299 – “A Clash of Kings” – Tonklyn
New Story, New Part, New King
In the Previous Part:
At the start of this part of the story, Tonklyn (the human chancellor to the dragon Kirraxal) is in Twynne Rivers, preparing for the upcoming attack on the city. He welcomes the dragons Xintalan, Ryxitt, and Telix. Xintalan is not happy that she’s been sent away from the pending battles in the Umbrawood Forest.
Later, Tonklyn communicates with the dragons Exakas and Kirraxal to plot the attacks that will ultimately topple most of hominid civilization and restore the reign of the Dragon Kings. It’s decided that it doesn’t matter if the human city or elven forest is attacked first. Tonklyn has acquired the Dragon’s Tooth dagger (which is magically enchanted to kill dragons) and shows it to them. Exakas wants it destroyed, but Kirraxal demands that it be locked away instead.
Parith, Korr, and Illariel discover the Seekers of The Great Reality in the underground of Twynne Rivers. They reveal to Parith what they know of the plans of the Dragon’s Flame Cult to conquer Wynne. Their drive to acquire the dagger intensifies. Hamrisonn, one of the Seekers and an old schoolmate of Eddiwarth’s, wants to visit him.
Eddiwarth finds his family in Twynne Rivers. He is struggling to find his place. His mother is excited to see him and initially thinks that Shylai’a is his sweetheart. His father, Mellar, is also happy to see him, but because of Eddiwarth’s history of letting his magic get out of control and setting their house on fire, is a little leary.
Eddiwarth thinks about the raw ruby gem in his pocket as he talks with his father. Mellar tells Eddiwarth that he must take charge of his life and accept himself. The party stays with Eddiwarth’s family while they decide their next move.
When Shylai’a and Korr practice spar in Mellar’s courtyard, they argue over how to best help Eddiwarth. Korr defeats Shylai’a and she is angry. Shylai’a challenges him again the next day and while they spar, he gets her to talk. She opens up and admits that she’s afraid of dying in obscurity, with no honor or meaning to her life. She wants to matter. Korr assures her that the many people she’s rescued think she matters already.
Hamrisonn comes to Parith and tells him that Umbrawood City was attacked by high elves, Khelnar, and dragons. King Twynnham of Twynne Rivers is mustering soldiers to send to the wood elves in the forest for support. Parth and Illariel are in a panic to find out about their families in the forest town of Treehaven. They hurry to tell Eddiwarth.
Karendle also finds Eddiwarth. Her father had found out that someone killed their friend Granthurg, took the dagger, and sold it to the Dragon’s Flame. Eddiwarth mourns Granthurg’s loss with Thissraelle. He asks himself, “What’s the point?” Thissraelle wants to come to him, but Eddiwarth feels like he has failed and doesn’t deserve her.
A few days later, there is a meager SummerFest event with a few decorated wagons, banners, and ribbons when the dragons fly overhead. They call up lots of city drakes, many of which were still living there from the time of the cathedral attack the previous year. They bring flames and chaos, attacking the people in the plaza and other places in the city.
The party helps in the fight, mostly rescuing civilians. Eddiwarth finds he can redirect the flames for the rescue, and it surprises him.
Thissraelle is magically reaching out to contact Eddiwarth, but an entropy storm is gathering in the Vast, making it difficult for her to reach him. She vicariously experiences the attacks and is afraid for Eddiwarth and her family. She doesn’t understand why Heathrax, the great dragon friend to humanity, refuses to help in the fight. He explains his frustrations with hominids and their constant warring.
Meanwhile, as a flight of high elven dragon cavalry returns from fire attacks on wood elves, Xintalan and Telix strike them, inspiring the dragons to rebel against their high-elven rider masters.
299 – “A Clash of Kings” – Tonklyn
As Tonklyn stepped up to the massive double doors, two dark-robed acolytes of the Dragon’s Flame rushed to pull them open before him. They were made of fine hardwood and trimmed in elaborate carvings of leaves and branches. These were all charred black now from the flames of the final assault on the palace yesterday. Pieces had splintered from them as giant beasts had battered against them. Still, they had held against the onslaught. He stepped through the opening portal.
These doors were probably gifts from the wood elves. Irony can be so much fun.
Tonklyn glanced behind him as he passed through. He was followed by at least a dozen soldiers in black and red tunics, acolytes and guards of the Dragon’s Flame. In between the soldiers, men dragging chains and manacles stumbled along. They had their heads down and wore elaborate clothes that had once been fine and fashionable, but were now dirty, bloody, and torn.
One of them in the front of the procession did not lower his head but held an angry focus on Tonklyn. He was older but still seemed fit and strong. His teeth were clenched tight. Tonklyn smiled at him then continued walking into what, up until a mere dozen hours ago, had been this man’s throne room.
Unlike Kirraxal’s dark and austere mountain palace, sculpted into the side of the Graemal Mountains, this grand hall was brightly lit by the afternoon sun. It shone through the gaping holes burned and broken in the high vaulted ceiling and the jagged openings that had once been elaborate stained glass windows. Now drakes of all sizes screeched and darted through the gaps and between the rafters.
That’s how the drakes got in. If you can’t break through the doors, go around them! Tonklyn breathed deep the smell of freshly burned ash. The cacophony up above mixed with the echoes of the other sounds of the room; acolytes and workers pushing rubble around with supervisors shouting orders, the steady clanking and scraping of the chains, and the marching steps of the soldiers guarding the prisoners. His own ministerial staff made a gentle tap-tap as he walked as well. No need to hurry. Patience is power.
Tonklyn smiled at the sight of Kirraxal, the black dragon, sitting regally posed on his back legs. There he is! His massive head, wearing the golden crown of the Dragon Kings, looked down from the rafters above. The crown reflected the sunlight coming in through the holes in the roof in an almost divine display.
Tonklyn proceeded with his back straight and his head high. He had invested so much planning, effort, and delicate balancing into this day, this very moment. There had been countless opportunities for it to have all gone wrong, so many ways that even Kirraxal or the other dragons themselves could have ruined it. But no. He had made it all happen. He had held the cards and played each one at exactly the right moment. Now, the game was won. Well, we should never assume we’ve won. At least we’ve trumped the trick. And we’re scoring way ahead.
Halfway through the hall, Tonklyn paused and tapped his staff hard on the floor three times. Everyone in the procession stopped, the soldiers leveling their swords and spears on the prisoners. Tonklyn nodded to them, then continued walking toward the dais at the head of the hall. Kirraxal raised his head and shouted a roar into the high vaulted ceiling. The drakes in the rafters raised their heads and voices into a roaring and screaming cacophony, thundering in the hall. Tonklyn’s ears hurt, and he struggled not to flinch or make a face. He saw that some other hominids in the room had not been able to deal with the sound and had tried to cover their ears.
Two more dragons, that Tonklyn knew as Xintalan and Ryxitt, rose out of the shadows behind the dais to stand and roar next to their king. The roars gradually shifted and blended into a single low droning note. Kirraxal joined the song with them, and Tonklyn noticed them shaping words of the old dragon tongue into that note. He couldn’t distinguish enough to figure out the meaning but did get references to “majesty” and “honor”.
Tonklyn paused before the dais and turned to face the hall. All of the hominids except the guard soldiers and the prisoners had dropped to one knee to bow before their king. Tonklyn glanced up and saw that all of the drakes above were perched, singing, with lowered heads. Xintalan and Ryxitt each dropped their heads to the floor as well. Gradually, the singing faded and the room fell silent.
Tonklyn pounded his staff again and shouted, “His Majesty Lord King Kirraxal the First, Heir to the throne of the Dragon Kings, Successor to Maxxin the Third! May he live long!” After hearing his announcement, Kirraxal lowered his head, snaking his neck forward to look over the prisoners. Except for the lead man, Hastonne, they cowered, clanking their chains.
Kirraxal studied them for a moment, then huffed out a puff of dark smoke through his nostrils. He retracted his neck, and spoke in a low rasp, “Is this the wretch who thought he ruled this land?”
“He is, sire,” Tonklyn confirmed, “along with his generals, ministers, and those of his court that weren’t killed outright or able to flee in terror from your onslaught.”
Hastonne stood defiant, his feet firm, his hands shackled together. He wore a torn and dirty ruffled shirt that had once been white. He stared intently up into the dragon’s eyes, and for a moment, they regarded each other. Finally, Hastonne took a deep breath and spoke, “You have not won yet, wurm,” adding particular disdain to the last word.
Kirraxal drew his lips back into a smile. His long conic teeth glistened in the sunlight.
Hastonne continued, encouraged, “We will fight you still! The giants and the elves will rally to our aid!”
“The elves?” Kirraxal broke into a raspy laugh. “The high elves of Emberfire? And what army will they bring to your rescue? What aid will they send? Their dragons?” He laughed more and the drakes above screeched and howled.
Tonklyn let a slight chuckle escape as he saw understanding and fear wash over the old king’s face.
“I have no time for you,” Kirraxal shouted. His neck and his belly flexed and quivered. “The era for you two-legs is over!”
Hastonne started to shout, but Kirraxal thrust his open maw forward and retched a flood of flaming bile onto the old king. He screamed and squirmed in agony in his shackles and fell, burning, to the floor. The acolytes jumped back from the splattering fire. The drakes above sounded their enthusiastic rage and the other prisoners pulled on their chains. Kirraxal raised his head, drooling fire off his chin, and roared. The other dragons joined in, and the drakes took flight. As the drakes circled, they dove into the terrified prisoners, biting, slashing, and flaming. The Dragon’s Flame acolyte guards, taken by surprise at the hungry ferocity of the attack, scrambled for cover.
Tonklyn took a breath and nodded, smiling. This is how I return to my city.
Author’s Note: One King After Another
“A tale as old as time…” No, I’m not talking about falling in love, I’m talking about the constant political shifts from one king to another, king after king. It just never stops. They go by different names – King, emperor, president, prime minister, but they just keep shifting.
Sometimes that’s planned. In our country, there’s a new election every four years, and at the most, the head of state stays for two turns, eight years. In other places, in space and time, the kings have to be pulled down by violence.
Maybe a better song to quote would be, “Everybody wants to rule the world“…