Fanfiction: Wraith of Gaia 2
"Lora!" Tana, the local cleric, exclaimed. "He's coming around!"
Lora rushed in to see her husband, Marton, still lying in his bed, but finally awake. "Marton! Thank Gaia you're alright!" Tana excused herself to leave the couple alone.
"Lora--" he croaked out. "It's so good to see you--"
"Don't worry," she consoled him. "I've been here for you the whole time. Did you have nightmares? You were thrashing about a lot."
"Yeah," he replied. "I was on trial for some crime -- I don't know what -- and I was declared guilty and condemned to death. Gaia herself was the judge and executioner. It was all so real. I thought I was going to die." He looked into her eyes, tears welling up in his. "I love you, Lora."
"I love you, too," she said, tears of relief finally breaking free as she embraced him.
"How long has it been?" Marton asked after minutes of a content embrace.
"Two days," Lora replied. "Two terrible days--"
"I'm sorry, I shouldn't have taken on the dragon like that."
"No, you had to. I'm just being selfish. If you hadn't done so, we could all be dead," she consoled him. "You're a hero."
"What happened after I was knocked out?"
"Well, as Ria tells the story, Torin charged the dragon, but was killed by its breath attack. Somehow, another dragon appeared -- Ria said it looked the same as the appearance of the first dragon, in the forest, a fountain of light came out of the ground and the dragon rose out. For some reason, both dragons just stared at each other until Ziro came back and blasted the first one. The second dragon flew away, while Ziro hit the first one with spell after spell until it died."
"So, Ria's alive?" He and Lora had a special connection with Rianna. After her parents had died defending the town over eight years earlier, they had taken her in. They'd since come to think of her as their own daughter, and had even put off their own plans for a family until recently.
"Yeah, but she's lost Torin. She was quite upset."
"Poor girl-- Is she here?"
"Well--" Lora hesitated. "That's the second part of the story. Everyone else recovered yesterday, more or less -- well, those who were still alive. Ziro led them off to hunt down the other dragon."
"What!?" Marton exclaimed, trying to sit up. With a groan, he lay back down. "What was he thinking?"
"Well, he said they had to take it out before it came back to finish it off."
"That impetuous fool! When did they leave? Where are they headed?"
"They left to the Boran Hills, where Ziro claimed the dragon was headed. It's a good day-and-half walk, and they left at about this time yesterday," Lora explained to him. "I'm afraid it's too late for anyone to chase them down."
"What about Balino?" Marton asked, referring to Rianna's hunting falcon. "He might be able to make it in time."
"That's right!" Lora said. "I'll fetch him immediately."
- * *
Torin-- Rianna vowed to herself. I will avenge you.
They had reached the Boran Hills, an expanse of granite and limestone cliffs covering an extensive cave system. Ziro had been following the magical signature that marked the path of the dragon, and it had led them to this cave. The inner cavern was a rough half-sphere with a diameter of about twenty meters. At the far side rested the dragon, who, for some reason, hadn't made a move to attack, but was just staring at them. Rianna raised her bow and readied an arrow. She aimed for the dragon's right eye, and let her arrow fly.
In a blur of motion, the dragon somehow managed to catch her arrow in midair. It held it up to its face, examined it, and let out a roar of what almost seemed to be despair. This roar snapped the hunting party out of their shock, and Ziro ordered them to charge.
The four swordsmen in their party rushed forward, while Rianna and Ziro held back. Rianna loosed a volley of arrows, while Ziro manifested a ball of shadow energy. The dragon leapt out of the path of her arrows, over the swordsmen, and to the center of the cavern.
The dragon spread its wings and spun, knocking back the swordsmen and deflecting Rianna's arrows; the shots bouncing harmlessly off of its wings. It turned back to face Ziro as he shot a ball of shadow at it. A quick flap of its right wing reflected the ball back, forcing Ziro and Rianna to dive off to the sides as the ball collided with the ceiling above where they had been standing, causing a shower of rocks to rain down.
As Rianna struggled to stand back up, the sounds of screams and crashes alerted her that the dragon had dispatched the swordsmen one by one. She reached her feet, and saw Ziro already preparing another spell, aimed right at her. No, behind her. She spun around to see the dragon looming over her. I'm sorry, Torin, she lamented. But, it looks like I'll be seeing you soon.
She tried to back up, but tripped and fell back to the ground. As she struggled back, the dragon opened its mouth, a ball of light appearing within. This is it--
It released the energy, shooting out rays out light. They missed her completely, instead hitting and incinerating Ziro. The dragon had ignored her in favor of the larger threat, but now turned its attention back to her.
Its eyes locked on hers, and she could see that intelligence lay within as a flash of understanding passed between them. Its eyes contained not the fury of an enraged beast, but a deep sadness. She saw the pain of a creature who had had to kill to save itself, and was only now realizing what it had done. It seemed to plead for understanding, and Rianna could have sworn a tear formed in its eye. With a dejected moan, it turned and flew out of the cave, leaving Rianna the sole survivor of the carnage.
The pent-up emotion finally overwhelming her, Rianna finally allowed herself to release a cry a despair. She mourned the deaths of her companions. She mourned for Torin. She even mourned for the dragon, who she now realized had never tried to harm anyone until it had been forced to defend itself.
A falcon's cry prompted her to exit the cave. The form of Balino swooped down and perched on her shoulder. A note was tied to his leg, which she removed and read.
Rianna! Ziro! Do NOT engage the dragon! Return to Larin immediately. This is an order.