The Last Dragon

Cover of The Last Dragon


 

 

The rhythmic sound of waves as they gently splashed across the ship’s hull filled the room, Damian looked out of the window of his cabin, and saw that the sun was just beginning to peek out of the horizon, He heard someone knock on his door. He got off of his bed, put his shirt on, covering the numerous scars etched on his body, and tried to fix his dark-brown hair. “Enter.” Mat, his second in command, a blacksmith’s son who chose to join the army, arms large from years of helping his father forging weapons, came in, stood in attention and placed his fist over his heart as a salute. “General, we have arrived.” Damian sighed, took his bag and his sword and followed Mat out of his room. “As I told you before, you can stop calling me that, I’m no general anymore. You’re sure this was where it was last seen?” Mat glanced at him; his brown eyes filled with worry; concern etched on his face. “Our reports indicate that this is the place sir. Sir, if I may, you don’t have to do this alone, we are more than willing to help you with this.” He put his hand on Mat’s broad shoulder and he shook his head. “I appreciate that, I do, but you and I both know I have to do this alone. You and the rest of the men have done more than enough already and I cannot thank you enough for that.”

Walking out to the deck of their ship, he saw that they were docked on what seemed like an uninhabited island covered almost entirely by a dense forest. He looked at his men, 20 soldiers who chose to follow him after he was exiled. All standing on the deck of the ship, fists on their heart at a salute. He addressed all of them, “No need for such formalities, I am not your commanding officer anymore. What I am though, is grateful, to each and every one of you.” Lance, the oldest of the group, white streaks already starting to appear on his jet-black hair, walked up to him and gave him a bow “You were exiled because you refused to follow an order from your brother that would have gotten all of us killed. By our count, you saved our lives and this is the least we could do.” Damian sighed, he knew that there was no budging them once they got this stubborn, at least he got to convince them to stay on the ship while he searched the island. Mat looked at him and laughed “With all due respect sir, he’s right. So, you can either waste daylight forcing us to stop giving you the respect you deserve or you can go now and find that dragon so that we can all go home.” Despite himself, Damian grinned and he shook his head. “Fools.” He muttered. “I guess I better go, and find that dragon.”

           Damian stepped onto the shore and made his way through the forest. He and his crew had spent months following rumors of where the last dragon was, and all rumors indicated that this was where it was last seen. As he trudged through the forest, he cannot help but think about the monumental task he had before him. He remembered stories told to him by his father, how dragons used to fill the skies. Mythical beings that sparked both awe and fear to those who saw them. Giant winged lizards that grew to be as big as mountains, with scales as hard as diamond, teeth as sharp as steel and fire emanating from their very breath.

He was also told stories of how they were driven to near extinction because of how they were forced to take part in the war. How they eviscerated armies, how it took teams of magicians and soldiers just to take one dragon down. Sweat beaded down from his forehead, and It had nothing to do with the heat of the day. How could he, by himself, take down the supposedly last surviving dragon in history? He was confident in his abilities in leading armies, and he knew that few could match him with the sword, and he was confident in his use of magic. But he knew that those will be of little help to him if he were to find that dragon, but he had no choice, so he continued on.

He wandered aimlessly throughout the forest, checking for any signs that a dragon may be living on this island or not. The sun was directly above him already, he was drenched in sweat, and the damp atmosphere of the forest did nothing to help dissipate the noonday heat. He shook his head; he had spent the morning wandering the forest and still no signs. A giant, flying, fire breathing lizard should not be that hard to find. Maybe their lead was wrong. He heard the sound of a river flowing nearby and he made his way there, “where there is water, there is life” He thought.

After a few minutes of walking, Damian saw that he arrived at a river that flowed idly, slowly downstream. Large boughs sprouted from the trees and reached into the clear blue water as if to scoop the nearby fish. Above the mass of water, high branches wove a tunnel of green leaves like archways in the church to protect the river from sunlight. He dipped his hand in the icy cold water of the river and washed his face, letting the cold water cool him from the heat.

As he stood up, he stopped, he suddenly felt as if he was being watched. He unsheathed his sword took a deep breath, calmed himself. A red mist began to envelope him as he began opening his chakras, he felt his body fill with energy, he could feel every blade of grass on his feet, he could hear the leaves as they fell to the ground, he could see the ants climbing on the tree several feet away from him.

From behind him, he heard an arrow as it flew through the air, coming straight to his head, a single step sideway made the arrow miss its mark. Suddenly, a man, face coved in white paint, naked except for breeches and loincloth, jumped down from the trees above him, spear thrusting forward aiming for his heart. He jumped backwards, swinging his sword, cutting the spear in half, even before he reached the ground. Before the man could recover, he was knocked out with a roundhouse kick straight to the head. Sensing arrows coming at him from all directions, he spun, his sword a blur in his hands, knocking the arrows out of course before they could reach their mark.

A group of men then appeared out of the forest, running towards him, spears at the ready. Before they could get to him, Damian chose one and jumped towards him, sword spinning in his hand. After a few moments, Damian stood alone, panting heavily, drenched in sweat, broken spears scattered on the floor around him with as many unconscious men sprawled on the floor.

Suddenly, the ground beneath him shook, throwing him off balance, then a gust of wind strong enough to shake the trees around him, pushed him off his feet and he fell on his back. At the corner of his eye he saw another group of men, across the river, these men were enveloped with a golden mist. Together they raised their arms to the sky and the river from the water suddenly rose, which then formed to a snake which towered over him. He extended his hand, palms outward and let his chakra focus to his hands. A torrent of fire then burst from his hands, evaporating the water before it could crash onto him. Before he could catch his breath, the earth around his feet rose up, then encased him, making him unable to move.

Sensing that he was trapped and finding no other reason to fight, he closed off his chakras. The red mist around him vanished, the energy coursing throughout his body dissipated and he felt weariness wash over him. Seeing that he was subdued, the men approached him cautiously, the golden mist enveloping them still present, chakras still open, ready to perform magic at a moment’s notice if ever he posed a threat.

The others went to check on their companions while one, their leader, Damian assumed, stood in front of him. The man was tall and muscular, with long shoulder length black hair, like his companions he wore only breeches and loincloth, and his face covered in white paint, a stark contrast to his dark skin. But unlike his companions, his whole body was covered with tattoos of symbols that were foreign to Damian. The man looked at him with his piercing golden eyes. “Your kind are not welcome here outsider. We will not allow your war to taint our home.” Damian sighed “I am a soldier no more. I have left the war behind me and have no wish of returning. I came searching for something. I have no desire for any blood to be shed.” As if on cue, one of the men approached them “All their spears broken and all of them are unconscious, wise one but none dead.” He was looking at Damian with a mixture of awe and confusion. Their motioned to the others “Take him with us. We will let Her decide his fate.” They placed a blindfold over his eyes and everything went black.

When they took off his blindfold, the sun was already beginning to set, painting the sky with an orange hue. They were standing in front of an entrance to a cave, a gaping hole in the foot of a mountain, a mouth of impenetrable darkness, the stones guarding the entrance were jagged and uneven. They released the invisible bands of air that they used to tie him up, and their leader turned to face him. “Enter, and She will decide your fate.” Damian looked at him questioningly, “Who will decide my what?” He was met with a blank stare. Damian sighed “I guess there is no hope of you giving me my sword back is there?” More blank stares. He shook his head; he had no choice then. So inside to the darkness of the cave he went.

As he stepped inside, his shadow dissolved around the surrounding darkness. The only sound that met his ears were the echoes of his footsteps as he moved slowly inside the cave. He took a deep breath and he opened his chakras; a red mist began enveloping him and he felt his senses sharpen. He focused a bit of his chakra to his hand and moments later a ball of fire was dancing on his palm, illuminating his surroundings and bathing the cavern with a flickering orange glow.

Suddenly, the ground beneath him shook, Damian clung on to a nearby rock to keep from falling down. Suddenly from the depths of the darkness emerged the head of a dragon, its black scales glistened as the light from the fire Damian held bounced against it, its bright yellow eyes focused his gaze on him, then when it opened its mouth, he saw its white teeth as sharp as swords and as long as he was. He could feel the heat of the fire coming from its mouth, heat that made the fire he was holding feel like an icicle in comparison. Damian knees buckled; his whole body was shaking, his concentration lost, his chakras closed and the ball of fire in his hand vanished. The cave was once again plunged into darkness, but amidst the dark, he could still see the dragon’s yellow eyes gazing at him. He knew that even with his sword with him, this dragon could swallow him whole and he would not be able to do a thing about it.

A voice echoed inside his head “You come here, hoping to take my life, yet you sit there cowering in fear?” Damian was stunned, nowhere in the stories he heard was there any mention of the dragons talking. Images of dragons chained down, dragons fighting with dragons, dragons fighting with humans, dragons killing, dragons dying, rushed into his head. “Your people have driven my kind into extinction, forcing us to fight your petty wars, all for what? Power? Money? Ambition? Now you come here, hoping to wipe my race out of existence once and for all. Your greed knows no bounds.” The voice in his head boomed, the rage and the pain the dragon felt washed over him, overwhelming him. Damian fell to his knees, the realization of what his people have done filled him with grief. Tears streamed down his face as he looked up at the mythical being before him, images of dragons dying still bombarded his mind. “I’m sorry.” He sobbed.

The dragon looked at him as he cried his eyes out in front of it, begging for forgiveness. Slowly, it raised its claw to Damian and touched his forehead. A shock ran through Damian’s body as his chakras were forced open, his aura, which usually appeared as a red mist around him, now burst out from him, filling the cave with a red glow. images from his past flashed through his mind.

He saw how he grew up with his brother, spending each and every day training to be the finest generals and swordsmen for they would soon lead their nation. He saw how he first learned how to open his chakras and use magic and how proud that made his parents. He saw his wife, ever beautiful, standing beside him, in front of the priest on their wedding day. He saw himself holding up his first-born child, his own face beaming with pride and hope. He saw himself, holding his parents’ lifeless bodies on the floor, poisoned by their rivals. He saw how he, give up the throne to his younger brother for he wanted nothing to do with the throne. He saw his brother, now king, slowly being driven mad with power and revenge declare war on the countries he blamed for their parent’s death. He saw himself, pleading with his brother to stop the senseless violence and bloodshed and failing. He saw himself leading men to battle, hoping beyond hope that his brother would not harm his wife and child back home. He saw how he refused to follow his brothers’ orders for he knew that doing so would only lead his death and that of his men. He saw his brother, drunk with power, banish him from their country for not following his orders. He saw how his family were placed in cages and were threatened to be sold as slaves unless he came back with proof that he had killed the last dragon that lives.

The dragon then removed his claw from Damian’s head and Damian fell to the floor. His chakras closed; the red glow that came from his aura vanished, yet again plunging the cave into darkness. Exhaustion filled him, he was drenched in sweat, overcome with emotions, tears still streaming from his eyes. the sound of him sobbing filled the cave. The dragon looked at him, was it pity he saw in those giant yellow eyes? Damian did not know. The voice echoed in his head again, “Go home little one, go home and learn how to stand up for yourself.” Damian shook his head. “I cannot. I am too weak; too afraid to do anything. He has my family; I can’t let him hurt them.”

“He has held your family hostage for your whole life. His actions, his lust for power and his greed have hurt your family and your people the moment he sat on that throne. And not only do you fear your brother, you also fear your responsibilities, and worst of all, you feel that no matter what you do, when you sit on that throne you will never be good enough. Yes you might show the world that you are a strong, confident general, but deep down you have let your fear cripple you, chain you down. You have let your fear lead you to believe that you are too weak to go up against your brother, too weak to protect your family, too weak to protect your people. You have let your fear govern your life and it has destroyed you and the people around you. Stand up little one, stand up and learn to face your fears.”

Damian stood up, wiped away the tears from his face, “Thank you. I will see to it that my brother gets taken off that thrown and I will put an end to this war.”

“Make sure you do. Because I hope that my children will be born to a world where they cannot be used for war and be forced to fight one another.” Surprised, Damian opened his chakras, then summoned a ball of fire to his hands to illuminate the cave and he saw for the first time, behind the dragon was numerous of eggs. “We will roam the skies again little one. I hope that when we do, we will be able do it on a more peaceful world.”

The sun was just beginning to appear over the horizon as Damian arrived back on his ship. The crew stood up to greet him, all in salute. This time he returned their salute, fist over his heart. Mat came up to him “No luck on your search general?” Damian looked at him and smiled. “I think I got what I needed.” Mat looked at him, confused “So where to now, sir?” Damian looked over the horizon, and he watched as the sun slowly began its rise, the darkness of the night surrendering to its light as it began painting the sky with its golden hues, signaling the start of a new day.

“Home. We’re going home.”