294 – “The Dragons of Summer” – Illariel
The Dragons Attack!
“There you are!”
Parith knew that voice. He’d been avoiding it for two days. He looked up from his bowl and cup on the table in the plaza. She was silhouetted in an irritated posture in the midday sun. Trying to ignore her, he picked up a slice of cheese from the bowl and ate it.
“Here. Sit down. Have some berries or cheese.” He pushed the bowl toward her, then snatched the bread and tore off a big chunk before she sat.
Illariel planted herself in the chair opposite him and grabbed some raspberries. “I’ve been trying to find you all morning!” A warm breeze blew her hair into her face. Between bites, she added, “Where have you been? When are we leaving?”
Parith rolled his eyes and took a sip of his ale. “Well, if you’ve been looking for me, little leaf, you haven’t been trying very hard. I’ve been here since daybreak.”
“I just saw you sit down a few minutes ago!” She folded her arms and did her best to look indignant.
“I don’t mean here,” he gestured to the chair, then pointed out into the plaza, “I mean I’ve been here. All over. I’ve been getting us supplies.” As final punctuation of his declaration, he pointed to the sacks stacked by the third chair at the table. She sulked and ate more berries.
He looked out across the plaza. In the bright light of day, it looked very different than it had a few nights ago. This day, in particular, being the first day of SummerFest, made it even more so. The decorations were colorful if a bit sparse. There were streamers and banners tied between the trees and vendors along the far perimeter. A small band of players was trying to get some passersby to dance, but there weren’t many interested.
“Not much of a festival, is it? There was more going on at the VernalFest in that tiny farming berg on the way here.”
Illariel looked around the plaza. “I don’t know.”
“Even TreeHaven’s festivals were more active.” He thought about his home and wondered if they were celebrating. The contact that they had reached at home through the oculus had told them that they hadn’t been attacked, but he was still uncertain. That same night, he and Illariel had decided that they needed to return to their home in the forest. Parith didn’t want to leave Eddiwarth, but he felt he needed to help protect his people.
“Maybe further in the city, it gets busier,” she speculated.
“I’ll bet everyone is afraid. Look around. House Kaelig’s militia has a pretty strong presence even in a small park like this.” He cautiously pointed out several soldiers and sentries standing guard wearing the house’s green tunics. It’s a good thing Shylai’a isn’t here.
Illariel’s voice went somber. “What’s Eddiwarth going to do?”
Parith glanced at her and shrugged. He picked up the last of the bread. “I told him to have the Seekers find him a portal back to Emberfire to be with Thissraelle, but he’s…” Parith hesitated, looking for the words. “He…”
“He thinks he’s a failure,” She said, adding, “He told me last night. He said, ‘How can I go back? I left to find the dagger and earn my name. Now I have nothing.’ He’s a mess right now. I feel for him.” She set elbows on the table and her chin in her palms. Her forehead bobbed as she chewed some cheese.
Parith took a slow sip of his ale. This is ok, I guess, but it will be nice to get back to the Umbrawood brews. He took a sniff and swirled the tankard. These just don’t have the same… the same… I don’t know…
He saw Illariel stand and take a few steps to the side, away from the trees of the plaza. “That can’t be what I think it is,” she muttered, looking into the sky above the city.
“What?” Parith stood and jumped to her side, following her frightened gaze. Two large winged forms swept across the sky, about halfway up from the horizon. “Dragons?”
What are they doing here? The angle of the sun made it difficult to see how far away they were, or the angle of their approach. Parith shielded his eyes. A third one followed them, slightly lower.
Illariel shrieked and pointed. “What’s that down there?” Smaller flying lizards rose from the rooftops of the city and flew toward beasts already circling in the air.
“Drakes!” Parith’s spine tensed. He remembered fighting them in the cathedral the summer before. Even though they were smaller than full dragons, they had been fearsome and relentless. If they hadn’t encountered Thissraelle and Eddiwarth and then been rescued by the Seekers, they would have been clawed to ribbons or burned to death. Possibly both.
A loud and distant roar sounded behind them, followed by a rumbling explosion and screams of terror. Everyone in the park dropped what they were doing and strained to look south with Parith and Illariel. A heartbeat later, a dragon rushed through the air over the tops of the buildings, its enormous wings stroking hard to rise again. Waves of wind blew over the tents and carts of the vendors and snapped the streamers in the trees.
The people in the plaza screamed and ran for cover. Several large drakes rode in the wake of the huge dragon and dropped into the plaza. They were as long as two men were tall, like eels with legs and narrow, but long bat wings. A huge red one, as soon as it got its footing on the ground, belched and heaved flaming bile onto the tents and the fleeing people. A brown drake wrapped its body and tail around one of the Kaelig soldiers before clawing at his chest and face as the man screamed.
Parith grabbed her arm and dragged her toward a tree at the edge of the plaza. He had barely gotten a few steps before a third drake, a red with a full white underside landed in front of them, rolled, then braced its feet, hissing and snarling at them.
Parith struggled to stop and pulled Illariel over. She landed flat on her back in the grass and scrambled away from the drake. It skittered on the ground in the form of a snake toward her and she screamed.
“Illariel!” Parith shouted and reached for her again.
With a rustle of leaves and crackling of branches, Ari leaped out of the tree canopy, soared in an arch over their heads, and landed squarely on the drake, each of her eight legs landing with a solid thump. She chattered as her forward palps grabbed the drake behind its head then hissed viciously as she bared her fangs. The drake wriggled to get away and wrapped its tail around her abdomen, clawing at her chitin from below. Ari plunged her fangs into the neck of the drake. It stiffened, shuddered, then dropped limp underneath her.
“Ari! This way!”
Parith saw Illariel crawling over to a man sprawled on the ground, writhing in pain.
“Illariel!” Parith shouted, “we’ve got to get out of here!” He ran toward her.
“Help me!” she shouted over the noise, “Help me drag this guy behind the trees!”
Author’s Note: Dragons and Drakes
A dragon attack is never a good thing, unless, of course, you’re the attacking dragons. And maybe not even then.
In the Land of Wynne, here in Twynne Rivers, there are dragons, and there are drakes. If you have to be attacked, it’s much better that they be drakes, because they’re much smaller and about as smart as dogs. They also tend to clump together into small groups.
Wynne’s Dragons, on the other hand, are huge and as sentient as any hominid (or “two-legs” as they call us), and generally smarter than most. The dragons have their own languages, culture, history, and individual motivations.
As an author, I’ve had a good time giving each dragon a personality and character (at least to the six main dragons). One of them in particular, Xintalan, has developed to the point that I want to make her a POV character in book 4! Between her, Kirraxal, and Heathrax, I just love writing for dragons!