The Price of Freedom, Chapter 5: Clash

The young elf gazed up coolly at the scarlet-scaled wyrm. His eyes were glassy, revealing no fear or other emotion. One hand rested on the hilt of his sheathed sword, the other on his hip. For a time the two stared at each other, engaged in a battle of wills. It was Aefion who broke the stony silence, although his gaze didn’t shift from the beast’s burning orbs.

‘You were expecting me, dragyn?’ Aefion spoke, his voice grating slightly. He unsheathed his sword and brought it up into guard position. ‘What is this deception? Unleash your fires, fight!’

The wyrm snarled, a feral sound emanating from deep in his throat. The lips pulled back even more and the great, heavy head veered in close. Aefion didn’t flinch.

‘It is no deception, elfling. And I do not wish to fight you. I have waited for you to come. Now, enough of this; release me!’

The dragyn moved, and there sounded the clink of chains. For the first time Aefion noticed the massive, iron manacles securing sections of the wyrm’s body to the floor. They were colossal, each link the size of a shield. Runes that shone with a fey, blue light had been carved into them, spelling out a powerful enchantment in ancient Alathaic. He raised an eyebrow, not understanding.

‘I had no idea. Who are you?’

‘I am Malgareus, Fire Wyrm. I’ve been waiting for an Eldenian to get me out! Now, if you please…’

‘Why should I release you? Aren’t you meant to be guarding King Brock’s daughter?’

‘You obviously have no idea what its like to be imprisoned,’ Malgareus sighed, raising his head again. ‘Look, foolish little elfling, just get me out, will you?’

‘Stop calling me elfling, wyrm. I have a name. If you expect me to free you I expect you to use it.’

Malgareus snorted impatiently.

‘Then what is it?’

‘I am Aefion Bloodclaw, of House Arileth. Try and remember it, and I will remember yours.’

‘Very well, enough pleasantries, I may be one hundred and thirty four cycles but I long for some fresh air.’

Aefion slitted his eyes and retreated a step.

’You’re very eager for escape. Perhaps there’s a reason why they imprisoned you down here.’

‘For your information, Arileth, it was that traitorous bastard Tenegrin who lured me into this trap. The treachery of humans is unacceptable.’

‘You allowed another to manipulate you? Such behaviour doesn’t fit well with a dragyn’s conscience.’

‘You seem to know us well, Arileth. It was only because of a strange artefact that I was tricked. I assume the Black Satyrs are being paid handsomely to keep me alive with the bodies of their dead.’ Malgareus gestured with his head to a pile of small horns. Satyr horns were valued highly by the Magellans. Ground down into powder, the horn was a powerful ingredient for their magecraft. ’It’s they who’re keeping your precious princess. She’s behind one of those damned statues. You have my oath!’

’She’s not my princess,’ Aefion spat, his face turning red. His expression softened and he sheathed his sword. ‘Though my thanks are in order for Cassandra’s whereabouts. Can you count…from one to ten?’ Rubbing the back of his neck, he gazed up at the tenth serpent statue.

He could probably climb up. There were a few handholds on the rocky wall. What of the dragyn? It wasn’t possible to release him, at least not yet. The enchanted manacles were beyond his power to break. The dragyn’s story seemed likely enough though, and he already knew the human Jasper Tenegrin wasn’t the most noble of his race. The word of a dragyn was one that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Grimacing, he looked back at Malgareus.

‘Sorry, Malgareus, I cannot free you. My sword will not break your chains, especially with the Galladorian enchantments.’

Malgareus lowered his head, his eyes closing. Then his head rose, and Aefion fancied he saw flames flickering from the wyrm’s nostrils.

‘A miscalculation on my part, then. I assumed the Tree Elves would not leave me down here to die slowly. Perhaps you could give me some sport during the long hours…’ His eyes narrowed and he shifted his body towards the elf. Although he was chained, his bulk was more than enough to crush Aefion and his breath had not yet died out.

‘That will not be necessary,’ Aefion continued unperturbed, ‘If you help me free Cassandra, I will vow to return here and release you. I would gladly assist one of your kind.’

Malgareus halted his advance cautiously and Aefion smiled.

‘You would do this, Aefion of House Arileth?’

‘Yes. If there are young women involved, then you can count on it.’

The Price of Freedom, Chapter 5: Clash

Andy Bain

Hobart, Australia

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