Final Chapter: Into the Future
One hundred and eighty four years had passed since that day. Since then, Saulstrance traversed the human realm learning more of the human race’s customs and experiencing the world’s vast and numerous sights. Saulstrance also bare witness as humanity made great leaps in medicine, science, and technology. He sought to learn as much as he could about the human realm so that he fully understood the world for when he claimed it as his own. After all, this was what Saulstance had come to believe Tourajé wanted. Saulstrance believed that by taking over the human realm, he would be accomplishing his deceased friend’s dream of creating a world where humans and dragons could live together. Uniting Earth under him, Saulstrance saw this as the best way to bring humans and dragons together.
Very few remained who remembered Saulstrance for who he used to be. As time passed within Zalphonia, word of Raolef, Léruc, and Tourajé’s deaths spread and it eventually came to be believed that Saulstrance was responsible for all three deaths. While there were two certain dragons who protested this assumption, their words fell on deaf ears. Even though they knew Saulstrance better than anyone, and even though they knew he was indeed responsible for killing Léruc, nothing they could say or do would be enough to clear him of the other two deaths. While Raolef and Léruc would continue to be remembered for their statuses as Leaders, Tourajé’s name would eventually be lost to time, remembered only by his remaining friends and his little brother. One hundred years after his passing, Tourajé’s parents would join their oldest son in the afterlife, leaving behind Utzie as the sole survivor of their family.
Feeling he had learned enough about the human realm and its customs, Saulstrance saw fit to begin the next phase of his plan. If he was truly going to become the leader of the human realm, then he wouldn’t be able to do it all by himself. He would need willing dragons to assist him in his conquest. For this, he returned home to Zalphonia. While Saulstrance did not have a specific number in mind for how many dragons he wanted to join him, he figured he would need quite a sufficient amount.
His first stop was to the village that the dragon Raolef proudly led over, the village Aanki. Immediately the dragons of the village knew who Saulstrance was and, with fierce glares on their faces, circled around Saulstrance and slowly approached him, hoping that the dragon would feel intimidated being faced by so many opponents that he would simply turn tail and run. This wasn’t the case, however as Saulstrance calmly glanced around at the dragons who surrounded him. While Saulstrance knew he should feel threatened by these other dragons, he felt no fear or unease at being surrounded. Instead, Saulstrance sat in the center of the circle, taking in a deep breath and exhaling before he spoke.
“I seek to build an army. Together, under my lead, we will take to the human realm and claim it for ourselves. To do this, we will capture any and all humans. Should any try to resist us, we will execute them to set an example. This will be our way of showing humans that they have every right to see us as the fierce beasts they speak of in their stories and that we dragons are the domineering species.” Saulstrance proudly announced.
The dragons around him were left stunned at what they had just heard. Some looked at Saulstrance with expressions of utter disbelief on their faces while others talked amongst themselves asking one another if he was serious. While some were unsure if Saulstrance meant what he was saying, others could tell just by looking at his face that he meant every word he said.
Just ahead of Saulstrance, several of the dragons moved to the side, revealing another dragon standing behind them. This dragon stepped into the circle and approached Saulstrance. He had dark green scales, a smooth yellow underside, the same yellow also being apparent in the leather in his wings and his fins. His claws were white as were his horns, his irises colored gold.
As this dragon stood before Saulstrance, the dragons that surrounded them went deafly quiet. They watched carefully as Saulstrance stood up and stared at this dragon with the same lifeless look he’d had on since arriving in their village.
“You want to take over the human realm? For what purpose? Is it truly just to prove that our race is superior? What do you gain from doing this?” The green dragon asked, convinced that there were details Saulstrance was hiding from them.
“While I do wish to prove our race superior to the humans, there is another reason for doing so: by establishing ourselves as the superior race, we can help to unite humans and dragons. If I were to become leader of both Earth and Zalphonia, I can bring the two races together and perhaps even bring peace to both worlds. Of course, the humans may not be as understanding to this as a dragon may be. This is why I want to gather a decently sized army to assist me in this. I would love to have the entirety of our world join me in my conquest but, given my…unfortunate reputation, that would be easier said than done. So then, what do you, villagers of Aanki say?” Explained Saulstrance.
“I say it sounds like a wonderful plan but no thank you.” Said the dark green dragon with a hint of sarcasm as he said the word wonderful. “How can we trust that you, one of our world’s most infamous criminals wants to unite humans and dragons for purely unselfish reasons? If anything, it sounds to me like you just want to bring our two races under yourself and rule over them both.”
This suddenly caused Saulstrance’s lifeless expression to change. He and the green dragon exchanged glares as the two of them began to circle around each other, as if they were preparing for a fight. Angered by this dragon’s assumptions, Saulstrance did all he could to keep himself composed. This dragon, he thought, had no right to criticize his plans. He had no idea how much this goal meant to Saulstrance.
“And you think you have a better idea? How do you think it’d be best to bring our two races closer together?” Said Saulstrance in an increasingly agitated voice.
“I don’t know. I truly don’t. But what I do know is that striking fear into humans is not the right way to go about it, neither is trying to take over their world or ours.” The green dragon said as he stopped circling and returned to the place he had been standing in before.
The dragons that surrounded cheered in agreement for his answer. While they did appreciate the idea of uniting humans and dragons together, they agreed with the green dragon that the way Saulstrance wished to make this ideal real was not the right way to go about it.
“Well said Lord Izzieol!” Several of the dragons exclaimed.
Their chanting and cheering for their Leader’s response only served to further infuriate Saulstrance.
“Izzieol…” Saulstrance loudly growled, flashing his fangs to Izzieol and the rest of the dragons that surrounded them. “You’ve all made a big mistake today.”
The cheers and chants died down as soon as Saulstrance said this. As eager as he had been to attack Izzieol or one or two of the other dragons, Saulstrance opted instead to take his leave. His wings unfolded from his back and he flew into the distance. As he flew, he promised to himself that he would return to Aanki and he would show them that he was a dragon of his word.
Three weeks later, having heard that Saulstrance had been to Aanki, Eig’nia journeyed to the village herself in an attempt to gather information on his whereabouts. Thankfully for Eig’nia, any knowledge of her having some form of involvement in the slayings of two of the dragon realm’s past Leaders had become all but forgotten. This was also helped by her choosing to remain low for the past one hundred eighty four years.
She stood atop one of the caves and peered down at the dragons below her. Just as the dragoness was about to descend to the ground to speak with the village’s citizens, from off in the distance, she could see a figure approaching the village. As this figure came closer and closer, Eig’nia could tell right away who it was. Even if it had been decades since she had last seen him, Eig’nia could recognize his orange red scales anywhere.
Saulstrance moved toward the side of a cave to try and better hide so that the villagers wouldn’t see be able to see him as well.
Slowly moving closer towards the center of the village where some of the citizens were speaking amongst each other, while others watched as their offspring played together or played with their parents, Saulstrance hid against the side of the cave and carefully observed the dragons of Aanki. Still angered by the villagers’ dismissal of his goals, Saulstrance watched the dragons, carefully choosing which one to attack first. Eig’nia crouched down and eyed Saulstrance carefully, trying to keep herself hidden from him. Her eyes glued to Saulstrance, she watched him as she anxiously anticipated whatever it was he was about to attempt.
After taking some time, Saulstrance finally chose his target: a dragon with bright blue scales who had been playing with his son, a small light brown dragon. The little dragon was chasing after his dad, the two of them laughing together as the young dragon tried to catch his dad.
Just as they passed by, Saulstrance leapt at the father dragon, pouncing him and pinning his head to the ground. Holding the dragon’s head tightly in his paw, he squeezed tighter, causing the father to wince his eyes as he moaned in pain. The father dragon struggled to get himself free but stopped when he found that all he was doing was making his pain worse as Saulstrance squeezed his head tighter.
“NO!!!” The little dragon shrieked, horrified at what he was seeing happen to his dad.
The dragons that were within the area heard the terrified screams of the hatchling. They hurried over to try and help his dad but Saulstrance warned them to stay where they were.
“If you move any closer, I won’t hesitate to crush his skull from under my paw.” Saulstrance threatened, glowering at the dragons before him.
“Please don’t! Don’t hurt my dad!” The hatchling desperately pled as tears rained down his face.
Saulstrance turned to the devastated hatchling with a blank, uncaring look on his face. Unmoved by the small dragon’s pleas, Saulstrance pressed down even harder on the head of the little dragon’s father. His claws dug into the father’s head as some blood ran from the wounds that were left. The father screamed even louder as he thrashed around violently, trying desperately to free himself.
“DAD! JUST STOP IT PLEASE!!!” The hatchling screamed hysterically, crying even harder as all he could do was stand by and watch as his father was tortured.
“What did I tell all of you? You made a big mistake.” Said Saultrance as he flashed his fangs at each of the dragons.
Eig’nia had decided that even if Saulstrance was her friend, she couldn’t stand by and let him do this. She knew that Saulstrance wasn’t simply making an idle threat on the life of the dragon he had pinned to the ground. He had full intention to kill him. As she watched as the hatchling continued to beg for his father to be let go, she remembered back when she was a young dragon and how she lost Tourajé, Mayza, and Shashala as well as being disowned by her own family. The pain she felt when she lost her friends and family was something she would remember for the rest of her life. The very last thing she wanted was to see someone else go through that exact same pain.
It was now or never. Eig’nia prepared to make a move but just before she could get down there and assist the villagers of Aanki, she saw the Leader of the village, Izzieol fly over the crowd. He flew several hundred feet to the right of them and then, once he was lined up with Saulstrance, Izzieol flapped his wings as hard and as fast as they would allow. He flew right into Saulstrance, knocking the reddish orange dragon to the ground and releasing the father of the once inconsolable hatchling. As the small dragon’s father stood up, his son ran to his side and nuzzled against his dad as tears continued to rain down his face only this time, his tears weren’t of sadness but of happiness.
“All of you, return to your caves right this instant! I don’t want anyone getting in the way!” Commanded Izzieol who was planning to take on Saulstrance all by himself.
“But sir!” The dragon who had been previously captured by Saulstrance attempted to say.
“Just do it! Remember, all of you that if anything does happen to me, I prepared all of you with my backup plan. I truly, truly hate to ask it of you all but this may be the best chance we’ve got if it means ridding Zalphonia of one of its greatest criminals.” Izzieol said.
All the villagers stood silent for a second. The last thing they wanted was for anything to happen to their beloved Leader. They knew that Izzieol didn’t obtain the role of Leader for nothing but they also knew just as well as he did that he was going against a truly dangerous enemy and Izzieol’s belief that something may happen to him during his fight with Saulstrance didn’t sit well with the other villagers. Just then one certain dragoness stepped forward and spoke.
“We understand sir. Please, do be careful.” Said the dragoness with great concern in her voice.
“I always am. You just worry about yourself and the other villagers Minasha.” Izzieol replied, smiling towards the dragoness in an attempt to assure her that he’d be fine.
Minasha nodded as she and the rest of her fellow villagers retreated to their caves. They all watched from the foot of their caves as Izzieol and Saulstrance prepared to fight. Eig’nia, meanwhile had returned to the stance she had taken before and also bare witness to the coming fight.
“That’s truly touching Izzieol. You definitely live up to the title of Leader and for that I must applaud you.” Said Saulstrance mockingly, smiling in a way which further served to anger Izzieol.
“I don’t enjoy becoming involved in conflicts. However, I also don’t appreciate when someone threatens the lives of my fellow villagers. Even if I die fighting you Saulstrance, I’ll die happily if it means I get to drag you to hell with me and save the world I love!” Izzieol said, greatly determined to put a stop to Saulstrance and his plans.
Not feeling even a tad bit threatened by Izzieol’s declaration, Saulstrance burst out laughing in a very creepy way, a crazed look in his eyes as he did.
“You’ll drag me to hell? Izzieol, I’ve already been in hell.” Saulstrance declared, an amused look on his face.
Without saying another word, Izzieol swung his head at Saulstrance in an attempt to headbutt him. Saulstrance swiftly avoided the attack and expelled a flaming rock from his throat, hitting the left side of Izzieol’s face, causing the dragon to hiss in pain as he felt the sting that was left by the combination of earth and fire.
Before Izzieol had any time to retaliate Saulstrance raised into the air so that he was standing only on his back legs. Putting just enough strength into his front legs, Saulstrance stomped them on the ground, causing the ground around them to shake violently. The dragons who were watching their battle braced themselves, putting all their strength into their front and back legs in order to keep themselves up. Izzieol however, being closer to Saulstrance as well as being more taken aback by his opponent’s ability, was not as lucky as his fellow villagers. Within seconds, he collapsed to the ground, unable to keep his balance.
Once the tremors finally stopped, Izzieol returned to his feet. Still shell shocked he asked Saulstrance what that ability was. He had never, in all his life ever experienced an ability such as his before. He had no idea that a dragon could even possess such a power.
Eig’nia was left just as stunned as Izzieol and the villagers were. She had never seen this power from Saulstrance before. She knew that Saulstrance did have a second ability which allowed him to ingest earth and then combine it with his fire to be used as a more powerful projectile but she never knew that he was capable of doing something like she had just witnessed. Eig’nia couldn’t help but wonder- - what else did Saulstrance learn in the time since they had last seen each other?
“Sometime after having killed Léruc I still found myself in a blinded rage. Thanks to my anger, my regret, and my sorrow, I was able to discover a second part to my second ability. Originally I believed that all my second ability would allow me to do was consume earth and then launch it from my throat in the same way I launched my fire. That whole time, I remained blissfully unaware of what my second ability was truly capable of. Depending upon how much strength I put into my front legs, I’m capable of causing short tremors. What you just experienced, Izzieol, was only about seventy five percent of my second ability’s power. Anymore and I may have ended up leveling your caves and possibly even killing you and your villagers.” Saulstrance explained, sounding deeply proud of his powers.
“Well that sure does sound dangerous Saulstrance. However…” Said Izzieol as his wings unfurled from his back and he flew a couple feet from the ground. “Your power is only useful if your opponent is on the ground. As long as I remain airborne, it won’t do you any good I’m afraid.”
Saulstrance closed his eyes and snickered amusedly to himself.
“You aren’t wrong Izzieol. My ability is useless so long as my opponent isn’t on the ground too. However, it’s a good thing that’s not all there is to my second ability.” Said Saulstrance, watching Izzieol as he flew overhead.
“What, do you plan to use more of your burning rocks? I may not know the ins and outs of your powers Saulstrance but I do know with utmost certainty that you only have a finite amount of rocks within your stomach. Use those up and your second ability is just about useless.” Izzieol said, confident that he had Saulstrance’s power just about figured out.
Saulstrance was growing intrigued by his opponent. Izzieol had never seen the kind of power that he possessed yet his observations were right on the mark. However, Saulstrance, having spent most of his life training and becoming stronger, knew better than to rely on only one power. Even before engaging Izzieol in combat, Saulstrance had sworn to himself not to overuse his second ability. After all, relying on only one ability, Saulstrance thought to himself, was such an amateurish mistake.
Saulstrance opened his wings and launched himself into the sky. Both he and Izzieol flew over Aanki shooting balls of fire at each other. They then flew right for one another with Izzieol clutching his paw into a fist and smashing it into Saulstrance’s chin. Saulstrance flinched as his head swung back. He swung his head forward, smashing it into Izzieol’s. Both dragons were left momentarily staggered by the headbutt as they moaned from the pain. Recovering from the pain a little before Izzieol, Saulstrance took the opportunity to swing his tail at Izzieol who, in the nick of time, flew above Saulstrance just barely missing being struck by his tail.
Just as Saulstrance had done when they were on the ground, Izzieol raised both of his front paws and he slammed them into the top of Saulstrance’s head, causing the dragon to fall headfirst out of the sky sending him plummeting to the top of a cave. Stopping himself just a mere ten feet away from the cave, Saulstrance gently touched down on the top of the cave then flew back into the sky.
Back in the sky, Saulstrance chased after Izzieol. He was close on his enemy’s tail as a jet of fire streamed from Saulstrance’s mouth. The fire engulfed the beginning of Izzieol’s tail sending a burning sensation through Izzieol’s back. Realizing that he would not be able to outrun Saulstrance, Izzieol spiraled higher into the air and, once Saulstrance was behind him, spiraled downward striking Saulstrance in the back. Saulstrance roared as intense piercing pain shot throughout his body. Izzieol then let his back legs fall through the air as they swung into Saulstrance’s side causing him even more pain. The dragons down below as well as Eig’nia watched speechless at what they were witnessing. This whole time, with the foreboding warning Izzieol had left with them, the dragons feared that they may lose their Leader in this battle and yet, it seemed as though they were worried over nothing. Izzieol was beating Saulstrance. This sight made the villagers more confident. They wondered if perhaps they wouldn’t have to resort to utilizing Izzieol’s backup plan. Eig’nia, however, wasn’t as certain. Although Saulstrance was her friend since they were hatchlings, she also didn’t want anything bad to happen to Izzieol. Still, Eig’nia found something off about the fight. Although she knew that Izzieol was indeed strong, she couldn’t help but feel as though either Saulstrance wasn’t really trying or Izzieol was just that strong. Because she hadn’t seen Saulstrance in so long, she couldn’t gage for herself just how strong he had become since then. She did think it possible that Izzieol was indeed just that powerful but she remained skeptical.
As Izzieol moved away from Saulstrance, Saulstrance lunged at Izzieol with the intent of stabbing him with his horns. As Izzieol attempted to dodge the attack, he felt his left front paw become impaled by one of Saulstrance’s horns. Izzieol roared in excruciating pain as he looked down at his paw seeing the small bit of ivory horn that had gone through it. Izzieol’s eyes twitched as he slowly tried to move his paw and try to slide it up and over Saulstrance’s horn.
“It hurts, doesn’t it, Izzieol? Well if you want, I can help you.” Teased Saulstrance cruelly as he bucked his head up sending his horn further into Izzieol’s paw.
Izzieol howled again, blood oozing from the puncture wound and running over the sides of his paws. Saulstrance continued to do this. He would buck his head and try to move around which also caused his horn to move in Izzieol’s wound.
Eig’nia was horrified by how cruel Saulstrance was being. This wasn’t the dragon she once called her best friend. Far from it. This was just a monster wearing his flesh. The Saulstrance she knew, the Saulstrance she loved would never take such glee in torturing another dragon. It was that moment that a thought suddenly hit Eig’nia: Perhaps Tourajé and Shashala weren’t the only ones who died that night so long ago. Clearly the kind, loving Saulstrance she once knew also perished back then too. Part of Eig’nia was glad that Tourajé, Shashala, and Mayza weren’t alive today to see just how far Saulstrance had fallen. As much as she had missed them even to that day, the last thing she would have wanted was for them to witness what Saulstrance had become. Roasch as well, despite still being alive, was another one of her friends she was glad wasn’t around to see this. Back when they were young, Roasch had a difficult time dealing with the loss of his baby sister as well as Mayza. This would probably have done him in.
With Izzieol’s paw still impaled by his horn, Saulstrance flew through the sky. He swung his head back and then thrusted it forward, launching Izzieol towards the ground and freeing his paw.
Izzieol lay on the ground motionless. His breathing was slow and somewhat shallow. His paw was drenched in blood which was beginning to stick to his scales.
Seeing their Leader laying beaten and having difficulty breathing began to dash the villagers’ hopes that Izzieol would be able to beat Saulstrance, looks of horror on theirs as well as Eig’nia’s faces.
Landing on the ground, Saulstrance approached the beaten dragon, a triumphant smile on his muzzle.
“I don’t know if you can hear me but you did well Izzieol. I’m truly that for someone who had never seen the kind of power I possess that you were able to deduce how it worked as well as you had. You were quite a smart one.”
Suddenly, Saulstrance’s smile changed into a frown. He exhaled a melancholic sigh, sounding unusually disappointed in what he knew he would have to do.
“It’s a true shame. You’re strong, smart. You would have made an excellent addition to my group. In the end, the only one you can blame is yourself.” Saulstrance said as he raised his tail, preparing to stab Izzieol in the throat with it.
As his tail neared Izzieol’s throat, Izzieol suddenly sprung back to life and bit Saulstrance’s tail. Saulstrance roared as a sharp jolt shot through his body. Izzieol’s fangs bit deeply into Saulstrance’s tail as small trickles of blood poured out of the bite marks made by Izzieol’s teeth.
Saulstrance clenched his paw into a fist hitting Izzieol and forcing him to let go. Izzieol staggered back as he regained his footing. Both dragons stared angrily at one another as Saulstrance held the end of his tail in pain and Izzieol held his other paw over the one that had been stabbed by Saulstrance’s horn.
“Pretty sneaky, Izzieol. I will admit that for a moment, I thought I had actually killed you.” Said Saulstrance, holding his paw over the bite marks Izzieol had left in his tail.
“I promised you Saulstrance: the only way I’m dying is if I take you with me.” Izzieol remarked, wincing from the stinging in his paw.
The two dragons butted heads with one another, the both of them proceeding to try and push the other back. They braced themselves, growling and groaning loudly with each one trying to overpower the other.
Just at that moment, while Izzieol’s eyes were locked with Saulstrance’s, Saulstrance took this opportunity to use the wound he had inflicted onto Izzieol’s paw to his advantage. Izzieol didn’t notice as Saulstrance raised his paw which was directly lined up with his. Saulstrance slammed it as hard as he could into Izzieol’s wound, causing the dragon to stumble a foot and yell in searing pain.
Izzieol’s eyes bulged and he whimpered loudly, holding his paw over the wounded one. He cringed, the pain unbearable, his entire body twitching as he sat in place covering his wound.
Saulstrance suddenly shot towards him, ready to finish Izzieol off. Noticing this, Izzieol quickly released a stream of fire from his throat. Unable to avoid it, the stream engulfed Saulstrance’s head. Saulstrance roared from the pain as the fire came to an end shortly after. His head was covered in numerous burn marks some of which had thick black smoke rising from them.
Saulstrance continued his advance towards Izzieol. Desperately, Izzieol thought of something, anything else he could do to stop Saulstrance. He didn’t have much fire left in his body and the pain in his paw was becoming too much for him to handle. Knowing this and even knowing that he wouldn’t be able to keep his promise of taking Saulstrance down with him, Izzieol opted to continue fighting until his final breath. Izzieol had only one hope left: he hoped that once Saulstrance was defeated, either by the villagers or by someone else, that his village, no, his world would be able to live peacefully.
Izzieol stood up and ran straight towards Saulstrance. Undeterred, Saulstrance stood in place. Then, just as Izzieol was merely a few feet from him, Saulstrance’s tail whipped from behind him, slapping Izzieol in the face which stunned the dragon. Before Izzieol could make another move, Saulstrance wrapped his tail around Izzieol’s neck. It coiled around like a snake as Saulstrance kept a tight squeeze on Izzieol’s neck.
Izzieol struggled to get free, choking and gasping trying desperately to get oxygen into his lungs. The villagers and Eig’nia watched stunned and horrified. They knew that no matter what they did, they wouldn’t be able to help Izzieol beat Saulstrance, or, at the very least, not Saulstrance the way he was now.
In the cave of two certain dragons, Minasha, along with her mate Cerquil and their friends Ontrix and Angela watched as their Leader continued to struggle fruitlessly to get free from Saulstrance’s tail. Suddenly, a reluctant sigh came from Cerquil.
“It’s now or never. We have to cast the spell now. If we’re going to start a family, then our future children deserve to grow up in a peaceful world; one which doesn’t have a monster like Saulstrance in it.” Cerquil said turning to his friends.
“You’re right Cerquil. Even if Izzieol can weaken Saulstrance, I still doubt that any of us would be able to put an end to him.” Agreed Minasha, looking glumly at her mate.
“I’m ready whenever you three are.” Angela said reluctantly.
“Okay then. I’ll let the rest of the villagers know.” Said Ontrix who was just as reluctant to cast the spell as her friends were.
While informing their fellow villagers through their tails would more than likely have been more discreet and allow them to transform Saulstrance without his knowing, Ontrix knew she didn’t have enough time to communicate with them one by one. She called out to the rest of the villagers, informing them to get ready to cast the spell. Having heard this, Saulstrance curiously turned towards the villagers who were coming out of their caves. They approached Saulstrance as they chanted an incantation. Saulstrance had never heard this spell before. He was certain though that whatever the spell did would not be good for him.
Just then, his suspicion was proven true. Saulstrance noticed something odd happening with his body. He watched in horror as his muscles began to shrink. His tail had unwrapped itself from Izzieol’s neck, dropping the dragon to the ground as the tail grew smaller and smaller. The same happened with the rest of his body.
As Saulstrance watched his body undergo its bizarre transformation, he realized that he was changing into his human form. Although he had transformed so many times before, this time he was left paralyzed in fear. He didn’t understand why this was happening. He didn’t choose to change into human form. It must have been that incantation he thought to himself. It was the spell that was changing him into a human. When Saulstrance realized this, he smiled wickedly as he chuckled at the villagers.
“So that’s all your spell does? Change me into a human? What good will that do? I’ll just change back into my true form and take all of you down.” Gloated Saulstrance, convinced that he had discovered the fatal flaw in the villagers’ and Izzieol’s plan.
“Not this time, Saulstrance. You won’t be changing into a dragon ever again.” One of the villagers said.
Saulstrance looked at the villagers with a hint of confusion on his face. How could that be possible? So long as he possessed the ability to shift between human and dragon forms, how was it possible for him to be stuck in one form or the other? When Saulstrance asked the villager what he meant, Cerquil stepped forward and answered the rapidly changing dragon’s question.
“This spell not only traps its victim in the body of a human but it also prevents said victim from returning to their original form. That form is locked away severely limiting and crippling a dragon’s abilities.” Cerquil explained.
“Wha-what!” Stuttered Saulstrance, his eyes wide and his voice filled with shock.
As Saulstrance’s body concluded its change, the dragon who was now trapped in the body of a human couldn’t believe it. Was he truly doomed to live out his days as some feeble feckless human? Not believing their words, Saulstrance tried to transform but it was just as they said. No longer could Saulstrance transform. His true self had been locked away.
Saulstrance screamed in frustration. “There has to be a way to regain my true form. Nothing, not even your little spell is perfect. I will find a way to regain my real body and once I do, I will turn the human realm into my kingdom!”
Suddenly a portal opened up behind Saulstrance. He looked back, taken by surprise at its sudden appearance. As Saulstrance turned back, he saw Cerquil stepping forward.
“No Saulstrance. Your goals end here. You will never be able to turn humans into your subjects but you’ll still get to live with them. That way, while you spend the rest of your days among the humans, you can reflect on how you will never be able to conquer their race or their world. Farewell Saulstrance. May you never find your way back to Zalphonia.” And with that, Cerquil shoved Saulstrance into the portal. Immediately after Saulstrance had gone through, the portal closed.
All of the villagers gathered around Izzieol. Although they had succeeded in banishing Saulstrance from their world, they were unable to save the Leader of their village. Saulstrance had claimed his life before his transformation had begun. The sight of their deceased Leader brought tears to all of the dragons’ eyes. All of the dragons of Aanki greatly looked up to Izzieol. Although he was the strongest of their village, he was also the one who loved peace the most. The only time he would ever become part of a conflict was if two or more villagers found it impossible to agree on something. Before his battle with Saulstrance, he never had to worry about anything like a dragon who wanted to take over the human realm and wanted him and his fellow villagers to assist him in this endeavor.
In that moment, the villagers had lost both their Leader and portions of their lifespans. That was the price they had to pay in order to use the spell. In exchange for trapping a dragon in a human body, a dragon would lose some of its lifespan.
“Goodbye Izzieol.” Several of the villagers said as they all bowed their heads and paid their respects to their fallen Leader and fellow dragon.
Eig’nia watched from atop the cave. Even though she hadn’t been the one who killed Izzieol, she still felt that she was every bit responsible. Because of her inability to kill Saulstrance that night, another dragon ended up dying instead and now her best friend or rather, whatever remained of him may have been lost for good. She had no way of knowing where Saulstrance had ended up in the human realm and, for all she knew, the villagers more than likely had no idea either. With nothing left for her, she silently took her leave but not before taking one last look back and apologizing to Izzieol in her mind.
More than a decade had passed since then. Since then, rumors of Saulstrance’s return began to circulate around the dragon realm. The dragons claimed that Saulstrance had regained his true form and had slain another dragon and consumed his or her blood in order to do so. Eig’nia, having discovered this, knew that Saulstrance would return to their world. More than likely he would still be looking for able and willing dragons to assist him in fulfilling what he believed was Tourajé’s greatest wish.
Were this to happen, Eig’nia pondered what that meant for her. Would Saulstrance try to find her and convince her to join him? Did he even believe that she was still alive? They hadn’t seen each other in more than two hundred years. For all she knew, Saulstrance more than likely believed she was dead. Having seen firsthand the kind of dragon that Saulstrance had become, Eig’nia personally hoped he didn’t think she was still alive.
On one particular day, as Eig’nia was journeying through the dragon realm, in what seemed like a case of incredible coincidence, Eig’nia saw as a familiar face approached her. To her surprise, the stories the dragons spoke of were true: Saulstrance had indeed regained his real body and he also knew that she wasn’t dead.
Eig’nia felt a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach. Even if Saulstrance was her lifelong friend, she had no way of knowing what he would try to do to her now. The Saulstrance that stood before her was not the same Saulstrance she knew as a hatchling. It wasn’t just what she had witnessed Saulstrance do that made her feel this way, it was also the look in his eyes. They held no emotion in them, no life. Just looking at Saulstrance’s eyes made Eig’nia feel as though she was staring into an abyss. It scared her but at the same time, it made her pity her friend because through all of that, she could see that there was something else that was behind those cold, emotionless eyes: pain. Pain that had stuck with Saulstrance since he was only sixteen. Eig’nia knew this because she too, had experienced it as well. However, while Eig’nia had managed to at least somewhat overcome her pain, Saulstrance had completely succumb to his. Watching his friends die, being forced to kill Agcro, killing Léruc, and learning the true fate of his parents was simply too much for Saulstrance to handle all at once. All Eig’nia could do back then was watch helplessly as these events changed her friend for the worse.
“It’s been a long time Eig’nia.” Saulstrance greeted with a small smile on his face.
“Saulstrance…” Eig’nia said sadly, finding it difficult to read whether Saulstrance’s smile was of genuine happiness to see her or if it was because he thought he found someone to join him in turning the human realm into his kingdom.
“You don’t need to sound so sad Eig’nia. I’m here, back in my real body. The dragons of Aanki believed that by trapping me in my human form, I would be powerless and thus unable to do a thing to the human realm. However, in that time, I was able to amass what began as a small following of humans which only grew bigger and bigger.” Saulstrance explained to Eig’nia.
“Humans? Then…YOU were the one behind those attacks! The ones where those baby dragons were taken from their families!” Said Eig’nia, horrified by the realization that her own friend was responsible for such horrible tragedies. Even Saulstrance had become the way he was now, Eig’nia didn’t want to believe that he even he would do something as terrible as kidnapping and selling children as slaves.
“I was. I had two reasons for kidnapping those hatchlings: the first was in hope that one of the hatchling’s parents would come after me in an attempt to save their offspring. This way, I would be able to kill one of the adult dragons and drink their blood to regain my true form. However, the dragons got it into their heads that I was selling their children into slavery. Because of this, they probably believed they’d never see their children again and didn’t make an attempt to chase after us to get their hatchlings back. There was a part two to my plan which involved harvesting the blood of these baby dragons. However, because of unfortunate circumstances, that plan fell through. Of course, those circumstances weren’t too bad for thanks to what happened, I was able to regain my real body.” Saulstrance finished with his explanation.
“So you killed a dragon anyway in order to regain your real body…” Eig’nia said, feeling disappointed in Saulstrance.
Saulstrance nodded. Eig’nia closed her eyes and scoffed, turning away in disgust.
“I can’t believe you Saulstrance. What happened to you? Don’t you remember? You hated the idea of becoming a killer. You hated it so much that even when you had the chance, you didn’t kill Agcro. And now you kill like it’s nothing at all!” Exclaimed Eig’nia, anger swelling within her voice.
With a sigh, Saulstrance turned his head away from Eig’nia for a moment then turned it back to face her.
“You’re right, I did hate killing. However, when we lost Tourajé, Mayza, and Shashala, I learned our worlds don’t care about what we or anyone else want. Earth and Zalphonia, they’re both cruel in their own ways. However, I can change that Eig’nia. If I were to bring the entirety or our world to our side and succeed in conquering the human realm, I can bring peace to both worlds by uniting them under myself. Through my power, I’ll create worlds where nobody has to be needlessly killed like Tourajé or Mayza, be discriminated like Cyrus, or sacrifice themselves like Shashala.
Tourajé’s dream to unite the two worlds won’t be a dream anymore; it will be a reality. However, I can’t do this alone Eig’nia. If I could choose any dragon to join me in this, it would be you. What do you say, Eig’nia?” Asked Saulstrance, his eyes lit up at the mention of his late friend’s plan.
Eig’nia hesitated for a moment. She knew this wasn’t the right thing to do. Like Saulstrance, she too wanted to see Tourajé’s dream become a reality but not like this. She didn’t want humans and dragons to come to respect one another through fear. While she knew Saulstrance’s heart may have been in the right place, she also knew that taking over the world the humans called home wasn’t the right way to bring peace to either world.
Against her better judgement, Eig’nia agreed to join Saulstrance. While Saulstrance himself was overjoyed to hear that he and his childhood friend would be together again just like in the old days, Eig’nia wasn’t as happy. However, just then, a thought suddenly crossed her mind: joining Saulstrance could actually work to her advantage. By staying by his side, she would be able to keep a better eye on him and possibly even come up with a way to stop Saulstrance without either having to kill him herself or witnessing him be killed by another.
However, as she spent more time with Saulstrance gathering more members for their cause as well as looking after Saulstrance’s young children, his son Jake and his adopted son Alex, Eig’nia realized that in the end, it would most likely fall upon her to do what she knew in the back of her mind needed to be done. Until that day came, she opted to prepare herself mentally. She did this by trying to suppress her emotions at all times, even going so far as trying to kill her emotions and feelings so that she wouldn’t feel any regret for what she would do. However, try as she might, deep down Eig’nia couldn’t suppress her true feelings.
Half a year had passed following the death of Saulstrance. Following his death, Eig’nia turned herself over to the dragon realm’s Leaders. While her assisting of a dangerous criminal would have resulted in her execution, because she had also assisted in the stopping of said dangerous criminal, the Leaders and the Guardians both agreed to lessen the severity of her sentence. Eig’nia was given fifty years in a cell. True to what she had told Minasha, Eig’nia accepted her punishment without any resistance on her part.
Eig’nia sat in her cell recounting bits of her story to a young dragon with very light blue scales. A shackle had been placed around her neck. While normally, Eig’nia’s wings, tail, and her front and back legs would also be bound, Minasha was able to convince the Guardians to be more lenient on Eig’nia. Because of how compliant she had been with them the first few months, they eventually agreed with Minasha’s request. While two of the other three Leaders were also fine with this decision, Tomi, the third and oldest of the Leaders strongly disagreed with this choice although in part this had more to do with Eig’nia being the last remaining dragon responsible for his master Raolef’s death. Much to Tomi’s chagrin, he inevitably had no choice but to comply with the wishes of the Guardians and the other Leaders.
“In the end, all Saulstrance ever wanted was to be reunited with his parents. He wanted to become our master’s apprentice because he believed that through this, news of his exploits would travel through our world, perhaps even catching the attention of his mom and dad, hoping that this would make them proud of their son. Unfortunately for Saulstrance, his actions would become known to Zalphonia but not in the way he wished. Zalphonia will forever remember him as its worst criminal but I’ll always remember him as who he used to be: my best friend. Eig’nia explained.
Eig’nia stopped for a second. She closed her eyes and let out a saddened sigh trying her hardest to hold back her tears. The young dragon sat beside her cell, watching curiously as he waited for Eig’nia to continue with her story.
“No matter how many times I told myself it had to be done, that I had to do it if it meant saving both worlds, I still couldn’t bring myself to end his life. I thought I would never be able to put a stop to Saulstrance myself. But…then I met a dragon and his friends who showed me I didn’t have to do it alone. Even though I was their enemy, they still accepted me and even though he defeated me, this dragon gave me a chance to make up for my mistakes. In addition to giving me a chance at redemption, he also, in an incredible act of kindness considering who he was, saved the only other surviving Follower and allowed him a second chance at life.” Eig’nia continued.
“That dragon…you wouldn’t happen to mean…Lady Minasha and Lord Cerquil’s son, would you?” Asked the young dragon, eyes lit up at the possibility of this dragon being the son of his beloved Leader and Champion.
Eig’nia smiled at the young dragon and nodded. Her smile continued to grow wider as she slowly opened her mouth and spoke his name out loud.
Suddenly, no longer able to hold them back, a stream of tears rained down Eig’nia’s face. She sniffled, sobbing, her wide smile still shown on her muzzle as she wiped the tears from her eyes with the back of her paw.
“Doulstraz, his sons, and their friends…they truly are an amazing group. Being around them for the short time that I got to know them and seeing the love and dedication they had to one another reminded me of the love and dedication my friends and I had for our families and one another. Just as Léruc had hurt Saulstrance, Saulstrance too had done something that hurt Doulstraz. However, unlike Saulstrance, Doulstraz managed to overcome his pain and not lose himself to it. That’s why I believe that they’ll be the ones to undo everything that Saulstrance and I had done and save the humans that had been captured by us…wherever Saulstrance may have sent them…” Eig’nia said, her voice straining as tears continued to rain down her face.
At that same moment, in the human realm, Titus sat on a park bench, his hands folded in his lap. He watched as his sons Drake and Jake played together with their friends Crystal and Sean on the playground equipment. Together with Sean’s little brother Tim and Rick’s twin daughters, Samantha and Elisa, the seven kids ran around chasing each other, laughing cheerfully and without a care in the world. Titus smiled. It always made Titus happy to see Drake, Jake, and their friends just goofing off and getting the chance to just enjoy being kids. He was sure it made them happy as well since the worse they had to worry about wasn’t a dragon who wanted to take over the world but just finishing their homework.
However, even with how peaceful the past half a year had been following Saulstrance’s defeat, Titus knew that he still had one last thing he needed to do: he had to find and free the humans captured by Saulstrance and his Followers. Since Saulstrance wanted to turn the human realm into his kingdom and make humans his subjects, Titus was certain that the humans he had captured were still alive somewhere and being looked after by someone. At first, he believed that Jake may have known where the captured humans were but when he asked, Jake assured him that only his dad knew where they were going and that none of the other Followers knew either. Despite this setback, Titus was still determined to find these humans and save them no matter what.
“Titus!” Lucas’s voice called to his friend.
Broken out of his train of thought, Titus turned to see Lucas walking towards him. His hands slipped into his pants pockets, Lucas stood by Titus as the two of them turned to watch their children playing.
“You looked pretty deep in thought.” Noted Lucas.
Titus nodded. “Just a lot to think about. Y’know, Luke, when I was just thirteen and when I saw Saulstrance kill Angela, that solidified in my mind that he was the ultimate evil. I thought he was truly among the worst of the worst. But now, after finally stopping him, I wonder if, maybe there was more to him than that. Maybe what Eig’nia said was true, I mean, she did know him far longer than we did. Who knows? Maybe at one point, he was a pretty decent dragon. You know?”
Lucas looked down at Titus and smiled. “Well Titus, that’s what we call growing up. When you get older, you realize that the world and people, or dragons in this case aren’t as black and white as you once thought they were.”
Titus looked up at Lucas this time. Titus smiled and scoffed, shaking his head a little.
“You of all people should not be giving anyone a lecture on what it means to grow up. Besides, we’re the same age, Luke!” Titus said, his smile wider.
Lucas laughed. “Fair enough. But I had to lecture you at least once. After all, pretty much everyone else has.”
Titus’s happy demeanor changed into a look of confusion after Lucas said that. Just then, he saw Sarah approaching them. She stopped beside Lucas and smiled at her husband.
“What were you guys talking about?” Sarah asked.
“Well…this has been troubling me a bit but…” Said Titus as he stood up from his seat. “There are still people who really need me. They’re waiting for me to rescue them. I don’t know where they are but I want to find them as soon as possible.”
Hearing Titus’s concern for the people captured by Saulstrance warmed Sarah’s heart. However, one thing that her husband said caught her attention.
“But how can you find them if you don’t know where they are?” Asked Sarah in a knowing tone of voice.
“Well…” Titus knew what Sarah meant. However, Titus also knew that those people were suffering and wanted to locate them right away.
“Besides, it’s not just you they’re waiting for Titus. We’re all going to help you find them but, until we do know where they are, you should try and take it easy. I mean, you just saved the world! I think that warrants rest and relaxation before you go on another adventure! Take it easy, try to find some clues to where they could be, and then once we know for sure where the captured humans are, then we rescue them. Doesn’t that sound good?” Sarah said, assuring Titus that he didn’t have to do this alone.
“I agree with Sarah, Titus. We will find them but the first step needs to be locating where the humans are.” Said Lucas.
“I have to agree too. You both have good points. Alright then…” Titus smiled at his wife and best friend.
The three of them looked into the sky. With a look of determination on his face, Titus clenched his fist and said…
“Just wait you guys. I promise, one day I will fix everything.”