The Dragon Pox
Illustration by Mark Hansen
Queen Xintalan opened her eyes.
Her vision was cloudy and her head hurt. She felt listless and weak, and her mouth tasted… well, just foul.
What is wrong with me?
She blinked several times, squeezing her eyelids tight in an effort to clear out the blur. When she opened them, it was better, but not by much. Some of the fluid ran from her eyes onto the scales of her snout.
She lifted her massive head and surveyed her chambers. All was as it should be. Her great padded mattress sat bunched up under her haunches and a large decorative firebowl smoldered nearby. Normally, she liked it cold, but when she woke up like this, it was nice to have her chamber a little warmer.
She swung her head around, twisting the aching soreness out of her neck. Or at least trying to. A sliver down in her throat tickled her, some tiny blob of gunk caught deep in her gullet as she breathed in. She licked her mouth, trying to wipe away the taste.
The tickle rose up into a gasp and then a hacking cough, the gunk in the back of her throat jumping upward. Eyes wide with surprise, she quickly turned her nose to the firebowl and with a choking gack blew a huge wad of bile out of her throat. It sprayed onto the bowl, instantly erupting into flames, much of it splattering onto the floor and the stone wall behind her. It left smoldering globs and singe marks as they drizzled down.
“Waaaullgh!” she shuddered at the taste, then spat the remaining burning bits out onto the bowl to clear her palate. She quickly snaked her head around to the other side of the bed to where her drinking water lay waiting for her. She buried her snout in and guzzled it in, trying to wash away the burn and the awful taste.
She rolled from her side onto her belly and tried to raise up on her legs. Normally strong and powerful, this morning they were weak, sore, and unstable. Her guts were churning as well. She tried to step off her bed, but found herself dizzy and unable to balance, even on four feet. Her wings flapped out, trying to help her steady herself, but they only knocked things off of her bedside table.
Every day it’s worse. Each morning takes more and more will to feel better. Will I ever feel fully well? And today I have to face the others in the council. I can’t put them off any more.
She stood, her head down, breathing in deep gasps. All four legs were locked below her body, trying to anchor her in place above the floor. She carefully folded her wings and closed her eyes.
Her focus slid deep into her chest, to her heart, to her will. It was low, almost empty, but it rose up to her command anyway. She could feel its weakened warmth spread throughout her and reach down into the rock of the mountain below her feet. The essence of the living rock, of nature and life itself, gathered beneath her, then fed her through her legs. A mist of brown and green swirled around her feet, drawn into her being.
Immediately, the aches in her muscles dimmed, her mind and eyes became less cloudy, and her stomach settled some. The cold didn’t feel so oppressive, and her balance returned. Well, mostly. She drew in a deep breath.
That’s much better. Maybe this time it will last more than a day or two. She knew that was unlikely, even as the thought crossed her mind. Her will lessened each time she did the healing, and the stretch of wellness got shorter and weaker.
Why doesn’t it just cure me? I’ve always been able to heal! Maybe I need to be in the forest again.
“I beg pardon of thee, Your Majesty.”
Xintalan snapped her head around to see Ryxitt, his blue and white scales flickering with orange highlights from the flames. Her surprised eyes relaxed and she lowered her head, pained and dizzy from the sudden motion. She gingerly moved away from him, trying not to make anything hurt any more than necessary.
“I did not see thee standing in my door.” She and Ryxitt always used the old wyrmtongue when they talked. It did seem to her to be more formal than necessary, but neither of them really liked the common speech as much.
“How fare thee today, Majesty? Art thou well?”
Did he see me heal myself? Was he watching me? “I am,” she nodded, adding, “I am well enough.” She steeled her shoulders and swept past him, entering her forward chamber.
She coughed twice, swallowed hard, then asked, “What tasks weigh on thy mind for the day?”
He hesitated, then spoke. “Forgive me, my queen. I should not have bothered thee. I shall return after thou hast fully gained thy rest.” He lowered his head, closing his eyes.
“What nonsense,” she snapped, “Tell me thy news and thy worries. Are we not meeting with the council today? Tell me what of that.”
“Surely, thou art not well. We will–”
“Tell me.” Her voice carried an edge of command.
Ryxitt nodded, hesitating again. “I am concerned for thy health. There are tales that come to us of a miraculous healing mage in the city. He has been curing the citizens of their plague for several months, now, using the powers of shadow. Perhaps if thou were to entreat him, he might be able to help thee where thine own powers have not.”
She glared at him fiercely, dropping into common speech. “Sso, you havve watchhed mee!”
“Nno,” he sighed, following her lead, “but I havve seeen the ressultss of your weakennd willl for sseverall days. Yooou are nnot getting anyy better.”
She raised her head high and threw her shoulders back. “Of a surety, I am well enough. Thou shalt go with me to the council as we planned. I am the Queen, and I must rule!”
Ryxitt hesitated, then nodded and backed away. “Let us go, then, Majesty.”
Xintalan swept up the crown in a clawed hand and settled it on her head as she left the room.
Author’s Note: The Dragon Pox
Centuries ago, the reign of the great Dragon Kings ended when an epidemic of the Dragon Pox swept through the population. Resistant to magical healing, the pox killed or weakened most of the dragons in Wynnne.
Heathrax managed to avoid the pox by being in exile, but, sadly, his beloved dragonmare succumbed and died.
Soon the oppressed hominids discovered the state that the pox had left the dragon kings in and they surged and rose up again. This time, the dragons were overwhelmed and overthrown. Many, already weakened by the pox, were killed outright, and many others were driven away.
The high elves managed to dominate the power vacuum after the overthrow, and also managed to acquire several clutches of dragon eggs un-infected with the pox. The elves began breeding and training these as cavalry.
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