The World of Erasthay
The Knight and the Acolyte Book Ten: The Flaming Woman
Chapter Eleven: The Dragon’s Pain
© Copyright 2016
Story Codes: Fantasy, Magic, Violence
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Knight Angela – Dominari’s Lair, The Despeir Mountains
Lady Delilah’s draconic jaws opened above me. My arms burned. The power of Gewin’s blessing buttressed my limbs, keeping the immense weight of the dragon from crushing me as her claw pinned me to the cave floor. But as I looked into her open jaw at the sharp teeth dripping, the reek of sulfur of her breath, I saw my death.
I had failed. My companions were scattered, dead or dying. She was too much for us. I grit my teeth, straining against her claws, trying to throw her vast weight off of me. It was futile, but I was too stubborn to quit as the jaws snapped down.
Sophia’s face flashed through my thoughts. Smiling, crying, staring at me with love, recoiling in disgust, placid in sleep, burning with ecstasy, flushed, drained, pale, wan, full of life, green eyes flashing, bloodshot, lips pursed in smile, in frown, in thought. A thousand thousand memories gathered over the last six months burned through my mind in that instant as the open maw lunged down at my unprotected head.
I did not regret a single one of those memories.
Pink flashed. Metal glinted. A dagger buried in the snout of the dragon, biting deep in an explosion of soft light. Blood splattered my face. Lady Delilah roared in pain, her head jerking up. She fixed her only remaining eye to her right, hissed in frustration.
I followed her gaze. Sophia stood on unsteady feet, blood pouring down her face from her impact with the wall. Her once pure robes were soiled with crimson and browns. She teetered as the dragon raised her right claw, the one not pinning me to the ground, and swiped.
“Sophia!” I screamed as my concubine tried to move, but she was woozy.
The claws struck her, ripping through robe and flesh. My acolyte crashed into the wall, a comet trailing crimson. She struck hard and fell limp. Murderous rage burst inside of me. My acolyte. My concubine. My lover. The dragon’s weight shifted in the attack. The rage gave new strength to my limbs. Invigorated, I screamed as I heaved against the claw pinning me to the cave floor. I pushed and pushed.
And the dragon shifted. She slammed her right claw down before ripping into Sophia again, her large bulk twisting. Her head snapped around as her weight went onto her right foreleg, lessening the strain upon my arms.
I pushed one final time and rolled free.
The left claw smashed down as the dragon righted herself. But I wasn’t under her any longer. I snatched up my ancestor’s sword. The white light flared as I gained my feet. This wasn’t over. I would finish my quest.
“Sophia!” was my warcry as I slashed and cut deep into her left foreleg.
The world tumbled around me. The gray sky and the gray mountain blurred together. Minx screamed with me as we plummeted downward towards the bottom of the pass. She was ahead of me, her smaller body a tight ball, her metallic-red hair flashing.
I gripped my totems. One was balsa wood. So light. I stroked the sinuous lines carved into it, channeling my power. I reached out to the world around us. I called to the elementals. And they answered.
Wind whirled and gusted into two forms. Breezy arms embraced my body, stopping my tumble, slowing my fall. Below, the other air elemental surged towards the plummeting halfling. She fell so fast towards the ground. My heart thudded as the wind surged down after.
“Grab her,” I shouted towards my puppet. “Come on.”
She hurtled lower and lower. Minx grew smaller and smaller. My heart thudded in my chest and…
My air elemental caught her, creating a cushion of slowing air. Dust pillowed from the bottom of the pass, a heartbeat away from splattering death. And then I yanked my elemental back up into the air. What had been screams of fear now were whoops of triumph.
“Aurora!” Minx screamed, pumping her right arm in the air as she hurtled to me. “Yes! Cernere’s black cunt, but that was awesome!”
I rolled my eyes. She could never be serious.
My air elemental carried her to the edge of the path, dropping her off before the cave mouth. She scampered in, producing another pair of enchanted throwing daggers from somewhere on her body. I had no idea how she hid so many daggers on her. Nor did I care.
I became a hawk and soared back towards the cave.
My right leg throbbed. Bone poked through the trousers, white and smeared crimson. The wind had stopped, allowing me to move. Angela roared in fury. The dragon bellowed in pain. And I jammed my hand into pouch and found a healing potion. I yanked the stopper and downed the creamy drink. Sophia’s magic numbed the agony in my leg. I shuddered as the bone popped back into place, leaving behind a bloody tear.
“Las’s putrid cum,” I groaned, falling back onto the cave floor, gathering myself.
Then the fear hit me, momentarily forgotten through the pain. Beyond the wreckage of my smashed lyre I stared at the cave mouth. My wife had been flung out there. I tried to save her, but she was so light. The dragon’s wind had thrown her and Minx and—
Minx charged in brandishing two daggers, screaming in offended fury. “That was so not fair, Dominari!”
A moment later, a hawk soared in, landing on the ground and blurring into my wife. She rose, holding her totems, her face fixed. Earth elementals burst out of the ground by Angela, moving to block claw strikes and jaws snaps as the knight battled the dragon, swinging the High King’s sword in hard, two handed swipes.
The fight still raged. My lyre was smashed, but I had to keep everyone battling. We were recovering. The dragon had dealt us all hard blows, but we weren’t out of this yet. We had prepared to fight her. We were ready. We would defeat her.
Songs of courage tumbled from my lips as I rose, strengthened by Sophia’s potion. Pink light glittered on nearby rocks. One of Minx’s daggers. I snatched it up, the handle short in my hand. I didn’t care. It was a weapon. I had to fight.
I marched at the dragon.
I pulled out the last intact potion I had and dumped it into Thrak’s mouth. Blood covered his body, leaking from the puncture wounds through his torso. Even with the healing potions closing the wounds and slowing the bleeding, he should be dead.
But my orc was tough.
I watched the wounds. Skin knitted together, flesh and organs repairing. Broken bones twisted back into place. The holes shrank to the size of my fist, closing. My stomach twisted. The dragon roared. Angela bellowed. Chaun’s music stirred through me.
The fight wasn’t over yet and…
Thrak’s wounds stopped healing. The punctures were the size of a small bird, but they still wept blood. He still lay unconscious. I shoved my hands into my pockets, searching for any more healing potions. I was on the verge of panic, my heart fluttering so fast. I could feel it rising in me, that drowning fear threatening to consume me.
But Chaun’s voice was so stirring. It sang through my body. It warred in me, driving back the panic, battering back the cold twist in my bowels that threatened to leave me helpless. It kept my thoughts clear, thinking.
I was out of healing potions. But Sophia had made them for all of us as we traveled through Zeutchian lands.
I ignored the wheeze of Thrak’s breathing. Blood bubbled from his mouth. He was still so close to dying. But I couldn’t focus on that, on the fear of losing them. I had to act. I lunged across his body to the pouch hanging off his belt. I shoved my hand in, brushing glass.
Seizing a healing potion.
Cork yanked out, I dumped it into his mouth. It mixed with the foaming blood. His body shuddered. I touched his chest, feeling his heart laboring, struggling to keep him alive. His lungs rose and fell. The holes closed. The wheezing slowed.
“Thrak,” I whispered.
His wounds closed. Blood stopped bubbling from his lungs. It was enough. He would live. And I had to fight. I had to stand with my friends and stop this monster before she killed us all.
The dragon’s tail roared as it slashed at me. But I was already ducking, the back of my neck itching. Sophia’s spell warned me. My naked body dived beneath the tail. I hit the stone, rolling back onto my feet and sprinting past the dragon as she battled with Angela. Both her claws swiped in hissing arcs, crashing into earth elementals as the knight struggled to lunge in and ram her sword into the dragon’s chest.
I focused on the bleeding acolyte. I didn’t know if Sophia lived after that dreadful slash.
My keen ears heard everything. Chaun and Minx charged the dragon as the bard sang, his courageous voice echoing through the cave, filling me with exhilaration, keeping my limbs moving. And above his singing was the softer voice of Faoril’s magic whispering. The mage strode forward from Thrak, the orc’s breathing no longer labored. He would live.
Wind yanked Angela to the side, pulling her out of the reach of the dragon’s snapping jaws. She slashed back, screaming in rage, her sword a white blur. It struck the tip of the dragon’s jaw. Crimson spurted. The dragon rushed back. She bled from dozens of wounds, smoke rising as the blood boiled on her scales.
But she only bellowed in rage, sweeping her claws in wild swings, desperate to kill Angela. Her growls were rants, hardly intelligible any longer, descending to guttural, primal rage. Her tail crashed back and forth, slamming into the ground.
As I reached Sophia, Angela darted in, her sword thrusting at where the dragon’s neck met her chest. An earth elemental burst into shattered rocks blocking one claw. A huge piece of rock thrust up from the ground, shielding Angela on the other side. Her sword slashed, cutting through scales, opening another bleeding rent in the dragon’s side.
Lady Delilah slammed her entire neck down as an attack, battering towards the knight as she recovered from her swing. Faoril’s magic seized Angela, dragging her to the side. The knight didn’t fight it but used it. She pivoted and swung her weapon, crashing it into the side of the dragon’s neck. Blood spurted. The dragon roared, her feet crashing into the ground.
It shook beneath me, making footing treacherous. But I didn’t fall. I moved with grace across the broken ground and reached the acolyte’s side. I fell to my knees, pulling out a healing potion from my pouch and dumping it into her mouth.
We were running out of potions.
The dragon bellowed again.
“You got her, Chaun!” Minx chortled as the dragon’s bulk shifted, the ground shaking.
The milky potion worked on Sophia. I could hear her laboring heart thudding in her chest, struggling to pump blood. There was so much around her. I yanked out another potion, pouring it into her mouth.
The fight had to end. How many potions did we have remaining? I had one left. And Sophia needed it. I produced my last and dumped its healing power down Sophia’s throat. Her heart grew stronger and stronger. Her body shuddered as the magic flowed through her, healing her, bringing her back from death.
The next person struck down wouldn’t be so lucky.
The dragon’s hind leg swiped at Chaun as the bard jumped back, blood spruting from the dragon’s side. His attack landed a clumsy blow, but it hurt her. And that was awesome. I grinned as Faoril’s magic saved the bard, wind yanking him back as I darted in.
I jumped, the dragon’s body turning right at me. I thrust my dagger before me, the point glowing with Sophia’s magic. Without her, we would have died. The acolyte sometimes seemed useless, well meaning but not really accomplishing much in battle, but when she knew a fight was coming, when she enchanted your weapons, amazing things happened.
I crashed into the dragon, jamming my dagger deep into her sides. The blade sank all the way in, the hilt slamming into her scales. Scalding blood pumped out, but the water elemental warding my body wrapped me in protective liquid. I felt the heat, but it didn’t hurt me.
“Cernere’s black cunt,” I cursed as I sprang back off the dragon’s body. My attack hadn’t really hurt the dragon. My dagger was just too short. And she was huge. How could I hit a vital organ when I was barely getting through her scales?
I had to be smart. I wasn’t a brawler. I didn’t have the powerful weapons to hurt the dragon. It was satisfying stabbing the bitch after she threw me out the cave, but it wouldn’t help in the fight. Chaun’s singing was far more helpfully than his inept slashes with my dagger.
I needed to be as helpful.
I glanced at Angela. She was fearless, throwing herself at the dragon, being protected by Faoril and Aurora’s magic. The dragon backed away from her, slashing with claws, snapping with jaws. Her mouth gaped open to bite…
Her mouth gaped open.
I chortled in pure delight, an idea bursting to life in me. I had two chamomile bombs left. I shoved my hand in my pouch, brushing through the clay balls, searching for one with the X carved into it. My nimble fingers felt a spiral and then a chevron. I didn’t need a damiana bomb or acacia bomb. The last sticky bomb had not worked out well.
And then I felt the X. The sleeping bomb.
I yanked it out as I reached the fight. Shards of rocks burst through the air, smashed by the dragon. Rubble covered the ground. Faoril’s magic flew around me. She was doing so much amazing things. She smoothed the ground around Angela. Rocks and rubble melted and flowed, filling in holes, clearing out tripping hazards, giving her a flat ground to fight on so she could battle the dragon while the mage’s winds swept around the knight.
I glanced at Faoril in her red, stained robes, her face focused. Her eyes hard. She didn’t break that concentration as she gulped down another vial of Thrak’s cum. The discarded bottle shattered at her feet as she kept her magic flowing.
I had to be as helpful.
“Lady Delilah!” I screamed. “I don’t know why you’re so angry. Why do you care if some moldering dead man’s kingdom is reforged? He was a loser. Everyone knows that. He was a pathetic cuckold. I heard Queen Rose banged every other guy she could so she could enjoy a real cock. I bet the High King never even had any kids of his own.”
A roar shook the room. “SHE BETRAYED HIM!”
She did not like me calling her beloved Peter a cuckold. I grinned as her head snapped around, her one good eye fixed on me. Her jaws opened as her entire body turned. She ignored Angela’s swiping attack as her head snapped at me, giving me just the target I needed. I threw the sleeping bomb.
And then realized my mistake.
My bomb sailed down her gullet the moment before her hurtling jaws slammed over me.
“Minx!” Xera shouted in horror as the halfling vanished into the dragon’s maw.
My stomach sank as those jaws worked like they were chewing. The dragon snapped her head around. I wavered for a moment, a sick filling twisting my stomach. The elf dashed from Sophia’s side, wielding her wooden dagger. With nimble grace, she threw herself at the dragon, vanishing behind Lady Delilah’s bulk.
“Minx,” I whispered in horror.
“Aurora,” my husband shouted, gripping the halfling’s dagger. “I need you.”
I blinked, anger and hurt swirling in my stomach as I looked at him. I could see the vision Slata showed me, my mother rutting beneath the form of my father. But it was really Chaun violating her marriage oath, cuckolding my father. The nauseating roil in my stomach increased.
“I have an idea,” he shouted. “Please.”
I nodded my head. Anger had to wait for later. For if we survived. I blurred into a hawk and launched myself at him as he rushed at the dragon. What was he doing? He only had that little dagger. The dragon ignored him, focusing back on Angela, ripping at her while Faoril’s magic protected her and Angela’s sword swung.
Chaun reached the dragon’s side. He plunged the dagger into a gaping gash in the dragon’s side. He stumbled as he cut, moving as the dragon turned and twisted. He cut the wound open deeper, parting flesh. Blood hissed as it steamed on the dragon’s scales.
I blurred into my humanoid form. “What are you doing?”
“Your earth elementals can’t stab through her scales,” he said. “But they can pierce through her softer flesh.”
My eyes widened. I gripped my earth totem in my right hand, the solid kapok wood hot to my grip. It was on the verge of failing. So many earth elementals had been struck, their bodies disrupted, the feedback shooting into my totem.
But it was still intact. It still focused my will.
Chaun’s courages song swirled around me as I stroked my fingers across the straight lines carved into the totem. The cave floor rumbled as two rock forms burst to life around me. I controlled them, shaping their arms into sharp, long blades.
And plunged them into the dragon’s side. They reached deep, slicing through muscle to the organs beneath. I felt what the earth elementals experienced. Heat burned in the dragon’s core. It boiled around my rocky limbs as they cut deeper and deeper. The heat assaulted me as the dragon heaved and snarled.
Pain. She experienced pain.
Chaun’s song drove me to grow the blades deeper, to jab them her molten core. The back of my neck itched as I caused the dragon agony. I pierced her organs. I would kill the beast before she—
Chaun grabbed my waist, wrenching me around in his grip. I blinked, pulling out of my senses from my totems. The dragon’s tail swept at us in a blur of death. He put his back between me and the attack, a futile gesture to protect me from the impact that would crush us both.
My fingers danced on my air totem, summoning an elemental that would not arrive in time to save our lives.
Wind howled around us. But it wasn’t my magic.
I screamed as we were yanked up into the air. The tail howled beneath us, missing our feet by inches. I shuddered in my husband’s arms, my heart beating so fast in my chest it hurt. I trembled, sucking in breaths.
We were alive.
And she was hurt.
Blood gushed from her side. A river of steaming crimson flowed onto the ground. A vicious thrill shot through me. Something I had never experienced. The dragon had tried to kill me, and I had hurt her back.
I leaped back as the dragon thrashed. A wall of stone shot between me and a slashing claw. Blood poured from the dragon’s side. She had been wounded badly. I grinned vicious triumph as her head shuddered and shook. It had been clenched tight since she devoured poor Minx.
And then, bursting out the side of the dragon’s mouth, above her jawline, was the tip of a dagger, a faint pink light burning through it amid the smoking blood. And then Lady Delilah’s mouth opened in a puff of purple smoke.
And then the halfling leaped out, her body drenched in saliva and blood, her hair matted. She hit the ground near my feet, rolling across the ground and onto my boot. She stared up at me with a woozy expression.
“Sleeping bomb didn’t work,” she groaned. “Think she’s too big.” She shook her head. “Tried to…hold breath.”
“You’re alive,” I said out of shock. “I thought the dragon ate you.”
Minx held up her hand, one finger upright, telling me to wait. She shook her head, her eyes kept trying to close. Her other hand fumbled in her pouch and pulled out one of Sophia’s healing potions. She downed it.
And bolted upright. “Yeeeeeees!”
She hopped to her feet, reinvigorated by the potion, the effects of the sleeping bomb wiped from her system. She bounced on her feet as she turned on the dragon, gripping her bloody dragger in her hand.
“Oh, you tried to eat me!” Minx laughed. “But you didn’t! You’re such a pathetic dragon!”
Lady Delilah roared her fury her head snapped down.
I swung my sword, seeing my opening as the halfling laughed and dived out of the way. My blade struck the dragon’s face, cutting a furrow through her skin, glancing off her hard skull. I struck Sophia’s dagger, knocking it free as I left a thick furrow of skin and muscle dangling down the side of the dragons’ face, her bloody skull exposed, bone splintered and gouged.
I pulled back my blade, lunging at the weak point. A thrust into her brain would finish this.
Lady Delilah yanked back her head, stumbling back. We were rallying and she was weakening. Hope surged through me. Chaun’s song roared through my mind as I pressed the attack, Faoril’s magic smoothing the ground before me as I charged in.
“Angela!” a loud voice roared.
Thrak raced towards his fallen ax. Like the rest of us, he was covered in blood. He wore it like a suit of armor across his chest. He snatched up his greataxe and rushed at the dragon. He raised it up high and swiped at the tail, cutting through the last third of it.
Lady Delilah howled, blood spurting, adding more armor to Thrak’s chest.
My eyes opened. I liked the taste in my mouth. Sweet, creamy breast milk. Such a lovely—
The roar shook the ground beneath me, shocking rational thoughts back into my brain. I sat up in a puddle of my own blood. I shivered. The thick, sticky liquid was an inch deep in places, coating the cave floor.
But I was alive. Someone had saved me.
The dragon fought with Angela. Her severed tail swung back and forth, blood raining across the cave as Thrak chased her. My Queen swung her blade in sweeping arcs. I saved her. That was the last thing I remembered. Throwing my dagger had worked.
I spotted my dagger lying on the ground near the dragon’s flank. Beyond, Xera clung to the dragon’s side, slamming her wooden dagger over and over into the same wound, driving it deeper into the Lady Delilah’s body. The elf’s wrist sank into the flesh, blood spurting out around her.
The dragon bellowed. Pain in her voice. We were killing her.
Flashes of last night shot through my mind. The passion I shared with Angela and Lady Delilah. And now we were killing her. It seemed so sad. Everything had been going perfectly. We were about to “fight” Dominari, to prove we were strong. And then Slata showed up. Saphique’s jealous sister ruined everything.
I darted towards my dagger, my tattered, blood-soaked robes clinging to my body. I scooped it up. I wasn’t a good fighter, but everyone was converging on the dragon. We had her. We just had to make her realize it.
I charged at the dragon’s bleeding side, focused on that wound, eager to bury my ax into her. I gripped it both hands, the wood so familiar. Angela swept in, the dragon stumbling. Her head snapped around him. Her one good eye fixed on him, madded in pain.
“YOU! Killed YOU!”
“Try harder!” I growled back, raising my ax and slamming it at her wound.
Her body blurred, flowed like water, and shrank as she turned. I swung with every ounce of my strength. I would finish the bitch off. I would bury my ax into her vital organs. My greataxe crashed down at her side and…
She shrank out of the reach of my body, becoming a smaller dragon, compact and swift. Her jaws lunged at me as my ax slammed into the ground, throwing me off-balanced. I put too much power into the attack.
I lifted my weapon. I had to swing again.
Her teeth sank into my side. A dozen needle-like fangs bit into my flesh, each several inches long. I groaned as my ax swung down at her side out of reflex. She savaged me, ripping, tearing. Pain flared through me.
And then my ax struck her right wing. It sheared through the narrow bone. Her wing flopped to the ground, still attached by the membrane of skin to her side. But the tissue-thin skin tore as she ripped her jaw back, bellowing in pain.
I stumbled back and fell down, clutching my bleeding side. Blood welled through my fingers as she swelled again, flames bursting from her mouth. Her wing tore free the rest of the way, crashing to the ground beside me. It stopped growing, halfway to its regular size.
I shoved my hand into my pouch. And did not find a healing potion.
“Las’s damned cock,” I groaned.
Lady Delilah thrashed in agony. Her wing sheered off, blood spurting. She didn’t notice me at all as I changed direction. Her shapechange had thrown me off. I had missed my attack as her body shrank out of my reach.
But I wouldn’t miss this time.
My blade hissed through the air. The white nimbus flared bright as I struck her right, front leg. The momentum of my swing cut through scale and flesh and crashed into her bone. There was a loud crunch as I buried deep into her femur. I yanked out my blade. The dragon howled in pain. And then there was a loud crack. The bone snapped the rest of the way. Her hand tore off as the dragon collapsed to the ground. Her neck crashed past me. The dragon wheezed.
I sprang towards her head, her good eye staring at me as her body collapsed. The ground shook. I stumbled, fighting to keep my balance. I reached her throat. I put my sword against her neck, cutting into her flesh.
Last night burned in my memory. Lady Delilah flashed through my thoughts. The gorgeous, sultry beauty who had inflamed my body and imagination as a girl. She was the reason I was a knight. She was my first crush, my first love. Yes, she had manipulated me on this journey. She had wanted me to be High Queen. And last night, she had loved me. She had given me a gift.
“Surrender, Dominari,” I growled. It was the decision I’d made before Slata’s visions threw everything off. “Surrender and be my slave. Serve your new Queen!”
I stared at her as pain burned through my body. She held his sword. I felt it burning in my neck inches from my carotid artery. With a stroke, she would end my life. My remaining claws flexed. She stood strong, her body battered, smeared in blood. She looked so beautiful, so regal. I had watched her grow up. I had seen the child blossom into this strong woman.
She had fought so hard to reach me. She had faced danger after danger without flinching. She had assembled my Peter’s sword. She had done what no other hero had since him. She had beaten me like he had. Yes, she had help, but she wasn’t the son of a God like my Peter.
Only his descendant.
No, she’s Pater’s descendant!
“Yield!” Angela shouted, her voice booming with command. “I have tamed you. You are mine!”
This fight really is beyond you, Peter had told me, that same blade at my throat. It was a valiant struggle. You almost got me. But now it’s time to yield. It’s time to serve something greater than your bestial hunger. To be better than you think you are, Dominariath. You are mine now!
I wanted to surrender to Angela. I had yearned to surrender to my husband’s heir for a thousand years. And it was all lies. She betrayed us. Him.
“NEVER!” I howled, the rage surging through me, giving me one last breath of life. “Only HE can tame me! You’re not HIS! LIES! Rose betrayed us!”
“What?” Angela demanded even as my neck twisted, lunged, my jaws snapping at her.
Angela reacted. Her blade cut. My artery severed. My life spurted out of me. It didn’t matter. I would crush her. I would spend my last act snuffing out the false pretender wielding his sword. I gave her my heart, and she was a fraud.
My jaws opened wide. She plunged her blade before her, a stop thrust slamming down my gullet, reaching for my brain. Didn’t matter. My jaws encircled her body. One crunch, and we would die together and…
A thought rose through the anger and the rage, through the final moments of my life. How could she wield the sword unless she was of MY blood? Did Slata tell you the truth?
It wasn’t my voice. It was deep, masculine, commanding.
Did Rose actually betray us?
No, a feminine voice whispered. A loving voice. One I missed so much. We miss you, Dominariath.
My jaws froze before they found Angela’s flesh. My husband’s blade slammed through the back of my jaw and—
Her jaws stopped their snapping crush, sickle teeth inches from my flesh. My arm jarred from the impact as the blade slammed through Lady Delilah’s skull and into her brain. I stood there, surrounded by death. She was about to kill me. I saw it and…
And she didn’t. She held back. At the last moment, she held back. Her body lay limp. No hot breath exhaled from her jaw. I killed her. My body shook as what I had done struck me. I killed Lady Delilah. I killed Dominari. I finished my Quest. I stared at my hand holding the High King’s blade buried into the roof of her mouth, shoved into her brain.
I let go of the sword. My hand shook. A tremble shot through my body. My heart screamed in my chest. I had loved her fiercely last night. I had known her most of her life. And I killed her. She was a monster and a beauty. She was a beast and a lover.
I stumbled out of her jaw. One fang scratched my back as I fell to the ground, staring at her head lying on its side. Her tongue lolled. Blood dribbled out of her wounds. Her body lay coiled around me. I sat there as the tears fell down my cheeks.
What did I just do?
What I had to do. She was dangerous. She was a killer. She had butchered so many lives.
And she had given me such a precious gift. She made me who I was, she shaped me, she sat me on my journey. She changed my destiny.
Sophia’s desperate voice pulled at me, but I couldn’t wrench my tear-stained gaze away from the dragon’s mouth. Last night, that mouth had kissed me. That tongue had licked me. I had felt such a fierce passion in her. And now she was gone, dead.
The last dragon slain. I was a knight. It was my duty to kill monsters.
I pulled my knees against my battered breastplate. I pressed my face into them, crying harder. And then gentle arms were around me. I smelled blood, felt Sophia’s sodden robes as she hugged me from behind.
“I’m so sorry, my Queen,” she whispered as she held me. Her tears fell hot on my neck as she buried her face into it. “I’m so sorry.”
“She won,” I heard myself say through the sobbing tears. “Slata. She got what she wanted.”
I stared at Dominari. I couldn’t conquer the world. It was a fantasy. Something bright and shining, something intoxicating and heady. I couldn’t stand up to the armies of the world. I wasn’t a Queen. I was a knight.
I fought monsters. I didn’t start empires.
I forced myself to stand. My companions watched me, Chaun kneeling over Thrak, feeding him a healing potion, Aurora standing nearby hugging herself. Xera stood with horror in her eyes, tears falling down her cheeks, her right hand dripping with the dragon’s blood. Minx clung to her, looking like a lost child. Faoril reached Thrak, kneeling beside her orc, lifting his head onto her lap and stroking his brow.
Slata had assaulted us all, and then threw us into fighting the dragon.
“What truth did she show you?” I asked the corpse. “How did she use to turn you against me?”
Lady Delilah didn’t answer.
I grasped the High King’s sword and yanked it out of her gullet. It came free with ease. The silvery blade stained red. I held it up, examining it. I couldn’t conquer nations with this blade, but I could fight monsters. I could be a knight.
I walked past my companions, my footsteps hard, my back straight. I was so tired. I needed fresh air. The cave reeked of blood and sulfur. It echoed with Lady Delilah’s maddened roars. I stepped out into the gray-clad skies. Thunder rumbled from the distance. To my left was Zeutch and the rest of the human kingdoms.
To my right was the Shizhuth Empire, a dark land. And Dominari put her lair right between them, straddling the pass through the Despeir Mountains. The only land connection between them. That felt…significant. She could have put her lair in a dozen different places, but she chose here.
I never asked her why. But I think I understood.
“What are you thinking, my Queen?” Sophia said.
“I’m not your queen,” I answered. “I’m just a knight.”
“You’re always my Queen.” Sophia pressed her lithe body against me, leaning on me.
I leaned on her.
“You didn’t answer my question,” she said.
“My duty.” I stared at the pass. There was so much gold in the cave. Something could be done here. Something built to protect Zeutch and the rest of the human kingdoms from the threat of the Shizhuth Empire. One day, the nagas would realize Dominari was dead. Would they come to conquer?
“Duty?” Sophia asked. “What duty?”
I glanced down at the sword. It still had power. It could still protect the world from monsters and dangers. It could inspire others to do the same. I was no longer a Knight Deute, but I was still a knight in my heart. And here, in the desolation, something could be made, a life with Sophia. Beyond, we were fugitives.
But here we were just a knight and her acolyte.
“How would you like to found a temple?” I asked Sophia.
“A place of hope in the Desolation. A beacon to draw those to protect the world. The home to a new type of Priestesses of Saphique.” I touched her stomach. Her wounds had been higher up on her, above her womb. Our daughter would be safe. “After all, you’re pregnant with the first human hermaphrodite.”
“A place free of corruption,” Sophia said, a bitter twist to her voice. What had Slata shown her? How the Church of Saphique conspired with King Edward to give me a quest that should have killed me? Us? “I like it, my Queen. A new beginning.”
Lady Delilah/Dominari – The Astral Realm
“I failed you,” I whispered as I knelt before him. My husband. My king. My love. “You wanted it reborn. You wanted her to restore it all. I failed.”
His hand stroked through my hair. We were somewhere in the Astral Realm, where all souls go when they die. But I didn’t end up in the Silver Forest of Matar where her hermaphroditic children were supposed to go in death. Where the other souls of my draconic kin reside.
Instead, I appeared before my spouses in a cold castle.
“I failed you first,” Peter whispered. “I promised to be at your side for all your days.”
“And you didn’t kill her,” Rose said, her hand joining Peter’s, running through my fingers. “At that last moment, you controlled your monstrous rage, Dominariath.”
I looked up at them. “It was all lies, what Slata showed us.”
“Only for you,” Peter said. “She gave the others truths. Besides, Angela will have descendants. They will inherit my blade. Perhaps another will follow in my footsteps and achieve my dream of peace.”
“And if not, it doesn’t matter,” Rose laughed. “That world is past. It’s for the living. A new one awaits us. They say the Astral Realm is eternal. It stretches forever and ever, filled with things beyond any living soul’s imagination.”
“How long has it been since the three of us just flew?” Peter laughed. “We conquered the world, us three, and what did it give us but endless headaches? When did we have a chance to live, to relax, to just enjoy the little things around us?”
“I don’t know,” I answered. “Last night, with Angela and Sophia… It was the first moment of joy I had since…” Tears burned in my eyes. “Is that what the Astral Realm is? A place to…relax?”
“To enjoy what we took for granted in life. To savor what truly is important. Peace. Joy. Love.” Peter cupped my face. “To put down our burdens finally. I’m sorry I said those words at the end of my life. I regretted them as we watched you suffer.”
“Maybe it is the best Angela didn’t follow in our husband’s footsteps,” Rose said. “She would only have been miserable as High Queen. I think she’ll be happier just as a knight with her acolyte.”
I smiled at them and nodded. They pulled me to my feet, embraced me. I held them tight, Peter’s strong arms and Rose’s soft body. I relaxed into them. I laid down the burden of prophecy, of a thousand years of manipulation, of searching, of preparing the world for the High King’s heir, the Hero, to return.
They were right. Angela would have been miserable.
To be continued…
Click here for Chapter 12.
I have released a part 39 of the revamped Devil’s Pact on Smashwords. Read this post for more information if you’re interested