22: The Sword and the Armour
The sun was setting, leaving its beautiful, orange glow across the Forest Realm. I love to watch the sun set. I remember when I was young, my mother and I would go by the lake close to our cave, lie down, and just watch the sunset, entranced by the sun’s beauty, even though Ice Dragons are incredibly weak to the Sun element. But… for the first time in my life, I wished that sunset had never come. Because at night… that’s when… the Nightmares come out.
Nightmares are truly horrible creatures that have a thirst for dragon blood. They do not have the strength to take on towns, but a single Nightmare could easily beat down and kill a lone dragon. They only appear at night, as they hate the sun. Not many dragons have encountered a Nightmare and lived to tell the tale, as they are so quiet, and amazingly powerful. Nightmares usually lurk deep in forests, specifically Dark Forests. Like the Netherworld Forest.
I soon arrived in the Ice Realm, just as the sun was half-set. Oh… Just to feel the freezing cold air run under my wings and against my face again… Just to see the pure white tundra and snowy forests again… just to watch ice sparrows flock around me, as if they were greeting me back, like I was an old friend of theirs… it was so much of a joy for me!
I flew in the direction of my family’s cave. It had been so long… I could only just remember where it was. My memory before I awoke in my slimy cave was still faint, even after some parts of it had been unlocked.
In the distance, I started to see my old cave. A beautiful, large, sturdy cave made of solid white ice and snow, my birthplace… where I grew up…
My mind suddenly showed me a forgotten memory, a memory that I wished I had never seen. I was flying towards the cave, and I heard screaming. I looked, and saw my sister outside; fleeing from what looked like me… my brother.
I saw him take a crossbow off his back, aim, and shoot my sister several times in the back, hearing her screams of pain, and I saw her collapse… bleeding chronically…
I quickly glided down to her, but before I could even get close, my brother had grabbed onto my back… I felt an intense pain on my neck…
Suddenly, I shook my head, and opened my eyes. I was lying on the ground near my cave, covered in snow, and with cold sweat running down my face. My wings were still stretched out… it was like my whole body had ceased moving, and I had just fallen to the ground while I was flying… I was lucky that the ground was covered with snow, otherwise I would have been seriously hurt.
I slowly stood up, my whole body quaking. I slowly wiped the sweat from my forehead, and folded my quivering wings by my side.
I looked at the snowy ground, and took several deep breaths. That was a horrible memory to relive… and it felt so real… like I was actually there… After a minute or so, I shook the snow from my body, and growled softly, to calm myself, and to steel myself for what was to come.
I slowly and shakily trudged through the deep snow to the mouth of the cave. With trembling claws, I put the runestone into the holder, and heard a click as the cave’s stone doors slowly opened.
Dim sunlight flooded into the cave, lighting only a small part of the cave. I slowly walked to a lantern that was bolted inside. I opened it, closed my eyes, and gently breathed fire onto the wick. The cave filled with light.
Tears started to fill my eyes, seeping between my eyelids, and running down the length of my muzzle.
“Surak virage… Surak virage, Sintarka…” I whispered.
(“Stay strong… Stay strong, Whirlwind…”)
I slowly opened my eyes…
I immediately looked away when I saw it. It made me retch, and just suddenly made me feel ill. I had seen so much blood already… but… just to think… this was the blood of my own mother and father… they died for no cause… in pain… they were all I had…
My own mind started to speak to me.
“Be strong, Whirlwind… you must let it go…”
I shook my head.
“Let it go…” It repeated.
“N… no… they… they…” I stammered, feeling as if I was going mad.
“Just let it go. They are gone… it is tragic… but they are watching you now, in the care of the Gods…”
“How… how can you tell me to do this? You’re just my mind… I don’t obey you…! I obey my heart more than you!” I said, angrily.
“You have to obey your mind sometimes. Your heart loves them, and won’t let them go… but you are just going to make yourself unwell by doing that. Let them go, but just never forget…”
“N… no! I… I can’t! I loved them!”
“So you did. And they loved you. But you have to fight on. You have to let go of your past…”
I roared in anger.
“I already did! I know none of my past!”
“You know all of your past, Whirlwind. It is just locked away.”
I started to cry slightly. There were so many feelings running through my soul… fear, frustration, anger, and regret for coming back to this place.
“P-please… stop it… stop tormenting me!” I cried.
“Let your past go, and I will leave you to yourself.”
“No! No, I can’t!”
“Then you will never know peace. Just let them go. Their wish would be for you to get on with your life, not grieve over their deaths.”
“B… but they died for no reason at all! I was never there… I was never there to protect them…!”
“You could have done nothing, my child. I am sorry… and I can understand your pain… but… you have to let them go now.”
I stayed silent.
“Just live your life. Take revenge if you must, if it will bring you any peace…”
I couldn’t get any words out. My legs and arms buckled with weakness. I collapsed to the ground, and started crying.
“Please, Whirlwind… you have to let it go. Just understand that they loved you. Do what you will to your brother, but do not weep over your family any more. Remember them always, but never stop your own life to weep over the loss of theirs. You are a talented dragon, and you should use your talents to their fullest… live your life. Never look back.”
The echoes of my mind disappeared, and I was alone again.
I was in a horrible state. I loved my family more than anyone could ever imagine, and I just wish that they hadn’t died like that. But… I knew the world needed my help against my brother, whether it wanted it or not. Nothing could bring my family back now. I had to fight for what was now, for the dragons of the present, and for the dragons of the future.
“Don’t look back…” I told myself, wiping the tears from my eyes, and standing up, bravely staring into the cave. I ignored the blood like it wasn’t there, and slowly walked towards my father’s rack of swords.
My heart jumped when I saw the white hilt of a sword that had a tag wrapped around it, with Draconic Script scrawled on it. I held the tag and read the script… “Sintarka”.
My father… he made this sword with his own two claws, for me…
I carefully lifted the sword from the rack, taking off the shining, metal belt that was clipped to it. The sword had a pure white hilt and a shining white metal sheath…
I unsheathed the sword and gasped in amazement.
The sword was unbelievable. It was incredibly detailed, and incredibly beautiful. The whole blade was icy white, and actually looked like a piece of pure ice. It varied in thickness, and it wasn’t just straight, the edge looked like gentle fire, with its dipping and curving edges.
The face of the sword was mainly encrusted with small, beautiful blue sapphires, but there were also some amazing diamonds and pearls there, too. The patterns that the jewels made were beautiful, just weaving, elegant patterns, and one of them seemed to resemble a Wyrm in shape. What interested me the most, though, was the Draconic Script that was gently etched along the sword’s face. When you looked directly at the text, it glowed with a beautiful, bright shade of orange. I tried to read it, but it was just nonsense. It might not have been Draconic Script at all; maybe it was just a strange pattern. There was another line of writing on the opposite side of the sword, but that was just as unintelligible as the first line.
I ran one of my silver talons across the edge of the blade, and a gentle ringing sound came from the sword as I did it, as if it was responding to me. The blade was extremely sharp, the sharpest blade I had ever touched. As I held the sword and slowly waved it, cool vapour elegantly trailed from the blade. I touched the blade, and it gave me an extremely cold sting. The sword was very, very powerful. I had to be careful with it.
I slowly sheathed the sword and put it back in the rack. I took the plated belt and fitted it, and then clipped the sword to it. Just by wearing it, I felt stronger, more confident… just like a true warrior. I felt protected by the sword, I knew it was there for me to use whenever I needed it.
I went to kneel down to give thanks to my father, but stopped when I saw a piece of rolled-up parchment lying near my feet. I looked at it curiously. Where had that come from? Had I just overlooked it? Did it fall out of the sword’s sheath? I doubt someone could have just placed it there when I wasn’t looking.
I picked it up, and unrolled it. It was a messily written note, and the writing was in Draconic Script. I read it, quietly whispering the words to myself.
“Whirlwind… my son… if you ever find this note, then I please ask you to take this sword, with my blessings. I was meant to give it to you when you turned eighty, but I never had the chance. Your brother… I never knew this would happen… I never imagined he’d use his bond like this… I am so sorry. Please, forgive a dying old dragon. Take what you need from this place, as we will not need it in the presence of the Gods. Always believe in yourself, Whirlwind…”
I rolled up the note, and wiped a tear from my eye. My father… he used his last strength for me… the last thing he thought of before he died was me… I felt so honoured… and I just felt as if he was watching me from the heavens… as if all of my family were watching me…
I looked over to the other side of the cave, at a cabinet that seemed to let off a faint white glow from inside. I cautiously moved to it, heart beating ever faster as I got closer. As I looked through the glass panes, I gasped again in amazement. With trembling claws, I slowly opened the doors. When they were fully open, I froze, and my mouth opened slightly in awe.
Before me was a full suit of dragon armour, and it was no less than the most incredible armour I had ever seen in my life. It was forged by my father’s own two claws, with so much love and attention. The armour was pale blue, and each piece gave off a beautiful faint white glow. Pure diamonds encrusted the armour in very specific places. It was completely spotless, it was just… just… awesome.
Another vision intruded my mind. I was young again, watching my father at his workspace, carefully and lovingly forging this very suit of armour.
“Father… there are holes in the gauntlets. Why? Do you mean to do that?” I asked.
My father laughed, and looked at me, smiling.
“Yes, I do mean to do that, my child. Why do you ask?” He asked me.
I shook my head.
“I… I am just interested, that’s all. I love watching you work, you look like you enjoy it.”
He nodded, and smiled at me again.
“I do.” He began to explain. “I don’t put the talon guards on the gauntlets, because dragons have different length talons. A dragon with very long talons wouldn’t be able to fit their claw into a gauntlet with very short talon guards, would they? And if the dragon’s talons are shorter than the gauntlet’s guards, the dragon may not be able to control his attacks as much. You understand me?”
“Yes, I do. It could help with climbing, too, right? And it’s more honourable to fight with your own claws, right?” I asked.
He looked at me, impressed.
“Why, yes! You are wise, for your age, Whirlwind! It seems we have a young warrior growing up, huh?”
I smiled with pride, and continued to watch him work.
I shook my head, and I was back in the cave again, still in front of the cabinet.
“So that’s why the holes are there…” I said, looking at the gauntlets and the greaves.
I looked to see if each piece of the set was there. The armour set consisted of a full body plate, two leg guards, two arm guards, a pair of talonless gauntlets, a pair of talonless greaves, a pair of wing guards and a beautifully designed helmet, with a pair of horn guards.
After seeing it was all there, and all in perfect condition, I reached out to take the body plate, and as I touched it, a cold feeling passed through my talons, down my fingers and through my blood, making me shiver, but in a pleasant way, that felt somewhat… protective.
I encased myself in the body plate. It fit perfectly. I couldn’t hold up the weight of it properly at first, but I eventually got used to it. I fitted the arm guards, and put on the gauntlets, flexing my fingers to get a feel for them. I then fit the leg guards, and the greaves.
It was strange to get used to having no talon guards in the gauntlets and the greaves. The gauntlets weren’t much of a problem, and actually felt better than having talon guards, but the greaves, I just couldn’t seem to grip the ground as well as I could without them on. I contemplated leaving them behind, but I just thought I would get used to them.
As I started to equip the wing guards, I ran into a problem. It was very difficult to fit one side, then fit the other side while keeping the first side balanced on the wing. It took me nearly fifteen minutes to get it right, and clip them together.
Most wing guards are designed so the two sides are hinged together, so you can easily fit them, but they do not mould to the shape of your wings, so some fighters find it uncomfortable and end up damaging their wings when they fly if the wing guards are too small or too large. Most of the time they couldn’t fly at all, because the guards were either too heavy or were very restrictive to movement. The ones that fighters could fly with were very thin, so they were horribly unprotective, especially to anything very sharp or explosive.
My father had worked hard, and had solved that problem, but this was the only set he had made. The guards were made from an extremely light material that we called Toramest, Draconic for “Weightless Metal”. It is strong enough for armour, but isn’t powerful enough for swords. The wing guards had about eight segments on each half of each wing guard, and that helped them mould to the shape of your wing, thus making it easier to fly. They worked, and were seriously protective and so light, but were just such a pain in the ass to get on.
I flexed my wings to test them. They felt awesome. To complete the look, I took the helmet, and put it on slowly. I picked up one of the horn guards, and suddenly remembered.
“You are hornless, dragon!” An evil voice screamed inside my head. “Hornless!”
I shook my head, and growled. I left the horn guards in the cabinet, sadly.
As I looked at myself in the mirror in the cabinet, even without my horns, I felt so powerful just wearing the armour. It gave me great confidence, and going to the Netherworld Forest no longer felt like such a daunting task.
I knelt down.
"Aretaka, Nafdak." I whispered, tears in my eyes.
I’m sure you can translate that by yourself, Human. I got back on my feet, and walked out of the cave proudly, head held higher than normal.
I took the runestone from the cave, and watched the stone doors slowly close. I looked into the distance for a few seconds, before taking off with the clinking of armour. I headed south, for the Dark Realm.
I shivered while I was flying. It wasn’t because I was cold, it was because I was just dreading going to that cursed realm. For as long as I could remember, I had hated Dark Dragons. The only one I had met nearly killed me. I just prayed I never ran into a Dark Wyvern. I hated Wyverns. Their intimidating appearance, their raw power, their hot-headed personality…
What’s more, the sun had set. Darkness.
Nightmares would be out now.