’re speaking my language now,” Bix said. “I mean, I know you’re doing it to manipulate me, so don’t feel clever just because it works. All right. Grand Dragon Fancy Pants, you can come in. Your pet Shadow Walker can come in too, because I know how hounds get separation anxiety. Everyone else, stay out there.” There was a pause, and a whirring sound. “Actually, the Underfolk can come in too. I haven’t stabbed one of you yet. Slipper buggers.”

“Promise you won’t stab me so much I bleed on your floor?” Poz asked, a slight tremor in his voice.

“See, Haradeth?,” Bix said, although her voice was fainter and muffled, like she was speaking away from a tunnel she’d previously been speaking into, “It’s not hard. Just got to be clever.” Her voice regained it’s previous strength. “Deal. Unless you piss me off. Lorathor, stay out there with the other boring meat. It’ll be too crowded in here.”

Tythel gently transferred Sarven’s sleeping form to Ossman. The phoenix looked up at Ossman, then back at Tythel. “I’ll be back,” Tythel said. “But it’ll be crowded in there. Stay with Ossman, okay?”

Sarven looked at Ossman, then back at Tythel, then back up to Ossman before nuzzling into the big mans arms and pawing sleepily for scritches under his chin. Tythel quickly showed Ossman the spot Sarven liked.

That settled – although Eupheme’s face was tight as a wire – the three of them headed inside. Tythel had just enough time to see Lathariel glaring daggers while wrapping a bandage around Haradeth’s leg before she noticed the small automaton, currently hanging from the ceiling by one of three tails as she manipulated dials.

“Good. Now sit down and shut up so I can wake up Synit. Don’t look at me like that, Umbrist. I’m not showing any respect to your princess because I don’t have any, and you’re just going to have to deal with that.”

Tythel again put a hand on Eupheme’s shoulder. “We need her,” Tythel mouthed.

Eupheme let out a weary sigh and nodded.

Then the room was filled with a hiss. A tube that was covering a bed started to unfurl. Inside, Tythel could see someone – a woman, part Alohym, part human, but different than what Tythel had seen before. Not a human wearing an Alohym suit, but the fusion of human and alien, blended perfectly together. Her skin was carapace except for the joints, giving her the impression of wearing armor. Her arms bifurcated like Alohym limbs, and two large, gossamer wings emerged from her back. Her legs turned up, the ankles high above where the foot would touch the ground, much like Tythel’s own legs but with a slender grace. Her carapace wasn’t the greyish coloring of the Alohym, but jet black, like polished obsidian. Her antenna were twitching, sensing the air. That being said, there was a symmetry to her appearance and a grace to her movements as she sat up that infused her with an otherworldly beauty.

She was human fused with something else. Something far more powerful than humanity, but without the form completely breaking from the human norm. And from the way Synit’s eyes – twice as large as a human’s, with six irises in a hexagonal pattern and each iris a different color blending together – fixed on Tythel, there was no doubt Synit caught the similarity too.

“Your highness,” Synit said, her voice strained and on the point of cracking. “Forgive my lack of decorum, but I…I…I don’t hurt.”

And then the half-Alohym woman burst into shakes that Tythel recognized. The shakes of a human body trying to cry in a form that didn’t have the instincts. Lathariel was starting to move, but Tythel was already there, kneeling down to Synit’s level and putting out her hands for Synit. Neither of them smiled. Neither of them needed to. “Touch isn’t the same across species,” Tythel said quietly. “Do you find comfort in it?”

For answer, Synit reached out and clutched Tythel’s two hands in her own four.

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The Dragon’s Scion Part 205

Tythel had expected to find Heartflame had its limitations. In theory, she should feel that helping hatch her brother and healing a goddess was enough. In practice, however, the fact that she couldn’t generate enough Heartflame to hatch another one of Armin’s trove of eggs was a frustration. 

This limitation wasn’t like dragonflame or ghostflame. With those, she could tell when she’d used too much because her throat had been burned raw. A problem that, hopefully, she wouldn’t have to deal with as much now that she had developed into a more draconic form. But after a couple moments of heartflame on the eggs Armin had found – moments which had been enough for her to feel the life still stirring in those eggs – Tythel had started to feel dizzy and had to stop. 

“It sounds like Light depletion,” Armin said, after helping her to chair. 

Tythel cocked her head. Sarven was still asleep on her shoulders, and chirped sleepily at the motion and nuzzled tighter around her neck. Tythel reached up to stroke the spot between his eyes. Sarven wiggled happily and cooed before started to fall back asleep. “I haven’t heard about this,” she said.

Armin nodded. “It’s not something Lumcasters talk about often. But we only have so much Light at any given time. We can draw more from the environment or form Lumwells to empower it. It sounds like you have a similar limit.”

“I hate having limits,” Tythel muttered.

Armin smiled. “Even the Little Gods have their limits. Everyone does.”

Eupheme, who had fallen silent to stare enraptured at Sarven, furrowed her forehead. Tythel wondered how long it would be before Eupheme asked to carry the baby phoenix around. She mentally noted that Eupheme might think it was rude to ask, and resolved to feign needing to unload him for a bit to give Eupheme a chance. 

She was the only person Tythel would fully trust to hold Sarven. 

“I don’t,” Eupheme said. 

Armin’s eyes widened. “You mean for your Umbrist abilities?”

Eupheme nodded. “At least, not in the way you do. As long as I can move normally, I can slip in and out of shadows as easily as I can run. A bit more tiring than walking, but hardly noteworthy.”

“That…goes against everything I’ve been taught,” Armin said. “I don’t want to say you’re wrong about how your abilities work, but I’m struggling to reconcile that.”

“Maybe it’s just a function of the Shadow?” Tythel said, getting both their attention. “Light and Dragonflame are bright and flashy. Shadow isn’t. Perhaps you need so little energy for Umbrist powers that you run out of physical stamina before you hit any limits Shadow imposes.”

Eupheme considered for a moment. “Something about that feels…wrong. I can’t refute it, but…it doesn’t match with what I feel when I do it.”

“Necromancers have limits to how much Shadow they can use,” Armin said. “Which would lend credence to Tythel’s theory.”

Eupheme spread her hands helplessly. “As I said, I can’t refute it. But imagine someone told you that you were actually seeing through your eyebrows, and your eyes were vestigial. It would feel wrong, even if you couldn’t prove it.”

“But you could disprove that,” Armin said. “If you cover the eyebrows and not the eyes…” he saw Eupheme’s face and held up a hand. “But we don’t have a simple test like that for power. The only thing we could do is find some way to give you limitless physical energy, which isn’t possible. So your point is well taken. Sorry.”

Eupheme nodded in acknowledgement of the apology. She was clearly going to take longer to forgive Armin for hiding the eggs and his outburst at Tythel than Tythel would. Tythel could appreciate that attitude – if Armin had hid knowledge of Eupheme’s sister from her, Tythel would have been similarly slow to forgive.

Tythel stepped back into the conversation. “As fascinating as this discussion is – and academically, it is – it’s something that is best left to the scholars, I think. Right now, we have more pressing and immediate concerns.”

“Pressing and immediate?” Eupheme said, giving Tythel a smile. 

“Yes.” Tythel tried to return the expression…but it felt even faker than before. More baring her fangs than smiling. That might just be how it felt, though. Neither Armin or Eupheme seemed put off by the expression. “I have to get to Tellias to use Heartflame on him. He’s holding on, but I don’t know for how long. And we have the attack on the Citadel.”

Armin stroked his chin.  “And that last one is…going to be difficult.”

“I’ve been thinking about that,” Tythel said, nodding to show she wasn’t arguing. “But I think there’s a way we can deal with the difficulty.”

Armin and Eupheme shared a look. “What did you have in mind?” Eupheme asked.

“The citadel is near impregnable, from what Marketta described,” Tythel said. The door creaked open to admit Ossman. The Underfolk, Poz, was with him. Tythel nodded for them to both sit. She trusted Ossman with her life, and Poz…well, if he was an Alohym agent, he was a damn terrible one, since he’d kicked the entire Resistance into newfound motion and returned the egg. Tythel quickly caught them up to speed before continuing with her thoughts.  “Dozens of ways to spot anyone approaching and kill them as they do. So we have to approach without being noticed and gain access to the citadel.”

“That is the main goal, yes,” Ossman said. “I just don’t see how you’re going to pull it off.”

“By approaching from an angle the Alohym don’t expect,” Tythel said. “We steal a ship.”

That bought a series of gasps from everyone present. Armin was the first to give the objections words. “Tythel…we don’t have a way to steal a ship. It’s just not possible. And even if we did, we’d have no way to fly it. And even if we could fly it, we’d have to convince the Alohym we have valid credentials.”

Tythel nodded. “There’s a few tricks we can use, I think. For stealing it…we would have to get it in flight. I can carry two people with me. They won’t be expecting it. Eupheme would need to come with me, as she could let us on. Lorathor should be the other. His ability to shift his form means he’ll be able to manipulate whatever controls they have in – he can just grow hands in the shapes needed.”

Sarven chriped and bit Tythel’s ear reproachfully. Tythel sighed and scratched his chin.

“The four of us can go in,” she said. 

“Tythel…he’s a newborn,” Eupheme said.

“A newborn phoenix,” Tythel countered. “And every bit as smart as a draconic wyrmling. He’s inherited a degree of Karjon’s understanding the world.”

“You…didn’t know much about phoenixes before,” Eupheme said, choosing her words carefully. “How do you know that?”

Tythel held out her hand so Sarven could climb onto it. “Sarven, land gently on Eupheme’s head,” she said, careful to keep her gaze locked on the phoenix. Sarven flared his wings and, with a quick beat, launched himself for Eupheme. He flared his wings a moment before he would have smashed into Eupheme’s skull, delicately landing on her hair.

Eupheme’s eyes went wide and she stared up at the Pheonix with a look like a usually unfriendly cat had decided to climb into her lap.

“Even if that wasn’t the case,” Tythel said, watching with amusement as Sarven started to knead Eupheme’s scalp gently, “I cannot ask – or tell – Sarven that he has to stay here and wait for me to go out and fight, see if I come back alive. Or, rather…I can, but I won’t do that to him. He understands enough, and…and I can’t leave him behind.”

A moment of silence followed that. All of them were trying to recalibrate from the rather fragile, somewhat useless blobs of adorable flesh that were human infants. Sarven was a baby in terms of age, but he was a baby phoenix. He was far from helpless.  

“Okay,” Armin said. “Let us just pretend, for a moment, that’s going to be as easy as you make it out to be. And put aside the child in danger aspect. And all the other ways that could go wrong. That doesn’t give us a way to fly the ship.”

“Someone is already piloting the ship,” Tythel said. “Otherwise it wouldn’t be airborne. I don’t see an Alohym lowering itself to the gross manipulation of piloting. They’ll use humans or some other beings from their vast empire. There will be an Alohym captain – “

“Remember the last time you fought an Alohym and you lost an eye?”

“I’m not likely to forget,” Tythel said, fighting down a surge of frustration. Armin was being obstinate here, but it was coming from a place of concern, not malice. “But I’ve evolved since then, and I know how to manage Ghostflame consistently. If we do this right, I’ll be able to flame the Alohym through a wall without it even knowing I’m there. And then the existing pilot…we persuade to keep the ship going, and fly it under our direction.”

“And if he or she refuses?” Armin said. “If they are going to dig in their heels and would die for the Alohym rather than let us take the ship?”

“Then we tell them to land the ship and we’ll release them alive. They’ll do that much at least. And if they don’t…then we cripple the ship, abduct the pilot, and set the ship crashing into the ground. Or let it just hover if we can’t do that. All we lost was time, and we took down an Alohym ship in the process.”

Armin was silent for a minute, then shook his head. “No. Tythel, this won’t work. It’s not worth the risk for one ship if we don’t know we can fly it…unless…” Armin trailed off. “Damn. Actually, that might work.”

Tythel’s nicitating membranes flashed and she motioned for Armin to go on.

“Bix,” Armin said. “A Sylvani automaton. She’s been in different kinds of void ships before. If anyone can pilot it, it would be her.”

“Then I’d like to ask her,” Tythel said. 

“Promise me one thing then,” Armin said. “Promise me that you won’t go ahead with this plan unless you have a pilot.”

“I swear to you on my father’s hoard.”

Armin seemed to understand the gravity of that promise.

“That doesn’t solve one problem,” Ossman said. “How we’re going to land it on the Citadel. They likely have some way to check ships haven’t been controlled.”

“Do they, though?” Tythel asked. “I’d be surprised. Why would you bother? A generation ago, none of us knew flying ships were even possible. We hadn’t even dreamed of it. Even the ones in the stories were gods, not men. Do you think the Alohym will imagine we’d try something so foolhardy?”

“You do realize,” Eupheme said, “that part of the plan hinges on the Alohym not believing we’d be so stupid to do exactly what it is we are doing. Doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.”

“It is possible,” Poz said quietly. Everyone turned to look at him. As quiet as the Underfolk had been, it had been easy to forget he was here. “I saw the potential. However, when I saw it, it required a pilot. I didn’t think that was possible. If this…Bix, you said? If Bix can pilot an Alohym ship, the Alohym will not have safeguards. I’m certain of that.”

“How can you be certain?” Armin asked.

“I…I don’t know if you’ll understand the significance of what I did. But I was able to temporarily enter a state of heightened intellect.” Poz grimaced at the thought, and there was a hollow look to his eyes that made Tythel certain she didn’t want to pry right now. “In there, I was able to gain some insights. I considered that possibility. The only flaw was finding a compliant pilot.”

“Then,” Tythel said, standing up and holding out her hand for Sarven. “I think it’s best we go find Bix and find out if she can. If so…then we know what we’re going to do.”

Want to find out how that goes now? Dragon’s Scion part 206 and 207 are live on Patreon! Updates should be more regular going forward. Also, if you’re looking for something else to read – check out some of my published books! Fans of my other serials – the week where I update all of them will be the last week in December, alongside a sale and some very special announcements for the new year.

The Dragon’s Scion Part 204

Haradeth hadn’t really thought much about the benefits of an active portal stone network. He’d been aware it had been only an instant to go from the Sylvani lands to the reactivated portal stone in the fortresses courtyard, but the impact of that hadn’t really stuck with him. Now that he was taking his mother halfway across the continent in a few steps – a journey he would have been hesitant to make in any other manner, given Lathariel’s newly vulnerable condition – it struck him that having the entire network up and running would completely reshape the kingdom. Fish from the coast could be brought inland without spoiling. Troops could be deployed to defend any part of the kingdom faster than even Alohym ships could travel. 

That revelation, however, would have to be processed later. Right now, his mother needed help that only a psychotic automaton with a penchant for stabbing could provide.

Bix’s portal stone had been moved to allow entrance just outside her laboratory, instead of bringing people directly inside. The shimmering light faded to reveal the underbelly of the Sylvani’s massive city that had once been a ship. Lathariel gasped, and Haradeth smiled. He’d been similarly shocked when he first saw the gleaming steel halls, strange wires, and bizarre flameless light. Bix had talked about things like reactors and electricity, which Haradeth still thought was a strange way to speak of magic.

“Haradeth!” Lorathor said, standing up from the seat he’d taken outside of BIx’s laboratory. “I was wondering when you’d – oh.” It had taken the Sylvani a moment to recognize who Haradeth had brought with him. Immediately, Lorathor dropped into a low bow. “Lady Lathariel. You honor us with your presence. It is truely a blessing to see you ambulatory again.”

“Lorathor,” she said warmly. “I was wondering when I’d see you. Where…what is this?” she asked, looking around.

“You have a unique honor,” Lorathor said, “one fitting someone of your station. Welcome to our home.”

“This…this is Sylvanathame?” Lathariel’s eyes widened. “But…”

“There’s a lot the Sylvani have shared with me,” Haradeth said, gently cutting in. He could fill her in with the full details later, while Bix worked. “It’s quite the tale. But they Sylvani have fought the Alohym before. On another world. This city is the remnants of their last great ship.”

“Light and Shadow,” Lathariel whispered. “I never imagined.”

“We have kept this secret since before you were even born, your Divinity,” Lorathor said with characteristic smoothness. “We are finally being allowed to share it with the wider world. Our…goddess, Anoritia, has relaxed some restrictions.” 

Haradeth couldn’t help but notice the hesitation before the word goddess. Lorathor had never fully recovered from the realization that his goddess was little more than a crystal lattice constructed to oversee entertainment and relaxation for the Sylvani as they journeyed across the stars. 

“Lorathor…I need to see her,” Haradeth said. He felt for the Sylvani, he did, but anxiety was still clawing at his heart. He knew, intellectually, his mother being mortal at the moment  did not mean she’d just drop over dead at any instant. Convincing his fears of that, however, was proving to be a nigh insurmountable task.

“She’s still working on Synit,” Lorathor said. 

With everything that had happened, Haradeth had forgotten that Bix had said the reconstructive work on the poor woman, an inexpertly made fusion of alohym and human biology, would take time. How long had it been? Had he really just spoken to her yesterday? It felt like months. “Do you know how long -” Haradeth started to ask, but a voice came in from inside.

“I already finished!” Bix shouted. “Like, half a day ago. I just didn’t tell Lorathor because he wouldn’t let me stab him.”

Lorathor shrugged helplessly. “Well, that certainly-”

“Haradeth!” Bix either didn’t hear Lorathor speaking, or didn’t care. Knowing her, it could be either. “I heard a new voice out there. Can I stab her?”

“Possibly,” Haradeth shouted back, getting a rather perplexed look from his mother. He nodded reassuringly. “But only healing stabs.”

“Boring!” Bix shouted.

“I’ll let you give me a non-healing stab if you help her!”

Bix’s head popped out from under the scrap of cloth that served as a door, getting another startled gasp from Lorathor. The automaton was hardly threatening, with her perfectly round head and wide lenses that served as eyes, but it was strange to see metal moving and speaking. “You never lead with the important part. Why don’t you lead with the important part? Who are you?” 

The last question was addressed to Lathariel. “I’m…Haradeth’s mother. You must be Bix.”

“Lathariel,” Bix said, nodding to herself as if she something had finally fallen into place. “Come in, then. Let me see if I can fix you and stab your son.”

Lathariel’s gaze hardened. “You should-”

“Mom,” Haradeth interjected before she could go on. “Bix and I have an understanding. With the stabbing. I promise I can explain later.” He wasn’t sure if he could keep that promise, but the last thing he wanted right now was for Bix to get testy and refuse to work on Lathariel. 

“Very well,” Lathariel said, giving Haradeth a look that he’d known since he was a child. The “we’re going to have a talk later about this, young man” look. Even all these years later, it still made him feel oddly guilty, even if he hadn’t done anything wrong. 

Bix lead them inside. Lorathor came too, although stayed near the door so he could slip away if Bix tried to stab him. The little automaton tapped a chair for Lathariel. “Sit.”

Lathariel’s forehead furrowed at the brusque tone, although she did take the seat.

“Bix is older than most of the Little Gods,” Haradeth said, frantically trying to smooth over the brewing anger under his mother’s eye. That seemed to do the trick, although the anger was quickly replaced with a mixture of confusion and disbelief. 

“How have I never heard of you?” Lathariel asked.

“For the same reason most people never have,” Bix said. “All the Sylvani call me The Tarnished One.” Lathariel gasped and Bix nodded. “Oh, good, you have heard of me.”

“I thought you were some kind of…trickster spirit. A demon, perhaps.”

“Nah. No demons. They don’t walk around the mortal plane much, and got to wrapped up with the Severed World.” Seeing their confusion, Bix shook her head. “Nope. Not explaining that. Too much. Anyway. Lathariel, I need your blood.”

“You need…my blood,” Lathariel said, the words flat as she tried to figure out if she’d heard them correctly.

“Yes. Give.” Bix extended the arm on her back that ended in a long needle. “I promise you won’t miss it.”

“I…find that hard to believe,” Lathariel said, eyeing the needle carefully. 

“Psh. You meat. So attached to your blood and organs. You have lots of blood so you can lose some and not die. I just want to take some of your blood. You’ll have plenty left over. But I need to look at it. Hold out your arm.”

It took some convincing from Haradeth, but Lathariel did, eventually, acquiesce and hold out her arm. Bix stabbed it with a motion like a striking scorpion, and Lathariel winced at the prick. “There we go,” Bix said. “Goddess blood. Excellent. Well, former goddess blood. You lost it, didn’t you?”

“How can you tell?” Lathariel asked.

Bix tapped one of her eyes. “I’m very good at seeing things. Things meat doesn’t see well.”

“Wait, if you can see so much, why did you need my blood?” Lathariel asked.

The gears in Bix’s mouth whirled as her smile widened. “I’m going to do science to it. See, you lost your divinity when you lost your core. Without that, no goddess. And you want me to fix that, but I can’t do that without a core. All you Little Gods…you need cores. But I have Haradeth’s blood to tell what he is with a core, I have your blood to show what you are after losing a core, and I have lots of human blood to show me what people without cores are like.” Bix gestured towards an immense vat Haradeth had noticed but never paid much mind to, until now. It was filled with a bright red liquid. It hadn’t occurred to him to even wonder about its contents. Now, however, with Bix’s gesture, Haradeth had concerns.

“Bix…where did you get that much human blood?” he asked.

Bix rolled her eyes. “From humans. Can’t exactly get human blood from cows, can I?”

“How many people did you drain blood from?” Haradeth asked, his voice rising in timber. 

“More than you have,” Bix said. “Obviously. Otherwise you’d know how much. Now. Shhh. I was talking. The more you talk, the harder your non-medical stab gets.”

Haradeth closed his mouth.

“Anyway…there’s no way I can recreated a Godcore. Not with the materials I have on this world. We’d need a basic core to work with. But I can probably use the blood I have and my vast, impressive, wonderful, fantabulous knowledge to stop your aging. Probably. And then…you just need to defeat the Alohym, steal one of their ships, travel to another world, get me what I need, and then I can make something that won’t be a real Godcore but will be the next best thing. Enough where Haradeth won’t be constantly acting like you might break if you sneeze.”

“I…thank you,” Lathariel said, fighting back her questions.

“Nope,” Bix said. “Words are stupid and useless. I don’t want your thanks. I want you to do something for me.”

“I’ll be happy to lend what aid I can,” Lathariel said, choosing her words carefully.

“Good.” Bix gestured to the device on the side of the room. “Synit is going to wake up soon. She’s going to probably be all confused and either in a lot of pain and all ‘blah blah blah it hurts so much’ and leaking water like you meat do when you’re said, or she’s going to be all happy and feeling in less pain and then be all ‘bur bur bur, thank you so much.’ I want you to deal with her emotional stupidness, and I can deal with your broken blood, and then I can make sure I actually fixed her or see if need to stab her more. Deal with that and keep her out of my wires, and I’ll consider that thanks enough.”

Lathariel was more than happy to help with that. Haradeth smiled. That was his mother. Always willing to help strays. In fact, it made him-

“ARGH!” Haradeth shouted and dropped to one knee. A brief sensation of pain surged from his leg as something struck him in the back of the calf, causing him to drop reflexively. It wasn’t a deep cut, but it definitely wasn’t shallow enough to be ignored either. 

Bix grinned and pulled the slender scalpel from his calf. “And now, your co-pay is accepted.”

Confused by Godcores? Well, this is part of the larger Coreverse. While I promise to explain what you need to know for Dragon’s Scion in the text of this story, so you won’t be lost if you only read this book, you can get far more in depth explanations about how they work on a world that has far more gods – specifically, Keldora. Why not pick it up? I bet you’ll enjoy it.

The Dragon’s Scion Part 203

Haradeth was only dimly aware of the others leaving. He was just focused on his mother. “I…I’m sorry,” he said, when he was finally able to speak again. 

Lathariel’s forehead wrinkled. “Sorry? My beautiful boy, what could you possibly have to apologize for?”

“I…I gave up.” The tears were threatening to return now, welling up in his eyes. He blinked them away, not wanting to start again. It was an effort to swallow the lump forming in his throat. “I didn’t think…”

“Shhh…” Lathariel said, putting her hands on his. “You don’t need to apologize. The fault is mine.”

Haradeth blinked. “You didn’t do anything!”

Lathariel gently pressed a finger to his lips to silence further objections. “Help your mother up?” she asked, holding out a hand. 

It made Haradeth sick to his stomach that she needed the help. His mother had, his entire life, been a completely stationary figure. Immortal, unchanging, and unbreakable. Children always believe their parents to be indestructible, but for Haradeth, growing older hadn’t come with the realization his parents were mortal beings that would wither with time. His mother was immortal. He’d never have to go though the pain of losing her. And yet…she looked the same, in so many ways, but there was a hollowness to her eyes, a sunken quality to her cheeks. 

He took her hand and gently helped her up. “Are you sure you should be sitting?” he asked, although he didn’t stop helping her. Her movements were slow, her limbs trembling with the effort. This wasn’t right. It shouldn’t be like this.

“Yes,” Lathariel said. At least that hadn’t changed. The weakness in her body had done nothing to undermine the absolute uncertainty to her tone. “I’m not dying. And we have much to discuss.”

Haradeth’s forehead furrowed. “You just woke up, surely that can wait.”

“It’s waited too long already,” Lathariel said. “There’s so much I never told you…things that if you had known, would have helped you understand what was happening to me. What happened to me.”

Haradeth nodded, and settled into one of the seats. Lathariel sat on the edge of what had been her litter and was now a sort of bed. She took several slow, deep breaths. For a moment Haradeth thought she would faint. Instead, the moment passed, and she remained upright. She saw his face and smiled, reaching over again and to take his hand in that unique way of mothers, holding his hand in both of hers and pressing her fingers into his palm, strong and reassuring while at the same time gentle and tender. “I’m an arrogant fool,” she said.

Haradeth looked at her in absolute shock. “How can you-”

“Hush, my child,” she said, and her voice had the same energy as her hands. “I knew the Alohym were a threat. I knew that they had killed so many of my kin. And yet I did not plan for my own fall.” She sighed. “Karjon and I discussed this, during our last conversation. He urged me to take precautions.”

“He didn’t come to your aid,” Haradeth said, unable to keep his voice harsh. “If he had-”

“If he had, he would have died with the rest of his kind, and Tythel would have never survived to come to us,” Lathariel said, her eyes narrowing. “Let go of your anger, Haradeth. Karjon was no coward. He was right. The fight against the Alohym at that time was unwinnable. We knew so little. His idea – to hide away and gather strength and information until the right moment – that was correct.”

Haradeth didn’t agree with her, but couldn’t make himself argue with his mother. Not after just getting her back. “As you say.”

Lathariel’s eyes sparkled. “As I do indeed,” she said. “And maybe you’ll listen in time. But…that isn’t what I didn’t tell you. It’s about what we are. How we came to be. I didn’t…think you were ready. I should have known better. I should have known war would not wait for me to find the right moment.”

Haradeth nodded slowly. Lathariel leaned back a bit, letting go of his hand to use her arms to brace herself. “What…what is wrong?” Haradeth asked, unable to stop the tremble in his voice. “Are you dying?”

“Only in the broadest sense,” Lathariel said softly. “I had to sever myself from…actually, I should start at the beginning.”

Haradeth settled in to listen.

“It was thousands of years ago,” Lathariel said. “When the Alohym – the true Alohym, not these corruptors – departed the world. I wasn’t there for that, you understand. I was born a millennia after, so I am basing this off what I was told. No one I spoke to could give me the true reason they left, although there were whispers of a rogue Alohym and a distant world. But when they did, they knew Alith would need to be guarded. There were threats in the void. So they created guardians for the world, beings that could fight against any monster that came from within.”

“The Little Gods,” Haradeth said, breathing the word. 

“No,” Lathariel said. “Dragons.”

Haradeth blanched at that. “Dragons? I thought this was about…us.”

“It is,” Lathariel said, smiling gently. “If you’ll allow me to continue.”

Haradeth apologized, and Lathariel continued.

“Dragons. Beings of immense power. But also beings of immense appetites. The dragons weren’t created from nothing. By creating the flame and exposing beings to it, those beings were ascended to draconic status.”

“Phoenixes?” Haradeth guessed.

Lathariel shook her head. “The Phoenix were the end result of the Ancient Alohym’s work. They were the failsafe, should the dragons ever fall. A way for their race to continue. The first dragons were instead made of powerful creatures that ruled the sky, animals of lupine intellect and voracious appetites.”

Haradeth considered for a moment as his mother waited for him to put the pieces of the puzzle together. It hit him like a thunderbolt. “The Aeromanes,” he said.

Lathariel nodded. “The first dragons were aeromanes bathed in Heartflame. It is how “true” dragons are born, and why dragons so rarely kill their only rivals for the sky. Dragons can produce offspring in the traditional way, but unless those eggs are bathed in heartflame, aeromanes will hatch from them. The Dragons original form.”

“Mother…Tythel has heartflame now. If she were to find an aeromane, could she…” Haradeth remembered something Tythel had said, long ago, and shook his head. “Of course not. Only true dragons can create a half-dragon.”

“I’m certain she believes that,” Lathariel said. “Dragons do not speak of their origin until their children have mastered Heartflame. It leads to young wyrmlings to push themselves too hard, and they can burn themselves out by doing so. Haradeth, there is no such thing as a true dragon – or rather, there is no such thing as a half dragon. A being, bathed in Heartflame for long enough, becomes a dragon. However, a human like Tythel that became a dragon would need centuries to be able to hold enough Heartflame to complete that. Unless, of course, she had someone to provide the strength. A being of pure Heartflame, reborn of it. That is the role of the Phoenix – to lend strength to dragons to aid in their creation of more, and to find aeromanes to transform if there are no  more dragons.”

Haradeth was speechless. Lathariel smiled as his shock before continuing.

“Now that she has hatched Karjon’s phoenix, Tythel will form a bond with it that will empower her own flames. In time, she’ll be able to create new dragons herself. And if she should fall, instincts will awaken in the phoenix to drive it to seek out an aeromane. Thus the dragons will be reborn.”

“It was so close,” Haradeth said, whispering the word. “The dragons…there were no phoenixes. They were extinct.”

Lathariel’s face darkened. “Yes. The work of the Necromancer dragon. And how that happened…will become apparent in time. But we’ve gone astray from what you need to know.  The Ancient Alohym had made Dragons to be a part of the world, but that made them vulnerable to the corruption of the world. So they needed a force that could balance the dragons. The great beasts to guard the world against threats from beyond the world – and the Gods, to ensure the dragons never grew too corrupt.

“But how to ensure the Gods never became to corrupt? To that end, there were three safeguards put in place. The first two were the…I don’t know if beings or forces would be the correct term. The Light and the Shadow. One to shepard the living, one to guard the dead. One to reveal, the other to hide. One to heal, the other to protect. Both those powers are forbidden to gods – they are in the hands of the mortal races. Dragons were given flames that can channel and refine their powers. Humans were given the ability to channel both Light and Shadow. And the Underfolk were given the power to exceed any of them, if only they consumed their flesh. The third safeguard.

“But the Alohym erred. Humans feared the Underfolk and drove them underground, and the Underfolk thought their gift to be a curse and forbade its use. The gods fell into squabbling amongst each other for power and formed pantheons that oversaw human kingdoms, utilizing them as proxies. The dragons became greedy and isolationist, sitting on their hoards in their mountains. The Sylvani arrived, beings the Ancient Alohym had never even imagined, and they were pushed to the edges of the world.”

Haradeth nodded glumly. “Power corrupts,” he said.

“No,” Lathariel said, her voice firm. “Power does not corrupt. Power is simply a fact. That is like saying fire kills, and ignoring the life it can preserve in the face of winter. The problem was not in power, but in people. Those that were already corrupt, once gaining power, used that power to remove those that were not. Human Lumcasters guarded their knowledge from others. Underfolk spurned the Forbidden Fleshes so that no member of their race could use them to form an empire of their own kind. Dragons hunted down their own that tried to live among mortals. And the squabbling of the gods meant those who were not corrupt were slain, or driven into the wilderness where they would have no power.”

“That’s what happened to you,” Haradeth said. 

“I wish it were so.” Lathariel looked away. “Just as I wish I could claim that this wasn’t the reason I hesitated to tell you. But…I was chosen to ascend because of my ambition. And I wielded my power as any other of the Little Gods did. I demanded worship and subservience from mortals. And when they rejected me…when the Cardomethi spurned me and my pantheon…” Lathariel’s breathing grew ragged. “I helped my fellows shatter an empire that had wounded my pride.”

“No.” Haradeth was the one being firm now. “I don’t believe it. You were the one that taught me that I should never place myself above mortals. That gods were to serve them, make their lives better. You couldn’t…it’s not…”

But in his mother’s eyes, Haradeth could only see sorrow. “I wish I had told you sooner,” she said.

Haradeth took a ragged breath. “It was a long time ago,” he said. “And you’re not that person anymore.”

“Not for a very long time.” Lathariel said.

“Then…it is what it is.” Haradeth shook his head. “I…I just got you back. I can’t comprehend the rest of it right now. This is like when Bix talks about words in our blood. It’s too…it’s too much.”

Lathariel nodded and patted Haradeth on the knee. “It gets easier. And I’ll be here to help you through it.”

Haradeth nodded, but his mind was bouncing around a thousand leagues a second. “Though…you said something earlier. What did you mean about the broadest sense?”

“Earlier I told you I was chosen to ascend,” Lathariel said. “I was given a spark of divinity, bound into a gem. That gem was bound to me for the longest time. After what happened…after what I did. I bound it to the forest instead. Still tied to me, but also tied to it. Limiting my power outside the borders. So I could…so I wouldn’t. Never again.” Lathariel ran her fingers through her hair, and that scared Haradeth more than anything else. His mother didn’t fidget like that. “When the Alohym’s weapon struck my forest, unlight corrupted that gem. I had to sever myself from it to avoid death. But in doing so…”

“You gave up your divinity,” Haradeth said.

Lathariel nodded. “I’m mortal again.”

Haradeth shook his head. “No. No, that can’t be right. I…there has to be another one of those sparks, right? Something else that could…”

“There was one left,” Lathariel said. “I…I should have gone through proper channels to find another for it. But I didn’t. I wanted to be selfish. I didn’t want to outlive my child.”

Haradeth stared ahead, unable to fully comprehend. “You said…no flame will ever touch me.”

“Yes. Your gem feeds on flame. Grows stronger from it. It’s also how you can do so many things. I told you it was because you were my son. And…in my defense, that wasn’t entirely a lie.”

Haradeth stood up abruptly. “Are you well enough to walk?”

“Yes,” Lathariel said, her forehead creasing. “What’s going on?”

“Magic gems don’t explain everything. There’s something different about me. Its in my…the words in my blood. That Bix told me about. If that’s true for me, it should be true for you. Maybe…maybe she can find a way to fix you.”

Lathariel’s face softened. “Haradeth…it’s too late for me. I doubt this Bix, whoever she is, can fix something created by the-”

“Mother,” Haradeth said, and now it was his turn to be firm. “You haven’t met Bix. If anyone can find a solution…it’s her. We’re going to her now. And then….and then we’ll see.”

Silently, he begged the Light that Bix had a solution.

Hey everyone! Instead of reminding you about my books this time, I want to refer you to a book published today. Leveled up Love, by Tao Wong and A.G. Marshall is a science fiction rom-com gamelit, and if that mash up of words sounds like it shouldn’t work – I felt the same. However, after reading it, I want to give it an unqualified recommendation. Give it a try!

The Dragon’s Scion Part 202

Tythel had started the gout of fire aimed upwards, so she didn’t sear Lathariel if there was a delay turning it to Heartflame. Unlike Dragonflame and Ghostflame before it, Heartflame didn’t burn her throat. Or rather, Tythel suspected, it did, but healed the damage as it happened. Either that, or she’d progressed far enough into becoming a dragon that the flames wouldn’t burn her any more. She hoped it was the later. Sarven was still wrapped around her neck like a shawl, but was now awake and watching the flames with wide eyes. He cooed in excitement when it turned to the blue of ghostflame, and chirped again when the fire went to the silver and gold of heartflame. Tythel tried not to let herself get distracted by his excitement.

Instead, she shifted the heartflame down to Lathariel’s form. The army had been carrying her unconscious form for months now. As a goddess, Larthariel didn’t show any external signs of injury anymore. Tythel wasn’t even certain she could heal Lathariel. But she had to try. 

“What are you-” Haradeth’s voice was angry, and was only cut off by Armin grabbing his arm. 

“I told you,” Armin said. “Heartflame. The healing fire.”

“You shouldn’t have started without me,” Haradeth said, and Tythel could hear his heart pounding. She couldn’t respond right now. Just maintain the constant flow of metallic fire. She could feel Lathariel in the flame. Tythel had gotten a similar impression when using Heartflame on Sarven’s egg, but that had been a tiny feeling. With Lathariel, it was like feeling a continent. There was so much energy in the goddess, so many places where cracks existed in her life force. Tythel let the heartflame start sealing those cracks, and mentally followed them to their source.


In the center of Lathariel’s being, where the heart would be on a human, there was a huge gaping hole. The cracks radiated out from that space, like glass punctured with a spear. The cracks were mending, but that hole…it felt so immensely deep and vast, that some instinct told Tythel she’d burn through her own power before she came even close to filling it. 

It made a kind of sense. Lathariel had been rendered insensible when the Alohym destroyed her forest. If Tythel’s guess was like, that hole represented her connection to the forest, severed and destroyed by the Alohym. Another crime to lay at their feet. Instead, Tythel let golden flame race through the damage, welding shut cracks as soon as they found them. 

Tythel was starting to get dizzy, and she could feel sweat beading on her forehead. Maybe it had been wrong to start with Lathariel. She should have known healing a goddess would be orders of magnitude harder than hatching an egg, or healing a wound on a human. She started to waiver.

Eupheme was there in an instant, her hand firmly on Tythel’s elbow to steady her. “Don’t push yourself too hard,” Eupheme said, the words nearly lost in the roar of the flames coming from Tythel. 

Tythel used her free hand to squeeze Eupheme’s fingers, letting her friend know she’d heard. Tythel couldn’t go much longer anyway. She let the flames start to sputter out, and started to sag as Eupheme supported her.

“Are you okay? Is she okay?” Haradeth asked both questions back to back, unable to calm himself enough to wait for an answer. He was already moving towards his mother as Eupheme helped Tythel to a chair. “Is she?”

Tythel took a deep breath, her head spinning. “The forest was her heart,” she said.

Haradeth nodded.

“I can’t heal an entire forest,” Tythel said, gasping for air. It didn’t occur to her until just now the real limit on her flame might be human lung capacity. Sarven licked Tythel’s cheek and cooed gently. “I could heal the damage its destruction did outside of that. I don’t know if…”

“She’s moving!”

Ossman had been the one to spot it. Lathariel’s fingers were twitching. Haradeth leaned in, looking at her closely. For a moment no one dared to breath. Then, after a moment, Lathariel’s eyelids fluttered and opened. She gave a small smile and reached up to Haradeth’s cheeks. “My son,” she said, her voice soft and strained.

Haradeth’s eyes, always so hard and firm and commanding that Tythel had seen, started to sparkle with tears the moment Lathariel spoke, and his face went slack, and in that expression Tythel could see the boy he’d once been. “Mom,” he said, his voice choking on the word. He moved his lips, like he was trying to say more, but was too overwhelmed to do anything else but press into his mother’s touch. The tears were flowy freely now, and Lathariel’s eyes were going damp as well. 

“We should give them a bit,” Tythel said as quietly as she could, getting nods from the others. She’d had another reason she wanted Lathariel back up and walking. 

“She still looks so weak,” Armin said, hesitating.

Tythel put a gentle hand on his arm and steered him away from the reunited family with the gentle firmness she remembered Karjon using when she was going somewhere dangerous or just needed her to be somewhere and she wasn’t moving. From the way Armin’s eyes widened, he was as surprised by Tythel’s newfound strength as she was, but he nodded in agreement with the suggestion. He’d just been distracted. Once they were further away, Tythel turned to him. “I couldn’t heal her connection to her grove,” Tythel said. “There was something absent there, something I couldn’t reach. I…I don’t think we have Lathariel back at anything close to her old strength.”

“Doesn’t matter,” Armin said. “Haradeth…he hasn’t been the same since she was injured. You didn’t know him before, so you’d barely be able to tell, but…trust me. He was different. And you gave him that back.”

Tythel expected to feel her cheeks grow warm with a blush at the praise. They didn’t. Something she’d lost with the draconic transformation. She was glad it had left. She’d never particularly minded blushing, but it wasn’t something dragon’s did, and one more sign she had completed her ascendance. “It’s the least I could have done,” Tythel said.

“Still…” Armin trailed off, the glanced at Eupheme and Ossman. “Can I borrow her for a moment?”

“Up to you,” Eupheme said, looking at Tythel. She had barely spoken to Armin since the argument earlier, and Tythel appreciated her friend’s fierce defense. 

“It’ll be fine. Although stay nearby. We can’t let our guard down.”

Eupheme nodded. Ossman glanced at Armin, then back at Tythel. “I…have to look into something, anyway. I’ll talk to you later.”

Armin motioned for Tythel to follow him back into the keep.

“I’m sorry for what I said earlier,” he said.

“I…don’t think I have any room to criticize someone for what they do in the throes of grief.” Tythel ran her hands through her hair, a reflexive gesture. Except she didn’t have hair anymore. Her fingers instead ran over the spines that had replaced the mammalian fur. She wanted to find a mirror so she could see what she looked like now. 

Armin didn’t  need to ask what she meant. Tomah. “At least, in your case, it was someone who was actually to blame.” 

Tythel shrugged slightly. “I don’t think I would have behaved any more rationally if it hadn’t. And…your accusations weren’t completely unfounded. Just delayed.”

Armin raised an eyebrow.

“Haradeth was right about me at first. When I joined with you all, it was because I wanted to avenge my father, and that was all that mattered to me. I wouldn’t say you all were tools of my vengeance – I wasn’t quite that calculating – but I didn’t care what happened to anyone, including myself, so long as I got my revenge.” Tythel gestured towards her eye patch. “I have a reminder of that.”

Armin nodded. “I don’t think anyone can blame you for not caring about people you barely knew. Although…you were stretching your wings earlier, weren’t you? The pain is gone there now, yes?”

Tythel nodded.

“Well…have you tried taking that eyepatch off?”

Tythel froze. It hadn’t even occurred to her. She reached up with a hand that started to shake, then stopped herself. “Not yet,” she said. Armin made an inquisitive sound in his throat, and Tythel pushed ahead. “I have Sarven,” she said, earning a sleepy chirp from the infant phoenix on her shoulders. “I have Heartflame. Today has become one of the best days I’ve had in a while. I’d rather not learn it didn’t heal my eye until tomorrow, in case that is what happened.”

“And if it did heal, that’ll make tomorrow another good day,” Armin said. “Well…I suppose all I can do is make today a better day.”

“Are we okay?” Tythel asked, trying her level best to keep her voice under control.

Armin sighed. “It’s not the kind of thing you just get over,” he said. “But…I acknowledge it’s mostly irrational. I just need to move past it, and that will take time. So…the answer is we will be. Just let me sort my head out first?”

“Absolutely,” Tythel said. “Thank you.”

“Don’t thank me,” Armin said, giving her one of the lopsided grins she hadn’t seen in far too long. “At least, not yet. You can thank me right about…” there was a chest from his room in the hallway. He waved away the soldier he’d set to guarding it, and gently opened the lid. 

Armin probably said ‘now’ after opening it. Tythel wouldn’t know. Her heart was pounding so fiercely, she could hear it in her ears. Inside the chest was a veritable treasure trove – dozens of golden eggs that housed phoenixes, awaiting her to help them hatch.

If Tythel still had been capable of tears, they would have been pouring forth now. She couldn’t anymore. She certainly couldn’t speak. 

Armin caught her before her legs gave out. “Are you okay?” he asked, his voice a mixture of amusement and concern.

Tythel just stared at the eggs for a moment, until Sarven stirred and nipped at her ear. She stroked his head and finally found her voice. 

“We won’t be the last.”

Want to read more of what I’ve written? Try out The Wastes of Keldora!

The Dragon’s Scion Part 201

“We have to go to her!” 

Ossman moved in front of the shouter, his arms folded across his chest, and glowered. After what had felt like an eternity trying to get the situation to calm down, Ossman had decided that trying to convince people that their princess was, in fact, safe inside of a building that was doing its best impersonation of a bonfire wasn’t going to work for him. He’d settled on relying on the fact that he towered over most of these people to make them hesitate. 

Eupheme had adopted a similar tactics, although she relied on leaning against the ruins of what had once been servant’s quarters and trimming her fingernials with a dagger. Every time someone stepped closer, she would make eye contact, and precisely shave away one of her nails without breaking eye contact. The motion carried the message well, and that message was “I have ten fingers, and you really don’t want to find out happens when I’n out of nails to cut.” So far, no one had wanted to.

Armin was the only one speaking, his voice carrying over the crowd. “Listen, everyone!” he said, a note of command to his words that Ossman was certain Armin couldn’t have managed before their trip into the swamp, “She. Is. A. Dragon. The only thing she needs right now is for everyone to stay calm, stay quiet, and let her finish.”

“The building is on fire!” someone added.

“Oh no,” Armin said, not even managing sarcasm with his words, just adopting a dry tone that sounded as bored as Eupheme looked. “Fire. On a dragon. However will she survive? Truely, this will be the end of her line, as dragons are notorious for their flammability.”

Ossman had to fight back a grin. So Armin could maintain the air of leadership for a couple sentences, and then was back to normal. It was progress by baby steps. One of the soldiers took a step forward-


It wasn’t hard for Ossman’s glower to intensify. Ever since he’d been exposed to massive energies from a Lumwell, nearly mutating in the process, the voices had been constant companions. They’d gotten easy to ignore, and their urgings towards violence only really increased in the presence of unlight. The soldier that had stepped forward was holding such a weapon, an arcwand that had been scavenged from the Alohym, and Ossman’s knuckles cracked as he tightened his fists.

The man gulped and took a step back.

“The fire’s stopping!”

“I just said-” Armin started, then he caught up with what the soldier had shouted and glanced over his shoulder.

True enough, the gold and silver flames of what Ossman hoped was Heartfire were beginning to die down. There were still normal flames mixed in with the others, but without Dragonflame to sustain them, they weren’t lasting long on the stones.

Poz, the skittish underfolk that had brought the egg, was on top of the ruins Eupheme was using for a backdrop. He had clambered up there the moment the fire had started, and had spent the entire time acting like he hadn’t run up here out of fear, but because he felt this was just the best place for him to be. Armin had muttered something about cats at the sight, and Ossman had made a mental note to ask him later. Now that the fires were dying down, however, Poz had shifted into a crouch, watching the smoking building with an intensity Ossman could only call catlike. If the Underfolk had a tail, Ossman would have expected it to be flicking back and forth.

Cats indeed.

“She’s coming out!”

That got Ossman to finally turn away form the soldiers and to the Guardhouse. He gaped at the sight, even before Tythel was visible. Now that the flames were gone, the stones of the building that hadn’t been blasted aside by the initial wave looked like crystalized blocks of flame, golds and reds shifting within them. He’d heard about that. Dragonforged objects were rare and highly prized for their immense strength. This guard tower would likely stand for a thousand years, even if the rest of the keep around it crumbled into dust.

Then he saw her.

Tythel was not the same woman who had gone into the guard house. Ossman was barely sure the word ‘woman’ would even apply anymore. That was a human-centric term. Was there a term for a female dragon? 

She was still bipedal, but her legs were now so strongly avian in their construction that they couldn’t be mistaken for anything attached to a human. You also couldn’t compare them to a bird, however, as they were corded with muscles under glistening bronze scales. Draconic was the only word for them. Those scales were more pronounced, too, no longer looking like a subtle pattern on her skin but the thick armor of a dragon. Her tail had grown, nearly as long as she was tall and half that again, and lashed the air gently as she walked, shifting to offset her balance. Her head was the most human part about her, and in there Ossman could still see the princess he had known, but her hair was completely gone, instead replaced with rows of short and vibrant red spines. Those rows merged together, forming a series of spines that started getting shorter until they reached the back of her neck. Her wings were wide open, the brilliant green undersides on full display.

The whole thing was almost enough to distract him from her hands. She was holding them close to herself, like she was cradling a child, and in her hands something stirred. It looked very much like a feathered dragon with feathers the color of of flames, and was idly nodding on Tythel’s finger. Its eyes made little “U” shapes as it was closed.

People started to drop to their knees for the princess, or just in awe or fear of the being that Tythel had become. The sudden motion startled the dragonling in Tythel’s arms and its eyes popped open. It stared curiously at them, then back up at Tythel, and chirped a question. Tythel smiled and stroked the back of its head. “Rise, all of you,” Tythel said. 

“What is going on down here?” The speaker came from the doorway to the keep. Duke d’Monchy was striding out into the courtyard. He gave Tythel the barest of bows mandated from customs. “I could see the flame from the windows. Your highness, are you all right? 

“I’m fine,” Tythel said, and it seemed like Duke d’Monchy was finally noting her appearance. “My brother has been found.”

The Duke blinked. “Brother?” he said, eyeballing the bundle in Tythel’s arms. The little dragon stuck out his tongue at the Duke, then let the tongue withdraw when Tythel started scratching his head again. The tip of the tongue still shone form between its lips. 

Tythel nodded. “My father’s egg has hatched.” Tythel saw Duke d’Monchy’s furrowed forehead and shook her head. “My brother on my adoptive father’s side. This is not my heir as a princess. He is the heir to all that is mine that came to me from Karjon.”

A little bit of the tension in Duke d’Monchy’s shoulders relaxed, and Ossman couldn’t entirely blame the man. It was going to be hard enough to convince people the half-dragon before him – for that’s what she truly was now, a perfect fusion of dragon and human – was the Princess. Taking a dragon as an heir, t hough… “I am gladdened to see the dragons will live again,” Duke d’Monchy said. “And I hope we can help care for your brother as much as you have cared for us.”

A diplomatic answer. Ossman had known Tythel long enough to know the look in her eyes, which were now slitted like a cats. That was the look that she was going to remember your exact wording, and consider it carefully. “Thank you. Although…he is not a dragon. He is a phoenix. If there was another…then the phoenix would continue.” her eyes met Armin’s. “They would be the true legacy of the dragons.”

That meant nothing to Ossman, and from Eupheme’s furrowed forehead she was as clueless as him. Armin, however, looked like Tythel had just unslung her warhammer and hit him in the stomach at full strength. “There-” Armin’s voice cracked on the word. “You’re certain of that? Didn’t the Phoenix go extinct?” 

Tythel nodded. “Dragon eggs have been stolen for countless millennia, and the tradition of rebirthing eggs died with it. I…didn’t even know what would happen. I never imagined this was the true source of the phoenix. There were never enough of them…” Tythel’s words trailed off. Armin looked white as a sheet, and everyone was staring at him. 

Armin fixed a smile on his face. “Your highness…my friend. You should celebrate the good news of the recovery of the egg. And then I…then come talk to me.”

Tythel nodded nodded slowly. “I will. But not after celebration.” Tythel held the baby phoenix up and let it rest on her shoulder. It crawled across to drape itself over her neck, the red and gold of it’s flames standing out strikingly against the purple of Tythel’s backless shirt. It chirpled sleepily, nuzzled against her cheek for one last scratch under its chin, and as soon as it got what it wanted, it promptly fell asleep. “Duke d’Monchy. I need to know where the wounded are. The most critical cases. The ones that we have no more hope for.”

“Your highness-” the Duke said, and something in Tythel’s stance made him shift where he was going with that. “Today is a day of celebration. Surely you want to enjoy time with your…brother.” He trailed off on the word.

“Sarven,” Tythel said. “My father always said, if I had been a boy, it’s what he would have named me. Sarven.”

“Surely you want to enjoy your time with Sarven, then.”

“I do,” Tythel said. “But not while there is suffering I can fix.” She gestured to the tower. “I have Heartflame. I don’t know how long I can maintain the period of easy channeling. Like Ghostflame before it, I expect there to still be a learning period before I have it mastered. Let me heal them.”

Those last four words obliterated any objection the Duke had. “Of course. First, we should-”

“Is Latheriel still in rest with you?” Tythel asked.

The duke nodded. 

“Then I think it is best I start with the fallen goddess, who can heal if I struggle to manifest Heartflame again,” Tythel said. “Have someone bring Haradeth. They’ll both want the other one present when she awakens. Now. Lead me to her.”

And, moving like a queen who had given her orders and expected them to obey, Tythel strode forward. 

No, Ossman realized. That wasn’t what she was moving like. That’s what she was. Ossman and Eupheme fell into step behind her, while Armin rushed to find Haradeth. 

And, for the first time in months, Ossman realized something had changed.

The voices were quieter, and their words were too muffled to make out. Something about seeing Tythel had changed their cadence. And whatever they were saying now…it was certainly a relief.

Want more books by me? Why not check out The Wastes of Keldora and the Trains of Keldora, or my other books on Amazon? Already read them all? Check out the books in the 2020 publishing derby! There are some great ones in there, including one by me. (To be announced later – but can you guess?)

The Dragon’s Scion Part 200

The Collegium had been known for many things – a bastion of knowledge and civilization, some of the greatest halls of learning in the Kingdom, the birthplace of Lumcasting – but one in particular had stood in Armin’s mind. It had the tallest structure built by human hands. The unimaginatively named Tower of Light had tested the very limits of how high stone and wood could built when reinforced by the Light that named it. It was practically a tradition for first year students to walk every single step in the Tower of Light at some point to look down at the world below. 

Armin could never forget how it had looked from that height. It was so windy at the top, the whole thing was encased in a permanent dome of Light so it was even possible to stand up there without wind sweeping you away. It was nothing in comparison to mountains, of couse, but on the Tower one could stand and look over the edge and imagine oneself flying. Before the Alohym, it was the closest a human could get to that sensation. 

The dizzying perspective of it, seeing the whole world laid out beneath him, the people below looking like tiny ants he could reach down and pluck up, had lingered with him for days. Armin had never really been able to get over that moment, how it had changed how he’d viewed everything. For some of the students, it had been a powerful feeling, standing so high above those without the gift to climb the steps. For Armin, however, it had been a reminder of how fragile things were. From up there, everyone looked as vulnerable as ants, and Armin had realized that they were. 

When Tythel burst through the door of the guardhouse, Eupheme right on her heels, her eyes wide with a mixture of hope and terror, Armin had the same sense of shifting perspective.

He’d seen the egg before and, Armin hated to admit, part of him had thought Tythel’s obsession to be one born of yet another draconic lust for gold. It wasn’t until he saw that look in her eyes that he realized how badly he’d misjudged her.

Karjon hadn’t just been Tythel’s father, he’d been her entire world. That valley, that lair, and her father had been everything she’d known. At the same moment she had gained a wider perspective on everything, just like Armin had in that tower, she had also seen the world was full of terror and monsters. Monsters that had taken her father from her. Relief that his friend finally was going to get part of that world back warred with shame that he’d judged her so wrongly in at least this one thing.

It wasn’t going to magically fix things. Armin knew that. But for the first time he really, honestly, believed that there were things that could be fixed. 

And if this Poz had lied about the egg to gain audience with Tythel, Armin would kill him for crushing Tythel’s hopes like that. Assuming, of course, Tythel let Poz live long enough for Armin to do so. 

“I came as fast as I could,” Tythel panted out the words, her nictitating membranes flashing so quickly Armin knew exhaustion had nothing to do with it. “Is it…” Tythel swallowed hard, her throat so choked with emotion she couldn’t even finish the question.

“I never would have risked confusing you if it wasn’t,” Armin said. 

Tythel’s attention turned to the Underfolk.

Poz had been unable to avoid forming expectations for his first meeting the Dragon Princess. She’d been painted as a figure great and terrible, a monster and a savior. He’d half expected her to be a full blooded dragon, or a human of painful beauty. He’d expected her to sweep in with regal imperiousness. She wouldn’t demand the egg, no, because demands would be something beneath her station. Demands were made by people who had to use harsh words and strength to enforce their will. The Dragon Princess, however, wouldn’t need such things. She’d just say that Poz would give her the egg, not as a demand, but as a statement of face. Apples fall from trees, the sky is blue, and the egg would be in her possession. 

In Manflesh, Poz had written different predictions as to her reaction, including the low but not unlikely possibility she’d kill him outright for the crime of taking the egg in the first place. Human behavior was a difficult to account for variable, since humans behaved so uniquely and irrationally from each other. Unknown humans were even harder to account for, since no norms could have been formed, and too much rumor had influenced Tythel’s reputation to draw a truly accurate conclusion. And when you added dragons to the mix, which were more predictable than humans but less well studied, Manflesh Poz had only been certain of one thing – that if the Dragon Princess didn’t kill him outright, she would welcome the return of something so treasured.

The breathless young woman in front of him was not a great match for either set of expectations. She was undeniably of human origin and nonhuman ancestry, her scales gleaming in the torchlight of the guardhouse, her hair thick strands that had never adorned a mammal’s hide – and that was ignoring the avian structure of her legs and feet, the long reptilian tail that stretched behind her, and the two wings that emerged from her shoulders. What she absolutely was, however, was emotionally distraught. 

“A pleasure,” Tythel managed, the barest formality of her station managing to overcome her initial panicked state. “I…thank you, for bringing this to me. It has been long sought.” She looked at Poz’s hands, at the table, her eyes flickering about. She wanted to make the request or the demand, that was clear.

Poz saw no reason to prolong her torment. He reached into his pouch, and the Dragon Princess’s breath caught. Armin’s forehead furrowed, and his lips began to trace a scowl. “You told me you’d hidden it,” he said.

“I lied, Poz responded, pulling out the egg. “Forgive the deception, but do you honestly think it would be a safe idea to leave something so precious unattended?”

Armin gave him a curt nod, and every muscle in the Dragon Princess’s body tensed. With deliberate care – Poz knew how durable the eggs was, but they might, and the last thing Poz wanted was to give them the impression he was being indelicate – Poz pulled the egg from his pouch and set it on the table in front of him.

Tythel stared at it. Her eyes were in the most literal sense flashing, nictitating membranes closing and opening with such regularity that the contrast between the light shining off her eyes and the less reflective membranes made that far too literal. “Thank you,” she said, her voice hoarse. She reached for it with trembling hands, but stopped short of touching it, as if she feared that contact would break the illusion. “How did you…”

“He’s told me the story,” Armin said, putting a hand on her shoulder. “I can fill you in later. I know that’s not what really matters to you right now.”

Tythel nodded, and finally let her fingers gently brush the side of the eggshell. She held it as if it was made of spun glass, slowly drawing it close to herself and nestling it in both hands. “Thank you,” she whispered again. 

Then the Dragon Princess slumped to her knees. The other woman who was with her was at her side in an instant, so quickly that Poz didn’t even see her cross the intervening distance. That would be Eupheme, then, the Dragon Princess’s Umbrist. She put one hand under Tythel’s arm, so she wouldn’t fall further. “Your highness?”

“I need…” Tythel’s breath hitched. “I need…”

Poz stood up. This was something he’d predicted in Manflesh. He hadn’t expected it to be so soon, but he could see it now. Bits of light coming through her scales, barely noticeable to human eyes, but bright as day to the eyes of catflesh. “We should leave her,” Poz said firmly.

“Why?” Armin asked, whirling on Poz. “What happened?”

“Surely you noticed by now, the transformations of Heartflame rely upon the recipients emotional state,” Poz said, already moving to the door. Armin moved to block his path, and Poz slid to the side with a cat’s grace. “If we are still here, we will be caught in it.”

Armin’s eyes went wide. “What…is she going to be all right?”

“Presumably!” Poz was at the door, but the Umbrist was moving after him, and her agility matched his own. The gifts of Shadow. Even Catflesh had its limits. “However, we may not!”

“Go-” Tythel managed through clenched teeth. The word came out hoarse and strained, and Tythel managed to take a deep breath and and managed the word again. This time, it was exactly the tone Poz had expected at the beginning of their encounter. Not a demand. A simple statement of reality. “Leave.”

Poz was already out the door.

Tythel could feel something welling inside her. It wasn’t painful. Not exactly. Or really uncomfortable. It was like she was stretching a muscle she’d never known she’d had for the first time. It was a beautiful feeling, but it was also overwhelming. It was coursing through her veins, setting them on fire. Fire that was building and growing. 

It felt like the first time she’d access Ghostflame, but far warmer. Not in terms of heat, Ghostflame had an ice cold heat that Tythel couldn’t quite understand. This heat was far greater, but it was also warmer. It was a warmth she knew, but not one she’d ever expected to feel inside her. It was the warmth of laying against Karjon’s side on a sunny day, reading a book and watching the life of the the valley unfold beneath her while her father slumbered, it was the warmth of a welcoming embrace from Ossman, it was the warmth of a rare smile from Eupheme or the spark of excitement in Armin’s eyes. 

It was comfort and hope wrapped together and magnified a thousandfold, relief of knots unwinding and a warm bed after a long journey multiplied by the excitement of discovery. 

There were shouts coming from outside, distant and strange voices. The soldiers Tythel had blown past in her hurry to reach the guardhouse were reacting to everyone but their princess rushing from a building filling with a strange goal. She could hear Armin and Eupheme trying to stop everyone. At some point Ossman – Tythel had seen him among the soldiers as she rushed to the guardhouse – joined Armin and Eupheme in stopping everyone from entering. Her friends, guarding her, caring for her. 

Then she couldn’t hear anything. There were only two sounds in the entire world, and both were filling Tythel’s ears with a pressure she’d never imagined before. One was her own blood, rushing in her veins. She could feel its force increase. Something was building in her, something solid and small but connected to every other part of her, and it was beating in time with her heart, and it was hard and precious and on some level, Tythel knew that this was the Egg that was her Core. The same as the one from Karjon she held in her hands. 

The other sound was a mirroring beat from the egg. It could sense the feeling in her, and it was responding to that same thing. It had its own warmth, but that warmth was fragile and flickering. A candle in the wind, able to be snuffed out at any moment. 

Tythel was barely present in her own mind anymore. What was happening right now had as much to do with awakening instincts as it did with any rational thought, and even moreso. It was the inversion of the fight or flight instinct, where terrible fear gripping the soul forced desperate action on a mind unable to process what was happening was replaced with a loving and inevitable embrace, guiding confident, firm action. The instinct of a dragon. Protect and hold. The instinct that drove them to build hordes, to guard their lands so fiercely, to hold their young so tightly. 

It wasn’t anything human. Tythel knew a human’s desire to nurture, grow, and care, but this wasn’t that. It was something deeper, more fundamental, something that was part of who she was as her scales. And those instincts knew what she needed to do.

Fire was meant to warm and spread.

Tythel threw back her head and let loose a burst of dragonflame into the ceiling above her. It was more powerful than any flame she’d ever unleashed before, obliterating the stone above her with a force almost physical and sending it scattering away. No shard came down on her or the egg now nestled against her sternum. That flame began to narrow and turn ephemeral, merging into the ghostly blue of dragonflame, no longer destroying but passing harmlessly through the objects in her way.

The shouts outside were getting louder. Tythel ignored them. They were not dangers to her or the egg. They were allies who meant her well. They were comforting. People who never knew her as anything more than a figure were worried for her well being, and that merged with the concern of her friends and grew the warmth inside Tythel. 

Then the flames coming from her mouth brightened. They were no longer ghostly. They were beautiful and bright. Not the white that merged to yellow and orange and red, but a core of pure white gold that fanned out to yellow gold and then flicked towards silver and bronze at the edges. The flames both radiated and reflected light, and Tythel had to close her nictitating membranes against the glare. 


Instinct drove her still. The egg in her fingers was lifted upwards towards the heavens like an offering, and Tythel barely needed to move her head to bring the flame and egg together. The delicate, fragile flame within the egg ignited upon meeting Heartflame, flaring to life, forming a blaze that matched her own. It took on a life of its own.

Tythel closed her mouth, cutting off the Heartflame, at the exact moment that much power would be too much for the egg. She could feel it burning still, shifting, its own flame now roaring in a power that needed no external fuel. Tythel brought it close.

Silence returned. The shouts outside died down, everyone waiting to see what would emerge from within the guardhouse. The stones were cooling rapidly, but they held the colors of when they had been near molten, no longer glowing, but still infused with her power.

The egg began to shift in Tythet’s fingers. A tiny crack formed at the top, near the point. Tythel stared in wonder at the beginning of a snout poked at the crack. It was orange and red. It had delicate scales that looked more like feathers. Tythel smiled and gently tapped the snout with her finger. It chirped in excitement at the touch. She wanted to help it free itself, but on some level knew that would make the being within weaker. It had to complete this task itself. 

Minutes passed, Tythel staring at the egg in wonder as slowly a wing emerged, followed by a talon, and then another, and a tail that was wet with left over birthing fluid but clearly had narrow feathers along its length. The wings, too, were feathered and matted with the task just completed.

Tythel knew what this was now. Knew it in her bones. Creatures that were thought to be extinct. Of course people thought that. No dragon had died with its egg able to be recovered by another dragon in hundreds of years, and they had all been slain. This was a secret only dragons knew, and Karjon had passed before he could share it from her.

“From flame and ash they rise,” Tythel said, remembering a legend she’d read in a book. It was believed that meant these creatures were immortal, but if they were extinct, how could that be so? No. it made perfect sense to Tythel now as the creature fully emerged, shaking off the last bit of eggshells. It was the size of the palm of her hand now. Its build was draconic and awkward, gangly limbs being stretched for the first time, but its wings and the end of its tail had long feathers, and the rest of its scales were adorned with scales that were the color of flame.

No, not it. He. 

“Hello,” Tythel said. “I’m Tythel. And we’re family, and I am never, ever going to let anything happen to you.”

He looked up at her with wide eyes full of the trusting innocence of youth, and its nictitating membranes flashed with joy. 

The last of the dragons had been reborn.

Karjon’s phoenix. 

The Dragon’s Scion Part 199

After the fight with Armin, Tythel had no interest in trying to seek out further companionship. Eupheme was likely wondering where she was, and Tythel did want to see Ossman again after so long, but right now…right now she just couldn’t bring herself to face anyone else.

“I’m not sure what’s worse, Tythel. That dragons will go extinct when you die…or that you’ll be the last memory fo them.”

Armin’s parting words were ringing in her ears still. She knew, on one level, that Armin had said that because he was angry, because he was trying to hurt her. But as she wandered through the halls of the Keep, doing her best to avoid everyone that she could, her enhanced hearing warning her if someone was coming her way or, worse, actively seeking her out, that didn’t change the fact that he had at least one point.

Tythel would be the last of the dragons. Fairly or not, justly or not, she was the last of a dying species, and people would remember dragons by her actions.

That…was a weight she’d never even considered before. She knew she’d be the last dragon, of course, but the implications of that had escaped her up until this moment. Now that she was aware of it though, she couldn’t stop thinking about it.

Which was how she found herself on a balcony, overlooking the land surrounding the keep, and pondering the nature of legacy.

This keep, forlorn and long abandoned as it was, at least was in a very beautiful part of the world. From here she could see the mountain range in the distance that housed her father’s lair, their peaks barely creeping over the top of the horizon. The forest around them had not been touched by human, Sylvani, or Alohym hands in so long it looked almost primeval.

She traced her finger along one of the weather worn stones, amazed the keep had held together so long.

That was the legacy of Gix, last of the great Necromancers. So deadly and dangerous that he had inspired gods, dragons, lumcasters, and heroes alike to work together to tear him from his stolen throne, some two hundred years prior. Gix was, among humans, a figure used to scare their children. “You better eat your greens, or Gix will come for you in the night and add you to his army of the damned!” “You can’t stay up late, or Gix will find you if you’re awake.” That was his legacy. Terror. There had been Necromancers since then, of course, but after Gix the entire art of Necromancy was so reviled that any that attempted to achieve any real power were hunted down.

What humans had forgotten, but Karjon had taught Tythel, was that it was not always so.

Hundreds of years ago, when Karjon was young and did battle with Gix, necromancers were not reviled figures of terror. Many these days thought their name meant “Sorcerer who wields the power of the dead,” but in those times Necromancer had meant something different. Wielding light and shadow together, necromancers could heal while minimizing the mutagenic properties of Light.

Humans had mostly forgotten that. Not just because of Gix, but he was the last and he cemented the idea in the minds of people. Tythel’s own ancestor had been the first of the terrible necromancers, the great dragon who’s horde had been raided by Armin.

A raid that had cost the lives of Clarcia and Guiart.

“It’s not my fault,” Tythel said to the open air. She considered the words. They felt right and true, but the statement felt incomplete. It wasn’t her fault. She couldn’t have predicted the presence of Theognis. So why did Armin’s words weigh on her so heavily?

“What’s not your fault?”

If not for the beating heart announcing her arrival just moment’s before she spoke, appearing in the shadow of the doorway, Eupheme’s voice would have startled Tythel half to death. As it was, Tythel just shook her head. “Two of Armin’s team were lost in the raid,” Tythel said. “He blames me.” She laid out the explanation for Eupheme, both Armin’s reasoning and her own.

“Well, you’re right.” Eupheme said. “It’s not your fault.”

Tythel’s nictitating membranes flashed. “I…do believe that. I’m not even sure it’s guilt that I’m feeling. I’m definitely feeling something, but guilt? That’s not the word. It’s…something deeper, and different.”

Eupheme nodded. “Let me get at your back. We need to change your bandage.”

Tythel spread her wings. The shirts that had been designed for her gave her a unique ability to expose her back without losing any modesty, and Tythel was grateful for that. Eupheme’s hands gently worked on Tythel’s scales. “It’s healing nicely,” Eupheme said. “Better than I expected. Do dragons have accelerated healing?”

Tythel shook her head, but her forehead furrowed at the same time. “It might be because the transformation was so new,” Tythel said. “That whole area was undergoing rapid changes – maybe it’s accelerating the healing temporarily.”

“That makes sense,” Eupheme said, applying some salve to the injury. Tythel hissed at the sting, but it wasn’t as bad as she’d feared. “At least, in a logical sense. I can’t begin to understand what’s going on with your body.”

“Just like Ghostflame is a dragon’s normal flame mixed with Shadow, Heartflame is the same but with Light,” Tythel said. “It’s…a mutation, like what happens when too much exposure to unrefined Light happens, but when filtered through dragonflame, it produces stable and predictable results.”

Eupheme pressed the new bandage against the wound. The pressure got another hiss of pain from Tythel, but like the salve, it was less of a pain than expected. “You might be able to have a healer check this sooner than we thought,” Eupheme said, gently running her hands on Tythel’s back to make sure the adhesive sap that held the bandage is place was firmly stuck.

“Really?” Tythel didn’t even try to keep the excitement out of her voice. Gaining her wings only to have the sky denied ot her had been…difficult.

“Don’t go hopping off his balcony and testing it out,” Eupheme said, with a light slap to Tythel’s shoulder. “But maybe in a week have them check. You never mentioned the connection between Ghostflame and Shadow, or Heartflame and Light, before.”

It was a transparent attempt to distract her, and Tythel took the opportunity. “From my father’s notebooks,” Tythel said as Eupheme buttoned back up the flap of cloth that ran between her wings. “Since we were able to get more while we were there…”

“That’s why you’ve had your nose buried in the book so intensely this entire time,” Eupheme murmured. “I thought it was odd that you were giving it so much more attention.”

Tythel smiled for Eupheme’s benefit, since they were talking about a subject that should be sad but wasn’t. “It’s nice every time I find a new section,” Tythel said. “Like part of him is still here. I just wish I could ask him questions.”

“About Heartflame, or about Armin?”

“Both,” Tythel said. “Heartflame first, because we need that. Armin…I don’t know why I feel like there’s something I’m missing.”

“Well, it’ll come to you or it won’t,” Eupheme said. “You’ve got a lot on your mind, and a lot you’re responsible for, so it’s understandable if it takes awhile for you to…why are you making that face.”

“Responsible,” Tythel said. “It’s not my fault, but I am responsible.”

Eupheme shook her head firmly. “No, Tythel, you’re not.”

“Yes.” Tythel actually was starting to feel better. “Even if we put aside that I couldn’t have known…Eupheme, I am to be their queen one day. Responsibility has to stop with me. Fault isn’t what’s important, it’s…owning that I do have a responsibility for what happens to everyone under my orders. Even things that I couldn’t predict. Even things that aren’t my fault, I’m still responsible for.”

“I’m not sure I understand the distinction,” Eupheme said, “But I like the way you’re thinking.”

Tythel’s nictitating membranes flashed with excitement. “It’s…fault or blame or whatever, that’s who must be punished for wrongdoing. Responsibility, though? That’s who must try to fix it, and prevent it from happening again. Sometimes they’re the same. Sometimes, they’re not. This time, I’m not at fault…but I need to try to fix it.”

“I like that way of looking at it,” Eupheme said with a smile.

Tythel was about to speak about how she could try to fix this particular problem when the sound of footsteps started to come up the stairs. “Your highness!” a voice said, panting between words as the soldier spotted her. “Lumcaster Armin sent for you. There is an Underfolk.”

“Breathe, man,” Tythel said. The man was red in the face, and Tythel immediately reached for her hammer. She hadn’t seen anything, or heard any sounds of battle, but…

“Your highness. The Lumcaster wanted me to say…the Underfolk. He found something of your father’s. Something you thought lost and-”

Eupheme moved to block the balcony before Tythel could try, in sheer excitement, to test her wings before they were healed. Instead, Tythel started running, shouting a thanks to the man as she went.

This was going to be a one post week for Dragon’s Scion as I update all other serials, but due to the missed update Saturday, you get this today and part 200, when Tythel meets Poz, tomorrow! Dying to see what happens next? Why not pass the time with The Trains of Keldora? It just came out today! There’s a sample here.

The Dragon’s Scion Part 198

The guards had stashed the Underfolk in a guardhouse, outside the walls of the Keep proper. Per Armin’s instructions, there were two dozen men surrounding the location, Arcwands pointed at every point of egress the man could conceivably use. In a way, it was almost comical to see this many soldiers, prepared to shoot a single rundown building at the slightest sign of danger. Not the kind of comedy that brought a smile to Armin’s lips, more the kind that made him grimace at the absurdity of the world. 

“At ease,” Armin said to the captain of this little force, a man who was maybe a decade Armin’s senior but had a young, soft face that made him look five years Armin’s junior. A few scars accumulated during his service to the Resistance didn’t counteract that look, but enhanced it, making him look like a child who’d had a rough life on the streets. “Captain Crewson. Any change?”

Crewson shook his head. “Not yet,” he said, his voice a deep baritone that clashed with his appearance. “He’s just reading from some papers he brought with him. About as threatening as a kitten with a ball of string, if I’m being honest.” 

Armin nodded. “Thank you for keeping the men at the ready in spite of that. Short of an actual Alohym, that might be the most dangerous being in the kingdom. Somehow.” Armin felt the urge to explain that, at least. It was a delicate balance to walk with the military members of the Resistance. Lumcasters technically outranked them, but the military was cognizant of the harm that had happened in the past from Lumcasters thinking rank and book knowledge made them more fit to lead than soldiers who had practical experience. Armin figured the least he could do was explain himself. 

“Lumcaster?” Crewson lowered his voice so only Armin could hear. “Begging your pardon, but it’s just a single man, and he has no way to leave without being cut down. I struggle to see how he could be a threat.”

“Honestly, Captain? I don’t see how either.” Armin pointed at the guardhouse. “That man outfought an entire Alohym garrison, including some new type of Alohym and the Traitor, escaping with his life. He also was present for the massacre. I don’t know what he’s capable of.”

“Understood,” he said, and from the way that smooth forehead creased, he absolutely did. “Shall I send some men in with you?”

Armin shook his head. “Keep your men at the ready. If I walk out of there and scratch my nose, that’s my signal I want you to shoot to kill the Underfolk. If you can do so without hitting me, I’d prefer it, but if you can’t…he’s a big enough threat to be worth the risk. Once you’ve taken him down, if I’m alive, lock me in there and send for an interrogator to make sure I can be trusted.”

“That seems a bit extreme, Lumcaster,” Crewson  said.

“And it very well may be overkill,” Armin said. “I’m not an expert in these things. No one is. But given what he’s done…I feel like there’s no such thing as too cautious. If I give the signal, I’ll trust your judgement.” Armin took a paper out of one of the sacs tied to his belt and quickly wrote a note confirming he’d given the order. He pressed his thumb to it afterwards, leaving an unforgeable Lumcaster’s mark on the document. 

“Understood,” Crewson took the note and folded it into his pack. “Good luck.”

“Thanks,” Armin said, standing up. “I pray I won’t need it, but if I do I’ll need every bit the Light can spare me.”

Armin had never seen an Underfolk in person before. They’d gone underground as soon as the Alohym had invaded, and illustrations of the reclusive people had always been rare. After the build up, the tension, and the careful walk to the door, it was almost a let down.

The Underfolk was short compared to a human, and the top of his head would have came up to Armin’s chest if he’d been standing. He was hunched over a table, looking at some papers, his eyes scanning the document with speed. He had a few long whiskers coming from his nose, and thick fingers that had retractable claws poking from the tips. 

“Greetings,” the Underfolk said, looking up to reveal slitted, cat-like eyes. “I am Poz. You are not the Dragon Princess.”

“I am not,” Armin said, taking the seat across from Poz. “Forgive me, but it would be poor security to just let anyone who demanded an audience with her get what they sought.”

Poz grimaced, revealing his teeth were more like fangs. “I see. That is understood, but problematic.” His eyes narrowed as he noticed something. “Although as one of her companions…Armin, yes?”

Armin blinked, a chill running down his spine. “How do you know who I am?” 

“The eyes are distinctive. Word of them has spread. I hear things.”

The mundane nature of the explanation made Armin bark out a laugh. Without knowing what the Underfolk was capable of, Armin had attributed all kinds of mysterious and unnatural powers to him. Apparently, the strange an uncanny ability he possessed was…the power of observation. Poz looked a bit put out by Armin’s amusement, although it was hard to tell. Time with Tythel had taught Armin that assuming non-humans had similar expressions to humans was an exercise in arrogance. “I forget about them half the time,” Armin lied. He really never could forget about his new, unnatural eyes. A product of Tythel using a rare Sunstone to save him from Unlight poisoning, Armin’s eyes permanently looked like the sky during an eclipse. 

He couldn’t forget about his eyes, but apparently he could forget how he got them. A rare treasure from Tythel’s father’s horde she’d used without hesitation. Light and Shadow, did I ever properly thank her for that? Armin pushed the thought aside, but made a mental note to return to it. Distraction now could be fatal.

“Ah.” Poz shook his head, as if clearing a thought of his own. “You’re frightened. I expected that. Unfortunately, I have not come up with a way to calm those fears.” He gestured to himself. “Catflesh is ideal for crossing terrain without detection, and one of the more intelligent fleshes, but can be a poor fit for navigating social situations.”

“Catflesh?” Armin asked, and a lesson from his Collegium days sprung to mind. “Right, of course. Metamorphic digestion. Your people take on the properties of anything you eat.”

Poz nodded slowly. “Any flesh.” Poz stressed the word.

“I thought the Underfolk were carnivorous,” Armin said, leaning forward on the table. This was hardly the most important topic of conversation, but Poz had said Catflesh wasn’t the best for social situations. If it was anything like how cats worked, idle chatter might help Poz feel more comfortable, give him time to get used to Armin’s presence. 

For an insane moment, Armin pictured himself offering Poz an open palm to sniff, then imagined the man rightly slapping Armin silly for the insult. Or, given those claws, worse. Conversation seemed like the best way to go.

“Of course we’re not,” Poz said, in a rather dismissive tone. Armin really wished Poz hadn’t told him about the Catflesh. Now, all Armin could picture was a cat turning up its nose at food that didn’t meet its palate. “If we were, we’d change flesh constantly. We eat plants when we do not want to change flesh. And, before you ask…the cat had expired from natural causes. I do not kill to change flesh when the animals are companions for sentient races.”

“That’s good,” Armin said. The question hadn’t occurred to him until just now, but he was glad for clarification before it had. “But…you have fangs. Seems like eating plants with those would be detrimental.”

Poz opened his mouth wide. Impressively wide. Far wider than a human ever could. It reminded Armin of a cat’s yawn, more than anything else. The back teeth were unexpected, however. In spite of the vicious fangs that composed the further forward teeth, the back four were molars. “Trueteeth,” Poz explained, once his jaw was closed. “They do not change with our flesh. Cut the plants small enough, and they can be chewed there.”

“I see,” Armin said. The scholar in him wanted to ask more questions, get more information, really study Poz. Underfolk had been resistant to letting humans or Sylvani examine them in any detail, and if Dragons had been given greater access, they hadn’t shared it with the other races. However, those questions would have to wait. “Poz – were you the underfolk that fought Nicandros?”

Poz stiffened. “The outcome of that battle wasn’t intended,” Poz said quietly, looking down. “Or…I suppose I should say I regret that it was. There are…dangers to other types of flesh. Some carry a lack of empathy. An extreme lack.”

“Like Catflesh?” Armin hazarded a guess.

Poz shook his head. “Humans misunderstand cats. They do care. They only wish to care on their terms. At least, that is how their flash works for us. It constantly baffles me that a species can live alongside a predator that routinely climbs onto their laps and screams for attention doesn’t care about what happens to them.”

Armin chuckled at that. “So, what flesh causes that lack of empathy?”

“Forbidden Fleshes,” Poz said, quietly. “Flesh I’d partaken in before, out of the most dire need. Nicandros knew of that shame, but I knew of Nicandros. No other flesh would have ensured  my survival, and I had to survive. I have…so many things I can share. But…the Dragon Princess. I have a gift for her. One I will only give to her. Others would try to use this gift against her, and in doing so would provoke a wrath so terrible it would undermine this resistance. Or so I thought, in the Forbidden Flesh, and the Forbidden Flesh is rarely wrong. I will give it to her with no traps on the gift, so she may know I am sincere in my desire to help. And so she does not set me aflame.”

Armin wanted to press him more on the Forbidden Flesh, but put that aside. Too much pressure could turn the Underfolk skittish. “Well…as you said, I am her sworn companion. Surely you can at least tell me what this gift is, so I can know you mean her no harm?”

Poz’s eyes narrowed, and Armin wondered what he missed. It took him a moment, but then Armin realized he hadn’t refuted the idea that Tythel would attack Poz or undermine the resistance. Hardly the stirring defense of a ‘sworn companion,’ whatever that meant.

“I do not have it with me,” Poz said. “I have it stashed away safely, and will not tell you where.”

Armin nodded. “When we go to retrieve it, Tythel will be there.” As well as every soldier Armin could grab, Eupheme, a couple of the Lumcasters, and hopefully Haradeth and his insane automaton friend. 

“Good.” Poz considered for a moment longer, than blinked slowly. In cats, that was a sign of trust. Armin hoped that translated here. “Very well,” Poz said .I have, safely, where no harm could come to it, the Heart-Egg of Karjon the Wise.”

“I don’t believe you,” Armin said immediately, half truthfully and half just to buy himself time to think.

“Your belief does not change the truth,” Poz said without flinching. There was an absolute certainty to his words that Armin found near impossible to doubt. “But for proof – I was at the battlefield where it was lost, scavenging for supplies. I found her pack. I was the one that took it at first, not knowing what I held. The moment I learned the truth of its import, I sought to return it to her as quickly as possible.”

Armin stared at him for a long moment, a thousand possibilities running through his mind. No one had ever been told where or when it had been lost, which meant Poz had to have it. For one brief, terrible, shameful moment, Armin considered adding it to the others. That, however, would be monstrous. Hiding the other eggs from Tythel…that was something Armin was still grappling with. But this was her father’s egg. There was only one right thing to do here. “Crewson, your presence is needed!” Armin shouted through the door, startling Poz so badly the poor man’s hair shot up. Of course. Cats. Armin apologized to Poz for the fright. When Crewson didn’t immediately appear, Armin stepped to the door and poked his head out, to show his nose didn’t itch. 

Crewson nodded and headed towards him. “What is it.”

Armin glanced over at his shoulder. “Fetch the Princess, her Umbrist, and every spare man you can gather. I’m not certain this is not a trap, so we’ll want everyone we can get – before you tell the princess, that is. Once you’ve gathered the needed force, inform the Princess I’ve spoken with this underfolk…and he has something of her father’s she thought lost, and he dearly wants to return to her.”

Apologies for the delay. Shouldn’t happen again for a while, but I had to prioritize the sequel to The Wastes of Keldora unexpectedly. The good news is, with Exercise the Demons coming out in December and Dragon’s Scion 1 in January, I can go easier on new book words for a bit. In the meantime…book 2 of Factory of the Gods , The Trains of Keldora is now available for pre-order! Pick it up if you liked the first book, and if you could leave the first book a review while you’re at it, I’d appreciate it! The first two chapters for The Wastes of Keldora are up for your reading pleasure here, and for The Trains of Keldora here.

Next week will have updates for all ongoing serials, with Dragon’s Scion Tuesday.

The Dragon’s Scion Part 197

Armin slammed open the door to the room he was sharing with Ossman. The larger man jumped at Armin’s sudden entrance. “I take it the council meeting didn’t go well?” Ossman asked.

“It was a Light-Blasted success,” Armin growled, going over to the chest of books at the end of his bed. “We have Marketta’s support, even if she was flathing smug about it, and we’re getting ready to make a run at the Vacuity Engine. Everything’s going flathing swimmingly. It’s like a Shadow damned party.”

“Okay,” Ossman said, carefully drawing out the word to make it abundantly clear the level of disbelief he was sitting on at the moment, “So…why are you acting like you want to set this entire keep on fire, preferably before you let anyone out.”

“Tythel,” Armin growled, slamming the book he’d brought to the meeting on top of the pile. The bag of golden dragon eggs was at the bottom of the crate, in a hollowed out copy of Herespon’s Accounts of Imports and Exports in the Late Cardomethi Empire, Volume III, a book so dry and dull that not even Tythel would want to open it out of curiosity. Four hundred pages of “Then the Empire traded to the Kingdom of Cohalt thirty silver talents for three thousand bronze swords, which the Cohalti accepted. Then the Empire traded to the Nations of the Breach eighteen silver talents for two thousand pounds of beef, which the Breachers accepted. Then the Empire traded the three thousand bronze swords and two thousand pounds of beef to the Lost Legion in exchange for Three Years Service, which the Legion accepted.” On and on. 

Of course the pages were safely preserved, and the hollowed out part was just blank pages. He was keeping an important secret from a friend, but Tythel could forgive him for that if he told her soon enough. Destroying a historical document? She’d probably set him on fire.

“Ah,” Ossman said, when Armin didn’t elaborate. “So you’re angry because she…what, exactly?”

“You know why,” Armin said, not looking up from the box.

“Actually, I don’t.” Ossman sat up. “You’ve been furious at her, but every time we’ve tried to talk about it you’ve sputtered into incoherent rage. Which, incidentally, tells me you’re probably not in the best frame of mind to talk with her. Which, need I remind you, I told you before you went to that meeting.”

Armin slammed the lid of the chest shut. “We went to that lair because she told us we’d find gold there. There was another route for her to get gold that wasn’t nearly as dangerous. Clarcia and Guiart died because of her lie.”

“Right,” Ossman said, leaning forward and resting his head on his thumbs. “Like I said. Incoherent rage.”

Armin turned to Ossman, feeling the anger welling up in his chest again. “I was perfectly coherent there,” he growled.

“Oh, you said coherent words. But you didn’t make a coherent case.” Ossman shook his head and sighed. “Armin. Think about it. She had no way of knowing what would happen.”

“It still is…I mean…” Armin snarled. “Damnit to Shadow, Ossman, if not for her lie Clarcia and Guiart would still be here.”

“And you wouldn’t know how to translate Theognis’ text. And we’d only have one dragon’s horde, not two.” Ossman held up a hand to forestall Armin’s objection. “Some of the servants were talking about the load of treasure Tythel and Eupheme arrived with. It was easy to put the pieces together.”

“But-” Armin started to say.

Ossman shook his head. “I don’t know what happened in there. And I’m not saying Tythel is blameless. You are right that lying to us was wrong, and she should have told us everything so we could have made an informed decision. But that doesn’t justify your anger. It doesn’t justify half of what you said in there.”

“You have no idea what I said in there.”

Ossman shrugged. “If you gave her half the vitriol you have shown me, what you said wasn’t justified.”

“You don’t get it,” Armin said. “You turned down all your chances to lead. You don’t want it. And that’s fine. But I was given command, and I can only be as good a leader as the information I have.”

“Mmm.” Ossman held up a hand. “Okay, indulge me for a second. Let’s say she had given you complete information. What would you have done differently?”

“I would have…” Armin’s objection died on his lips. He hadn’t really given it any thought. “I don’t know. But it could have made a difference. We might not have even been there in the first place.”

“Maybe. So you hate her now?”

Armin sighed. “No. I…I don’t know. I’m just so angry.

Ossman stood up and walked over, putting a heavy hand on Armin’s shoulder. “Look at me,” Ossman said. 

Armin looked up into Ossman’s eyes. Ossman had always towered over Armin, but something in his face now…it was the first time Armin had ever felt small next to his friend. “What?” Armin asked quietly.

“Are you angry at her? Or are you blaming someone else for the deaths that happened, because you don’t want to blame yourself.”

Ossman was a big man, and most of that size was in muscles. Armin was a scholar who was in good shape. It shouldn’t have come as a surprise that Ossman didn’t even flinch when Armin punched him in the chest with all of his might, but it did. Armin shoved off his hand. “Go flath a rusty sword.” 

Ossman pursed his lips, but didn’t say anything about the punch or the insult. “When you’re ready to admit that’s the real problem, I’ll be here. We have too much history together. But you and Tythel don’t have that history, and she’s been burned badly recently. Don’t expect her to wait for you to get your shit together.”

“It’s…” Armin turned towards the wall, trying to hide the furious tears that were blurring his vision. “She’s not perfect. She did lie to us.”

“Yes,” Ossman said, his voice holding that unique gentleness of the supremely strong. “She did. And that is a problem. But if she had told us the truth…Theognis still would have arrived behind us. Clarcia and Guiart would have still died. And do you know who’s falt that would have been then?”

Armin whirled back to Ossman, ready to defend himself, but Ossman didn’t hesitate before continuing. 

“Theognis. It would have been his fault. Same as it is now. Stop blaming Tythel when you were the one in charge, and when you do stop blaming her, don’t blame yourself for not seeing the future either.”

Armin’s anger died, and he turned back to the crate. Ossman went back to his bed and sat back down, grabbing a book to give Armin time to process his fury.

“I’m a jerk,” Armin said.

“Yes,” Ossman said, turning a page. 

“No, I mean…I said some really ugly things to Tythel.”

“Yes,” Ossman said, going to the next page.

“You don’t understand, I told her-”

Ossman didn’t look up from his book, just held up a finger. “You want to tell me because you want me to absolve you of what you said. I won’t, because I can’t. If you want absolution, you’re only going to get it from the person you wronged.”

Armin winced. “If I talk to her now, I might say something I regret.”

“Then grow up, figure out how to not, and talk to her when you have.” Ossman turned another page, not even looking at Armin. 

Armin wanted to vent further, but before he could, there was a knock on the door. “Lumcaster Armin?” said a voice from outside.  

Armin hopped off the bed and went to the door. “What is it?” he asked the messenger outside.

“Someone was caught trying to break into the Keep. Said he has to speak to the Princess. We couldn’t find her or the Duke, so you were next. Sir…it’s an Underfolk.”

“I thought they were all hiding underground,” Armin said, then his brain caught up with his  mouth. “Wait. Is this the same one from…”

“Isn’t saying, sir. Just says he needs to talk to the princess.”

Armin nodded to the man. “I’ll be there in a few minutes. For now, I want a dozen guards on him. No, make it two. If this is the same one who battled Nicandros to a standstill, we don’t know what he’s capable of.”

His issues with Tythel and his decision about the eggs would have to wait. War didn’t pause for any man’s fury. Least of all the fury of those who nominally lead.