Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Sketch in My Notebook: The Order of the Blackened Glaive (Part 12)

Our story so far...

Drakar has been forced from the Sentralian Military Academy because of his half-demon heritage.  However, angels of the goddess Nyx visited him in a dream, commanding him to seek out Fortress Abbadabas and the fabled Order of the Blackened Glaive.  Drakar traveled south to the city of Jakara, where he met a girl--a young wizard named Elaina Emboo.  

Having saved Elain from certain death, she and her ship, the Trident sailed with Drakar towards Fortress Abbadabas and his destiny.  Together, the two of them entered the ruins of what was once Fortress Abadabass.  What they found, though...

Drakar & the Order of the Blackened Glaive
Part 12: The Beast

Drakar stares in horror, and then all is black.  For an instant, he cannot see, cannot even breathe.  Then it’s over, and somehow he is standing on the deck of the Trident.  Elaina starts shouting orders, and all Drakar can do is stand dumbfounded and watch.  His mind is still frozen in the darkness of the temple.  His eyes still see the beast from the pit.
“Weigh anchor, captain, and hoist the sails.  It’s time to go.”
“Wait… what?”  Ferdinando looks as dumbfounded as Drakar.  “Elaina?  How in the ninth ring of Hades did you get back so fast?”
“Magic, of course.  Now get those men in the air!  We’ve got to go.”
Ferdinando blinks but then starts shouting orders.  Drakar is no longer listening.  He has already turned away.  His eyes seek the mountain and the temple he knows stands at its apex.  He notes with horror that the moon has risen, that stars blaze in the heavens on every side.  These things were not visible from the mountaintop.  He’d thought the night foggy and overcast, but it is brilliantly clear.
What was that thing?
The Pits are deeper than your theology will allow…
Drakar shudders, and the mountain shakes in sympathy.  The Trident starts moving—slowly—but it will not be enough.  If they ran for a week, it would do no good.  A cry sounds from above, and the Trident’s sailors grow pale.  Drakar makes his way back towards the ship’s stern.  He climbs to the top the quarterdeck, the Hellglaive held loosely at his side.  He looks up and sees a shadow breaking from the mountain’s bulk.  Great wings burst forth, leaving a birdlike silhouette against the light of the moon.  The creature’s head still reminds Drakar of a snake.
He turns, looks at Elaina.  “I should not have dragged you into this.”
“It’s a little late for that now,” she replies.
Ferdinando appears at her side.  “What is that thing?”
“A beast from the Pits of Tartarus,” Drakar answers.  “A servant of my mother.  I should have expected this.”
“Your mother?”
“The lady Nyx, goddess of night.”
Ferdinando stares at Drakar open-mouthed.  It is an alien expression on his inhuman face.  He mutters, “Waku Temutu…” and then falls silent.
“Gods below,” Elaina cries.  She sounds exasperated.  “It’s a shadow dragon, captain.  An ancient wyrm.  We either run for it, or we die.”
Even as she’s speaking, the dragon launches itself into the night.  Another cry echoes across water, followed by laughter that is as deep and vast as the sea itself.  “I see you, son of Orcus.  I know where you are.”
“Running won’t save us,” Drakar says at last.
“It’s our only chance.”
Drakar shakes his head.  The beast is already above them, an inky blot against the light of the stars.  The dragon swoops past and circles, coming around like a hawk.  It shrieks, and Drakar can feel tears welling up in his eyes.  He looks to Elaina, sees that she is crying as well.
“That thing is not going to let us get away,” he says softly.
The beast stoops as if in response, folding its wings and diving like an arrow shot from Jupiter’s bow.  It crashes like cannon-shot into the Trident’s bow, shattering wood and leaving men screaming in pain.  The creature’s foreclaws close around the foremast and yank.  Wood cracks and canvas tears, and then the entire foremast snaps like a twig.  More men scream as they are thrown headlong into the sea.  The dragon beats its wings, and the force of it is a hurricane.  Drakar is lucky even to keep his feet, but Elaina topples backward over the taffrail.  Then the dragon is away, and suddenly the Trident is listing hard to port.
Drakar whirls and looks for Elaina, but she’s gone.  The water below is as dark as tar; there’s no sign of her.  Despair runs through him, dragging him down into an emotional well as dark as the water beneath the ship.  After a lifetime spent alone, his vision quest has cost him the only friend he has ever had.  His fool’s destiny has killed the only person in the entire world who ever gave a damn about him.
The dragon screams again, but Drakar is no longer afraid.  The worst has already happened.  If this is how he will meet his destiny, then so be it.  The Hellglaive pulses in his hands like a living thing, its flames thrumming alongside the rhythm of his heart.  The dragon stoops and dives, and Drakar cries out in defiance.
“Here I am, creature.  Come and face me!”
The beast angles towards him and beats its wings, pulling up short just above the quarterdeck.  Its mouth opens and Drakar can see its fangs, the black depths of its maw.  It breathes, unleashing a tornado of darkness and death.  Sailors scream and wretch behind him, and Drakar finds himself down on his hands and knees.  He heaves, but his stomach is empty, thank the gods.  The Hellglaive flares, and Drakar can feel its fire in his blood.  He cries out.  The pain is like nothing he has ever known.  It builds to agony and bursts, and after that it slowly fades.  He is left feeling as weak as a child.  Around Drakar, sailors have started turning green and toppling.  Drakar lives because the Hellglaive burned whatever foul poison the dragon spewed across the ship out of his system.
He rises slowly to his knees, plants the Hellglaive’s base on the quarterdeck, and uses it to lever himself to his feet.  He looks up, sees the wyrm is still circling, and raises the Hellglaive above his head.  Flames ripple across its length.
“I’m still here, dragon!”
The response is immediate.  The beast banks and turns, wheeling in the air and then plummeting towards the ship.  Drakar climbs onto the taffrail and makes ready to leap at the creature’s snout, but before he has set himself, he notices the water boiling in the black depths below.  The dragon looks down, and its attack falters, but the ocean has already begun to whirl and spin.  A long column of bursts forth from the sea, and the very air echoes with the sound of eldritch syllables.  The spellsounds crescendo in a word of power, and red lightning rips across the sky.  Thunder crashes across the night, and the dragon shrieks.  It has nowhere to go.  Lightning perforates its wings and body, leaving it a smoking, shaking husk.  The beast screams again, this time in agony, and collapses into the sea.  Drakar can only stare, but already the waterspout is bending towards the ship, a tiny figure standing at its apex.
“We don’t have much time,” she replies.  “I think I hurt it, but I can’t do many more spells like that, and even that one won’t kill a full-grown dragon.  We need to think of something clever before that beast comes back.”
Drakar is dumbfounded.  “But…  How are you alive?”
Elaina gives him a withering look.  “I told you, I’m a wizard.  I don’t need saving, Drakar.  I need a plan to deal with the dragon.”
Drakar shakes his head in wonder, but by then the sea is boiling again.  The dragon will return at any moment.  
“My plan is to use the Hellglaive,” he says at last.  “My mother sent it to me for a reason.  She set this tool in my hands and then set me feet on the path to this time and place.  Everything that has happened, it’s happened according to her will.  I’m meant to be here, facing this beast—with you.  I understand that now.”
“Glad one of us does.”
Before Drakar can say more, the dragon bursts from the sea in torrent of spray and beating wings.  It screeches and spouts another blast of miasmic poison from its maw.  It wheels in the air, levels its wings, and charges back toward where Drakar stands next to Elaina.
“I don’t think I’m meant to join the Order of the Blackened Glaive,” Drakar says.  He looks Elaina in the eye and then climbs again a top the taffrail.  “I am meant to refound it.  That beast was living in the sanctuary of my order.  My task is to remove it.”
“So what?  You’re gonna face it alone?  You know how that sounds, right?”
“No,” Drakar replies.  “We’re going to face it together.”
By then the beast is a mere hundred yards away and closing.  Drakar grips the Hellglaive, waits until the dragon opens it maw, and then leaps, summoning the rage and power that always lies latent within his blood.  The dragon’s breath scours the deck, but Drakar has leapt above it.  He crashes down, plunges the Hellglaive into the creature’s eye, and it screams in pain.  Then the beast’s bulk hits him like a cliff, batters him, leaves him falling towards the sea.  He loses the Hellglave, strikes the dragon’s shoulder, and feels something break inside his body.  He tumbles, but then there is a claw, and he can just reach it.  He grabs it, flips up, but then the beast batters him again, and he plunges helplessly into the water below.  
Everything goes black.  
Drakar can neither see nor breath, and in his heavy armor, he knows that he has no chance of swimming.  More red lightning cuts across the sky, but it looks distant through the lens of the water’s surface.  Drakar cannot hear the thundercrack when it strikes.  He reaches for his breastplate’s buckles, realizes that he can’t move his left arm, and knows, at last, that his fight is over.  Regardless of what happens above, his fight is finished.
The Pits are deeper than your theology will allow…
Drakar screams, and the sound of it echoes in his ears.  Something breaks free inside of him, and he is carried upwards on wings of shadow and flame.  He bursts free of the water’s surface, feels those wings stretch and grow, and then he is airborne.  The dragon turns, surprise and fear etched across its face.  It falters.  More red lightning arcs up from the ship and strikes the dragon, who whips back around reflexively even as Drakar is closing the distance.  He summons the Hellglaive, feels its fire in his hands.  The dragon turns back at last, but it is too late.  The Hellglaive slams up through the base of the beast’s mouth, striking deep into its brain.  Surprise runs across the dragon’s remaining eye, and then it falters and falls.  Drakar falls with it.  Somehow he no longer has wings.  He plummets back into the water below.
When he wakes, Drakar is laying on the Trident’s quarterdeck.  The sun is up, but it’s low in the sky, hidden by the mountain’s bulk.  Everything hurts, but when he looks, he sees Elaina staring down at him.
“Don’t try to move,” she says gently.
“How many—”  He tries again, “How many did we lose?”
“Some.  We always keep a shipment of healing draughts down in the hold, though, so it wasn’t as bad as it could have been.  A few of the men went over the side as well, unfortunately.  We’ve found a couple, but I doubt we’ll be able to recover them all.  That’s the sailor’s life, though.  How are you?  Last night was… an interesting experience to say the least.”
“I don’t know what to say,” Drakar replies.  “A simple ‘thank you’ seems wholly inadequate, all things considered.”
Elaina shrugs.  “We’re friends, Drakar.  We survived.  That’s all that matters.”
Drakar smiles.  His shoulder is sore, and it’s bound where it was broken, but the bones have already knit themselves back together.  Elaina must have force fed him some of those healing draughts while he lay unconscious.  He’ll have to remember to thank her again, he realizes.  “So,” he says at last, “do you, uh, want to explore the ruins with me later?”  It sounds ridiculous, but he can think of nothing he’d rather say.
“Uh, yeah,” Elaina replies.  “Are you kidding me?  That beast was a great wyrm.  Do you know how much gold we’re gonna find buried in that temple of yours?”  She smiles, and it’s dazzling.  “Somehow, I have a feeling that this trip just became very profitable.”


Did you like this story? The original adventures of Elaina Emboo (and her best friend Sneax) are available in my book, Sneakatara Boatman & the Priest of Loki

 It's out now for the Kindle and Kindle app.  And it's awesome.

Next up... a story about the Apocalypse, written with one of my very good friends and former Academy roommates.  It ought to be awesome, but we're still a few weeks away from having anything that's ready to share.

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