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Draconum Æternum: Lightning Talons

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Incendarment

Taking a "short break" from my saga on Tir na Nog, here I begin a short series on dragons (I know, I'm obsessed, but I love dragons, and who doesn't?) in a totally unrelated fantasy world, the name of which is Incendarment. Cool, huh? I really desperately wanted to add an "æ," but somehow it didn't fit. So, we begin, just because I wanted to say "it was a dark and stormy night," in the eye of an endless hurricane. Can't be a bad way to start…

Lightning TalonsEdit

Chapter O: The PrologueEdit

It was a dark and stormy night. That wasn't very surprising - the Claw of Phædrake was the most powerful storm in all of Incendarment, and it had been raging in this region for 700 Solanii. But for poor Luna, it was a nightmare. Luna was a Moth Dragon of the rainforests to the south of Teratelis, not suited for travelling around Æthris, which is why she was confused as to why she had been sent on this mission. In the distance, she could see Sky Dragons and even some of the smaller Storm Dragons wheeling about, but Ventosavatan was nowhere to be seen. The Windswept City was, at the moment, miles away, but Luna would never know that, because she had been chosen by fate for a very different mission.

Fate is a very peculiar thing that likes playing with people's* lives. There are those who believe that fate is the whim of the gods seeking entertainment. Others believe it is controlled by the River of Souls much as a river carves a channel or a mountain in the mud and silt and sweeps the crayfish and shrimps into the mouths of waiting fish while other fish loose their hold in the sand and debris and are washed away to the ocean on the horizon. Still others claim that fate is a god that is weaving an endless tapestry and that we are tied to her invisible, unbreakable threads and so are pulled around obstacles and collisions with other strings and people to our ultimate destiny. But whatever form fate may take, on that day that Luna was seeking Ventosavatan, it lead Prince Khiónyx of the remote and insignificant Empire of Banghei Wontedai to murder his father Emperor Styria and his brother, Crown Prince Arcticum, and take the throne as his own. Fate also made it that this event happened just as President Aquila of the Borean Alliance gave orders to the Hivatbjoric Empire to peacefully annex Banghei Wontedai, a deal that Styria had agreed to without Khiónyx's knowledge. Therefore, when troops marched into the borders of Banghei, Khiónyx saw it as an attack and declared war on Hivatbjor. This came just when President Mulciber of the mighty Allied Nations of Terrarum sent Luna, the newest messenger, to deliver a message to Banghei pledging military support in the event of a crisis, because Styria happened to be an old friend of Mulciber. Mulciber had, unfortunately, assumed that Banghei was already a territory of Hivatbjor. Before the Borean Alliance could warn Mulciber of the events that had taken place, Khiónyx intercepted the communication and impersonated his father to secure a massive shipment of troops and weapons in order to fight rebels. Mulciber complied and Khiónyx went on to conquer the Borean Alliance. But Khiónyx wanted more - filled with the lust for power, he wanted to rule Incendarment. This plunged the world into the greatest war it had ever seen.

But at the time, Luna didn't know this. Finally, a Storm Dragon noticed her distress and flew over. "Thank you," said Luna, "I have an important scroll for President Aquila." The dragon nodded. "Ventosavatan is this way," he replied, "follow me." Luna complied. Only the Storm Dragons knew all the secrets of Phædrake's Claw, including the many currents that filled her and how they could be followed to any destination within the great hurricane. The Storm Dragon lead her through a series of currents to a point in the eye of the hurricane, where beneath the snow from the storm coated a city in perpetual white, and the stillness was broken only by the raging winds sweeping across the isle upon which sat Ventosavatan. Luna thanked the Storm Dragon with twelve orbii** and swooped towards the central tower. She landed on the messenger docks and walked to the room where Aquila's council was meeting. "Excuse me, president," she said, "but I have important scrolls to deliver. They're for Emperor Styria." Aquila sighed and looked to the council members for support. Finally, he drew a deep breath. "Styria is dead," he explained, "and it appears the alliance is about to go to war." He handed Luna the scrolls. "Do not let these scrolls arrive at Banghei," he warned, "for they would lead to nothing but bloodshed." A stunned Luna took the scrolls and meekly walked away, then flew back into the storm.

Fate would see that those scrolls reached Banghei, for as Luna struggled to find a way out of the storm she was surrounded by an air squad of Sky and Storm Dragons. "Take the scrolls," said the biggest one, and they lunged. Luna screamed and tried to avoid them, but the winds swept her into the clutches of three Storm Dragons. They grabbed the scrolls and the large Sky Dragon, whose name was Intyrus, grabbed them and tore her fragile wings, then left her at the mercy of the storm. As she slowly plummeted to her doom, Intyrus handed one of the Storm Dragons the scrolls. "Take these to Khiónyx," he ordered, "and tell him to watch out for an invasion. Chaos will reign supreme." And it did.

Chapter O FootnotesEdit

|*Not all people are human, unlike what the dictionary says. If I see an alien with a ray gun, I wouldn't want to tell him he isn't a person unless I had a death wish or a bigger ray gun.

|**Orbii are plural for an orbis, which is the currency of the A.N. of T., also known as the Allied Nations of Terrarum. One orbis is worth $6.50 in Canadian dollars. 1/7 of an orbis is a septimus and 25 testari make a septimus. Make sense? Hope so, because there'll be a quiz later…

Chapter I: The Mysterious ElderEdit

A terrible Nixtempestas* was raging across Aqueus and through the towns and villages of the Northern Front. The land was in anarchy ever since Lord Khiónyx had taken over. Every dragon in the land was practically at the mercy of the storm because nobody had proper heating, clothing or blankets. The Northern Front was the poorest, most desolate place in all of Incendarment. Cælum shivered despite his warm Islander Dragon blood. Snow and ice cut at his thick skin and he struggled in vain to see through the dense, white veil. But he knew the village had to be near. The mysterious Followers of Nebulus had summoned a warrior of the Allied Nations of Terrarum to a council at this village for important information about Khiónyx. It was about time they chose a side in this war. They had always lurked in the shadows, saving lives on both sides and then vanishing. Some said they were terrorists. Others claim they were fools and paxmatores, peacelovers who believed the war should end without bloodshed and who would let Khiónyx live. There were still others who claimed that Nebulus, their mysterious leader, was an Old One who possessed the Lost Arts and was actually a heir of one of the original Elemental Clans, and his followers were trying to return to the old ways and help nudge the other dragons of Incendarment in the same direction. Cælum knew that either they had actual information that could be used against Khiónyx or this was an ambush. Either way, they were definitely supporting a side now. Cælum's job was to figure out which one and inform President Mulciber whether they had new allies or new enemies. He caught the scent of smoke and soon a cluster of igloos loomed into view. He had found the village.

Larus started flapping his wings wildly. C'mon, he thought, I have to lift off this time! Please, I have to fly! He charged for the opening and braced himself for the seven meter fall into the Contremulus Ocean. His wings looked like almost like a blur and he breathed in enough air to burst a balloon. He filled his pockets** with enough ætherium*** to set the seas ablaze and leaped off the edge of the cliff. He was flying. It was incredible! He was actually - falling. Again. He plummeted like a rock into the rippling waves and just barely managed to tuck in his wings before he was wet as a fish. His tail swished and then he rocketed out of the water. This was the closest he had ever come to flying. He felt like a dolphin or an icthyan**** and he laughed before he reentered the warm water. He dove towards the reef that surrounded Hahalua like a wall around a fortress, but the most colourful wall in the world. He felt so comfortable in the water, but not in the air like other dragons. Larus was a name that translated to "seagull" in the Old Dracos tongue, so why couldn't Larus fly like one? He should have been named Delphinus. Maybe Piscivolans. But no, for two reasons. Firstly, Piscivolans meant "flying fish" in Old Dracos, and of course the name was taken. Piscivolans was waiting on the beach when Larus emerged. Pisci was a Coral Dragon, but she had been born missing her gills. Larus was the opposite - he had been born with a gill on one side, meaning he could breathe underwater. As a result, they were both essentially freaks, which was an especially bad position for Larus because he was the son of Algarum, who was the governor of the island. He already had enough unwanted attention as a result, and of course hatred by the more old-fashioned dragons who didn't want a governor and were itching to get the old chieftain Litus back into power, so why not throw in fish parts? Pisci, on the other hand, couldn't breathe in the water, so she had been abandoned by her pod one day when Larus was four. Larus' mother Alcyonium found the poor infant lying on the beach and took her under her wing, literally and metaphorically, and carried her to her new home. Pisci was, technically, Larus' adoptive sister, but since she hadn't lived with them since Larus was too young to remember - right after the accident - he thought of her more as a best friend. Just a friend, obviously, nothing more and nothing less. "Hey, Larus," she called out as he emerged. "Hi, Pisc*****," he yelled back. "Flying lessons not working out?" Larus nodded. "They're wet, but I don't mind. I love the water." He reached into the tidepool. "By the way," he added, "I caught you a crab earlier." Pisci nodded. "Which means your flying instructor this week is going to be the Sky Dragon, Turdus." Larus nearly choked on his dogfish. "How did you-" Pisci laughed. "If your instructor is Imber, you give me lobster. If its Iris I get sea monkey. And if you have old Turd, its always crab." Larus shook his head in wonder as he headed home. "Pisc, you amaze me." "I know," she replied.

Cælum headed for the big ice structure at the center. A symbol had been melted into the snow out front. He only caught a glimpse before the nixtempestas swallowed it up. It was the cloud and wings, the mark of Nebulus. He was definitely in the right place. Two weeks of searching had finally payed off. Now, he was about to find out the truth about the Followers of Nebulus. He walked into the building and found a pair of ice golems guarding the entrance. In their mouths were Animus scrolls, which gave them so-called life until destroyed. No two Animus scrolls were alike and each contained the memories and personalities of the golems they had controlled. Cælum remembered the password just in time. "Clouds above, fire below, flying silent in between." The second golem said "There are two sides to every tale if you flip over the scroll." The countersign was legitimate, so Cælum returned with the counter-countersign. "The toothless tiger patrols the seas." "No light comes from the caves below the mountains." The golem nodded. And Cælum was in.

Cælum made sure to watch out for an ambush in the murky darkness and made sure to scratch a trail with the end of his tail in case a hasty exit was necessary. He had filled his pockets with ætherium until they felt ready to burst in case his exit required melting anything and runes had been carved into his claws in case of magical threats. He was ready. Further into the winding passageway he realized that it was starting to twist. In the darkness, he had no idea what was up and what was down, so he clung on tight with his talons as he reached the end of the passageway. He expected to arrive soon, but instead found himself going upside down again. He did this five more times before his eyes adjusted enough to notice that he had crossed his ice trail over and over. He was going in circles. He must have been standing on a Möbius strip made of ice, a two-dimensional structure where you always ended up where you started! His eyes continued to adjust until he noticed the strip was in the heart of a spherical room and he wasn't alone. A dragon had been waiting in the shadows for probably hours watching him bumbling around in the dark. Cælum was humiliated. He had to pay more attention. He sat on the inside - well, no, there was no inside - of the loop. "Tell me what I'm doing here." The dragon was silent for a moment. "I see that you are one of those who do not ask directions or I would have gladly told you how to get off of the strip. Pay more attention." There was a more prolonged silence. "As for your presence here, I would think that the answer is in the hands of those who can understand the future. Quite simply, we need someone, but not you." The silence this time was very long, and Cælum knew it was time to speak. "You want me to kidnap someone. Somebody serving Khiónyx or Banghei, maybe, if possible and with Mulciber's approval, but on our side, no, not unless you can give me a very good reason." The dragon laughed. "Oh, I don't want you to be the kidnapper." A squad of ice golems appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, and blocked the exits. It really was a trap!

Cælum slashed at a golem's mouth with his claws and the Animus scroll bled sacred ink and died. The runes on his claws caught ablaze and the other golems shrieked and started melting. One flung an icicle at him and Cælum melted it in midair with fire. He then melted the entire Möbius strip with a single blast and the icy remnants flew towards the dragon in the shadows. He screamed as the ice fell on top of him, but Cælum doubted he was dead. He had to get out of here. He flew up and melted the ice, then broke the surface and soared into the nixtempestas. He roared defiantly and then swooped towards the structure, melting it. It collapsed and probably crushed everyone inside. He headed back for the town of Skjálka where he could send his findings to Allied Terrarum.

After half an hour of exhausting searching, he was almost out of ætherium, but he found Skjálka. He landed at the centre of town and walked into the town hall to find Governor Nivelepus. He entered to find Noctua outside of his chamber. "Nivelepus is out," she informed Cælum. Cælum sighed. "When will he be back?" "15 cloudshadows******," Noctua replied. Cælum sat down and began waiting. He examined his runes. They had been burned away during his escape and now could barely summon up a spark of magic, and he was out of ætherium entirely, but he had escaped, that's what mattered. He was surprised how minimal their defences were. How could the Followers of Nebulus expect to stop the Allied Nations' top foreign agent and warrior with a baker's dozen ice golems, a wall of ice and one dragon? It seemed suspicious. Perhaps they were too weak militarily, but if they had joined Khiónyx he would have supplied them with weapons. It didn't add up. And who were they hoping would go looking for Cælum? It had to be some kind of exchange, prisoner for prisoner, but the Allied Nations and their allies had no important prisoners serving Banghei or Khiónyx. No, they wanted to kidnap, use or extort someone who would search for Cælum. Who would hunt for him? The Special Air Fleet, maybe, but they weren't important enough to be worth using Cælum to extort them, and nobody would pay a ransom for them. It probably wasn't about money - actually, the mysterious Nebulus was thought to be quite rich according to the Allied Nations' best sources, and if they were serving Khiónyx, he had more than enough funds due to illegal taxes imposed on his citizens and the massive deposits of minerals directly underneath Banghei Wontedai. Suddenly, Cælum noticed something was wrong. Noctua was gone.

Outside, Cælum realized something else - Skjálka was empty. When he left, it was full of Ice, Snow, Tundra and Storm Dragons, and now it was literally a ghost town. Cælum shivered, and it wasn't the cold. The Followers of Nebulus had lead him into a trap after all. He took to the air and saw dragons positioned around the town, almost invisible in the blizzard unless you knew what you were looking for. Above him, an elderly, almost crippled dragon was flying forward. Behind him, two other dragons held Nivelepus. "If you value the governor's life, land in Skjálka now and surrender without making a scene," said the dragon. Cælum recognized the dragon's voice as that of the dragon in the shadows when he was trapped. "I thought you were dead," Cælum explained. "I wish you were," he added. The dragon laughed. "You'll wish you were dead when I'm done with you. But be glad you're alive. We don't need you, only the one who will seek you." Cælum continued to circle. "Who?" The dragon soared towards him and looked him directly in the eye. "Your nephew Larus."

Chapter I FootnotesEdit

|*Nixtempestas translates roughly as blizzard. I could have said blizzard. I said nixtempestas. It sounds cool, so there.

|**Pockets are what dragons call the flight bladders, which are filled with ætherium necessary for flight. Whats ætherium? You'll find out…

|***…now! Ætherium is Old Draco tongue for hydrogen. When you fill a balloon with hydrogen, it floats real high. When you hold a lighter up to that balloon (if you can find it again), it doesn't pop - it goes BOOM!! That is how dragons fly and produce fire. Lifted it from Dragons: A Fantasy Made Real for those copyright buffs who care…

|****I know, the amount of footnotes are getting ridiculous, but I just want you to know that an icthyan is an icthyosaur, a real prehistoric reptile from the Triassic and Jurassic periods, essentially a dolphin with a fish tail. What they're doing in Incendarment I don't know. Maybe they're on vacation.

|*****The footnotes are getting increasingly frequent and pointless. Pisc is short for Piscivolans and is pronounced "pice," not… well, the p word for you-know-what-and-if-you-don't-then-don't-ask.

|******Finally, a cloudshadow is the rough amount of time that a cloud covers the sun in southern Terrarum, roughly two of our minutes. Sigh…

Well, on to Chapter II!

Chapter II: AbductionEdit

Turdus arrived before Larus could make his escape. "Hello, Larus," he said, "going somewhere?" Larus sighed. "No, Turdus." He hid his travel bag* before Turdus could see it and walked to what he called the launch pad, an open window overlooking the sea. He once again inflated his pockets with ætherium and prepared to leap. "Wings out, farther," instructed Turdus. If Larus stretched his wings any further they wouldn't be attached to his body anymore. "Tuck in the gill," snapped Turdus, "honestly, that blemish is not aerodynamic!" Larus winced at the word "blemish." "Tail straight. Straighter. Straighter. Stretch it out. I know it hurts, just grin and bear it. Don't be a wimp. Are you a twoleg**?" Larus groaned. "ARE YOU A WIMPY TWOLEG!?" Larus shook his head no. "Tuck in that stupid gill," Turdus complained, "or you'll never get off the ground. Head straight, everything straight. No, not your wings! Listen! Think!" Turdus inspected him. "Chest out. You're a dragon, not a twoleg. You look like a lizard! No, you know what you look like? An aviceph***. Be proud, be strong. No, no, listen to me! You're sticking your chest out too far! Straight, Larus! No wonder you can't fly - why can't you listen to my instructions? Okay, that might do." Turdus turned his attention to Larus' pockets. "More ætherium." Larus moaned and inflated his already bulging pockets. "That'll do," Turdus decided. "Okay, you run for that opening as fast as you can and you leap as high into the air as you possibly can, and flap like you've never flapped before. FIGHT! Pretend the water is acid. If you land on it you will be fried to the bone. Don't be fried to the bone. Get into the air. RUN, RUN, AS FAST AS YOU POSSIBLY CAN!!" Larus could barely move in such an awkward position, let alone run, but he charged, pouring all of his energy into flying. It wasn't water anymore - it was a sea of lava stretching as far as the eye could see. The only escape was to fly. He lunged and flapped madly. Down stroke, angle, up stroke, thrust, other angle, rotate, stroke down at angle, stroke up at angle, straight, aerodynamic, tuck in the gill, more ætheri - His thoughts were rudely interrupted by a loud splash and the water swallowing him up. He could distantly hear Turdus cursing and wondered just how mad he could get. Larus didn't really want to find out.

In the Northern Front, Cælum's mysterious imprisoners marched him down the long, winding passageway buried many miles under the ice. It was some sort of labyrinth carved by fire or lava, obviously a great deal of it, for the ice was so cold that when he let out a burst of fire for warmth, it actually solidified on contact with the floor and walls. How in the blazes could fire solidify?**** Cælum's musing on the subject would have to wait, however, because he needed to pay attention if an escape was in order. He wondered how Nivelepus was faring. Nivelepus was an old friend of his who had abandoned being a warrior for politics. They had left the poor dragon on an iceberg to fend for himself with no company but Nanook bears.***** His mind was wandering again. When you were an elite warrior in the service of the Allied Nations, you had to focus. The icy labyrinth winded on downwards and eventually gave way to stone. It became obvious that the labyrinth was built over a much more ancient series of mazes. The region that Cælum was passing through was obviously an ancient minotaur city, though further down he guessed the labyrinths contained secrets far older than the minotaurs, maybe as ancient as the Elemental Clans. The temperature was also increasing, though it was still very, very cold. Cælum was marched further into the heart of the minotaur's city. At the centre, the original minotaur passages had been damaged or even destroyed by unknown forces. Suddenly, there was a shaking and a low moan like some gigantic leviathan was imprisoned in here. The moving glaciers shook the earth, demonstrating that even this far beneath the ground, the ice ruled. As if to prove the point, an abandoned side passage was buried by loose rock dislodged by the tremors. The tremors calmed down after a while, but the smaller debris hung in the air and stung Cælum's throat. A warm welcome indeed. Before long, it became clear the glacial tremors had destroyed most of what remained of the minotaurs and Cælum's captors had been forced to carve out a lot of rock to complete their stronghold. And stronghold it was, larger than even the greatest fortresses built by the age of warring empires before the Great Alliance of Terrarum was signed. Closer to the heart of the structure, new technologies made a great improvement over the ancient and worn-down minotaur structures and the damage became less apparent. They passed through wall after wall and gate after gate until they reached the heart of the headquarters of the Followers of Nebulus. Cælum gasped. It was a massive underground castle, ringed by moats of lava. Clouds hung beneath the ceiling far above, and through them he could barely make out the ice high above. Who were these dragons? What were they doing down here? And what did they want with his nephew Larus?

"LARUS! How long can you keep this up? Are you ever going to get off the ground or do you want to be a lizard the rest of your life? Even without accounting for that bizarre mutation, you're still a disgrace to your father! Now try again, and please, this time, just try to get it right for a change!" Larus weathered out the storm thundering from Turdus' mouth, but it still stung. Mutation. He hated that gill. He wished he could rip it off sometimes. Then, everything would be alright. He got ready to take another flight.

Cælum paced the cell. It wasn't really much of a cell, being quite a large, well furnished, luxurious room. But it was still a prison. The two guards turned to leave and the injured old dragon entered the room. He had been outfitted with an auric suit to prevent him from collapsing and to heal his injuries. For a moment, Caelum felt sorry for attacking him, but he wiped the thought from his mind and put on an impartial poker face. "Alright, what's your game, old man?" He smiled. "You don't beat around the bush, do you?" Cælum continued to stare. "My name is not important. Have you guessed it yet?" Cælum nodded. "You're Nebulus, the leader of the followers." Nebulus laughed, then winced. "That hurt. Yes, you are probably the best of the Allied Nation's warriors. Skilled, resourceful, smart, very dangerous. I'm sorry about the rough treatment we gave you. It was necessary to capture you, I'm afraid." Cælum snarled and walked to the other side of the room. "Not a bad prison you have here. The amenities are nice, but it's still a prison. Just no bars." He whirled around. "Is Nivelepus alright? All the citizens of Skjálka? What about Larus? What does he have to do with all this?" Nebulus sighed. "You'd better sit down. We'll be talking a while." Cælum sat. "Not like I have anyplace to go."

When Larus next emerged from the water, Turdus was (fortunately) gone and Larus' father was there, as well as the entire island council. Larus paused. "Um, hi?" Larus' aunt, who was in charge of finance, started sobbing. "What's wrong?" His dad sighed. "Larus, your uncle has been kidnapped."

Chapter II FootnotesEdit

More later

UpdateEdit

It's been a while since I edited this story and I'm working on other fanfics on different wikis, popped into the real world occasionally and summer has just blossomed here in… well, I'm not telling you where I live. I just think that the Draconum Æternum saga is, sadly, dead. Look, I think this story is awesome, and I don't want it abandoned, so maybe someone else could take over? The first names that pop to mind are SerpentKing and Shisaac, but (no offense, guys) their grammar kind of sucks, even though their storytelling is great. Shisaac and Serpentking, I think you could take this story in a really good direction, both of you, but I'd like to give someone else a chance. And you know, Somarinoa is a great writer too. If he's still here, I can't think of anybody better to find out what happens next to Larus, Pisce, his uncle and any other protagonists. If you don't care, I understand, but I just love the idea here. Contact me if you're interested.

And Khiónyx is a puppet of darker powers… but you never heard me say that.

I have returned. I am a king. Therefore, I am THE RETURN OF THE KING!! Speak to me, peasants! 01:01, June 21, 2013 (UTC)

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