Chapter 13: The Dragon’s Apprentice
As soon as they stepped out of the fortress, Saulstrance and Eig’nia launched into the sky. They hoped desperately that they weren’t too late and that Tourajé was still okay.
They decided to split up and check any area of the dragon realm that Tourajé was familiar with, including his family cave. Whoever spotted Tourajé first was to let the other know through tail control.
As time marched forward, Saulstrance and Eig’nia swore they must have searched the entirety of their world although it had only been the places they and Tourajé were familiar with. They couldn’t find any trace of their friend anywhere. Perhaps he had journeyed to the human realm they thought to themselves.
Saulstrance walked past a small pond. He sat down by a tree that was right by the edge of the pond. He had tired himself out from searching for so long and decided to take a quick rest before continuing his search. The cool, shaded area helped to put Saulstrance at a slight ease for that short time. Despite this, thoughts of where Tourajé was still lingered at the forefront of his mind. Where could Tourajé have disappeared to? Why did he run off without letting anyone know? And what if he really was planning to take his own life? Could they have been too late? Saulstrance’s questions wouldn’t go unanswered for long though as he felt his tail begin to move on its own. Looking in the direction his tail was laying, he saw it dig into the ground. It was writing something.
I’VE FOUND TOURAJE. TEN MILES NORTH FROM OUR MASTER’S FORTRESS
Saulstrance studied the message left in the ground. He knew right away it was Eig’nia that had sent it to him. Without wasting any time, Saulstrance leapt to his feet, washed the dirt off his tail in the pond, and then proceeded to ascend into the sky. He headed in the direction of his master’s fortress and as he flew past it, he hoped even more that Tourajé was okay. Saulstrance had decided that as soon as he discovered that he was, he would apologize to Tourajé for saying that he hated him.
Flying over a lake, Saulstrance noticed Eig’nia below him with Tourajé. Saulstrance swooped down, landing behind his friends.
Saulstrance felt relieved when he saw that Tourajé was alright. He had been sitting in front of the lake, just staring at it. Saulstrance approached his friend and sat beside him. The two dragons looked at each other, a feeling of awkwardness between them. It was hard for the two of them to feel comfortable around each other for the moment considering what had happened the previous night. Neither of them spoke to each other for a solid minute but then finally, Saulstrance tried to break the ice.
“Tourajé, have you been here this whole time? Why did you leave without telling anybody? We were worried about you!” Exclaimed Saulstrance in a worried tone.
“I’m sorry. I just really needed to be by myself. I didn’t want anyone to follow me.” Tourajé explained.
“But why did you come here?” Eig’nia asked, figuring there might have been a specific reason for Tourajé to have chosen this location.
Tourajé smiled sadly. “I used to come here all the time with my parents and my little brother. Me and Utzie, we would always play in the water. It was our favorite thing to do together. Sometimes, Utzie would have me balance him on my tail then I’d launch him into the air and he’d dive into the water. For a little dragon, he’d always make such a big splash.”
As he reminisced, Tourajé’s saddened smile seemed to become more genuine. These memories of his family calmed him.
“I know it’s only been a short time but I really miss my mom, dad, and Utzie. I just want things to go back to how they were. I want to go back home.” Said Tourajé, his finned ears and wings flattening.
Eig’nia sat on the other side of Tourajé parallel from Saulstrance. She nuzzled up against her friend. The young dragoness wanted the same thing: just for things to go back to how they used to be when she and her family were together. She wanted to be able to go back to laughing together with them, sleeping together, basically just spending time with them. She and Tourajé remembered their master’s words that they would someday get to go back but that it would take awhile. But how were they supposed to know how long “awhile” would be? It could have been the very next day, the next year, it could have even taken the rest of their lives.
Saulstrance stepped in between his two friends to nuzzle against the both of them. His own finned ears and wings also flattened as a way to show his friends his sympathy.
They just sat in front of the lake, their heads resting next to each others’. The three of them each placed a wing around the other as if to try and keep one another safe. Eventually, at the suggestion of Tourajé, they decided to return to Léruc’s fortress. He was probably starting to worry about them.
But as they turned around, they were startled when they spotted another dragon standing behind them. This dragon was a light grey with piercing gold eyes. He glared at the three friends, his front and back legs trembling.
“I’ve finally found you three.” The dragon said, eyeing them like a predator on the prowl.
Saulstrance, Tourajé, and Eig’nia could determine who this dragon was. He seemed a little familiar but they couldn’t recall where they had seen him.
“You don’t remember me, do you? I was there when you took my master’s life. I was his apprentice!” The dragon exclaimed, his eyes developing an even fiercer look to them.
The three friends were surprised. This dragon was Raolef’s apprentice? Once the guards had arrived, they escaped so quickly that they didn’t really get a good look at his face.
While Saulstrance and Eig’nia had definitely been perturbed by this development, Tourajé had a much more concerned expression on his face. If this dragon was indeed who he said he was, then had a feeling he knew the dragon’s true identity. Still, he had to make sure.
“What is your name?” Tourajé asked uneasily.
“My name? Well, since I plan to kill you three right here, I have no qualms with sharing my name with you. As I said, I’m Master Raolef’s apprentice. My name is Tomi.”
Tourajé couldn’t believe what he had just heard. This dragon was Tomi himself? He had heard stories about Tomi. It was said that despite being Raolef’s apprentice, Tomi was actually the favorite to take up the role of Leader after Raolef had stepped down. It had also been said that Tomi was very powerful and could easily rival the Champion Zano. Tourajé knew that if these stories were true, then they wouldn’t be able to stand a chance against Tomi.
“Guys, we have to get out of here. NOW!” Tourajé said flustered.
Eig’nia and Saulstrance were surprised. They had never seen Tourajé so scared and so unnerved. Neither of them had heard the stories about Tomi Tourajé had so they didn’t understand why Tourajé was so freaked out. However, they knew that if this dragon was enough to intimidate Tourajé, then they’d best not stick around and try to fight him.
The three dragons launched into the sky but before they could get anywhere, they were intercepted by Tomi who smacked Eig’nia over the head with his tail, sending her dropping back to the ground. Saulstrance descended and hurried over to his friend to make sure she was okay.
“I’m not going to allow any of you to escape from me. I meant what I said: I’m getting my revenge right here and now.” Tomi said. He was truly determined to kill the three dragons.
Tourajé knew there was no way they’d be able to beat Tomi even if they did outnumber him. However, he thought to himself, even if he can’t beat Tomi, he can still stall him long enough to allow Saulstrance and Eig’nia time to escape. He realized that if he did stay and fight, he would more than likely lose his life to Tomi. Yet this was a sacrifice Tourajé was willing to make so long as it meant his friends would be alright.
He lunged at Tourajé, the two of them plummeting from the sky and crashing to the ground. With Tomi pinned, Tourajé turned to his friends.
“Get out of here! Both of you!!” Tourajé bellowed.
“What about you?” Asked Eig’nia.
“I’ll hold him off for as long as I can. That should give you two time to escape.” Answered Tourajé, changing his focus back to Tomi.
Saulstrance and Eig’nia couldn’t believe what Tourajé was saying. He knew that Tomi wanted to kill all three of them. If they abandoned Tourajé, he would surely die.
“No way! We’re NOT leaving you!” Saulstrance called out, deeply determined to stick by his friend.
“Just go!!” Exclaimed Tourajé.
Tomi tucked his back legs in and kicked Tourajé off of him. Tourajé flew slightly into the air then dropped a couple feet before Saulstrance and Eig’nia. Standing up, he looked behind himself to see his friends. They ran up beside him. Tourajé realized there was nothing he could do to change their minds. They were either going to get out of this together or they wouldn’t get out at all. Neither of the three was about to abandon the other to save themselves.
Saulstrance attacked first. He shot a fireball at Tomi who leapt out of its way. He then proceeded to lunge at Tomi only to be knocked to the ground after having been met with a headbutt. Saulstrance grabbed a nearby rock and swallowed it. Standing up again, he attacked Tomi again. He swung around and attempted to smack Tomi in the face with his tail. The opposing dragon grabbed the end of Saulstrance’s tail in his mouth. With his enemy’s tail in his powerful jaws, Tomi swung Saulstrance around and then smashed him against the ground. As he approached the downed dragon, Saulstrance sprung up and launched the combination of the rock he had just consumed and his fire breath at Tomi. It just barely missed the dragon’s head as it ricocheted off his left horn, sending a painful burning feeling to his brain. Tomi winced with some slight pain. With his focus momentarily on the pain Saulstrance’s fire rock had brought him, Tourajé took this as an opportunity to attack. He did what Saulstrance had done before and swung his tail at Tomi only this time it worked as it smacked him in the side of the face, knocking him off his feet and sending him crashing to the ground.
While Tomi was down, Saulstrance, Eig’nia and Tourajé immediately attempted to escape. Their wings unfolded into the air and they flew into the sky. However, before they could get anywhere, a bolt of electricity struck Saulstrance, knocking him out of the sky and sending him plummeting to the ground.
“SAULSTRANCE!!!” Eig’nia exclaimed as she and Tourajé immediately flew down after him.
“GAAAH!” Saulstrance cringed as a sharp spasm surged throughout his body. He lay on the ground in what was perhaps some of the worst pain Saulstrance had ever felt.
As Tourajé and Eig’nia rushed to aid their friend, Tomi’s tail coiled around Saulstrance’s neck. As he lifted Saulstrance’s head up, both Eig’nia and Tourajé stopped dead in their tracks.
“Take one more step and I’ll break his neck.” Said Tomi, his tail held out in front of him as it wrapped tighter around Saulsteance’s neck.
Saulstrance struggled to breathe. He raised a paw and gripped Tomi’s tail as he tried to loosen Tomi’s hold on him but to no avail. Saulstrance wasn’t sure how much longer he’d be able to last or if he could even get himself out of this.
Even with Tomi’s threat on Saulstrance’s life, Tourajé knew that even if he or Eig’nia didn’t do anything, Tomi would still kill Saulstrance. No matter what, it may very well have been a lose/lose situation but Tourajé knew that at least the other way, he may have a chance of saving his friend. Thinking quickly, he formulated a plan in his mind and whispered it to Eig’nia. The dragoness wasn’t so sure if it would work but with things the way they were now, they didn’t have much time to come up with something better.
The two of them charged at Tomi. He didn’t understand what they were thinking or why they’d be so willing to put their friend’s life in jeopardy. Keeping true to his word, Tomi squeezed his tail as hard as he could against Saulstrance’s neck. Grabbing at Tomi’s tail as hard as he could, Saulstrance gasped desperately and in rapid succession. Things were already beginning to blur. As Saulstrance slowly came to expect death, Tourajé swung his tail at Tomi with full force. The opposing dragon just barely missed being hit. He found it difficult to try and avoid attacks and keep his hold on his enemy. While his attention was focused on Tourajé, he didn’t even notice as Eig’nia attacked from behind, releasing Saulstrance from Tomi’s grasp and sending their enemy face first once again into the ground. Tomi sprang up and leapt into the air. He unfurled his wings and flew over the lake. He hung just a mere inch above it. The three friends weren’t sure what he could possibly be planning. Just as Saulstrance and Tourajé were about to make a move, Eig’nia dashed ahead of them. She unfurled her wings and flew towards Tomi. She launched several attacks against Tomi, all of which he dodged with what seemed like no effort at all. Just as Eig’nia launched a fireball at him, Tomi flew above her and smacked her upside the head with his tail, sending her crashing into the lake.
Both Tourajé and Saulstrance noticed that Tomi was preparing to attack Eig’nia with a breath attack of his own. And as Saulstrance could attest, if it was the same attack Tomi used to strike him out of the sky, then Eig’nia was in serious trouble.
“Eig’nia! Get out of there! NOW!!!” Saulstrance exclaimed.
But it was too late. Tomi fired his electric breath at the lake. Eig’nia bellowed the most terrifyingly painful sounding roar Saulstrance and Tourajé had ever heard. As soon as the lighting ceased, Eig’nia lay there in the water, motionless, her head submerged underwater.
“EIG’NIA!!!” Shrieked Saulstrance in a horrified voice.
He proceeded over to the lake to try and get Eig’nia out before she drowned. Tourajé, who had stood there speechless at the sight, turned his attention to Tomi who was still hovering overhead. Tourajé growled. By now, he was truly furious. He no longer cared if he was facing Tomi or someone else. He wasn’t about to let Tomi get away with doing that to Eig’nia.
While Saulstrance took care of Eig’nia, Tourajé decided he would deal with Tomi to try and give Saulstrance some time. Tourajé launched himself at Tomi, unleashing a barrage of attacks on the dragon. Despite Tourajé’s assault, Tomi was able to avoid most of his attacks. Tourajé was speechless. Agcro was enough of a hassle when they fought him and back then they had Shashala, Roasch, and Mayza helping them but Tomi…he was almost something else entirely. Tourajé didn’t want to admit it to himself and he truly hated the thought of it but reality was quickly beginning to set in. They were outclassed. Tomi was just far too strong.
Tourajé began to wear out, his attacks becoming less and less fluent. Tomi however had barely tired at all. Eventually, Tourajé’s onslaught had ceased and in that moment, Tomi clenched his scaly paw into a fist and slammed it into Tourajé’s head, sending him falling out of the sky. He crashed before Saulstrance who had just gotten Eig’nia out of the lake and onto dry land.
Saulstrance glanced at Tourajé worriedly. He wanted to hurry over and help Tourajé but he knew he couldn’t do that. Right now, Eig’nia needed his help more. He moved Eig’nia onto her back and listened for her heartbeat. It was faint but still noticeable. Saulstrance noticed though that she was barely breathing. A cross between a saddened and terrified look hung on his face.
“Tourajé!! Eig’nia…she’s barely breathing!!” Saulstrance called to his friend.
Tourajé bolted up as soon as his friend told him. He rushed over to Eig’nia and Saulstrance. He tried to push on Eig’nia’s chest plate a couple of times followed by mouth to mouth resuscitation.
“Come on Eig’nia!!” Exclaimed Tourajé, his voice shaking. “You’re not gonna die here! I won’t let you!!”
While Tourajé continued to try and help Eig’nia, Tomi had descended to the ground. He stood before them, watching intently. Saulstrance glared at Tomi, his eyes filled with rage and sadness. He leapt up and stood in front of his friends. He crouched, preparing for an attack.
“JUST LEAVE US ALONE!!!” Saulstrance roared. “We never did anything to you!!”
It deeply offended Tomi to hear him suggest that they never did anything to him.
“Wrong. You did a lot to me. You took my master’s life. THAT’S not doing anything?!” Tomi asked in an increasingly angry voice.
“We had to do it. If we didn’t, Raolef would have destroyed the human world!” Saulstrance protested.
Tourajé stopped for a moment to catch his breath. He turned to see Saulstrance and Tomi arguing. As his attention changed to Tomi, he noticed something…puzzling about the dragon: it was the look on his face. He had heard what Saulstrance just told him but strangely enough, the enemy dragon seemed more confused than anything else by this revelation.
“What?” Asked Tomi, not believing what he had just heard. “What are you talking about?”
Feeling even more enraged, Tomi took a step forward.
“My master would never do anything like that! He wanted dragons and humans to be able to learn and live with one another. Why would someone who wants to do that seek to destroy another world!”
Tomi didn’t believe what Saulstrance was telling him and vis versa. Tourajé, however, was a little more skeptical. There was something very wrong but he wasn’t sure what to believe. Both Tomi and Saulstrance sounded very genuine in their beliefs yet they couldn’t both be right. The last thing he wanted was to doubt his own friend but he couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something more going on.
Tourajé also realized that with the way things were going neither he, Saulstrance, or Eig’nia would be getting out alive. They couldn’t beat Tomi and even if they tried, they would most likely be killed in the process. Tourajé tried to think. There had to be something they could do. Then he realized that there may be a way that at least Saulstrance and Eig’nia could escape with their lives. With his plan formed, he stood up and stepped forward, hoping it might work.
“Tomi! You want revenge for the one who killed your master, right? Well I was the one who delivered the killing blow so I’m the only one you need to kill!” Tourajé announced.
“WHAT!” Saulstrance exclaimed, his eyes wide. He couldn’t believe what he just heard. Was Tourajé really willing to give up his life? He couldn’t let him do that.
“Tourajé! What are you saying?!” Saulstrance asked in shock.
But Tourajé didn’t respond to him.
“If you promise to let my friends go, I’ll let you have my life. I swear on my honor as a dragon.” Tourajé said with a determined expression on his face.
“You can’t do this!!” Saulstrance objected. “What about your mom and dad? What about Utzie?! What are they gonna say when they hear you’ve been killed! I can’t…I…”
Saulstrance stepped in front of Tourajé. This time, it was Tourajé’s turn to ask what he was doing.
“Tourajé has more to live for than I do. Kill me but let Eig’nia and HIM go instead of me!” Saulstrance exclaimed, his voice becoming slightly strained.
“’I have more to live for’? What about you Saulstrance? Don’t you want to see your parents someday?!” Tourajé asked, feeling angered and heartbroken that Saulstrance would even think something like that.
Saulstrance was silent for a moment. Then he finally said with tears raining down his scaly cheeks…
“More than anything. I’ve wanted to meet them my whole life…but not like this. Not if it means one of my friends has to die for it!” Saulstrance said through his tears.
Tourajé understood where Saulstrance was coming from. But even still, he couldn’t let Saulstrance die for something he did. He walked up behind Saulstrance and knocked him out. Unconscious, Saulstrance dropped to the ground. This act was enough to surprise even Tomi.
“I’ve proven I’m a dragon of my word. I meant what I said. If you promise to leave them alone, then my life is yours.” Tourajé said solemnly.
Tourajé looked back at Saulstrance and Eig’nia, who lay behind him. He let out a deep sigh. He didn’t really want to die but he didn’t them to die more. In his mind, he apologized to his friends, his master, his parents, and of course, his little brother. He hoped that he would get to see them again someday.
And so, without anymore waiting, Tomi stepped forward…