Chapter 9: An Unexpected Mission
The next day, Saulstrance journeyed to the human realm by himself to tell Cyrus about everything that occurred since they saw him. The two of them went down to the lakebed where Saulstrance shared with Cyrus his story. Saulstrance explained to Cyrus that he was told that Agcro, a killer from his world, had taken the lives of his parents and Saulstrance chose to set out to find Agcro and hear the truth from him. He recalled, after capturing Agcro, how overjoyed he was to learn that his parents might have still been alive.
“So where is Agcro now?” Cyrus asked.
“He’s locked up in my master’s fortress. My master sentenced him to execution in a couple of days.” Explained Saulstrance.
“Execution?” Cyrus asked surprised.
Saulstrance nodded. “I can’t say I’m surprised. He killed so many innocent dragons including some of my master’s guards. After everything he’s done, I’d say it’s too fitting for him.”
Cyrus agreed. “I just don’t understand what could make someone want to kill another person or dragon. I mean, there have been times where I’ve been angry and hated people but not enough to make me want to kill them.”
After Cyrus’ statement, the two friends fell silent. They stared out at the lakebed for awhile before Saulstrance stood up and was about to open up a portal. Before he could, however, Cyrus called his name. He asked Saulstrance if, before he returned to his world, perhaps they could have a race. Cyrus mentioned that he had been practicing flying and he wanted to see how good he had become. Saulstrance smiled and agreed to his friend’s request.
The two of them journeyed to the forest where they first met. Once there, Saulstrance changed into his dragon form and Cyrus changed into his half-dragon form. The two launched themselves into the air, erupting through the trees and into the sky.
Cyrus pointed to another forest in the distance. He told Saulstrance that they would fly over that forest and land back in the one below them. Saulstrance agreed to his friend’s terms and like that, the two of them were off. Saulstrance had never seen Cyrus fly before so he had no idea just how good he truly was. Comparing the size of his wings versus the size of Cyrus’ wings, Saulstrance concluded that he was more than likely the better flyer since his wingspan was greater and therefore more capable of supporting his body.
The two of them flew through the sky as quickly as they could. For a time, Cyrus was able to keep up to Saulstrance much to the latter’s surprise. As they neared the other forest and circled around it, however, Cyrus gradually began to go slower. His wings were beginning to cramp. He tried to ignore it and keep up with his friend however the more he exerted himself, the further he fell behind. Slowly, his wing flaps began to come to a halt until inevitably, they did. Cyrus plummeted from the sky, screaming as he did. Just as he was about to win the race, Saulstrance noticed this. He flew back to Cyrus, flapping his wings as hard and as fast as he could. Just as Cyrus closed his eyes and prepared for the inevitable, Saulstrance swooped down, saving Cyrus in the nick of time. Slowly, Cyrus opened his eyes, noticing that he had been saved by Saulstrance. With Cyrus on his back, he flew for the forest. There, Cyrus hopped off his friend’s back and thanked him profusely for saving him.
“Are you okay?” Saulstrance asked worriedly.
“Y-Yeah.” Cyrus panted, holding his hand over his heart as he tried to relax himself.
After awhile, Cyrus calmed down. He removed his hand from his chest and took a deep breath.
“Thank you Saulstrance. I guess this wasn’t such a good idea.” Said Cyrus, taking several more deep breaths.
“You’re not kidding.” Saulstrance replied.
“I just thought that…if I tried to push myself, then maybe…I could make my wings stronger. Then maybe you, me, Eig’nia, and Tourajé could all go flying together.” Cyrus explained in a disappointed tone.
“I’d like that and I know they would too but not at the risk of almost getting yourself killed!!” Exclaimed Saulstrance, his eyes widened.
Cyrus looked down, feeling ashamed. He had been scolded by his parents before but never by one of his friends. He thought that everything would be fine. After all, if he was ever going to become stronger, he’d need to push himself as hard as he could. Although, perhaps this time, he pushed himself a bit too hard Cyrus thought to himself.
Grateful, he thanked Saulstrance for saving his life. Saulstrance apologized for going off on him and explained that he wasn’t angry at him, he just got scared. The last thing he wanted was for any of his friends to get hurt, or worse. Cyrus nodded, showing Saulstrance that he understood. He hugged Saulstrance, thanking him again for saving him. In response, Saulstrance wrapped a wing over Cyrus. In dragon form, this was his way of hugging.
As the two friends hugged, suddenly Saulstrance’s tail began to move on its own. Taking note of this, Saulstrance moved his wing from his friend and looked towards his tail. It was writing something in the ground: “IT IS TIME TO COME HOME”. Saulstrance realized that this message was from his master. He opened a portal before himself and Cyrus, bidding farewell to his friend. Just before he stepped through, Cyrus asked Saulstrance when he might be back. Saulstrance wasn’t too sure of the answer himself but he promised his friend that they’d see each other soon.
Cyrus smiled. “I hope so. And next time, bring Eig’nia and Tourajé. Then we can all go flying together.”
Saulstrance smiled back. “Okay, but we’re not going to fly as high as we did today. The last thing I want is to see one of my friends get flattened.”
“Ha ha ha.” Cyrus laughed sarcastically.
Saulstrance nodded and smiled. As he stepped through the portal Cyrus waved goodbye. Once the portal had disappeared, Cyrus headed for home.
Later that day, Saulstrance sat in his master’s library. The library had clawmade shelves that continued all the way up to the ceiling and these shelves contained scrolls collected and written by the past Leaders of Zalphonia. No dragon, not even Léruc himself knew just how many scrolls there were. There might have been thousands, perhaps even millions.
Saulstrance had collected several of these scrolls and had sat them on one of the large rocks that were in the center of the library. These rocks were used to allow dragons a place to study. There were also a couple smaller rocks set upon the much bigger rocks to keep the scrolls from rolling up while studying.
Saulstrance grabbed a scroll from the collection. He unraveled it and set four rocks on its sides, two at the top and bottom. He looked at the writing which was in a language he had never seen before. Wondering what it said, Saulstrance read it to himself.
“Ichtal salum matsirc zelen. Tremel…” Saulstrance stopped.
None of this made sense to him. Saulstrance had no idea what he was saying. To him, these words just seemed like a bunch of gibberish. Did they even mean anything? Although he couldn’t understand these words, Saulstrance chose to continue to read them. Perhaps in one of the other scrolls, he’d find out what these words were supposed to be. He placed a claw under the word he left off on and moved it under the word that came next. He continued.
“Mitol selmec, kugan…”
“I never thought I’d see a dragon as young as you take an interest in the ancient tongue.” A voice said to Saulstrance.
Breaking away for a second, Saulstrance looked to the entrance of the library and saw his master Léruc standing there. The old dragon walked over to his disciple and sat down next to him.
“The ancient tongue?” Saulstrance asked.
“It is the language our ancestors spoke in. A very, very long time ago, our ancestors did not know of the existence of the other world, the one the humans call Earth. They spoke in their own language. And unlike us, they didn’t know of portals or how to conjure them. That changed when one day, a dragon somehow opened a portal. The dragon that created it and the others that were there for its creation had no idea what it was. Curious, they stepped through the portal and arrived on Earth where they learned of the humans. As years passed, more and more young dragons traveled to Earth, or as they dubbed it, the human realm and it is said that the more they went, the more they forgot their native tongue. The older dragons didn’t like this as they felt that letting their children be too exposed to human culture would become a threat to their ways. For a time, travel to the human realm became forbidden. But, as always happens, the older dragons passed, the younger had hatchlings of their own and with the older dragons gone, the younger dragons were free to journey back to the human realm, this time with their offspring. Each new generation of dragons became more and more exposed to humans and their culture as well as their language until eventually, we got to where we are today where we speak the same tongue as humans and our old tongue has become all but forgotten by most.” Explained Léruc.
Saulstrance was astounded. He never knew that there was another language that his ancestors spoke. He always thought that the language he spoke was the same his ancestors did. Now he was even more interested in what these words meant. The only problem was…he wasn’t sure how he’d be able to learn exactly what they meant. He asked his master if he might know what these words were supposed to mean.
“Hmm…” Léruc thought. He looked over the scroll Saulstrance had been reading and tried to find a passage he could translate.
“I’ve studied a bit of the ancient tongue myself Saulstrance but unfortunately, there’s not much I can remember. Let’s see…Ah! Here we go!” Said Léruc, pointing to a passage near the end of the scroll.
“Kenzum i saul strance intael fo wy tazel.” Léruc read aloud.
Saulstrance was shocked when he heard his name spoken in the passage. More curious than ever, he asked Léruc anxiously what that passage meant.
“Translated it says: ‘may the fiery light look over our world. The fiery light the scroll speaks of is a dragon who is powerful, kind, and watches out for his fellow dragon. Assuming your parents got the idea for your name from this scroll, then they must have expected that you’d become a truly strong dragon.” Léruc explained.
Saulstrance smiled in response to his master’s words. It made him feel good to hear that. Although he always believed that his parents expected he’d become a good and kind dragon, it felt good to hear someone else acknowledge this too.
Skimming through the scroll, Saulstrance found a random passage. He asked Léruc what it meant and then proceeded to read it aloud: “E ken’ti semzal tu rinh echtun akch.”
Léruc snickered. Saulstrance looked at his master puzzlingly. He wasn’t sure what was so funny. He asked Léruc what he was laughing about. Léruc explained that it was just what the passage said translated.
Laughing again, Léruc read out loud what the passage said.
“Translated, it says, ‘I can’t seem to find my cave’”. Said Léruc with a bit of a chuckle.
“What?” Saulstrance asked in a deadpan voice, not believing what his master said. “Is that really what it says?”
“Perhaps.” Léruc teased in a playful manner.
Saulstrance fumed. He wanted to know for real if that was really what it said. Before he had the opportunity to ask however, he noticed the expression on his master’s face suddenly become more serious. Saulstrance wondered what that was about.
“Saulstrance…I actually came here because I need to talk with you about something. When you get the opportunity, could you come and meet me in my chambers? I have something I need to discuss with you, Tourajé, and Eig’nia. They should be here momentarily.” Léruc said in a grave tone.
“Okay.” Saulstrance said.
Léruc returned to his chambers to wait for his students. Saulstrance placed the scrolls he had been reading back on the shelves and hurried to Léruc’s chambers. There, he saw his friends and his master waiting for him.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t keep you guys waiting, did I?” Asked Saulstrance.
“No, we just got here ourselves.” Eig’nia said.
“Please sit down Saulstrance. We have something very important we need to discuss.” Said Léruc with an unsettled look on his face.
Saulstrance sat down next to his friends. It was a short while before Léruc spoke. At first he paced back and forth fratically, letting out an occasional sigh every now and then. The three dragons had never seen their master so shaken up before. Whatever it was he needed to talk with them about, it must have been something very serious.
Finally, Léruc spoke. “…I’ve received some…disturbing news. Raolef, the Leader of Aanki, the village to the west, has declared an attack on the human realm.”
The three dragons were shocked to hear that. Were their master’s words true? Although they didn’t know the Leader of Aanki, they never would have thought that he or any of the other dragon realm Leaders would try to declare an attack against the human realm. Curious, Tourajé asked his master how he acquired this information.
“In the beginning, it was simply a rumor that had slowly spread amongst a select few. When word of this came to me, I sent one of my guards to Raolef’s fortress as a spy to acquire more information. As fate would have it, these rumors ended up being true. My guard overheard Raolef speaking with his apprentice and several guards about their plans.” Léruc explained.
“I…I can’t believe it.” Eig’nia said, shocked and a little disheartened to hear that one of her world’s own Leaders was really plotting an attack.
“Sir, did your guard find out when Raolef was going to attack the human realm?” Saulstrance asked.
Léruc shook his head. “No. From what the guard said, Raolef never specified when the attack would take place. Regardless, we can’t allow them any time. We have to stop the attack before it can begin.”
Saulstrance and the others agreed. They had to stop Raolef’s plan right away. They couldn’t allow anything bad to happen to the human realm, especially when Cyrus and his family lived there. Eig’nia asked how they would best be able to get to Raolef .
“Yes…you won’t be able to just barge in and beat up all the guards. You three will have to sneak in. When you get to his fortress, stay high in the sky and make sure there are no guards patrolling the top of the fortress. That will be your way in. Once inside, you’ll need to remain out of sight. The ceiling will be your best bet. Fly overhead and use the darkness to keep yourself hidden. Once you locate Raolef, kill him.” Léruc explained.
“K-kill him?!” Tourajé gasped.
“Yes…Raolef must die if the human realm is to be saved.” Said Léruc.
“We…we understand…it’s just…” Saulstrance tried to say.
“We’ve never killed anyone before. I don’t know if we can.” Eig’nia said, not liking the idea of taking someone’s life.
Léruc understood and empathized with his pupils. He didn’t want them to bloody their claws either however, it had to be done and they were the only ones who could do it. He needed his guards around to keep an eye on Agcro and he was too old and had grown too weak to be able to stand a chance of stopping Raolef on his own. Thus, it fell upon them to see this mission through.
“Now then, there is one final part to this that I hadn’t had the chance to mention: once Raolef has been assassinated, make haste to the human realm and hide out there for a couple days. His Champion, apprentice, and guards will be looking for you. Hide in the human realm and I’ll contact you three when I feel it’s safe to come back.” Léruc finished.
The three dragons nodded in understanding. With their orders given, Léruc dismissed them. He told them to return home and prepare as their mission began next morning. He also instructed them to keep what he had just told them a secret from their families. He wanted to keep the information he had just given them contained as best he could so as not to cause any panic.
That night felt like the longest night ever for Saulstrance and his friends. They all sat outside, staring up at the night sky for what must have been hours. They asked themselves if they would be able to do this. Could they really bring themselves to kill another dragon? Would they get killed in the process? They were only three dragons going up against a Leader, his Champion, his apprentice, and his guards. The odds weren’t exactly in their favor. Even if they did as their master instructed and snuck through the fortress, there was always the chance that things could go wrong.
After some time had passed, the three of them went back inside and drifted off to sleep. Tourajé slept next to his little brother Utzie, extending a wing over his younger sibling to keep him warm. He smiled at Utzie and looked over towards his parents who were sleeping right across from them. He hoped that this wouldn’t be the last time he’d be able to sleep with his family.
With a light yawn, Eig’nia squeezed between her two sleeping older siblings. Just like Tourajé, Eig’nia’s parents were sleeping right across from her and her siblings. Being in between her brother and sister made the young dragoness feel safe. Just like Tourajé, she hoped that everything would work out alright and she would be able to keep sleeping together with her family.
Eventually, morning came. Eig’nia and Tourajé said goodbye to their families and rushed off to meet up with Saulstrance. They gathered outside their master’s fortress.
“Is everyone ready?” Saulstrance asked.
“I am.” Eig’nia answered.
“Me too.” Tourajé answered as well.
“Then let’s go.” Saulstrance said with determination in his voice.