Chapter 21: The Beginning of Darkness
With the deaths of Mayza, Tourajé, and Shashala as well as Roasch’s departure from the group, Saulstrance and Eig’nia were the only ones who remained that could see to it that Léruc’s goals were stopped. Whatever was to come when they confronted the dragon they once called their master, Saulstrance and Eig’nia just hoped that they would be ready.
Returning home, Saulstrance and Eig’nia stood before Léruc’s fortress. With Tourajé’s body slowing returning to its original form, Saulstrance and Eig’nia had both changed back into their true forms as well to make it easier and possible to carry him.
For what felt like the longest time, the two dragons just stood before the fort, motionless as they became lost in their thoughts. Eig’nia looked at Saulstrance worriedly as she pondered over what he must be thinking about. Saulstrance, with a determined look on his face, contemplated what he would do when he encountered Léruc. While he trusted Tourajé’s words, he wanted to a confession from Léruc himself. He wanted to hear, in Léruc’s own words, that he was the one responsible for taking Saulstrance’s family from him.
“Saulstrance…are you really ready for this?” Asked Eig’nia feeling more worried for Saulstrance and herself than she’s ever felt before.
“It’s not like either of us can turn back now, Eig’nia. Whatever happens is going to happen regardless.” Saulstrance answered, not turning his attention from the fortress.
“I know that Saulstrance!” Exclaimed Eig’nia. “But still I’m worried about you. Mayza, Shashala, and… Tourajé are gone, and Roasch is in no condition to help us. We’re all that’s left and I just…I don’t want to lose someone else I care about. That’s all.”
Saulstrance took notice of his friend’s worry. Finally breaking free from his gazing at the fortress, he turned to Eig’nia and looked at her with a sympathetic look on his face.
“You’re not going to lose me Eig’nia. I promise you that. However, should Léruc say something I don’t like, I can’t guarantee he won’t end up lost.” Said Saulstrance, his tone changing from warm and empathetic to cold and uncaring at the end of what he said.
Eig’nia couldn’t believe what she was hearing. This didn’t sound like the Saulstrance she knew whatsoever. Just a few hours ago, he was talking about how he didn’t want to kill and wouldn’t even kill Agcro, a dragon who had killed countless innocent dragons and now even humans. Yet, now Saulstrance was telling her how, if Léruc told him something that didn’t sit well with him, he’d kill him. Eig’nia understood that Saulstrance was angry, and rightfully so about what Léruc had done to his parents. However, even then, she didn’t want to see Saulstrance fall the same way Léruc had.
“Saulstrance…please just no more killing, okay? We’ve already experienced far too much of it.” Eig’nia pled with Saulstrance.
But Saulstrance didn’t respond. This brought more worry to Eig’nia. Although she didn’t want to bear witness to any more death, she worried that Saulstrance may actually attempt to kill Léruc.
After awhile of standing and discussing what they would do, the two of them finally made their way inside. In that time, Tourajé’s body had finished changing back to its true form. This made it harder for Saulstrance to be able to carry his friend. Eig’nia backed up beside him, offering her support as together, the two of them supported Tourajé’s weight evenly and continued through the fortress.
“Master!” Eig’nia called out, her yell echoing through the fortress.
“I’m in here.” Léruc’s voice answered from the Leader’s hall.
They headed in the direction of Léruc’s voice. The room where Léruc was waiting for them was the very same room where their exams were held. As they approached this room, a sudden wave of nostalgia washed over the two dragons. Memories from the exam came rushing back to them. Eig’nia remembered her battle with Mayza and how she was able to make Mayza surrender by drooling on her. A small yet sad smile formed on Eig’nia’s muzzle as she reminisced. At the same time, Saulstrance recalled when he and Shashala fought. Back then, he thought that Shashala was extremely annoying and boastful. It was these things that gave Saulstrance the drive to defeat Shashala and become his master’s third apprentice. He remembered how hard he and Shashala fought during their first of many battles. Both dragons have their all but in the end, Saulstrance emerged victorious.
Each one of Saulstrance’s fights with Shashala flashed through his mind, including the ones that ended with Shashala defeating him. Saulstrance smiled as well at these memories. He knew that he had always been Shashala’s biggest inspiration and that he had always pushed his rival to be the best he could be. Saulstrance felt the same way about Shashala. With each battle the two of them fought, Saulstrance believed that Shashala had been pushing him as well, making him stronger and more confident in his abilities.
Both dragons’ smiles changed into frowns. With how much they had thought about the past, in the end it just made them feel worse. Half of their friends were gone and all they wanted was the chance to see their faces again. They would have given anything to just be able to return to the days before all of this happened. To go back to flying with and visiting Cyrus and his family, to return to sparring against Shashala, going on missions together with Tourajé, or simply getting to be with Mayza, Roasch, their families, and the others. Saulstrance and Eig’nia wanted those days back more than anything.
The two dragons stepped into the room where they found Léruc waiting for them in a darkened corner which shrouded the dragon in blackness. He stepped from the corner and approached Saulstrance and Eig’nia.
“Saulstrance and Eig’nia, at last…what has happened to the others?” Asked Léruc as he looked around and glanced behind Saulstrance and Eig’nia, expecting to see his guards or even the dragon who had gone with Tourajé to the human realm.
“They’re gone. We’re the only ones who survived.” Eig’nia answered with a solemn look on her face.
“Even the guards have died?” Léruc asked.
“Everyone is gone. The guards, Agcro…and… Shashala and Tourajé…” The dragoness answered once more.
Léruc was taken back when he learned that Tourajé and Shashala were among the casualties. At the mention of Shashala’s name, he immediately deduced that the dragon who followed Tourajé through the portal he had created was Shashala himself. He wondered if Shashala had heard anything they discussed while Léruc showed Tourajé his memories.
Saulstrance and Eig’nia both gently set Tourajé’s body down before them and Léruc, the latter of whom approached the body and inspected it. As he observed Tourajé’s corpse, he could see right away that he hadn’t been killed by a dragon. The hole that had been left in the side of his head was much too perfectly rounded for it to be done by either a fang or a claw. He also looked over the rest of Tourajé’s body to see if there were signs of anything else that could have ended the dragon’s life but he found nothing else of note. While Tourajé had gotten hurt during the battle with Agcro, he hadn’t suffered anything too severe. Thus, Léruc determined right away that the person who killed Tourajé must have been a human. Léruc was completely bewildered. He would have never guessed that a human would be capable of bringing down a dragon.
“How did Tourajé die?” Léruc asked as he raised his head and looked over at his pupils.
“It was a human who killed him. She…used this thing that she called a gun. At first, she was going to shoot Saulstrance but then Tourajé…” Eig’nia was unable to continue with her explanation. The dragoness began to choke up.
“…He was shot instead of me.” Saulstrance said, glaring coldly at Léruc.
Léruc took note of Saulstrance’s glare but paid it no mind. He had assumed that Saulstrance was still angered by the death of his friend. While he was also certain that Tourajé had revealed the truth about what had happened to Saulstrance’s parents to him, Léruc believed it made no difference. He could tell just by looking into Saulstrance’s eyes that he was experiencing the same pain he felt when he lost his family. It was what he needed to make Saulstrance into his proxy.
“Although we have suffered many a great loss, take comfort in knowing that their deaths weren’t in vain. Tourajé, Shashala, and the guards will be remembered and celebrated as heroes for their role in stopping one of the dragon realm’s most notorious killers. For now, you two should rest. I’m sure the deaths of your friends have taken a terrible toll on you. I will personally present Tourajé’s body to his family tomorrow and tell his, as well as Shashala’s families that their sons died as heroes. In the meantime, you should--“
But before Léruc could finish his sentence, Saulstrance interjected. He felt that Léruc was feigning his sympathies. After all, if he was truly the one who allowed Agcro to escape, then he was indirectly responsible for the deaths of the guards, Shashala, Tourajé, and the humans who were killed by Agcro. Saulstrance realized that even Agcro himself had in the end been a victim in all of this too. He was used just as much as any of them had been.
“You were the one who released Agcro, weren’t you?” Saulstrance asked accusingly, still glaring at Léruc.
“Saulstrance!” Gasped Eig’nia, surprised by how direct Saulstrance was being. She hadn’t been expecting Saulstrance to just come out and ask Léruc.
Despite his pupil’s question, Léruc wasn’t taken by surprise, almost as though he had expected that Saulstrance would ask him sooner or later. With a sad look in his eyes, Léruc turned away from Saulstrance and answered his question.
“Yes. That was me.”
Even with this answer, Saulstrance wasn’t satisfied. His anger swelled as he grew tense, his breathing getting heavier. It was already becoming hard for the dragon to keep himself from attacking Léruc but he did all he could to retain what little composure he may have had left.
“If you’d already suspected me of releasing Agcro, then I assume that Tourajé has told you everything else.” Said Léruc as he walked away from Saulstrance and Eig’nia.
“He did. But I want to hear straight from you what happened, Léruc. I won’t be satisfied until then.” Said Saulstrance in a demanding voice, his focus honed squarely on Léruc.
Saulstrance’s demanding tone annoyed Léruc. He was the Leader while Saulstrance was meant to be the follower. How dare that dragon think himself in a position to make demands Léruc thought to himself. And to refer to him simply as Léruc as opposed to Lord Léruc only served to anger Léruc even further. At that moment, he wanted nothing more than to swing around and slap Saulstrance with his tail but, just like with Saulstrance, Léruc opted to try and keep himself composed. He would answer Saulstrance’s questions and would then continue from there depending on Saulstrance’s actions.
Stopping one hundred feet away from Saulstrance and Eig’nia, Léruc turned around and focused on his two remaining students. The whole time, Eig’nia said nothing. She felt it wouldn’t be her place to intervene. Whatever was to happen next would be squarely between Saulstrance and Léruc.
“I already take it that Tourajé told you I took your parents’ lives shortly before your hatching.” Léruc assumed as he sat down.
Saulstrance didn’t answer. He too simply took a seat on the ground and listened intently to what Léruc was about to tell him.
“I’m sure there isn’t much left I can tell you that Tourajé hasn’t. Your parents did everything within their power to keep you safe. They fled from village to village trying to hide anywhere they could until eventually finding their way back to ours. Eventually I was able to locate them and, upon discovering that your mother had laid your egg, saw that as the perfect opportunity to remove my two biggest obstacles. It seemed as though the two of them still retained a shred of loyalty to me as neither one of them attempted to fight back. Or maybe, they simply knew that no matter what they tried, even if they killed me instead, an outcome where everything was to work out for them simply wouldn’t be feasible. Had your parents killed me, they would have had to retreat to the human realm and live the rest of their days as fugitives always looking over their shoulders to make sure they weren’t being followed.” Léruc explained.
“Perhaps they should have killed you.” Said Saulstrance coldly, staring at Léruc with a cold, icey glare.
While Eig’nia kept her silence, she just couldn’t believe what Saulstrance was saying. She wondered what was going through his mind at that moment and wished that there was something, anything she could do to help Saulstrance. She didn’t like hearing Saulstrance who, before all this had always been so kind and cheerful talking about killing another dragon or how his parents should have killed him. She knew that Saulstrance was in a dark place but she wished that there was something, anything that she could do to help him.
Léruc took notice of Saulstrance’s cruel words as well. The old dragon was surprised by just how quickly these recent events had changed Saulstrance. To him, it was beginning to feel as if he was in the presence of a completely different dragon. While Léruc took some iota of satisfaction in this as he felt that if Saulstrance experienced the kind of pain he had, then he would be more willing to fulfill his lifelong ambitions, at the same time he felt contempt for his actions. He remembered the smiling face of the kindhearted, loving dragon that Saulstrance once was and, deep down, truly wanted him back. Even then, as Léruc had told Tourajé before, it was too late for him and for Saulstrance. He had already fallen into darkness long ago and believed that all he could do was plunge himself even further into it. He didn’t see any way he could ever make up for all the pain he had caused especially to Saulstrance. Even then, Léruc desperately hoped that someday he would be able to be absolved of his sins if it meant that, when his time came, he would be able to see his family again.
“Had your parents killed me, then what would that have meant for you, Saulstrance? Had I died, you never would have met Tourajé, Eig’nia, Mayza, Shashala, or Roasch. Would you truly have been happier having never met them and having to live the life of a fugitive with your parents?” Léruc asked.
Although angered by the question, Saulstrance found himself unable to provide Léruc with a true answer. As badly as he’d wanted to have been with his parents, it wasn’t easy for him to simply pick them over his friends. After all, for Saulstrance, his friends had been just as much his family as his parents were. Saulstrance’s answer was that he simply didn’t have an answer. He just couldn’t pick one over the other.
When Saulstance gave his answer to Léruc, the old dragon wasn’t sure how he felt about it. While he found Saulstrance’s love and dedication towards his friends truly admirable and understandable, at the same time, he truly believed that family was one of the most important things in both worlds, a belief he had held ever since his boyhood.
“Why not give a Saulstrance a third option?” Asked Eig’nia, finding herself no longer able to keep silent and just watch. “What about having never killed his parents to begin with? You should know better than anyone how it feels to lose your family. Why give Saulstrance the same pain that you felt and destroy his life the same way those humans destroyed yours? If what you really wanted was to make both worlds better, we would’ve helped you. You didn’t have to do any of this.”
“Even if I do agree with you, it doesn’t matter now anyway. Besides, Saulstrance’s life was never his to begin with.” Said Léruc, his eyes growing wide.
“Wha-what?” Saulstrance barely managed to say, his voice filled with shock and confusion.
“Ever since you hatched, your life was always meant to be mine. You were always to serve as my proxy and continue my goals when I passed. To make sure you fulfilled the life mission I entrust to you, I had to make sure you felt the same kind of pain I did when I lost my family. I wanted you to have friends, a chance to see and learn about the two worlds, and…to have your friends become the family you never got to have. Then, when the time was right, those things would all be snatched away from you Saulstrance, just as they were taken from me.” Léruc explained.
Neither Saulstrance nor Eig’nia could believe what they had heard. Saulstrance especially was having a difficult time handling what he had just learned. Tears ran down the dragon’s face as his body shook violently, his teeth grinding as he glared at Léruc with intense burning hatred in his eyes. Then, suddenly, something snapped within Saulstrance’s mind. He released a blood curdling roar which rang out throughout the entire fortress.
Saulstrance’s wings unfurled as the dragon took to flight. He roared once more as he launched himself at Léruc. Just as Léruc opened his wings and prepared to defend himself against Saulstrance, he folded his wings onto his back once more and closed his eyes, accepting whatever Saulstrance was about to do to him. Léruc felt that, with everything he had put Saulstrance through, this would be a more than fitting end. At the very least, with this, Léruc believed that he may be able to see his family.
Saulstrance bit deeply into Léruc’s neck, blood trickling from the teeth holes left by Saulstrance’s fangs. Saulstrance flew around the hall with Léruc’s neck still clamped tightly in his jaws, tears flying from his eyes. While he flew, he slammed Léruc against the walls, causing the older dragon to release pained roars. After awhile, the pain became too much for Léruc to take, causing him to lose consciousness. Despite this, Saulstrance didn’t cease. He continued to relentlessly smash Léruc against the walls, eventually breaking some of Léruc’s bones.
All Eig’nia could do was watch with a horrified expression on her face. With the way Saulstrance was acting, she had to wonder if Saulstrance was even in control of himself. She couldn’t believe how relentless Saulstrance was being. She knew that Léruc was finished, he couldn’t fight anymore but despite this, Saulstrance still continued. Eig’nia didn’t want to believe any of this was happening. This wasn’t Saulstrance. This was someone…or something else, in his skin.
When Saulstrance finally finished, smashing Léruc around, the older dragon was just barely breathing. Several of Léruc’s bones were broken and blood ran from different areas of his body. Eig’nia’s mouth dropped open, an immensely saddened look on her face. She was left speechless at the sight of the bloodied, broken dragon she and Saulstrance once called their Leader.
To finish, Saulstrance swooped down, smashing Léruc into the ground. When he removed his fangs from Léruc’s neck, Eig’nia saw that Léruc’s already shallow breathing had halted completely. His neck was broken and his body lay motionless.
Saulstrance was breathing erratically. For a time, Eig’nia just watched, not saying a word to Saulstrance. Then, all of a sudden, Saulstrance swung his head back and emitted a loud, agonized roar. As soon as Saulstrance’s roar came to an end, he began to make a strange sound which sounded like a cross between gasping and crying. Nervously, Eig’nia slowly and carefully approached Saulstrance, hoping that she would be able to comfort him.
“Saulstrance?” The dragoness said softly.
But Saulstrance didn’t answer to her. He continued to make the strange noise while his body shook.
“Saulstrance!” Eig’nia said a little louder.
This was enough to get Saulstrance to turn to her. Slowly he proceeded to stand up. As Saulstrance approached her, something within Eig’nia’s mind was telling her to be careful. She felt a sense of danger coming from her friend. While she didn’t realize why at first, it became clear to her right away: it was the look in Saulstrance’s eyes. No longer the kind, tender eyes of her lifelong friend, Saulstrance now had a look that made him appear more like a feral animal. Eig’nia could tell that even if Saulstrance’s body was before her, his mind wasn’t.
Eig’nia began to back away from Saulstrance as he approached her. Saulstrance raised his tail as it drew closer to Eig’nia. It wrapped around her neck tightly as it strangled the dragoness. Eig’nia choked and struggled as she tried to somehow get free. While she tried to break free from Saulstrance’s grasp, she caught a glimpse of her friend’s eyes. They were filled with unbridled insanity. Eig’nia knew that Saulstrance either wasn’t or couldn’t think properly. His mind had completely collapsed but even knowing this, she also knew that deep down, Saulstrance was still in there and she had to back him back before it was too late for both of them.
“Please Saulstrance!” The dragoness gasped and choked. “Don’t do this!”
But Eig’nia’s words were lost on Saulstrance. She gripped his tail with her paw and tried to pull it off of her.
“Saulstrance…please! It’s me, it’s Eig’nia!” The dragoness cried, hoping that the mention of her name would be enough to snap Saulstrance back to reality.
Saulstrance’s cold, emotionless face soon twisted into a look of shock. With a gasp he released his hold on Eig’nia as the dragoness leapt away from Saulstrance, ran a few feet from him, and tried to get air into her lungs. As she tried to breathe, she watched as Saulstrance swayed back and forth, groaning and holding his head in pain.
“Saulstrance, listen to me!” Eig’nia called to her friend. “I know you’re hurting right now. I can’t even imagine how bad it must feel but please Saulstrance! I’m begging you! Don’t lose yourself to the pain! You’re stronger than this! I know you can overcome it!”
Staggering back a few feet, Saulstrance then stood in place still holding a paw over his face as he groaned and panted loudly. Eig’nia watched feeling greatly worried for her friend. Just then, Saulstrance released another ear piercing roar then proceeded to shoot a ball of fire at Eig’nia. The dragoness easily avoided the attack but was then knocked off her feet after Saulstrance smashed into her. Just as Eig’nia was halfway back to her feet, Saulstrance attacked her again, sending her crashing into the wall. Just as Saulstrance was about to pounce on her, Eig’nia quickly leapt out of the way as he slammed his front paws into the ground.
“Saulstrance…” Said Eig’nia as she rose to her feet. “… I’m begging you. Fight the pain, Saulstrance! I don’t want to have to fight you! Not like this!” The dragoness pled, her voice beginning to strain.
However, no matter how hard she tried, her words could not get through to Saulstrance. He swung his tail at her, causing the dragoness to leap out of the way once again. As much as Eig’nia wished it wouldn’t have to come to it, she was starting to realize she had no other choice. Saulstrance was beyond helping himself now. The only one who could help him regain himself was Eig’nia and to do that…
“There’s no choice then. Saulstrance…I’ll fight you if it means I’m successful in bringing you back to your senses. So get ready Saulstrance because I’m not going to stop until you’re back!” Declared Eig’nia with newfound resolve.
Eig’nia dashed towards Saulstrance, shooting a fireball at him which struck him in the face, staggering him for a second. Her wings unfolded as she flew over Saulstrance and soared high into the air. Saulstrance opened his wings and flew after Eig’nia, shooting a barrage of fireballs at her. While successful in avoiding a few, there were simply too many fireballs for Eig’nia to avoid altogether. Most of them struck Eig’nia which not only caused her pain but also slowed her down somewhat.
The two dragons flew around the room for a moment with Saulstrance following closely behind Eig’nia. The dragoness then swooped down and landed back on the ground as did Saulstrance. Eig’nia swung her tail at Saulstrance, striking the latter in the side of his head. In response, Saulstrance swung his tail, hitting Eig’nia with it except that just as he was about to pull it back, Eig’nia bit down on Saulstrance’s tail. She bit it as hard as she could, hoping that the pain from her fangs going into his tail would be enough to snap Saulstrance out of his rage. This effort, however was proven futile as Saulstrance roared in pain and attacked Eig’nia with a stream of fire which engulfed her head. When the attack stopped, Eig’nia’s teeth were still deep in her friend’s tail. Her head was covered in burn marks, some of which had fumes rising from them. She winced in pain as her fangs slowly retracted from the bite marks they made in Saulstrance’s tail.
Saulstrance swung around. He and Eig’nia headbutted each other as the two of them stood locked in place, each one trying to overpower the other. As they struggled for a time, Eig’nia was eventually able to push Saulstrance back. She then clenched her paw tightly into a fist, hitting Saulstrance in the side of his face. With an angered roar, Saulstrance headbutt Eig’nia then proceeded to slam his fist into her chin.
Eig’nia staggered back several feet. Panting heavily, the dragoness rubbed the underside of her chin where Saulstrance had hit her. As she and Saulstrance stared one another down, she thought back to the very first time she ever met him and the rest of her friends. It was in this very room. The six of them all desperately wanted to study under Léruc and show the world their true potential however, only three of them would go on to become their Leader’s pupils. In the end, Saulstrance, Tourajé, and Eig’nia herself passed the exams and since then, the three of them had been as close as family to one another.
“Saulstrance…” Said Eig’nia in a somber voice. “Do you remember the first time the six of us met? You, me, Tourajé, Shashala, Mayza, and Roasch? It was this exact room where we first met each other. I had no idea back then that the five dragons who had also made it to the final part of the exams with me would become my best friends growing up.”
Eig’nia smiled sadly. Saulstrance rushed towards Eig’nia, launching a stream of fire at her which she swiftly avoided. Saulstrance kept trying to attack Eig’nia, the latter of whom was able to avoid each strike. While she evaded Saulstrance’s onslaught, Eig’nia reflected on everything that had happened to her and her friends.
“I wish it had never gotten this bad. I don’t regret becoming our master’s student or getting to see the human realm, meeting Cyrus and his family, or getting to know you and the rest of our friends. The one thing I do regret is not being able to stop what had happened. Our friends’ deaths, you learning the truth about your parents, our killing Raolef. I wish I could somehow undo everything that had happened. I’m sorry.” Eig’nia finished, sniffling, her eyes filled with regret, looking as though she was on the verge of tears.
Even though Eig’nia knew that not all of it was her fault, she still couldn’t help but feel guilty for having paid witness to these events. She truly wished that there was a way that she could fix everything. However, even she knew that was one spell that a dragon would never be able to use.
It was becoming harder for Eig’nia to keep dodging Saulstrance’s attacks. With a swing of his tail, Saulstrance struck Eig’nia on the side of her head. This was followed by three balls of fire which, despite Eig’nia’s attempts to dodge, all three ended up hitting her left wing.
“Gaah!” Eig’nia exclaimed as the fireballs pelted her wing.
Eig’nia took to the air once more, trying to ignore the pain in her wing. Saulstrance followed shortly after her. They flew around shooting streams and balls of fire at each other. As Eig’nia flew past Saulstrance, she contemplated what to do with Saulstrance should she be able to somehow incapacitate him. Saulstrance wasn’t listening to a word she said and because of this, she couldn’t be guaranteed that he would be back in the right state of mind even if she was successful in knocking Saulstrance out. Suddenly, a possibility crossed Eig’nia’s mind. It was something she didn’t want to consider but knew she may end up having to do: just as it was with Mayza, Eig’nia realized that she may have to kill Saulstrance. Try as she may have to fight it, Eig’nia knew deep down that this may be the only way. The damage had already been caused. She had seen since Agcro forced Saulstrance to kill him that Saulstrance was changing, becoming colder and more hate filled. With Léruc having confirmed to him the true fates of his mother and father, she feared that whatever remained of the Saulstrance she grew up with may have been gone for good.
Although she knew Saulstrance wouldn’t listen to her, against her better judgement, Eig’nia decided to try one final time to get through to him. She desperately hoped that this attempt would work. She didn’t want to die but she didn’t want to kill Saulstrance either.
“Saulstrance, can you remember Cyrus? He’s the half-dragon we befriended in the human realm. He kept practicing flying, trying to make his wings stronger so that he could fly with the three of us. This didn’t happen too long ago but do you remember when his village discovered he was a half-dragon and they wanted him and his family to leave? All of us, even some of the villagers fought to let them stay. I know they’ll never forget that Saulstrance and you shouldn’t either. Cyrus, Thomas, and Miranda, I’m sure they’re all waiting for us to return.” Said Eig’nia in a desperate sounding tone, hoping that this would be what snapped Saulstrance back to his senses.
Suddenly a gasp came from Saulstrance. His face contorted as if something inside of him was causing the dragon great anguish. His teeth grinding, he lowered his head, groaning and panting. Saulstrance’s wing flaps became more tense as his body experienced several spasms. Eig’nia watched, hoping with all her heart that this would be what it took to snap Saulstrance out of his rage.
“You can do this Saulstrance. If thinking of me and the others are too painful then at least think of Cyrus. Let him be the one to help you through this.” Eig’nia said to herself.
As much as Eig’nia wanted to call out to Saulstrance and let him know that she would be right there with him, she felt that it was not her place to intervene. Right now, Saulstrance’s battle wasn’t with her but rather with himself and unlike any encounter they had before, this was one that she wouldn’t be able to help Saulstrance with. He had to truly overcome this on his own.
Saulstrance brought both paws to his head, holding it in pain. His groaning and panting grew louder until eventually he threw his head back as another loud ear shattering roar erupted from his throat. Without warning, a fire stream launched from Saulstrance’s throat which Eig’nia narrowly evaded. Saulstrance rushed at Eig’nia but before he could slam her into the wall like last time, Eig’nia flew above Saulstrance. Not allowing him any time to react, Eig’nia grabbed Saulstrance’s head in her claws.
As Saulstrance roared and struggled to get free, Eig’nia dove straight out of the air and smashed Saulstrance faced first against the ground. With just enough force, Eig’nia was able to knock him out. Panting, Eig’nia observed the unconscious form of her friend. He lay on the ground, his head resting in the same spot Eig’nia had slammed it into. There were several small cracks in the ground that lay underneath Saulstrance’s head. She half expected him to awaken any second and continue to fight her. To her great relief, this wasn’t the case. Saulstrance was truly incapacitated.
Her body feeling weak from her fight, Eig’nia sat down. She considered what to do with Saulstrance now that he could no longer fight. She wasn’t certain what Saulstrance would be like if and when he awoke. Would he be in a better state of mind or would be still be the rampaging beast she had fought just a moment ago? Just then, another thought crossed her mind: even if he were back to his senses upon waking up, would he even want to continue living knowing that his parents and half his friends were dead and that with everything that had happened to him, his life had ultimately been destroyed. As much as Eig’nia wished she didn’t have to do it and as much as she didn’t want to do it, she felt that perhaps, this was the kindest thing she could do for Saulstrance.
As the thought of ending Saulstrance’s life swam through her mind, Eig’nia found it difficult to breathe. She felt tears forming in her eyes as she hesitated. For what felt like the longest time she just sat there, motionless like a statue, trying to summon up the willpower to end anymore suffering Saulstrance would no doubt face.
Finally, she slowly began to raise a paw off the ground. She brought her claws closer to Saulstrance’s neck, ready to slit his throat open.
“I’m sorry Saulstrance.” Said Eig’nia as a stream of tears ran down her face.
Releasing a hefty sigh, Eig’nia held her breath as she prepared to put an end to her dearest friend. However, she found herself unable to move a single claw forward. She continued to keep her claws pointed at Saulstrance’s neck until her paw started to shake. She moved her paw away from Saulstrance and placed it back on the ground.
Eig’nia sobbed as tears rained down her face and spilled onto the ground. She just couldn’t do it. She lowered her head as she asked herself how things became this bad. Shaking her head and sniffling, she saw out of the corner of her eye that one of Saulstrance’s paws was extended out. Eig’nia moved closer and placed her paw over Saulstrance’s. She looked at her unconscious friend one final time then turned her attention to the corpses of Léruc and Tourajé. Seeing the bodies of the dragon she once proudly called master and one of her best friends caused the dragoness’s tears to hit her even harder.
A cold breeze blew past Eig’nia as she tearfully left the fortress. With no home to go back to or any destination in mind, Eig’nia disappeared into the night.
At the same moment, Utzie sat outside of his family cave. The little dragon stared into the night sky, his only thoughts being about how he wished he would get to see his big brother again very soon. Ever since his parents told Tourajé not to return home, Utzie had missed him terribly and wanted nothing more than for Tourajé to come back.
Mayza’s younger sister was also awake then. While her parents slept, the little dragoness couldn’t help but feel as though it just wasn’t the same without Mayza. When Mayza was still alive, she would cover her little sister with one of her wings to keep her warm. Mayza’s sister always loved when she did that for her.
Shashala’s parents hadn’t slept a wink since their son left to help his friends. While he promised them he would return, they still worried greatly. All they could do for the time was hope that Shashala would be back soon and that he and his friends were safe and sound.
Eig’nia’s entire family slept peacefully that night, blissfully unaware of the traumatic experiences that had befallen their daughter and sister as well as her friends.
Like Utzie, Roasch was also sitting at the entrance to his family’s cave, staring up into the sky. Since Mayza’s death, Roasch had been beating himself up, feeling guilty that he had run off and not stuck with his friends to help them. He believed that he truly let them down. Despite Roasch knowing how painful it was for him to lose someone else he cared about, and even though he knew his friends fully understood, this still didn’t help Roasch feel any better.
“Saulstrance, Tourajé, Eig’nia, Shashala, next time I see you four, I promise I’ll apologize for not sticking with you.” Roasch said softly to himself.
In the human realm, Cyrus lay in his bed. He looked through his window into the night and thought to himself about how Tourajé, Saulstrance, and Eig’nia were doing. He knew that the three of them were tough and that no matter what they were dealing with, they would be able to get through it together. He was anxious for the three of them to return.
“I can’t wait to see you again, Saulstrance, Eig’nia, and Tourajé.” Said Cyrus just before he closed his eyes and drifted off to sleep.