As the sun began to set in the east behind the Rhialand Hills, Rayamond Cole walked through the woods east of the Nial’ni, heading for his Tree of Meditation that stood at the edge of the beach, overlooking the ocean. He had passed the laborers who were constructing a stage for the bard’s concert to be held in four days; the festivities of Olias Visitation had been briefly put on hold until evening. That was fine with Cole, he wasn’t much interested in the festivities, not unless Aeisha were involved, and right now the sorceriine was back at her house, studying.
Rayamond found his tree, and setting a small lunch down next to it, he sat and brushed his back up against the trunk. . He looked out to sea. A breeze blew his hair back from his brow.
Cole had an affinity for the sea, he reveled in the nature of the waves crashing on the surf; he breathed in the majesty and serenity that was the ocean, taking it in, embracing it with his spirit.
The shore was currently empty, save for the activity of seabirds that echoed their calls against the thunder of the surf. The blue-green chopping of the waves reminded Cole of a vast mechanism, and the numerous gears that might turn within. All the while the light from the sun produced glistening sparks of foam that danced across the watery arches, like electricity across a massive grid.
After a moment of quiet observation, Cole turned to his lunch, which he had packed in a small sack—ham and cheese sandwiches, potato chips, jerky, more slices of ham and cheese for his crackers, cookies and laras-obra—the latter kept cold in a tall resealable mug that Aeisha had cast a simple dh’antra on for the purpose of keeping beverages either cold or hot. It was a moment of peace, something that was hard to come by with Cole; he had a mental disorder that the cleriists called melancholia.
Turning to his bag, he retrieved a small pillbox and took his medication, downing it with the icy black grape-tasting drink. Then he turned to his sandwiches, watching the waves moving against the surf while he chewed, and observed the seabirds in flight. It wasn’t long before his eyes grew tired—an effect his medication sometimes had.
He awoke to the weight of something perched on his boot. His eyes came slowly open as he looked into the luminous countenance of a small gold avian.
“Squa-kit,” the dragonet squawked at him.
“Hello,” Cole said in return. “Are you here by yourself? Are you looking for a hand-out?”
No one was sure where the avians came from. Some believed they were a mutation of the bigger dragons, but even the dragons didn’t know this for certain; the dragonet’s minds were hard to read. What information the dragons and scientists were able to gather could probably fill a ten-page journal, at the most.
Interesting fact: the dragonets were notoriously shy, and the concept of them coming up to a person unabashedly was unfathomable. But they seemed to make an exception with Cole, and even he didn’t know why. Aeisha said, “It’s because you’re such a loving person, and they sense that in you.”
“More likely they’re as crazy as I am,” Cole said in return.
The Final Chapter…
“Let us go over this one more time,” Khol’shar was telling the council inside the War Room of Nadreth Hall. The commission consisted of himself, Xanphre, Xaneth, Daniel, Cole, Commander Andriis, Captain Maladharian of the Elves, Lieutenant Corenthis, Captain Nagral of the Dwarves, Lieutenant Hogarth, and King Delinon.
When Imili altered her direction she did so with a purpose, and that was to fly to Tula’daniir, the land of the Elves, home of Lord Dariadalas. A brief introduction and explanation to the King offered by the voice of Imili—affirmed by the dragon tear, convinced Dariadalas that his help was needed. He therefore responded to the call of the dragonet by sending a contingent of dragons and riders to the Dwarven Hall of Nadreth. They arrived a day later.
“We fly the dragons until we spot the castle, then the mages will cast a cloaking dh’antra—“
“Excuse me,” Corenthis interrupted. “But shouldn’t we cloak ourselves as soon as we hit the sky? I mean for all we know, the enemy could be observing us right now.”
“If that were the case, then we would have no need for an attack; because any enemy with that capacity could wipe us out right now.” Khol’shar paused, then went on to say, “However since the castle retreated, it’s safe to assume that it isn’t omnipotent.” A moment of indecision, and, “Of course, neither are we; I don’t know of any mage that can keep a dragon cloaked indefinitely without some form of artifact, relic, or talisman of great power.” His eyes momentarily fell upon Cole, then moved on. “So, we fly the dragons, we cloak when we spot the castle, I will cast a clear-sight dh’antra so that we will be able to see one another once we’re cloaked.”
“What prevents the enemy from having the same capacity?”
“Only one thing, Lieutenant,” the Archmage took several long strides over to where Cole was seated. “If I may be so bold,” the Archmage told the younger man, and before Cole was even aware of what he was doing, he produced the dragon’s tear from out of concealment. “This will prevent the enemy from knowing our presence.”
“What is that?” Captain Maladharian wanted to know. The tear shone chromatically, then took on the appearance of a small flame.
“It is a dragon’s tear,” Khol’shar illustrated, turning it over in his fingers. “Very rare, and highly potent in eldritch content. This is an iridescent tear, which is the rarest of the dragon’s tears. Focusing it properly will increase the strength and influence of our magic.” Khol’shar returned the tear to its owner, gave Cole a reassuring wink. “As soon as Rayamond and I are inside the castle, it will be up to you to do everything within your power to try and destroy the castle.”
“With you inside? You will be killed.”
“You let me worry about that, Lieutenant. After all, I have this young man’s safety to consider as well. Just follow my words; and do everything within your means to destroy the castle.”
“Excuse me,” Nagral began. “I don’t mean to be petering out of this mission or anythin’; but some of my men haven’t even seen a dragon, let alone fly one.”
The King spoke up. “That being the case, you may be exempt from this mission. And anyone else who doesn’t feel comfortable in navigating an avian, may be exempt as well.”
No one else spoke up.
“Very well then. We stick with Khol’shar’s plan, and try to get back as soon as possible.”
The council was in agreement.
It was agreed that the Star of Stalariis stay behind at Nadreth Hall, under the watchful eye of the King.
The team didn’t wait until the following day to begin the search because there was no telling how long it was going to take. There were thirty-five dragons; the five were mounted by Andriis, Khol’shar and Cole, Xanphre and Daniel, Xaneth and Naradine, and lastly, Larina. It was a couple of hours after noon, but the sky made it seem later. The throng flew north toward rain clouds that soon had the team in a misty fog which caused a little confusion, but not enough to lose anybody from falling off course. Imili had decided to join the mission, and she couldn’t be discouraged. She stayed by Cole’s side, when she wasn’t sitting on his lap or leading the contingent of dragons; she seemed to possess an inherent ability to somehow locate objects, small, large, and in this case, monolithic.
Cole handled dragonflight better than he thought that he would; and he credited it to his disorder; the natural feeling of surrealism that washed over him as he saw a canvas of colorful swatches that were the landscape hundreds of feet below him, lakes, and rivers, that he could see meander for miles.. And then to add to the surrealistic artistry, there were spikes of lightning flickering off in the distance. This all made Cole feel right at home somehow. And he wondered, if only briefly, if it was this nature that the dragonets were drawn to.
An unnatural feeling of dread moved like a wave over the throng, and the mages were quick to point out that that was the direction that they should be going. “Follow the feeling!” It was decided that the more dissonant and despairing the sensation became, the closer they would draw to their enemy. The key factor that they were looking for was that when the team started to envision terrible heinous images in their minds, like torture and mutilation, they should almost see the castle. They flew all day, and into the night, the feeling grew stronger but there was no sight of the floating castle. Finally, they agreed that they needed to stop and camp for the night, and begin again before first light. Those dragons that were well into their years altered their form and appearance, that they might fit in more with the group and get to know one another as a team.
The next day the sky was clear and majestic with massive white clouds and the sun pouring through making a rainbow. Cole asked Khol’shar, “How is it that you knew about the dragon tear?”
A chuckle seem to catch in the Archmage’s throat. “An enchanted item of that nature will not try to hide itself from me.”
“Oh,” was all Cole said. And then, “How do you feel?”
“I guess that’s supposed to be a good sign, huh?”
“Indeed. Do you feel it?”
“I don’t feel any more than I usually do.”
The wind rushed passed, drowning out the Archmage’s words.
“I will tell you about it sometime.”
“Do you really think that we will come out of this alive?”
“I’m not fooled into you thinking that we won’t.”
“We have a “wining hand”, it’s “providence”.”
“Do you really believe that?”
“I’m glad to have you with me, Khol’shar.”
The Archmage said something else, but it again was drowned out by the wind.
An hour later the air around the throng grew colder, even as the clouds and sky grew steadily darker, and the sensation that they were following was becoming like a saturated cloak draped across their shoulders.
Around this time men and women started to see images of a latticed structure, grisly represented. Heads grew numb. Pins and needles moved up and down their limbs. The feeling went from despair to diabolical desecration, and then they saw multiple visages within their mind’s eye, and they were screaming in horror and agony. It was then that they saw it. An inverted mountain with a citadel on its base. And behind it was another mountain, several miles off, also inverted. But this one seem to play on the light, flowing like water. There was no mistaking that the throng had found what it was looking for. As if to emphasize matters, one rider retched and directed his dragon quickly away from the influence of the castles. The rest of the throng cloaked themselves and moved in to confront the enemy.
The beginning and the end of the fantasy adventure novel, “Tears of the Le’igro”.