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.”

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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.

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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.

The Dragon’s Scion Part 196

Hey everyone. I know it’s been a minute since we last visited Tythel and Co, so let me catch you up on what’s been going on in The Dragon’s Scion. Advance chapters will be going up on Patreon over the course of this week!

After a battle with Theognis at the end of book 2, Armin was able to decode the meaning behind the Vacuity Engine – it is a device that allows for Unlight to flow from the Alohym’s home to the world of The Dragon’s Scion. Tythel has mostly recovered from her injuries at the end of the last book as well, save for the deep stab wound that impacted her flight muscles – a gift from Eupheme’s sister, an Umbrist with a sinister agenda. A meeting of Resistance leadership was called, and a leader of a different faction, Marketta, agreed to aid the Resistance in attacking the Crawling Citadel, where a gateway to the Vacuity Engine can be found. Although Marketta’s motives are suspect, her desire to take down the Alohym seems sincere. During the meeting, however, Armin indicated his anger at Tythel. Tythel, for her part, is struggling with the Alohym’s decree that their science has proven she is not the true heir to the throne. We pick up with Tythel after the meeting has completed…

The hall was emptying. Plans were anything but solid at the moment, but the machinations of rebellion were well in place. It was for the tacticians to get into the details now, and that would take time. D’Monchy was one of the last to leave, giving Tythel an odd look before he departed. Tythel couldn’t blame him. The Alohym’s rumor, true or not, about her parentage, was a lingering cloud over the meeting that would have to be addressed at some point.

Not right now, though. Tythel had other things she wanted to deal with.

“Eupheme?” Tythel said. “Can you give Armin and I a moment?”

Eupheme’s gaze hardened, and she gave Armin a quick glance. “Are you certain that is your wish, your highness?”

The last two words carried more weight than they needed to. Tythel could read the underlying meaning there, at least. Eupheme was still Tythel’s sworn bodyguard, and at this moment, she was worried leaving her princess alone with Armin. Armin’s words had been harsh during the meeting, but…

Tythel looked up at Armin again, studying him carefully. His arms were tense with anger, but when Eupheme had asked if Tythel was certain, his eyes had widened and his mouth had hung open for just a moment. While Tythel would always be the first to admit the nuances of human facial expression eluded her, even she could recognize hurt shock. “Yes. Please.”

Eupheme nodded once, curtly, and then vanished, fading into the shadow under the table. Tythel listened carefully for the Umbrist’s heartbeat, but there was no sign of it. They were alone. She looked over at Armin, and for the first time since she left her father’s lair, found herself completely at a loss for word. “Hey, Armin,” she said, the only words she could muster.

“Your highness,” Armin said stiffly. He made no move to stand, and gave no indication he wanted to speak further.

“You’re angry,” Tythel said, deciding blunt was the right way to approach this. 

“You’re getting better at reading us,” Armin said. “Soon nothing will escape the omniscient notice of Tythel, the Dragon Princess.” 

In a way, Armin’s sarcasm was comforting. Armin being sarcastic was within Tythel’s established parameters for the Lumcaster. Her friend. The cold fury that radiated off him? That was something new, something ugly, and something she didn’t know how to handle. “I never claimed omniscience,” Tythel said. “But…Eupheme’s been helping me. Not that I needed it to tell you were angry. I think I would have been able to tell the moment I came off the mountain.”

Armin let out a huff of air. “Good to know. I need to learn to hide it better.”

“For meetings like this? Likely. But it’s just us, Armin. You don’t need to hide what you’re feeling from me. That’s what friends are for, right?” Tythel couldn’t help keep the hopeful note from that last question. 

Armin was quiet for a long moment, meeting her gaze with a level stare of his own. There was something about his eyes that were different. A hardness to them that Tythel hadn’t seen before. “Are we?”

“Are we what?” Tythel asked, her heart starting to pound as she feared where he was going with this question.

“Are we friends.”

The question was a slap to the face Tythel hadn’t anticipated. “Of course we are!” Tythel said. “After…everything, how can you even ask that?”

“I don’t know, your highness. Maybe it’s one of those dragon things I just don’t get.” Armin’s hand, resting on the table, started to curl into a fist. His nails caught on the wood, and the lacquer started to curl up as his fingers tore rivets in the material. “But as far as I understand it, friends don’t send friends to their deaths.”

Tythel reeled back. “You – I don’t understand. You’re alive. Ossman…oh, Light and Shadow, what happened to Ossman? Is he-”

“Fine,” Armin snapped the word like the crack of a whip. “Ossman is fine. Not that you had anything to do with it.” Armin took a deep breath, trying to steady his fury. “Aldredia survived too. The other members of our party didn’t make it.”

Aldredia. Who was Aldredia? Tythel’s mind worked furiously. She’d barely met the woman, and…that’s right. The swordswoman, a former Alohym guard that had betrayed her masters. “I’m glad Aldredia survived,” Tythel said. “I’m sorry for the others.”

“Say their names,” Armin growled.

Tythel tried to cast her mind back to when they departed. Had she been told? Yes, before d’Monchy had called a halt to using the songstones, lest the Alohym track them. She’d been told their names then. One of them…was one of the Lumcasters working with Armin. The powerful one, the girl. The other was a soldier who had…Tythel couldn’t remember anything about him. 

“Say. Their. Names.” Each word came out through clenched teeth, Armin staring at her with that cold fury, although right now it looked like it was going to turn hot. 

“I…Clara?” Tythel guessed.

“Clarcia. She died raiding the tomb of a dragon you pointed us to. She died alongside the other. Do you even know his name?”

Miserable, Tythel could only shake her head. She couldn’t meet Armin’s gaze anymore. 

“Of course not,” Armin spat the words. “His name was Guiart. He was a good man. And Claricia was a child. They died for you, Tythel, and you don’t even know their names. And worse – so much worse – they didn’t even need to die, did they?”

Tythel felt her jaw tighten. “Why would you say that?”

“Because your father’s lair exists!” Armin was on his feet now, his hands in fists so tight his knuckles were turning white. “You sent us to a death trap so your father’s tomb would go untouched.”

“Eupheme and I took from my father’s tomb,” Tythel said. Now it was her turn to be cold.

“Oh, that’s wonderful. I’m certain that will be a great comfort to Clarcia and Guiart’s souls.” Armin sneered. “Don’t try and pretend that was your plan all along. You sent us there because  you didn’t want to do that, didn’t you?”

“If you could aid the Resistance with a human skull, would you give them your mother’s grave?” Tythel was on her feet now, her own anger spilling over. 

“That’s different,” Armin countered. “No one’s died from digging up a grave.”

“I had no idea that old Wyrm’s lair had traps. Most dragon’s don’t do that! I couldn’t predict it.”

“It wasn’t traps,” Armin said. “The Alohym were investigating it too. Theognis was there.”

“And that’s my fault?” Tythel threw up her hands. “I had to battle some new kind of Alohym soldier at my father’s grave. Half Alohym, Half Human. Tellias nearly died. I can’t have predicted the danger that would be waiting you there!”

“It shouldn’t matter!” Armin was yelling now, and Tythel couldn’t remember if she’d yelled first or if he had. Not that it would make a difference either way. “We didn’t need to be there in the first place! If you had been honest about your father’s tomb-”

“You don’t understand,” Tythel said hoarsely. “It’s…a dragon’s horde is sacred. To pilfer from that, after their death…it’s monstrous. I only did it because my father would have gifted me some as an inheritance. Otherwise…I don’t know if I could have made myself.”

“Don’t you dare speak to me of monstrous,” Armin did spit now, literally, a disgusted fleck of spittle flying from his lips to land on the stone floor fo the meeting hall. “Monstrous is letting the living suffer in favor of the dead. Monstrous is letting others die for your own fears.”

“It’s different for humans-”

“You’re human!” Armin bellowed. “Light take you and Shadow blind you, Tythel, you’re a flathing human. I know you want to become a dragon, but even then, you won’t stop being human. So stop thinking like what you want to be and think about what you are.”

Tythel threw aside her cloak and cast her wings to the side. The muscle in the back strained at the motion, but as before, stretching them was fine. “Do not dare tell me what I am and am not.”

Armin was much less impressed with the display than Marketta had been. He just narrowed his eyes. “You don’t look like a dragon to me,” Armin said. “You look like a human with the wings and tail of a dragon, and with fire in her stomach. We have a term for beings that look like human dragon hybrids, and it’s not dragon. It’s demons.”

“Don’t-” Tythel started to say, but Armin wasn’t done.

“You don’t look draconic, your highness. You look demonic.” Armin waved away her next few words. “I don’t think you are a demon. But if you’re going to flash those wings to intimidate us into submission, you need to know what that looks like.”

“I didn’t mean to intimidate you. I just meant to…show you.” It sounded weak, even to Tythel’s ears. The truth was, she had been furious, and it had felt like the right thing to do. Or…not the right thing to do. The only thing to do.

“Whatever.” Armin’s own fury was dying down, but the pain that underlied it was not gone. “Haradeth was right about you. You don’t care about what happens to us. We’re just a weapon to you. A sword to thrust into the heart of your father’s killers.”

“That’s not true!” Tythel’s fury vanished in a flash, replaced with pain. “Armin…you’re my friend. I care about you.”

“No, you don’t.” Armin shook his head, and his body slumped back into the chair. “You didn’t even ask what was wrong. Just told me I was angry, then defended yourself. If you gave a damn, you’d have asked.”

“Only because you attacked me!” Tythel countered. “Flathing Shadow, Armin. I’m worried about you.”

“Too late.” Armin shook his head. “I’ll follow you Tythel. You’re still our best bet at being the Alohym. So I’ll follow you because you’re the best we have. But Tythel… you’re quick to remind people you’re the last dragon. The entire species ends with you. So you should probably think about what kind of legacy you’re going to leave behind for them.” He shrugged. “Or, if dragons are a species that wouldn’t touch their precious hordes to save lives, maybe you’re leaving exactly the legacy they deserve.”

The table splintered under Tythel’s claws, and her lips pulled back to show her fangs. “You’re in pain,” Tythel said, through gritted teeth. “So. I’m going to end this conversation before I say something I regret. And…if you decide you want to…flath it, Armin. I’m sorry for the deaths of Guiart and Clarcia. Truely, I am. So…if you decide you want to pretend that last bit didn’t happen, we can do so.”

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

Tythel turned so quickly her tail slammed her chair, sending it skittering along the floor. She didn’t bother to look behind herself as she stormed out. Her nictating membranes flashed across her eyes, and for the first time since she’d lost the ducts, Tythel was glad she could not weep.

Hope you enjoyed. Dragon’s Scion will update Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday going forward, and it will be my primary serial. Book one is getting published soon too! If you want something else to read, check out The Wastes of Keldorathe sequel to that one comes out early November!

Dragon’s Scion Part 195

Tythel’s mind was reeling in the wake of Armin’s information. The Vacuity Engine was the source of the Alohym’s Unlight. Without it, they would be far weaker. It would make the war winnable. 

Silence reigned for a bit as everyone took some time to absorb the implications, and Tythel could practically see they were all having the same thoughts she was. The growing realization that this was possible. 

All save one. “Well,” the former Countess Marketta said, drawing out the word with a sour delight. “That certainly is an…interesting proclamation. I see one major difficulty that might impair your ability to do this, however.” She thought for a moment, and shook her head. “That’s a lie, I can see fifteen thousand reasons this won’t work. One in particular is the fact that the access point to this Vacuity Engine is within the Crawling Citadel. To be precise, that is two hundred of the reasons this is useless – one for each Alohym that resides within the Citadel.”

“How could you know that?” The leader of the Abyssals growled the words at her. 

“That’s why I’m here, isn’t it?” Marketta said, looking at Duke d’Monchy. The Duke gave her a curt nod. “My people have been focused on the citadel for some time. It’s one of the largest bastions of Alohym power, and given it has no set location, disabling it is required for victory.”

“So you have a plan?” Tythel asked, unable to stop herself. Marketta’s words had crushed the seed of hope Armin’s information had planted, and she was desperate for any information that would let that bloom again.

Marketta snorted. “To bring an army into the Crawling Citadel, access some devices that will take them to the Void above, let them take over and destroy a massive Alohym gate that is overhead, and escape alive? No. If I had that kind of tactical genius, I would have won this war on the very first day it had begun, because I would be so smart I could make the impossible happen.”

Tythel grimaced, and it was worse to see the same expression cross Duke d’Monchy’s face. He’d been hoping she would have an option to get into the Citadel, every bit as much as Tythel had hoped. 

“What about a small team?” d’Monchy asked. “We’ve had some success getting saboteurs in where traditional armies had failed.”

“I don’t want you to waste the lives, d’Monchy,” Marketta said, leaning forward. “Allow my own Lumcaster to demonstrate?” she said to Armin.

Armin bowed and moved back from the table. A woman with silver hair stepped forward and conjured a new image of the Crawling Citadel, one far more detailed than the earlier image.

“So you want to get a small team into the Crawling Citadel. Let’s talk about that. First of all, you have to get to the Crawling Citadel. No mean feat, that.” Five spires that jutted from the Citadel turned red. “Each of these contains an interwoven web of observational constructs the Alohym call Godseyes. We have not been able to locate a power source for them yet. If they spot movement…” Marketta trailed off, letting the image do its work. 

A glowing figure made of light, so tiny it did more than anything else to sell the immense scale of the Citadel had so far, appeared on the table. Even Tythel’s eyes could barely make out it was supposed to be a human. A soon as the figure manifested, a dozen tiny dots flew from the Spires of the Citadel towards him.

Marketta motioned, and one of those specs grew in size until it was clearly visible. It looked like a mechanical eye stuck at the end of a smooth tube with two wings affixed to the side. “Void Hawks,” Marketta said. “They have a single observational device and an unlight thruster. They move in, blaring messages the entire way that their target will need to hold up identification. If they arrive before the target has done so…”

The Void Hawks slammed into the human figure and detonated in small explosions. 

“Let’s say you manage to evade their notice. You move in underground, or somehow fool their detection with Lumcasting.” Marketta gestured again, and the image reset. This time the man was right next to the Citadel. “You could even use an Umbrist to get this close, although you’d need one who has this kind of range. That’s as far as an Umbrist can take you, however. Now, notice how the base of the citadel is almost a hundred spans above your head at this point?”

It was impossible not to notice, so no one responded to her question. Marketta nodded, correctly taking the silence as affirmation.

“They only lower transport tubes when they have someone authorized to enter. The only other means of ingress would be climbing up the legs of the Citadel. Or, that would be a way to access, if not for the fact that the legs have a powerful electrical current running through them.”

The little glowing light figure touched one of the legs, then convulsed and fell to the ground.

“But let us imagine further. Let us say you are able to insulate yourself from the current. You are able to do so and climb the leg while avoiding further notice by the Void Hawks. Then you are on the citadel’s walls.”

The glowing man moved up to be placed there. He turned red now, as the Lumcaster shifted his light so he’d stand out against the rest of the Citadel.

“Now you have to get in. Through a full foot of Alohym steel, without attracting attention. Don’t bother looking for windows – all the external views on the Citadel are done with their lens cameras, so there’s nothing you can do besides break them. There are access points that can be used to get inside, exhaust ports. Two problems there –  they’re right in the Godseye Spires, and if you manage to get into them, they lead straight to the Citadel’s heat sinks. You’ll fry before you hit the ground.”

The glowing man scratched his head, and a question mark appeared above it.

“But let us say you have accomplished this somehow. Or you got the fake credentials well enough to fool the Alohym. We’ve managed it seven times, which means we know more about the situation inside from the one that survived. Unfortunately, for a strike team you’ll need your most powerful individuals to ensure they can be effective, and they’re more likely to be detected. But suppose you solve that.” Marketta shrugged. “I won’t say you can’t. I won’t even say we won’t help you with it. But not without you knowing what you’re going into.”

The citadel changed now, walls and floors and ceilings peeling way to expose the full extent of the structure inside. A great deal was missing from the three dimensional image because of that.

“This is what we need to worry about,” Marketta said, pointing to the exposed rooms. “The good news is, once you’ve done that, your task goes from impossible to improbable. You just have to evade the Alohym who live in here.” One of the rooms turned red. This particular one had no details of the room, making it clear no one had been stupid enough to venture inside. “You then have to evade the Soldiers, garrisoned here. You’ll note it’s impossible to get deeper into the Citadel without passing by the garrison or the Alohym’s lair. That is by design. Then you have to deal with the training facility, where their soldier’s practice, here. Again, you’ll note you won’t get into the more sensitive areas of the Citadel without passing that. Finally, to get into the final area of the Citadel, you’ll need to pass through this room.” It turned red, and there was a hallway that stretched into the room, but no detail beyond that. “No one we’ve sent in has survived to know what’s past. But that’s where all the sensitive information is hidden, I’m certain of that. If for no other reason, than by process of elimination. If your Vacuity Engine is anywhere, it’s there.”

“There’s got to be something,” Armin said, breaking the silence that followed Marketta’s terrible news. “Some sort of vulnerable point in their machine. What if we were drop an explosive into one of the exhaust ports in the spires? Maybe the heat buildup would destroy their machines?”

Marketta snorted. “All you’ll accomplish there is blowing up some radiators that are in well shielded rooms. If you blow up all five, the Citadel will have to drop to half power, but it has enough tiny radiators to relieve the heat build up as long as it does that. Not even the Alohym are arrogant enough to let something as vital as thermal exhaust rely on a single point.”

“Why can’t the Umbrist get you into the Citadel itself?” Eupheme asked. Form the look d’Monchy made, he hadn’t expected Tythel’s bodyguard to speak, but at least Marketta’s rejections of the noble norms worked in their favor here. Marketta didn’t look any more dismissive of her than she had of Armin. 

“Your power has one major limitation it didn’t take the Alohym long to figure out how to exploit. There are no shadows large enough for you to utilize within the Citadel. Everything has enough light to protect against that. Even their soldiers sleep in light, wrapped in special suits so they can.”

Eupheme grimaced.

“I do not think we should give up hope yet,” d’Monchy said firmly. “Marketta, your information is invaluable. Can we count on you if we do develop a plan?”

Marketta shook her head. “You want to put her on the throne,” she said, pointing to Tythel. “I don’t want there to be a throne. I’ll share intelligence, but I’m not helping you reinstate like that. Nothing personal, girl,” she said to Tythel. “But there’s only one type of good monarch, and your parents meet the criteria.”

“Then why help at all?” Tythel asked, once she’d parsed Marketta’s meaning and decided not to show her offence.

“Because in exchange, I want one thing.” She looked at d’Monchy. “You’re going to tell me exactly when this is happening. So I can make sure my people are out of the line of fire.”

“So you can try to enact your own plans elsewhere while we distract them, more like,” d’Monchy said, some heat reaching his voice.

Marketta shrugged. “Frame it that way if you like. It matters little to me, and it should matter little to you. If you succeed in this attack, you’ll have a bargaining position at the table once I win. I can’t ignore you after you’ve taken down the Citadel and keep the will of the people. If you fail…well, you’ll be too dead for it to matter, won’t you?”

In spite of d’Monchy’s glower, Tythel noted he didn’t object.

I have a new book out! The Wastes of Keldora, which takes place inside the same universe as the Dragon’s Scion…and very well might cross over with it later. Give it a read here! Or if you want to get a sample, I have almost 7,000 words for it over here!

The Dragon’s Scion Part 194

Armin stood in front of the assembled nobility and leadership of the rebellion, and Tythel could hear his heart pounding from here. Whatever news he had, he was either excited or nervous or both. Knowing Armin probably both. There were other people in the room along with the leadership Tythel knew. People that Tythel didn’t recognize, even.

“Thank you all for meeting with us today,” Duke de’Monchy said. “I think you’ll be very interested in what we have to say.”

A thin woman with blue hair and snorted. “If it wasn’t for the gold you promised, de’Monchy, none of us would have come. I certainly am not interested to hear the words of someone who has their nose so far up a royal asshole they’re breathing shit.”

“Countess Marketta,” de’Monchy said, his lips a thin line. “Colorful as always, I see.”

“I renounced my title, de’Monchy, and my lands have been dived into farms for the people. Call me a countess again at your peril.” The – Wait, no, no title. Marketta pointed an accusatory finger at Tythel. “Meanwhile, you’re trying to put her on the throne. I told you last time we spoke, that counts as what the old courts would have considered ‘irreconcilable differences.’ As far as I caer, you can suck Light until you burst from it.” 

“Excuse me,” Tythel said, breaking the silence that followed. “But you did come to this meeting, which indicates the gold is more useful to your than your hatred.”

“Tythel,” Marketta said, stressing the word. “I’m sure de’Monchy has been too busy plying you with cakes and lies to keep you abreast of what’s going on in the world, but we are losing. If this fool wants to weaken his mad quest to put you on the throne by giving us his money, I’ll take it off his hands. Especially if he’s going to finally share the real secret of how he killed an Alohym.”

“I did,” Tythel said.

Marketta snorted. “I’m not some Alohym ass-kisser, to believe that line of shit. It was a clever bit of propaganda, I’ll grant that, but you don’t need to pretend this ‘dragon princess’ thing is anything other than-”

Tythel stood up and Marketta fell silent. Not from Tythel standing, but from her stretching her wings to their full span. Marketta’s mouth fell open as the cloak fell away revealing these were purely organic, no creation of Alohym artifice or trickery of a lumcaster. Tythel made sure to keep her face straight. It hurt to stretch her wings still, thanks to Eupheme’s sister’s dagger, but Tythel didn’t need the strength to fly. 

Just the to make a dramatic point.

“Sorry,” Tythel said, not actually meaning the word. “I thought it would be best to settle that particular matter in an inarguable manner.”

Marketta stared at her for a long moment, then burst out a single harsh laugh. “You’ve got a royal’s arrogance, as sure as you have a dragon’s wings. Well, if that’s the answer to how de’Monchy killed an Alohym, I’m done here.” She started to rise.

“Marketta,” Armin said, cutting through the tension before it could escalate. “I understand where you’re coming from. Believe me. In this room, no one wants to see Tythel on the throne less than me. But she’s a damn effective weapon, so let me ask you – which do you hate more? Her or the Alohym?”

After a moment’s consideration, Marketta sat back down, but Tythel barely registered it. She was looking at Armin with wide eyes, and a tightness was forming in her chest. He was lying to make a point. Of course he doesn’t mean that. Yet…he’d sounded so certain. And now he wasn’t looking at her. And he’d been strange earlier. 

Light and Shadow, had Armin turned on her? 

Eupheme placed a hand on Tythel’s under the table, steadying her and reminding her she had to keep ahold of herself. Tythel did her best to surreptitiously take a few deep breaths.

“Thank you,” Armin said. “May I explain our findings?”

Marketta nodded. Several others that Tythel didn’t recognize did as well, although Duke de’Monchy looked furious at Armin when he did. Apparently he didn’t like anyone undermining Tythel in front of the leaders of another resistance group. Or groups? One side was glaring daggers at both Marketta and de’Monchy. 

“Thank you.” Armin gestured, and behind him another lumcaster moved their hands, creating a light construct that Armin couldn’t make himself. It looked like a fortress, but it stood upon spindly legs. “I trust you all are familiar with the Crawling Citadel, the Alohym’s primary fortress on this world.”

Nods all around.

“In our attempts to gather information about them, we came across a term that drew our interest. The Vacuity Engine. We were under the impression it is crucial to our defeat of the Alohym, and it was located inside the Crawling Citadel. After the death of Theognis, I was able to decode his notes. We were half right. The Vacuity Engine is absolutely crucial to our defeat of the Alohym. However, it is not within the Crawling Citadel.”

Armin gestured again, and the image shifted. The crawling citadel shrunk, and a new structure appeared over it. It was immensely large, and looked like a gate without a wall. To give a sense of scale, one of the Alohym’s tentacled ships flew form the gate while they stared at it. It looked like an ant crawling alongside a human’s foot. One of the really small ants. 

“That,” Armin said. “Is the Vacuity Engine. It’s how the Alohym are able to bring their vessels to our world. More importantly, it’s where the unlight is coming from. And it can be accessed from within the Citadel. And…once we’re on board, we can destroy it. Without unlight, we don’t need dragons to kill the Alohym. Their healing fails.”

He slashed his hand through the image, and it shattered.

“Without the Vacuity Engine, the gods become mortals.”

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The Dragon’s Scion Part 193

Long ago, a Necromancer had nearly conquered the entire known world. His name had been Gix, and it had taken the Council Of Nine – five of the Little Gods and Four Dragons – working with the nations of Men, the Sylvani Diaspora, and the hidden realms of the Underfolk. It had been, for centuries, the greatest calamity the world had ever faced, on par with the collapse of the Cardomethi empire. Kingdoms burned. Entire towns were slaughtered to the last man, woman, and child, only to be raised again in Gix’s service. 

Tythel knew the stories well – Karjon had been one of the Council members, and she’d been fascinated to hear his tales of the war. He’d glossed over the horrors in her youth, focusing instead on the valor an the heroic sacrifices. As she’d aged enough to understand, he’d told her the rest. The Fall of Nehilom, where Gix had first deployed a spell that allowed his zombies to spread reanimation to corpses they had bitten, where fathers were devoured by their children and children by their parents. The rise of the Abyssals, and how that knightly order had been vital to winning the war as he had told her, but how they had committed countless atrocities in the name of victory. 

And, of course, the betrayal of the Last Prince. 

His name had been forbidden to be spoken or written for so longer, only members of the Nine still knew it. Lathariel was the last surviving member of the nine, even though she slumbered in a coma. Since Karjon had not passed the name to Tythel, unless Haradeth had been told the name by Lathariel, it was a name that was currently lost to the world. Only if Lathariel awoke was there any chance of it being preserved. 

The academic in Tythel hoped it would be remembered, so it could be added to genealogy trees. The warrior in Tythel wanted it to remain forgotten. 

The Last Prince had waited until a pivotal battle. A moment where it looked like the mortal races and the Council of Nine would emerge victorious. In that moment, he had revealed his true allegiance. He had taken his knights in on their charge, as he was supposed to – but when they struck, it was not Gix’s hoard that they slew, but their own allies. Because of his action, the war with Gix waged on a decade longer than was needed. Karjon personally oversaw his trial, and personally incinerated him when the guilty verdict came down. The Last Prince only had one defense – “I sought to preserve some life in the face of death.”

For that statement, his legions became remembered as the Death Knights, and the Cidatel that had housed them was Death’s Head Keep. The name was not just a reminder of what evil had been done here, but also descriptive – the gateway to the keep was a stylized skull.

“You know,” Tythel said to Eupheme as the road to the drawbridge beneath the looming stone skull, after boring her throughout the entire ride with the full tale of the war and the Last Prince’s betrayal, “In hindsight, the kind of person who designed a keep with a skull for a door being a traitor in a war against a necromancer probably shouldn’t have been a surprise.”

Eupheme snorted. “When you put it that way…’

“Thank you, by the way,” Tythel said. Eupheme raised her eyebrow. “When I get going on history like that, I know how boring it gets. I appreciate you humoring me.”

“Tythel, you’re my friend. Dolt. We’ve covered that before. Do I care about the intricacies of Cardomethi politics during the collapse, or the broken supply chains that made it so hard to fight Gix in the early days of the war? Normally, no. But when you’re talking about them, you get so excited that I care because you do. So you weren’t boring me.”

Tythel flushed, glad her scales didn’t betray that anymore, and smiled for Eupheme’s benefit. The expression was becoming more natural, although she felt herself habitually still squinting when she did it. “Well, thank you for seeing it that way.”

“Next time just do me a favor and stick to the battles more? That’s the best part.” Eupheme’s eyes sparkled with the gentle prod.

“I’ll do my best. But would they be as good if you didn’t have all the context so you knew exactly what was at stake?”

Eupheme considered for a moment and then nodded. “Yes, I would. Battles are inherently interesting, even without context.”

“I’ll test that theory at some point,” Tythel said. They’d reached the main door.

“Halt!” came a voice from above. “Who goes there!”

“The Princess Tythel!” Eupheme responded. “Who dares bar her passage?”

“No one!” This time the voice was just a shade higher. “Just need to confirm its her, that’s all.”

“The poor man’s just doing his job,” Tythel said in a quiet voice, then raised it. “The Horn is Raised at Midnight,” Tythel shouted.

“And the Rabbit Calls its Warren A Fortress,” Eupheme added. 

“Welcome, Princess Tythel!” the man atop said, and the door began to grind open. “Do you need someone to take your steeds?”

“Light and Shadow, yes!” Tythel said. It hadn’t been as bad as she’d feared, mainly because she and Eupheme had set a fairly sedate pace, but after so many days in the saddle Tythel was ready to never be in one again.

Their horses taken by the stableboys – Tythel did give hers another apple before he was taken, so he’d remember her fondly and hopefully tolerate her if she needed to awkwardly sit on his back again, Tythel and Eupheme headed into the main entrance way.

“Armin!” Tythel shouted when she saw the lumcaster, fighting a very undecorous urge to tackle him with a huge. “Deepest Shadow, man, it’s good to see you again!”

Armin’s eyes widened when he saw her, and there was a moment of hesitation. Then he smiled. Something about his smile seemed off to Tythel. There was a note to it she’d never seen before. Was that an excited smile? Or a relieved one? It didn’t quite fit either of those, but she couldn’t place it. “Likewise! I’m so glad you made it back all right. Although…I’m sorry to hear about Tellias.”

Ah. That explained the smile. He had heard the news, clearly, but had been hoping for there to have been some error. “I hold hope, still,” Tythel murmured. “He does not yet rest in the Shadow’s Embrace.”

“Of course,” Armin said. “Heartflame, I’m certain.”

There was a edge to his words Tythel couldn’t place, but she was able to easily deduce it was because he didn’t want to break her hope. “You would be correct. I cannot yet wield that power, however.”

“I’m sure you’ll figure it out at the exact right moment for your needs. You’ve got the Light on your side, there.”

“Thank you,” Tythel said, unsure why Eupheme was starting to look angry. Oh, of course. She was being rude and dominating the conversation. “I’m going to go find Ossman, let you and Eupheme catch up.”

“Actually, not yet.” The voice came from behind Tythel. She’d heard the footsteps coming, but hadn’t paid them much mind. Duke de’Monchy. “Your timing is fortuitous, Tythel. We have much to discuss. Armin finished his decryption just two days hence. We were about to give up on waiting for you to arrive.”

Tythel looked at Armin with wide eyes. “Did it…”

Armin nodded, and his smile lost some of the edge. “I know now. I know what the Vacuity Engine is, and I know where we can find it. And I know why we absolutely must destroy it.”