|Yufi during her time training with the Sprinters in Mak|
Art by Alvin Hew alvinhew.blogspot.com
Tulaq sat at his desk which was furnished with the skull of a Baron Fel, a crystal candle holder shaped by magic to appear as if three dragons breathed one flame when lit, a large book titled Away with the Mage, and an empty glass birdcage that once homed a winged fire breathing pogona. He rolled his fingers around the golden ferrule of his mahogany cane as he pondered its markings. A warm breeze crept in through the slit in his already hot tent.
Garbed in a white robe bearing a golden ‘V’ on the right side of the chest, that only his order, the Victors, was privileged to wear, he stepped out into the mercy of the blistering hot morning son of the Baron Lands. He walked amongst the camp in which most of the soldiers still slept dreaming of wives and girls patiently waiting, hoping for a safe return home in Vropa or Cape Galsco.
“What’re you doing awake?” The only female human voice in this entire desert asked as its speaker snuck up behind him.
“I’ve been awake for hours. I’ve been thinking Yufi,” Tulaq stopped speaking when he noticed the all but interested look Yufi had plastered to her face.
“You do that too much Tulaq. Just relax and do as King Erinom orders.” She turned and began running through the camp. “Follow me,” she yelled back.
|Tulaq during a battle against Dest near the Makian border|
Art by Daniel Ljunggren danielljunggren.blogspot.com/
He slid his cane into the sheath under his sword on his belt and ran after her. After all the cane was only an accessory. The cane was gifted to Tulaq on his sixteenth birthday by High Thaumaturgist Goralmirh. Other than studying the ornate design the three foot long cane bore it had no use, even so Tulaq felt an unexplainable connection with the item.
They stopped when they reached the eastern most region of the camp which was on the southern shore of the Tuchi River. The breeze was slightly cooler along the shore. The two walked next to each other westward on the sandy beach against the wind until they came to the opening of a large cave.
“Evanescent!” Yufi shouted into the cave.
Heavy footsteps and grunting started heading their way. A black seemingly polished dragon emerged from the dark. Every time Yufi saw Tulaq’s beast she wondered what made him unlike the other dragons. He was smaller than the others, lighter and more aero dynamic, and the fire he expelled from his lungs was a sphere that exploded when it made contact with its target.
“Fury, where’s your sister?” Tulaq asked the dragon.
The beast grunted and looked skyward. There she was, a huge green monstrosity for all to see, flying high in the sky. Tulaq looked to Yufi angrily. Frustrated he mounted Fury and without warning to Yufi the two shot into the sky as if they were catapulted upward.
Yufi sat on a rock formation at the caves entrance speaking to herself, “That damned dragon keeps getting you in trouble Yufi. Next thing I know I’ll be doing crap duty for the scouts. Damn you Evanescent!” She shouted towards the cloud littered patch of sky that Fury was currently chasing his sister through.
“Get over here Evanescent,” Tulaq ordered the mammoth sized dragon that was testing his patience in none but a playful manner. Fury finally cut her off and changed directions in the blink of an eye facing his younger much larger sibling and flew directly at her. Nearly twenty feet from making contact fury headed straight upwards and Tulaq jumped from his saddle and began free falling blindly through the clouds.
As if practiced a million times over Tulaq landed in the saddle mounting Evanescent. He guided her downwards to the riverbank and carefully landed on the shore where Yufi sat waiting. Fury quickly tackled his sister after Tulaq dismounted and the two began wrestling in the water.
“You need to control that dragon of yours Yufi, before she gets us spotted. There’s a camp of Baron Fel not three miles from us and the last thing we need is for-” Tulaq stopped his yelling when Yufi gently pushed his shoulder from her view.
“Shit,” she exclaimed, “the general must’ve seen her flying without permission again; here come his lackeys now.”
“Gods, I’m losing my patience with that beast,” Tulaq muttered under his breath as Captain Harris and two lieutenants approached on horseback. He turned and waved at the three men.
Tulaq rubbed the snout of the captain’s horse as the three stopped, “To what do we owe the pleasure Harris?”
“Get that dirty paw away from my horse Tulaq,” commanded Captain Harris.
“Yes sir,” Tulaq complied surprised at the sudden discontent from the officer; it usually didn’t appear until several minutes into a conversation.
“The general wants to speak with you and that girl. Apparently our scouts spotted a patrol of Baron Fel that saw that demon flying near camp.”
“Hey!” exclaimed Yufi, “Evanescent is not a demon. How dare you?”
“Tulaq do you dare let your woman talk to me with that tone without first being propelled to do so.”
“She’s not my woman Harris. And as far as I’m concerned she’s as much right to speak her mind as any man,” Tulaq was quick to defend his partner. Fury snarled at the captain as he emerged glistening from the river.
“If you say so,” the captain muttered before trotting back to camp.
Art by Maxim Verehin
“How dare he speak of me like that and to do so in my presence,” complained Yufi. “Thanks for standing up for me. I can’t stand those three. Especially the two lieutenants, I don’t know if I’ve ever even heard them speak, they’re like that moron’s pet toy dogs or something.”
“That’s enough from you let’s go see this general again; I think we might actually have work today.”
Yufi and Tulaq sat outside of the general’s tent awaiting permission to enter. By now the camp was alive with soldiers walking to and from mess tents and the river to bathe. A young messenger stepped out from the tent and allowed the two to enter before returning to his post in a shaded area under a large umbrella.
“I can’t believe it. This time I swear to the fire god, Palo I will have that dragon killed and you whipped,” The general began his yelling as soon as the two entered the tent, his finger never leaving Yufi’s face.
Tulaq gently lowered the general’s arm. “Just say what needs to be done and we won’t need to kill any dragons; besides it’s not an easy task they tend to breathe fire,” He warned.
“And she’s my dragon so humph,” Yufi declared as she attempted her meanest face at the general.
“And that’s why I’ll have you whipped, you little brat,” The general exclaimed as his fist flew towards Yufi.
Tulaq caught the general’s fist and stated, “Do you want to explain to Supreme Leinen why you struck one of the king’s riders, a nineteen year old girl?” He released the general’s hand. “I didn’t think so. Now General Kape, I recommend you do what you do best and strategize, before this camp becomes the third lost in this area in only a month.”
Kape spit on the floor at Yufi’s feet. “I hate women in war especially the ones who’ve just weaned off their mommy’s teats.”
“Get to the topic General,” Yufi snapped.
“Whatever. By now the Fel commanders probably already know where we are. Damn barbarians won’t even give up land that’s not properly claimed. Burn them Tulaq. I’ll have the Berserkers in after the two of you have each flown over the Fel camp twice. Following them will be the cavalry led by Captain Harris. And be sure to hit key structures, you know the larger tents and what not. Understand?”
“Yes it’s clear,” Tulaq said and turned to leave.
“Oh Tulaq,” The general called after Yufi left the tent, “Don’t let a set of pretty eyes and nice legs get you killed out there.”
Captain Harris walked up to Tulaq and Yufi as they left the camp. “Sorry about this morning Tulaq, the general has been riding my ass about those damn dragons.”
Tulaq grabbed Harris’ throat. “Tell him they don’t concern him, and the next time you speak to Yufi the way you did this morning the general won’t be able to find you to ride your ass.”
Fear-struck and surprised at Tulaq’s sudden hostility Harris stepped back once his neck was freed. “You might want to hurry. I dispatched the Berserkers as soon as the scouts told me about the near encounter and my cavalry is almost prepared.”
“Good they’ll need a head start.”
“And Yufi,” Harris waited for her to look at him before continuing, “I am sorry.”
|Harris one year ago: Battle for Onella’s Land Bridge|
art found at thealchemycritics.blogspot.com/
“Prove it asshole,” she said as she turned to run towards the cave.
As if the dragons felt the urgency in which their riders approached them they ran towards the humans and quickly picked them up. The two flew east along the river passing the Berserkers less than a mile from the Fel outpost.
The two started seeing tents below and began their descent. Fury released three consecutive fire balls from his lungs each erupting into huge fires once striking the ground as Evanescent released a steady breath of fire onto the tents.
Fel began frantically shooting arrows and throwing spears at the low flying dragons. A fel planted his feet sturdy on the roof of a small wooden shack and aimed his spear in on Fury. The fel threw the spear. The dragon barely had time to elevate and was nearly struck in the face. Fury grabbed the fel using his mouth and Tulaq guided the dragon straight up.
The Fel refused to stop fighting and without reward repeatedly struck Fury in his snout. At the dragon’s maximum height he released the Fel and began slowly descending. Tulaq looked around at the ground to the east of the Fel outpost and for the first time since he’d been flying reconnaissance missions in this desert he saw a grand city. It surprised him. As far as he knew the Baron Fel lived in small villages and their clans constantly saw to war with each other.
He continued his mission and met Ram Runner Kuge, leader of the Berserkers on the rocky floor. Kuge greeted Tulaq bumping chests as the Berserkers always did amongst friends. “Agh it’s a beautiful morning to smash some skulls don’t ya think Tulaq?” Kuge asked laughing.
“Never knew a morning that wasn’t in this land.” Tulaq looked towards the Fel camp to see at least fifty fel running their way. “It’s suicide to go in their Kuge. There is an entire city not a mile and a half east of that camp.
“Captain gave his orders and I’m just a Ram Runner. Gotta do what Harris orders, besides my fists are too blood thirsty not obey them anyway. Right boys?” He directed the question towards his two right hand men.
“Aye sir,” one of the fists replied.
“What about the stronglings, they’re young, inexperienced. They won’t survive the encounter,” Tulaq pleaded.
“They have to earn fist somehow don’t they. Unsheathe that blade of yours and come with us Tulaq, you don’t want to miss out on the action.”
Yufi landed seconds later and dismounted with both of her blades drawn. “You boys coming or am I gonna have to do this all by myself. I get lonely you know,” She yelled as the fel drew closer with every second.
“Let’s go Kuge.” Tulaq turned and ran towards Yufi who was running faster than he’d ever seen her run before and she was awarded honorary quick back when she was training for a short year with the Sprinters and occasionally aiding them in the war in Dest. The ten Berserkers led by their Ram Runner quickly followed suit.
Yufi quickly met the first fel slicing his throat barely even stuttering her steps to slow down as she killed him. She raised her short curved blade to strike down another but the fel raised his shield blocking it. She attempted to swing her other blade low under the shield but the fel pushed his shield away and up throwing the girl towards Tulaq.
As Yufi passed over him he grabbed her wrist swinging her back around. He released her and she darted feet first towards her enemy. One foot met the shield kicking it back into the fel’s face, her other foot followed she bent her knees and jumped forward twisting as she flipped. Her blade cut into the back of the fel’s neck.
He turned swinging the shield. Yufi ducked but his war axe followed at a lower angle, she jumped, the axe caught the bottom of her boot and she fell to the rocky sand covered floor hitting the back of her head hard as she landed. The mighty fel raised his war axe readying for the kill. Yufi looked to her would be killer confused, stunned.
A long blade shot through the fel’s abdomen, turned ninety degrees and sliced outwards disemboweling the creature. Tulaq stepped out from behind the Fel, as it stumbled to the ground where it would die. Tulaq took a knee to help Yufi.
“Come back to me Yufi!” He screamed at her. Blood from a previous left hook to the jaw dropped onto her as he tried to get her to come back to consciousness.
“Huh?” She asked rubbing her head not knowing she was needed in the fight where they were outnumbered five to one and the odds were separating even further with every new wave of Baron Fel that quickly ran to the growing battle.
Tulaq stabbed forward and up into the chin of a fel who thought he had caught his enemy off guard. The blade sliced through his skull and out of the back of his head as if he were cutting warm butter. Another fel swiftly kicked Tulaq in his side sending him ten feet across the ground. The fel then grabbed Yufi and threw her over his shoulder before running east towards the burning campsite.
Galloping soon came as a comforting sound for Tulaq and the Berserkers three of which had been slain, including one of the fists. Tulaq looked up to see a mace shatter a shield and kill the wielder as a horse jumped over him. Canon shot began booming adding to the sound of the song of death. The canons were being ruthlessly fired towards the camp, the same place the fel had carried Yufi off to.
Tulaq slowly stood; his head was throbbing with pain and bleeding. The battle quickly grew in numbers from both armies. Humans and fel screamed horrifying yells as they crawled hoping for an escape from their impending deaths. A fel ran on all fours straight towards Tulaq. Tulaq quickly grabbed the shield of a fallen fel and was knocked back to the ground when the fel jumped onto him.
The fel bared his teeth and growled at Tulaq, smiling as he did. Tulaq spanned the sky for Fury or Evanescent, but the dragons were still laying waste to the camp. The fel repeatedly struck Tulaq in his side with a closed fist occasionally clawing at his chest. Nearly accepting his fate Tulaq rested his head on his side and saw his sword just out of arms reach.
Art by Kai O. kaio89.deviantart.com/
Tulaq reached for his weapon. The fel was beginning to play with Tulaq, as any cat would, and picked him up and threw him into a pile of loose rocks. The rocks tore his back as he slid across them. The fel lunged towards Tulaq with his sharp nails exposed. The fel latched onto Tulaq’s chest with his right paw and began beating his face with the left.
Bloody and seeing surroundings as if they were tinted in red Tulaq grabbed a sharp rock that fit perfectly into the palm of his hand and as hard as he could hit his would be killer in the head. Now the fel was just as disconcerted as Tulaq was. Tulaq liked that. He stumbled to his sword nearly falling when he leaned to pick it up. The fel found a nearby broadsword and gripped it.
The fel swung at Tulaq missing his intended target. When the blade bounced off the ground the fel stumbled forward; Tulaq hit him in the back with the flat side of his dragon-scale sword. The fel caught himself just before he face planted in the sand. Tulaq raised his sword back behind him and swung it cracking the fel’s skull open when the flat side of the sword smashed into his head.
This time the fel laid motionless with his back exposed. Tulaq drove his sword into the creature’s back severing his spine and piercing his heart. Tulaq looked around at the battle field. The last time he saw something this horrible was when Vropa won the War for Cape Galsco at the Battle for Onella’s Land Bridge.
It amazed him only minutes earlier there were only twelve Vropians on this field and now there were countless dozens dead around him. The Berserkers were down to five now. Ram Runner Kuge mercilessly slaughtered dozens of fel as his surviving fist strategized with the three stronglings. Usually Captain Harris was like a warrior from another realm when he was on horseback, but today he was struggling just as badly as Tulaq.
The Hero of Vropa thought he would die on this battle field, but his instincts kept him alive after the bloodlust and ensuing rage gave him a second burst of adrenaline. His movements grew swifter like that of a dancer performing to her favorite song. He literally cut his way to the beaten captain.
Captain Harris’ horse had pinned him to the ground. The horse’s mouth had been ripped apart by a fel while another bit into its neck. Harris managed to fight fel off until one kicked him in the head and they ran off leaving the unconscious man to die beneath the unforgiving Baron’s sun. Tulaq grabbed the captain’s wrist to drag him out from underneath the animal.
Harris’ pants were drenched in blood around the left ankle. Tulaq lifted the pant leg to see the wound. His fibula had broken through his skin and was still protruding from his body. “Good thing,” Tulaq paused panting, “you’re unconscious for this, although I can’t wait for your cocky ass to feel real pain.” He carefully put Harris over his shoulders and ran towards the artillery battery at the edge of the battle and found the apprentices and mages.
Fury and Evanescent flew to Tulaq once Evanescent could no longer feel Yufi’s presence. Tulaq left the unconscious Harris with the apprentices for healing and went to the dragons.
“She’s gone Evanescent, I promise we will get her back though,” for the first time since he saw her being carried away Tulaq began to worry immensely for his partner.
The huge green dragon looked around frantically for her rider. Her worst nightmare was quickly becoming reality. She had lost her rider and from right underneath her.
“Fury, I need you to fly to Castle Kakku and bring back Hamlin and Scintilla. And don’t forget once you pass the great river Tuchi the fel are friendly, you are not to attack them. Do you understand?”
Art by Tina Leyk
The dragon nodded and flew away.