Tero IX: A Plea for Mercy
“So you really wanna go get the blade of Devrail?” “Yes, sure. Who woudn’t want it?”
29th Day, 9th Month, Year 117 of the third age
The quiet was insufferable. This silence, while walking down thousands and thousands of stairs towards the ground of Neeshtaar.
Tero wished, that he could say anything, but he felt, that she did not want to talk. Sonya walked in front of him, striding downwards in wide circles around the large central pillar. The descent took them almost a whole day, but she did not demand a rest.
Tero felt, that something was wrong, as if an evil presence was nearby. It was unsettling, that this feeling came from the ground, where he had seen the aura of the shard.
The caves of Neeshtaar were even more impressive from below. The dim light emitting from the millions of gems around them was not even enough to let the human eye see from the ground to the top. The gargantuan buildings seemed like the teeth of a beast, hanging from the ceiling.
One day, this magic would fade and Neeshtaar would collapse. Tero had seen it already in the old, fading reliefs, that were barely readable anymore. It had taken literal ages, but after all, Neeshtaar slowly began to rot away. Maybe someone had to refresh its properties with the shard. Or maybe the shard had gotten weaker itself.
If the later was the case, then Sasillion was looking towards a dark future. If even the shards of the world had been corrupted, then nothing could heal the magic and it would die out eventually.
Approximately three hundred meters above the ground he noticed yet another oddity.
“Sonya?” she did not react, rather continuing to walk the stairs. “Sonya.” She stopped and turned around. Her pretty face seemed tired, stressed and sad. “Yes?”
He felt sorry for her. Someone like her should not have to endure this. Being kidnapped, transported to another continent, forced into sparing those who had done this, and then had to accompany a stranger man to a place unknown to civilization. A man, who had not even the courage to tell her what he was.
And all of this for his selfish needs.
Yet there she stood, thin rings around her eyes, her slender legs trembling under exhaustion.
He smiled a bit. “I want you to stay here.” One of her thin eye brows instantaneously raised to its maximum. He tried to calm her. “Whatever is down there, it might be really dangerous. I do not want to put you in danger yet again. I have done enough harm to you.”
She did not look directly at him. “Isn’t that also dangerous? What if something or someone followed us?” He nodded slowly. “Yeah. I thought about this as well. Here take this.” He reached in his pocket dimension and pulled out a light, black, silk cloak.
“Wear this. If you pull up its hood, nothing can see you. It will protect you, as it has protected me for an eternity.” She threw the black cloak around her shoulders. It looked very different on her than on him. It seemed to almost adapt to her fragile statue.
She pulled up the hood and vanished. It was extremely confusing for Tero. Only a few beings could hide from him, so somebody vanishing with the nightstalker’s veil was a view, he did not see often.
Sonya reappeared behind him. He turned around, instantaneously seeing the realization in her face, that even his eyes would not penetrate the invisibility of the cloak.
“Thank you. What now?”
He thought out loud. “I will go down there. Do not follow me. If I am correct, something is down there.” “Why do you think so?” “It is its presence. I thought, I had seen the shard in the fabric of magic, but at second thought, it would make sense, if the shard did not emit any aura at all. In the end, the fabric of magic itself is the shard’s aura.” She looked confused.
He smiled again. “Also, I think I might know, what is down there.” “What is it.” Tero hesitated. He was sure, that she would not like his answer. “A dragon.” Her eyes widened. She leaned over the edge of the stair, staring down, as if she could see it from up here. “Are you crazy?!”, she hissed. Sonya seemed genuinely concerned. He was sure, that she had never seen a dragon before. Especially one like this.
She grabbed his arm, looking in his eyes intensively. “We can still turn around! We can still leave this place. You can still let go!” He replied the look with thankfulness. After all, this person could still care about him.
“I am sorry. I have made my choice. If I am correct, then this is a brass dragon. In the best case, I just have to talk to it for a couple of days and we get the shard for free.” She crossed her arms in front of her chest. “And in the worst case?” Piercing skepticism filled her voice. He dodged her eyes.
“Then don’t look.”
“Sonya, as soon as this is over, I will bring you home immediately.” He stepped towards the balustrade. “That’s a promise.”
Tero leapt over the edge, pushing himself off the wall. The dragon was right below him and he wanted to have some distance.
He had lied.
He had intentionally lied. He knew, what was about to happen. He could see it in the dragon’s aura: Pain. Suffering. Pure agony. Something horrible had happened to this poor creature.
Still, he would try his best to avoid conflict.
Tero landed silently on both feet.
In front of him was something, that could at a first glance be mistaken for a very small mountain. The gargantuan, winged lizard twitched, as it noticed the tiny humanoid standing in front of it. The dragon was without comparison. A gigantic beast, a hundred and fifty meters long, with an equal wing span.
The head of the dragon queen was as large as a small house.
Thick, probably multiple feet thick plates covered her face, four large, twisted, black horns emerging from her forehead towards the neck. The entire head was covered in small, pointy spikes, that were each between the size of a human’s finger and an arm.
A large, long, tapered frill adorned her body down from the neck all the way to the tip of her long, spiked comparably slender tail.
The muscular, plated, short legged body was dominated by her sail-like wings, which looked tapered, almost hurt, as if she was slowly rotting away.
Her ancient skin was so old, that its once shimmering brass color had turned into the faded beige of desert rock, even crumbling, like old dry earth.
Dark, green eyes without pupils stared at Tero from above.
She rested in front of a gate that was even bigger than her. A set of arched, stone double doors, two hundred meters high, in the central pillar of Neeshtaar.
It was inside there. He knew, that it was there.
Brass dragons were known to be highly interested in information and treasure. This creature was ancient, older than any other dragon ever. Its age had been magically enhanced. It could be one of the oldest beings alive.
“Milady Yacenshar.” He spoke draconic out of respect and just in case, that there was no way of Sonya hearing any of the spoken things. “I bring a gift from the outside and the good news, that your grand grand grand grand son is well alive and in his prime.” That was the truth. It was absolutely unnecessary to try lying to a brass dragon. Deceiving them was almost impossible.
Tero had met Nos’Pvil Yacenshar in the last century. He was a member in the high council of dragons. As every brass dragon would, Nos’Pvil had talked to Tero for weeks, exchanging information, doing small talk, discussing every philosophical topic. These dragons were born to collect information. Conversation was their sole desire and purpose.
The dragon queen before Tero raised. Her entire, stone-encrusted body cracked as she moved the first time after maybe even ages. The dragon built up to full size. It was an impressive view, even for Tero, who had seen so much in his lifetime.
The gigantic beast slowly leaned forward, stretched out, until its long, spiky snout was only meters away from Tero, and roared, her thunderous voice echoing through the entirety of Neeshtaar.
Tero looked into the abyss of her throat. The brutal blast, that was her scream, would have deafened anything, that was not instantly blown away.
He did not move a millimeter. “I understand.”, he mumbled with dry voice, as sorrow filled him. He heard it. He heard her wish.
This brass dragon, after being artificially made undying and locked inside Neeshtaar, had unlearned how to speak.
Tero reached with his left hand back over his shoulder. A motion, he had done so often before. He grabbed the thin leather strips around the hilt of the onehanded, mithril great sword, unclipped it from the buttons on his back, and pulled the blade forth.
“It is time, Devrail.”
At first, Sonya had not seen the dragon, even though she had looked at it directly. One reason was the beige stone, that covered the body of the dragon, blending in with its surroundings. The other reason was, that she would not have thought, that any living creature could be that big.
As she watched under the hood of this strange invisibility cloak, the hill in front of Tero came to life. The beast was bigger than the watchtower of Yerarie and Morsia combined, almost as if it wanted to adapt to the unbelievable scale of this underground city, Tero had called Neeshtaar.
Whatever he was, he was insane. This man, or whatever one should call him, with the freakish eyes had just jumped down three hundred meters, as if it had been the last two steps of the stairs.
She could not see clearly from the distance, but even when the dragon unleashed a blast of deafening sonic energy at him, he did not even wince.
Whatever unearthly being he was. She did not want to be like it.
Tero saw it coming. Yet again the Queen leaned forward. He saw a bright spark shining in her throat. Within fractions of a second, he swapped the blade to his right hand, jumped back fifty meters and built up a powerful magical barrier with his stretched out left hand.
A storm of dark purple lightning lashed out from the dragon’s mouth, the beast being pushed back a few meters by its own enormous force. The crackling lightning filled the entire ground, bursting the stone around him, crashing into his barrier, exploding into bright waves of light.
He rammed the blade of Devrail into the ground, holding onto it, to not get blown backwards.
Lady Yacenshar — or whatever was left of her — looked at her doing. Tero could see a minor bit of surprise in the dark green eyes of hers, as she saw the tiny man still standing, not even a minor bit of him evaporated like the area around.
He had to move this fight. If they stayed here, there would be a chance of endangering Sonya or the shard.
He pulled the sword out of the ground, collected energy in his cramped, left hand, and shot a bolt of orange flame towards the dragon, piercing a small hole into her left wing.
It screamed. Apparently, he had her attention now.
The gigantic monster beat its wings while dashing forwards, rushing at him like an absurdly oversized dog.
Tero turned around, kneeled, redirected his energy from the hands towards the feet, and pushed of the ground.
He instantly broke the sonic barrier.
The dark-skinned man flew in zigzag between the tips of the Neeshtaar buildings, only meters above the ground, occasionally turning around to shoot another bolt of flaming or radiant energy at the dragon.
It came after him with incredible speed, simply bursting through the tips of the buildings Tero had to evade.
Fury dominated its movement and eyes.
This beast would be a challenge.
He did not want to use its true form. Sonya should not see him like this again. Though he could not suppress the doubt, that he had no choice.
After he could be sure, that the girl was in safety, he turned around, instantaneously standing midair. He dodged the chasing dragon’s massive body as the beast had too slow reaction times. While it passed him, he raised his sword, wielding it with the right hand, striking the long blade into the flank of its chest.
He had almost forgotten how it felt to bear Devrail in a battle. It was like meeting an old close friend after a long time. The great sword cut through the think stone and natural metal armor of the dragon, leaving a deep cut, glowing with bright, radiant light.
The ancient creature reared up, a scream of pain roaring through Neeshtaar. It glared at the man, who had dared to wound it, bringing down its agile tail.
Tero was genuinely surprised by the speed of the attack. He let himself fall, rolled of the ground, barely dodging the slam of the thorny tail. The ground shattered under the dragon queen’s brute force. He jumped over the tail, as she swept it after him, while turning around, yet another blast of lightning preparing in her throat.
He could not possibly summon a magical barrier powerful enough to protect him. He raised his sword high up, the blade pointed downwards in front of his body. The second burst of purple lightning was even more brutal than the first. A soon as it came in contact with him, he pirouetted gracefully, trailing the sword slightly delayed.
The mystical blade absorbed the draconic lightning, charging its own power. With a powerful sweep, he sent the shock back to its origin.
A large sickle of black energy emerged from the blade, lashing towards the ancient beast.
It saw Tero’s counter coming and let his attack crash into its shielding wings.
He cursed. This dragon was incredibly tough. No other enemy before had been able to withstand this ability of the blade. To dispel it that easily was something he had never dreamed of. He did not want to use his true form, but if this was continuing like this, he had no other choice but to speak the word of power.
Frustration filled him as the realization almost reached certainty.
He decided to go into an offense. He dashed forward under the dragon, dodging a small blast of purple energy, before evading the massive, short legs. He whirled the blade around his torso gaining momentum, then jammed it into the beast’s stomach and ripped a deep cut along its lower body.
Bright light shined out of the wound, as Devrail’s curse possessed it. Tero did not watch his doing, rather going for a second attack in the same movement.
That was his mistake. He definitely had underestimated the dragon queen’s reaction times.
And he definitely should have used the word of power.
Tero raised his beloved blade horizontally, aiming for the dangerous tail of the dragon. Right before he could finish his maneuver, he got outsmarted. The massive, fifty meters long tail rushed upwards in a single flowing movement. Too late, he saw his mistake.
Too late, he saw the tail slamming down onto him.
Almost too late, he yanked the blade of Devrail in front of his Torso, as the tip of Lady Yacenshar’s tail bashed him into the ground.
Tero groaned painfully, as he felt his ribs being broken and his organs being destroyed, a small could of dust emerging from the cracked ground, sticking to his bloodied face.
He tried to get up, though he was way to slow. The second swipe of the tail took him of the ground, the long, poisonous spikes ripping through his flesh. The tiny man got knocked through the large hall like a baseball. He saw the building coming, but his body did not react.
He crashed through the outer wall of one of the larger, hanging spike buildings, burst through three rooms, before he came to stop at the backwall of an empty hall.
He smiled slightly, as his vision blurred, his senses faded, he passed out, and fell to the side, to die in the dust of a forgotten city.