A Dragon’s Battle

WARNING – This story is a continuation of previous tales from the world of Albrene. If you have not already, I strongly recommend reading The Good Soldier and From The Eyes of A Dragon before continuing.

A Dragon’s Battle

Chapter 1

It was near midday when Vakinari and her father reached the forest’s edge. The storm in the mountains had increased in strength, forcing the two dragons to hold their wings tight to their bodies to prevent the wind from pulling at them.

— "We are nearly there. The wind will die down once we are under cover of the trees." — Vakinari knew this, but her father’s thoughts still calmed her racing heart. Her father had required her to walk as low to the ground as possible to prevent the wind from lifting her like a leaf. It was an awkward position, and she felt as though her legs would give out from exhaustion.

Vakinari’s mind played out the near-death experience she had endured just hours before. — "Can’t you just remove the memory from my mind,”  —Vakinari thought to her father. — "Every time the images flash through my mind I feel like curling up into a ball, never to fly again.” —

— "No. You need to remember these events, Vakinari. You cannot learn from and correct your mistakes, if you do not remember them.” — Vakinari could feel the sorrow in her father’s thoughts. She knew that he regretted underestimating the storm. But he did not regret allowing Vakinari to fly through the storm. — "It is something every dragon must learn to do. It will not be the last such lesson, though I will try to find a calmer storm next time.” —

 

True to her father’s prediction, once the two of them were safely under cover of the forest trees, the wind died down significantly. Both Vakinari and her father were able to relax their wings and stand upright.

The two of them carefully walked through the wide gaps between the tall tall thick tree trunks. Whatever noise they made was masked by the rain around them. Vakinari’s father stopped and knelt down on all fours. — "Vakinari. There are several animals nearby large enough to take home for you and your mother. I want you to focus your hearing, just like I taught you, and try to find them. You will have to focus through the sound of the rain.” — Her father’s thoughts were calm and instructive. However, Vakinari’s thoughts were racing. Only hours before she had been dreading this moment. Yet, at the start of the hunt, she found herself excited. — "I will not help you in your hunt. You will be on your own. Remember what I have taught you.”  — Vakinari’s blood pumped hot through her veins as she closed her eyes and closed off all of her other senses.

— Calm yourself; save that excitement for just before you strike.” — Her father’s thoughts echoed through Vakinari as she was struggling to focus past the sound of her own heartbeat. She abandoned the effort of concentrating her hearing for a moment. Instead, Vakinari focused on calming herself and slowing her heartbeat.

When she had finally calmed herself, Vakinari resumed her efforts. She could hear several creatures nearby, but the rain was so dense that she could not locate any of them. Then the rain eventually slowed and the sounds became more evident. She heard the grunts of a fox digging into a rabbit hole relatively close to the two of them. She marveled for a moment at the fox not being scared of two dragons; perhaps it knew that it was too small to be the prey of such large creatures. Vakinari focused harder, moving past the fox, when she heard the sound of a twig snap. Vakinari listened harder and detected another sound – a step from something of substantial weight. The fox stopped digging; it had heard something as well. There was some sort of sizeable four-legged creature sneaking toward the fox. Vakinari listened for the creature’s breathing but could not hear it.

There was a sudden rush of sound as the fox began to run away, then a blood-curdling cry as the beast started to chase the fox. The beast’s steps were loud and fast; it was large enough for Vakinari. She leaped into the air with an enormous burst of speed then partially lifted her wings to glide through the spaces between the trees, before reaching the ground and leaping again. With each bound, she gained on the beast. Then she saw it. The creature looked like a giant white cat with short silk hair. However, it had two long tails, each with sharp barbs at the end.

With one final leap, Vakinari pounced on the creature. However, at the last moment the creature vanished, and Vakinari landed on the ground where the animal had been. She paused for a moment, confused at what had just happened. Had she imagined the beast?

— "Move!” — The urgent roar of her father’s thoughts assaulted her clouded mind. Instinctually Vakinari leaped to the side, just before the beast hit the ground where she had been. Its sharp claws dug deep into the earth.

— Where did it . . . — Vakinari did not have time to finish the thought before the creature lunged at her. Vakinari rolled to the side and she reached out with her leg, trying to catch the beast with her talons. It looked as though her blow had hit its mark, but all Vakinari felt beneath her claws was air. The creature landed and quickly turned to her. Vakinari stood and eyed the monster, enraged at this animal’s ability to evade her attacks. Then without warning, the creature vanished.

Vakinari was not going to fall for this trick again. She leaped forward, dodging the attack from the sky, but the oversized cat was nowhere to be seen. Vakinari felt something sharp rake against the scales along her side. In a simple reaction, she turned and snapped her jaws where something had touched her. Instead of the air she had expected, Vakinari felt fur in her mouth. A thick warm liquid and a sweet metalic taist soon accompanied the sensation.

The creature let out a shrill cry as it thrashed in Vakinari’s mouth. Vakinari then realizing she had caught the beast, bit down hard and began to sling the creature from side to side. Vakinari heard something inside the creature snap. But just as she was about to bite down with all her might, a sharp pain erupted in the side of her neck. Vakinari tried to bite down harder to finish the creature. Instead, her jaw relaxed, and the animal pulled free. The beast attempted to walk away, but its hind legs crumpled, and it fell to the ground. Blood was oozing from several holes in the creature’s back. A large section of bone was visible where some of the flesh had been torn away. Vakinari had severed the creature’s spine.

Vakinari moved forward, but her movements were slow. Her muscles worked much slower than they had during the fight, and the side of her neck was numb. The creature crawled away from Vakinari, before stopping just out of her reach. Vakinari knelt to the ground. She was tired and did not feel the need to go further. Vakinari looked up and saw her father walking toward the two of them through the trees.

— "A little clumsy, but well done, Vakinari." — Her father’s proud thoughts were warm and intoxicating to Vakinari. She closed her eyes and allowed her head to fall into the muck that was the forest floor, causing a drop of mud to land on her father’s muzzle.

Vakinari snickered slightly at the sight of her father's mud covered snout, then winced as a sharp pain erupted from her neck. — "Something’s . . . wrong." — Vakinari’s thoughts were sluggish and slurred, as though she had not slept in days.

— "You fought what the ancients called a Racwä’sëva; we call them jumpers. They possess a powerful magic that creates illusions in the minds of their prey." — Her father looked at the beast that was now unconscious in a small pool of blood. — "The barbs on their tails contain a potent toxin. The jumpers usually only use this toxin for defense, as it takes several weeks for them to replenish. No need to worry though, the toxin’s effects do not. . . ." —

Vakinari opened her eyes sometime later. I must have fallen asleep, she thought. She looked up through the treetops into the clear sky. The smell of scorched meat brushed against Vakinari’s nostrils, and she immediately felt the pains of hunger grip her. She looked around at the forest floor; she was confused and trying to piece things together. She remembered the fight and looked to where the jumper had been. Its corps was cooked thoroughly, and was resting in a patch of scorched earth. Father must have seared the beast, she thought. — He knows I don’t like it when he cooks with his breath, At least it’s no longer raining. —

— "Good, you're finally awake." — Vakinari stood as her father’s thoughts reached her. Her muscles were still stiff, but she could move.

— "Where are you?” — Vakinari thought to her father as she moved toward the warm meal in front of her.

— "I am nearby; I have been stalking a bear, waiting for you to wake. The jumper is yours, I cooked it while you slept to prevent it from spoiling.” — Her father’s thoughts went silent for a moment. Vakinari knew her father had killed the bear when she felt his excitement bleed into her mind. — "You should eat; you will need your strength for the journey home.” —

Vakinari moved to the jumper and began to eat; the meat was tough but sweet and rich in flavor. In between bites, Vakinari turned her head in an attempt to examine the wound on her neck, which stabbed at her every time she moved. But it was to no avail; the injury was too close to her head, and she could not turn to see it. Flustered, Vakinari returned to her meal. She was only half done when her father arrived with a decently large bear hanging from his mouth. Vakinari paused for a moment to marvel at his strength. She wondered if she would ever be that strong.

— “Finish quickly; we need to be in the sky before nightfall.” — This was more a warning than a command. She knew the lower forests were not safe after dark, especially for a young wounded dragon.

Chapter 2

The moon was high in the sky by the time Vakinari’s mountain home came into view. Vakinari had struggled with flight. Her movements were clumsy and uneven. Her right side was still weak due to the jumper’s sting. And her full belly did not help matters. However, without the meal, she would not have had the energy to fly, much less make it home.

Vakinari looked toward their cave and saw her mother flying toward them. Her bright white scales seemed to glow in the light of the full moon. Her mother met them in the air. Her wingspan was much longer than that of her father’s, and her body was narrow and regal.

— "Kerade. What happened? You were to be back before sunset.” —  Her mother had broadcasted her thoughts to both of them. She was angry at Kerade, Vakinari’s father, but also concerned about Vakinari.

— "Sämër, there’s no need to worry. A jumper attacked Vakinari while she was hunting. She fended it off extraordinarily well for her first battle.” —Vakinari would have laughed at her father’s defensive attitude if she had not had to focus so intently on staying aloft. — "She was stung, but not before she crippled the beast. I would have stepped in if it were necessary.” —

— "We will discuss this more on the ground.” — Her mother’s thoughts changed from anger to concern when she heard that Vakinari had been stung. She positioned herself underneath Vakinari and began to glide. — "Allow me to carry you home, child.” —

Vakinari knew her father would protest, but she lowered herself onto her mother’s back before folding her wings. “At least Father brought you food,” Vakinari whispered to her mother as they neared the clearing outside of their cave.

Vakinari and her mother walked deep into the cave while Vakinari’s father began to cook the bear.

“Vakinari, we must clean your wounds. We should bathe in the spring. Your scales could use some polishing as well.” Her mother’s smooth voice soothed Vakinari. Although she hated the way her stripes of metallic scales looked when clean and polished, Vakinari did not protest the notion. She loved spending time in the springs with her mother.

The two of them rounded the corner into an enormous open cavern. A small hole in the ceiling allowed moonlight to enter, illuminating the bright blue crystal-clear water.

“Let me examine you,” her mother said as they neared the water. Vakinari knew she was overly concerned. The fatigue from the toxin had nearly disappeared, and there was only a minor throbbing where the jumper had stung her.

Vakinari’s mother looked her over dutifully, passing over the area where the jumper had raked its claws against her scales. Her mother then transitioned to Vakinari’s neck. She paused near the base of Vakinari’s skull, where the creature had stung her.

“The wound on your side is just a scratch on the surface of your scales. The bath should be all that is needed to prevent a scar. However, when the beast stung you it completely broke one of your scales. I will need to remove it.” Vakinari knew this would be painful. She had only needed this done once before.

“Can we do that under the water?” Vakinari Hoped that the pleasant feeling of the water in her lungs would distract her from the pain.

“Well of course, I would have it no other way.” Her mother's reply was full of enthusiasm. So much so, that Vakinari began to worry if she had something planned.

The two of them waded into the frigid spring water until they reached a massive drop-off in the center of the cave, the bottom of which could not be seen. Vakinari’s mother jumped forward into the deep water, drenching Vakinari with a wave of water. She laughed and dove into the water behind her mother.

Vakinari loved the feeling of being underwater. She felt utterly weightless. Like her mother, Vakinari was able to breathe the water just as well as the air outside. Vakinari and her mother moved gracefully and effortlessly through the water, circling one another as they dove. For a moment the playful swim allowed Vakinari to forget about the day's events. She forgot about nearly falling to her death in a storm, she forgot about the terrifying fight with the jumper, and almost forgot about the pain she was about to endure.

After diving more than a hundred feet, the two of them stopped, looking at one another. At that moment the moon aligned with the hole in the ceiling and the entire cavern the two had been swimming in was illuminated. Bronze lights danced across the cave walls as they reflected off the metallic stripes in Vakinari’s hide. Sämër swam to Vakinari, examining the wound in Vakinari's neck. Their energetic swim had reopened the injury, and small amounts of blood were trickling into the water behind Vakinari’s head. Her mother pressed the top of her head against Vakinari’s neck, warning her of the pain to come. She then looped her talon under the first piece of Vakinari’s broken scale and pulled.

Vakinari let out a muffled cry as bubbles raced from her muzzle to the surface. Vakinari could taste her own blood in the water, as her mother pulled at the second part of the broken scale. Vakinari cried again as the third and final piece was pried away. Sämër then gently pressed her paw against Vakinari’s neck. The contact stung horribly, but her mother’s touch calmed Vakinari. Several minutes passed as the two of them floated in place below the water.

The moon was passing out of alignment with the cavern, when Sämër removed her paw from Vakinari’s neck. The bleeding and throbbing had stopped. Vakinari motioned for the two of them to surface, and together they began a race to the top.

 

By the time they had reached the surface, Vakinari had all but forgotten about the pain from before. Her neck stung slightly, but the throbbing had stopped. They were laughing and splashing together until they neared the entrance to the large cavern. There, Vakinari’s mother hissed at her to be quiet.

“There is another dragon with your father at the entrance,” Sämër whispered. Her voice sounded quite concerned. They were outcasts; the only reason another dragon would be in their territory was if they had done something wrong, or if the clans had decided to take their lands. “Stay here, Vakinari, and don’t make a sound.” Vakinari did not have time to question her mother before she walked through the entrance.

Curious at what was happening, Vakinari focused her hearing. She heard her father and mother at the mouth of the cave; they were just standing there. Vakinari heard one of their tails scrape against the floor. She also sensed another dragon standing just outside of the cave. None of them were speaking, which meant that it was a metallic dragon and they were conversing telepathically.

Vakinari sighed before lying down on the cave floor, examining her now shimmering scales under the waning moonlight.

Several minutes passed by before Vakinari’s parents began walking deeper into the cave. Vakinari heard the heavy rush of air from the other dragon’s wings as it took off and flew into the night.

Vakinari’s mother passed the entrance to the cavern first, continuing deeper into the cave toward where she stored her eggs. Vakinari could tell from the way she walked and flicked the tip of her tail that she was irritated by something. Shortly after her mother passed the entrance to the sping, her father turned into the cavern and began to walk toward Vakinari.

— "Vakinari, I have to go for a while. Some humans are trespassing on dragon territory, and my clan has asked for my aid.” — The echo of Kerade’s thoughts were distinctly void of emotion. He was hiding something from Vakinari; this worried her deeply.

Vakinari opened her feelings of concern, curiosity, and anxiety to her father. This was followed by his deep sigh.

“Who was that, Father,” Vakinari asked aloud. She did not want to feel her father’s concealed thoughts. “Why do you have to leave? They are not your clan. They exiled you. They hate Mother and me. Why do you have to . . .” Vakinari’s pleas were interrupted by her father placing his heavy head on top of hers. She pushed against him, begging him with her thoughts not to go.

— "I will be back soon. These humans cannot be allowed through the mountains, and I am the most experienced in the clan at fighting humans.” —His thoughts were full of sorrow; Vakinari knew he did not want to leave her.

“They are not your clan; you do not owe them anything.” Vakinari’s heart was racing at the notion of her father going into battle. A looming sense of dread filled the cavern. Ice formed at the edges of the spring as the temperature plummeted.

— "Would you look at that. Vakinari, you’re an ice dragon.” — Vakinari did not care. All that mattered to her was that her father not leave. There was a long pause between them. Neither of them moved, their heads still contacting one another. — "I do owe the clan. Vakinari. I owe them everything. The leader of the clan is a dear friend. It is only because of him that we can live in these mountains undisturbed. Without that friendship, we would be forced to leave the northern mountains . . . . Goodbye Vakinari. I love you; and may your wings stay true to the wind and your heart to the fire.” —

Kerade pulled away from Vakinari, who let out a small whimper – a final plea to her father. But he had already turned to leave the cavern. It wasn’t until her father had gone that Vakinari noticed that the water beneath her had turned to ice. She remembered her father calling her an ice dragon, but it did not matter to Vakinari that she was such a powerful and rare form of dragon. All she wanted was her father to return.

To Be Continued . . .

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Up next – To Battle A Dragon– A continuation of The Good Soldier

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