Saturday, October 14, 2017

Battle for the Jade Dragon (Part 1 of ___)

He stared grimly through the bushes atop his mount... Seven? No, there were eight guards, the usual. Their bright green skin was an offense, to be sure, no less so than the very metals purged from the earth that made up their armor and weapons...

So he gazed beyond them, upon the sacred Jade Dragon...

Forged from the stones and metals deep in the belly of the earth, by his kin, it now stood as beautiful as ever, in the temple of the sky lizards. Sunlight, wind, rain... all of the elements that were the enemy of the earth and her rocks and minerals, beating mercilessly upon it's exquisite jade surface... Even now he could see how the wind had eroded some of the scaling features of her sides, the rain mercilessly rubbing down the fine points of the horns of the Dragon's crest.

Treasonous. No, sacrilegious.

Even still, breathtaking...

Disgusted, one last look toward the guard to make sure they hadn't spotted him among the leaves, he steered the mole away and gingerly, quietly, crept back to the entrance below, to the warm and comforting tunnels of the earth.


"Dragon's scales, let me at least breathe deeply among the dirt before you badger me, Gillian!" Onyx swept down from his saddle. He pulled a few root shoots from a pouch on his side and fed them to the mole as he patted her down, the dusty crumbles beneath his toed claws giving him comfort.

Gillian tapped his own feet impatiently while his hatchtwin went about his routine.

"Not heavily guarded, not even by upsider standards," he suddenly said.

Gillian looked up quickly. "Doesn't that seem... suspicious?"

"Of course it does!" Onyx snapped disdainfully. He wrapped the mole's reins about a larger root jutting from the side of the tunnel before he pushed his way past his brother. "Everything about this seems suspicious! The building and placement of the temple, how we got the information that they were placing the Dragon there, our sister--our sister--marrying one of those disgustingly bright green creatures! I can't even begin to think..." He stopped walking abruptly, Gillian almost running into his backside.


"Have you heard from her?"

"Our sister? Ha! How would I even! The very coupling that was supposed to join our peoples has done nothing but drive us further apart! Like an Earth Lizard of the dirt could ever join with... with them!" Gillian spat out the word and the poison from his mouth singed the dirt at their feet. "If father had been alive, never would we have witnessed such a ridiculous spectacle, let alone entertained such... ugh."

"Still, three moon cycles of watching, the guard watch never changes. Always eight guards, one at each pillar of the outer circle. I thought briefly today they were missing one, but no... Even as they congregate to bow before Jade Dragon and offer the statue fruits and leaves--pshaw! Fruits and leaves... As if! But always... Always eight guards..." he trailed off thoughtfully.

"Perhaps they think we've given up on getting it back?"

"Don't be such a hatchling, Gillian. No... No, they are quite aware of our desire to see our prize back... I suspect a trap of some type... It's too... Too..."

"There you are!" From the darkness approached a guard. "The queen wants to see you both right away, the upsiders are amassing troops--"

"Get up!" Onyx shouted and grabbed the lizard by his cuff, pulling him up on two feet. "You are a member of the royal guard, you slithering skink! Next time I see you running about like an upsider on all fours I will gut you from fangs to tail, do you hear me!"

Gillian stifled a giggle.

"S-s-s-sorry, my prince, sorry, I--"

"Silence! Stay here--on TWO FEET, skink!--and guard this entrance, collapse it if needed, if any of the upsiders get too close. Gillian, let's go..."


She sat upon a throne carved from part twisted trunk roots, part jet-black coal. Rubies and diamonds adorned the sides and back of the seat while floating orbs of light made them glisten and shine in the dark grand cavern of the queen. Long folds of rat and mole hide covered her scales, small gems embroidered into the hems and cuffs. Upon her crest horns sat a gold crown intertwined with roots of the oak.

The queen herself, however... It hurt Onyx's eyes to see such a fat, slovenly thing upon his father's throne... He could only assume she had been beautiful once, enough to catch his father's yellow eyes and seat her beside him... Her dull scales, grotesque jowls, bits of unshed skin clinging between scales here and there... While the war with the upsiders had made life a bit harsher, unshed skin? Dull scales? Her claws were twisted and overgrown, and the fur robes did little to hide the mounds of flesh that squeezed against and between the gaps of the throne itself...

He and Gillian bowed low before their stepmother. "My queen--" he began.

"About time you skinks got here! Do you have any idea what has been happening?"

"My queen, Gillian and I were scouting--"

"Shut up, I don't care about your silly quest for that silly statue! Onyx, you and your cult have been nothing but a thorn in this campaign against upsiders with your stupid obsessions and superstitions--"

"My queen--"

"Do not interrupt me again!" She lunged forward with a quickness that betrayed her size, several claws suddenly against his throat. He could smell the venom on her breath as she leaned in close. "You forget yourself, Onyx. Do not try me."

She dropped him to the dirt floor and leaned back once again into the groaning throne.

She continued as if nothing has happened. "Your stupid superstitions... That dragon statue is nothing if our kingdom continues to be invaded from upsiders as they dig and mine for more of our dirt and stones and metals! And now--now they have amassed near the topside of the lake! Our lake!" she screamed the last, slamming claws down upon the throne. "I need not remind you what happens if the earth top collapses down into our main water supply?"

"No, my queen."

"Forget about your silly statue. You are a prince. Military trained. Skill trained. Kill trained. By the venom of my ancestors, you will do your duty and protect this kingdom."

"Yes, my queen."

"Then go. I do not want to see your skinny scales again until that lake is safe."

"Yes, my queen." Onyx stood, grabbed his brother and exited.


(To be continued...)