The Dragons of Keanna - Book II
by Jandar Tyr
Eheren and Denner rode the morning skies as the sun began to rise before them. They were eager to reach there destination which only Kalin knew. He had been directing them all night from stories told by his father and grandfather of the tales told by their sires. It was time to see if all the stories were true.
Ganon Ka, was a very powerful mage from a time more than a thousand years ago. It was said, he was the court mage for the most powerful king of the age in a land not many even remembered. His king thought of nothing but conquest. He had swallowed up all the surrounding countries and was looking for ways to get at those he knew he couldn't take by force. Ganon's magic was the key. He commanded him to create spells and enchantments that could make him as powerful as the gods and Ganon succeeded. He made spells that could capture the power of different god. As a matter of fact, he made spells that could hold and imprison certain gods. All these spells he put in a powerful magic tome. These spells he used for his king which pleased him. His king then went on a mad campaign destroying all of his enemies. Soon his realm spread all across the world and his king was master of an entire continent. But still he wasn't happy. Ganon had done all he could for him but he wanted more. The king ruled most of Keanna, now he wanted the heavens too. So he commanded Ganon to make him a god. In his chamber Ganon began to put together the most powerful magic he could. What he didn't realize was that the gods were watching, and they weren't happy. How dare this mortal presume to be one of them. How dare he wish for their power. Many wanted to just come down and crush him. Some tried, and were captured by Ganon's magic. That was the last straw. They rained all hell down on the king, and as powerful as he was, he couldn't stand the power of all the gods against him. He fell and with Ganon, soon they both were in the underworld. Prisoners of the very gods they sought to conquer.
"That was some story." Tanis called to Kalin.
[Indeed it was.] Denner said. [How much of it was true?]
"All of it, and I can prove it to you." Kalin pointed to the west. "In those mountains we'll find the pages containing a spell of Ganon's. Which one, I don't know. But there is a spell in Ganon's book that will release the Baron."
[Then that's where we are heading.] Eheren told them. [Follow me down.]
Before them stood the Capris Mountains, a bleak place known for many dangers. Many have gone in, but very few have made their way out. Eheren and Denner circled the mountain waiting for Kalin to pick an area to search. Once he did, Eheren found a clearing where they could land and begin their search. Tanis and Kalin climbed down from Eheren and Denner's back as they shifted back to human form. From above the mountain looked bleak, but from the ground it looked more devastated. Like a war had gone on here for centuries. All vegetation here was dead, no animals could be heard. There wasn't even much wind blowing.
"This is worse than Polan's mountain." Denner said as he looked around. “And he absorbed life."
"What could have done this?" Tanis asked. "War?"
"I don't think so." Kalin told them. "I think it's magic."
"Yes." Eheren said. "This place is full of magic. The pages here are the cause, I can feel it."
"So can I." Kalin said.
He picked up a small rock and tossed it up into the air. Then with the snap of a finger, it exploded. They all looked at each other.
"Careful what you do here." Kalin said. "This is probability magic. Anything can happen."
"Are we in any danger?" Denner asked Eheren. He remembered the last magical place he had been in. That turned out to be good, but this could be different.
"Mags tells me we should hurry." Eheren said. "Which way Kalin?"
Kalin closed his eyes and concentrated. In his mind he saw all the surrounding area. To the east, he saw a glow. That had to be the way. He opened his eyes and pointed east.
"Let's go." Denner said. "I don't like this place at all."
He headed into the dead forest in the lead. He had his sword drawn ready for whatever was out there. In a single file they moved into the trees. Loud rustling noises could be heard from their passage. This worried Denner, but since the ground was covered with dried leaves, there wasn't much to be done about it. As they walked, Mags taught Eheren some of the ways of magic. How to probe for life in any form. There was no feeling for normal animal life, or insects. But there was something. Mags pointed it out to Eheren.
[Can you feel that?] He asked.
[Yes, what is it?] Eheren asked.
[It's a lifeform.] Mags told him. [But like nothing I've felt before. It's not as warm as you get from living beings. See, probe the others.]
He did, and felt their life running through their veins. Even Tanis the vampire had warm blood in him as he wasn't one of the nightwalkers.
[Now send the probe back out.] Mags told him. Doing as he was told, Eheren probed all around them. It wasn't the feel of death that he had felt back at the temple. It was something different. He was confused by what he felt.
[Beware Eheren.] Mags warned him. [This whole mountain seems alive. Tell the others.]
Eheren told them what Mags had discovered. Everyone looked around. The rustling of the trees now looked more deliberate than before.
"Careful where you step." Denner said. "Break no tree branches nor hurt any plants. The mountain will attack us then."
"We could use Dreik's help here." Eheren called out.
"I know." Denner said keeping a careful eye on the barren lands. "But it would take him too long to get here. I don't want to stay that long. Any spells that can help here, either of you?"
"I can find what we're looking for." Kalin said. "Can you imitate an earth dragon?"
"Not one with enough power to help." Denner said. "Eheren?"
"It seems calm now." He told them. "Let's hope it stays that way."
"Exactly what are we talking about?" Tanis asked. He let Eheren get closer to explain.
"Somehow, the magic of the pages that are here somewhere, have affected all the life on the mountain." Eheren explained.
"It's created an earth elemental." Kalin told him.
"I don't know much about magic." Tanis said.
"That's funny." Eheren gave him a curious look. "You have magic, you know."
"Very Powerful magic, I can feel it in you." Eheren smiled. "You just need to learn to use it."
"If you say so." Tanis didn't believe him. He'd never felt it or tried to use it. He knew his father and his sister could use magic, but he never could.
"Tanis." Eheren said. "We don't have time now, but if you stay in Keanna, we'll teach you and you'll see."
"I'll be staying." He said. "I promise you that."
On they walked with the eerie feeling of being watched. Sometimes branches would reach for one of them and they would carefully untangle themselves and move on. But it seemed the holds were getting more and more stronger the further in they went. They were going to have to do something or soon they would be fighting for every step they took.
"What repels an earth elemental?" Denner asked.
"Not much." Kalin said as he was grabbed by his leg. Quickly Tanis came to his aid and pulled his leg free. But vines crept in and began to twist all around him. The more he pulled the stronger they became.
"Help me!" He said. "I can't get loose!!"
Denner ran back and slashed at the vines. Suddenly an ear shattering scream could be heard coming from everywhere. Denner shifted into the form of a Pegasus.
[Get on. We fly from here.] Tanis climbed on his back and Denner took off avoiding the branches reaching for them. Eheren shifted while he ran. He grabbed Kalin in his talons and leaped up. His wings beating furiously as they gained altitude and joined Denner and Tanis. As they flew the mound where the pages were buried came into view.
"There." Kalin pointed at a mound of earth ahead of them. Below them the ground began to shake and rise up. It began to take on the form of a huge torso with long arms and a bald head. It reached out to grab Denner, as he ducked and flew past the hand. It missed and howled at them then pounded on the ground.
[I'm going to distract it by firing lightning bolts at it.] Eheren sent to Denner. [Once I have it's attention, you slip in and get the pages. Move fast, I don't know how long we'll be able to hold it.]
Swooping high and around the elemental, Eheren sent bolt after bolt into its chest. It swung at them and missed as Eheren rammed into its head then smacked it with his tail. Quickly a hand came up and tried to crush them, but Eheren was too fast. By the time the hand closed, Eheren and Kalin were blasting its back.
Having led the elemental away, Denner dropped down and landed on the mound. Tanis jumped off and began to dig.
[Move over.] Denner told him. Shifting again into an Ogre, he tore into the mound throwing dirt into the air. Tanis looked over to the fight and saw Kalin send a fire blast from Eheren's back and destroy an arm. Dirt and dust rained down on them. Tanis let out a cheer until he noticed the arm reforming.
[I found it!!] Denner sent. There at the bottom of the pit, Tanis saw a chest uncovered by Denner. It didn't look very heavy, but it did look old.
[My hands are too big. Get the chest and let's go!]
Tanis scrambled into the pit and grabbed the chest, then he realized he couldn't climb out.
[I got you]
The Ogre's arm reached in and pulled him out. With another quick shift, Denner became a manticore ready to fly. Tanis jumped back on his back and they were in the air again just in time to see Eheren and Kalin blast the elemental. It exploded in a shower of debris and a screeching howl.
"We have it!!" Tanis called to them
"Then we go before it reforms and attacks again." Kalin said. "Come on Eheren. Let's get away from this mountain."
[I agree.] And side by side they flew off. There were more pages to be found.
Things were not going the way Balthazar wanted them to. He had lost his son to the dragons as well as that bitch of a daughter. He swore he would make them pay for their treachery, there disloyalty. He knew it was all their mother's fault. She was the weak hearted one that couldn't stand his ambitions. She would be by his side now if she hadn't turned on him to protect Athene. Now Tanis was gone and his whole family could be considered enemies. That was fine with him. they would've been in the way. Balthazar rose out of his chair and walked to the chest where he kept all his magic paraphernalia. He opened it and dug down deep past all his cursed items and the case of poisons he used when necessary. He was looking for the Black Candle of Farsight. An item he had crafted years ago to keep watch on Valkar, Arturus and certain other enemies. Angela included. He smiled and thought back to the day of her betrayal.
It was the day of Athene's birth. Angela lay in her bed ready to give birth while Balthazar paced the room. He knew his and Angela's child would be powerful, and that his patron goddess would want her sacrificed in her behalf. Angela didn't like the idea, Balthazar knew that. Even though she had agreed to it. That was why he wouldn't leave her alone. Her contractions were come on faster now. The baby would be here soon. Balthazar waited anxiously for the birth. Once the baby was put to death, the goddess would favor him and help turn things in his way. He would at last become the ruler of Yadessa, and then he could make his move on the rest of the world. The thought pleased him. He would turn this into a vampire world, his world, his kingdom. There at the bottom in the corner he saw the candle case. Balthazar took it out and placed it on his desk. Dimming the lights, he sat down and spoke the spell to light the candle. The room dimmed even more as it flared to life. Balthazar looked up at the ceiling. There colors swirled and mixed. Flashes from his life passed by as he watched. He saw himself exiled again. The whole court of Yadessa was there to see his shame. All at the hands of their beloved King Valkar. Balthazar's anger flared up. He couldn't wait until his forces caught him again. He would pay with his life. The next scene he saw was of the day he met Angela. How beautiful she was with her dazzling smile and midnight black hair. He almost wished she was here with him instead of in her prison. As the scene changed he saw his brother Arturus, that weak minded fool. He saw him smuggle Athene away after she was born. He still didn't know how Angela had done it. One minute she was giving birth, then she handed him the crying baby and he left for the altar. But when he stabbed down, there was nothing there in the baby's clothes. Just an illusion that cried out. Balthazar stormed back to the bed chambers and demanded to know where she had hidden the baby. Angela looked up at him as if to say I've won and laughed.
"She's safe from you and your evil gods." She said. "By now she's miles away and not even your god can find her."
"You think you've won?" Balthazar was so mad; all he could think of was her death. But he couldn't do that. He needed her magic. She was more powerful then him. He just had to find a way to control her. Then the answer came to him. Balthazar reached out and pulled her from the bed. She couldn't fight. Her magic had been weakened by childbirth. But it wouldn't always be like that. He had to hide her in a place that would keep her weak. He knew the perfect place. In the dungeons of the old palace there were special cells for gifted prisoners. Even Angela's powerful magic couldn't get her out.
There he kept her for years, taking advantage of her whenever he wanted. He even got her pregnant again with Tanis and this baby he took. But he raised him instead of killing him letting her know he was at his side and that she would never know him was torture enough he thought.
Balthazar sat and watched his past go by. He was looking for a clue as to what his next move should be. But he didn't think it would be a scene from his life. Athene was the one he should be after. All these years, and he still couldn't corral his own daughter. It was time for that to change. She was the way to Valkar. He whispered her name and the scenes began to change. The ceiling grew dark then again color mixed in. There she was with a few of the dragons near an old cottage. They were talking about meeting someone. Balthazar guessed they were talking about Valkar or Azeal. If he could find a way to isolate her, he'd have her. He needed someone smart that he could trust for this job. Balthazar smiled, he had the perfect one for the job.
The sun burned high in the skies over Altoria as Valkar, Azeal, and the Shadows finished there night's work. Through battle and magic, there wasn't a single vampire left in the city. Jayce had left orders with the city council to keep watch at night for anyone with blazing eyes. That would be how they could tell nightwalkers from Valkar's people. Valkar explained that his people were not like these vampires. These were the undead. They were wild blood thirsty monsters that lived for the hunger by night. And they couldn't hide their blazing red eyes. If in fact they suspected someone, they should hold them and expose them to sunlight, that would be the true test.
Jayce and his Shadows met up with Valkar and his son, it was time to move on. Jandar had sent them a message to meet Athene in the cottage near Tir Na. They all said goodbyes to the Altorians and took off to meet her.
"How long will they be?" Toric asked. He and Ariel had promised to stay and watch over Athene, even though she claim that she could take care of herself. But Jandar wouldn't hear of her being there alone. Not with all the vampires looking for her.
"Altoria's pretty far away." Athene told him. "They won't be here until the morning."
Ariel walked over to Athene and handed her a cup of tea. From the tired look on Athene's face, she could tell she wasn't sleeping much.
"You still having the nightmares?" She asked as she handed her the tea.
Athene took the tea and thanked her. Together the three went and sat down at the table.
"I don't understand the nightmares." She leaned forward and placed her hand to her temple.
"What are you dreaming?" Ariel asked.
"It's strange." She said. "I keep dreaming of a woman being tortured by my father. He's draining her magic every day. I can hear her cries when I sleep. The other night, somehow she got away. It wasn't for long. They chased her down and recaptured her before her magic could regenerate and she could fight."
"Do you know her?" Toric asked.
"No!" She said. Athene was getting a little upset. "I can see her in her cell, but not her face. All I see is her hair. It's pure white. I don't know anyone like that."
"You need to relax a bit." Ariel soothed her. "There's nothing we can do right now. You should get some rest."
"I can't. I don't want to dream again." She took a sip of tea." I'm going to walk outside with Cheshire for a bit. I'll be alright."
She stood and left the room going outside. There she saw Cheshire the dragoncat lying in the sun. He looked up at her and made a purring sound. Athene reached down and ran her hand along his brow ridge. He purred as she pet him.
"Come on boy, lets walk." Cheshire shook and followed her as she walked down the path away from the cottage. The walk began to relax her. The smell of the flowers and the heat of the sun soothed her mind. Athene loved being outside. As a young girl, she was taught all about nature and different plants that were useful for spells and potions. As she walked, she identified many things. Wormwood, oleander, she saw wolfsbane over to the left and made a note in her mind to gather some of it. She looked up at the sky and breathed a sigh. Her head was clearing. She sat down with Cheshire to rest for a bit. A cool breeze blew and the smell of honeysuckle drifted on the wind. Athene thought about the white haired woman. She wanted to help her. Athene couldn't stand the thought of what her father was doing to her. She thought of her mother. She would want her to somehow get her away from him. Athene's eyes became heavy, she was very tired. She thought maybe a few minutes rest would help her. She knew Cheshire would keep her safe, so she gave in and fell asleep.
Quietly through the forest, four hooves walked. Bronson walked with his bow out. He was hunting his dinner. Bronson was a Centaur, he had patched black and white colored fur covering his lower extremities and long black hair which he wore in a braid. He had seen a wild boar run into the bush. He made his was closer carefully ready to fire. He could hear grunting coming from behind the brush. Slowly he crept forward. He readied himself to fire and broke through. Suddenly a large monster leaped at him. It looked like some strange cat. Only it was reptilian. Bronson fired his arrow. The beast jumped to the side as the arrow flew by it. It gave out a mighty roar as it readied itself to leap on Bronson. He pulled his sword to defend himself.
Athene grabbed him and pulled the growling Dragoncat back. Bronson backed away from the two. He must have surprised them while she slept.
"I'm sorry sir." Athene said. "I wasn't expecting anyone to be around here."
"What are you doing with that beast!" Bronson still held his sword out ready to defend himself or the lady. Cheshire reared up at him and hissed.
"No Cheshire!, Get down!" She scolded him. Cheshire stood before her to protect her. He didn't trust the Centaur and didn't want him to get too close to her.
"My name is Athene." She smiled at the handsome Centaur. He sheathed his sword and reached out to take her hand. Cheshire began to growl louder.
"I am Bronson, Your friend doesn't trust me it seems."
"He doesn't do well with new people at first." She told him. "This is my garden. My cottage is just up the road. Can I offer you a drink? You must be thirsty."
"Aye, that I am." Bronson wiped his brow.
"Follow us." She started back up the walkway.
"What are you doing out here? I know there are no Centaur herds near here."
"You're right. I'm alone. My herd camped far to the west beyond Yadessa. We hunted and lived along the Capis mountains until the damned vampires came. They slaughtered my whole clan in the night. I was out hunting alone. When I came back, there were a few of the red eyed devils still there. I made quick work of them. I caught them and staked them out and waited for dawn. Then watched as the sun turned them all too burning heaps of ash."
"I'm sorry to hear that." Athene said. "My friends and I are fighting them too. Where are you headed?"
"I've heard of a town north of here a few days walk." He told her. "There I've heard many different people are banning together to fight them. I'm going to join, if they can use a good hunter/warrior."
"New Keanna?" She asked.
"Yes, that's the name I heard." He looked at her in wonder."
"How do you know of this place?"
"It's my home."
They rounded a bend and her cottage came into view.
"Here we are." She pointed to her cottage." Lady, why are you out here alone?"
"Did I say I was alone?" From the doorway Ariel and Toric came out to greet them. Toric held his hand in a way that he could cast a spell in the blink of an eye. It seemed Cheshire wasn't the only untrusting one.
"Athene, where have you been?" Ariel said. "We've been worried."
"Just in the garden." She said. " I've met a new friend."
She introduced them to Bronson and they all went into the cottage. Athene an icy pitcher of water from her cold box and gave it to the Centaur. He drank deeply and thanked her.
"Our guest will be arriving in the morning." Ariel said. "Will we be ready to go?"
"All set and ready." Athene said.
"You have guest coming?" Bronson asked. Together they went back out to the front of the cottage. Athene sat while Bronson stood by her.
"Yes, we're all leaving in the morning for Yadessa." She told him. "We're taking the country back from Balthazar, my father."
Bronson stepped back away from her. He just realized what she was. He looked closely at her. Her eyes were gray, not red.
"You're a vampire!"
“Yes I am." She said. "I was born one."
"But we're out in the sun and you're not burning."
"You don't know much about vampires." Athene told him. "As a true born vampire, I don't fed on victims. Only nightwalkers do. Those with burning eyes and bloodlust kill people. They're a curse we can't abide. It's our task to wipe them out. We don't want our people going back to our dark days of being hunted again. It took us centuries to lift the curse. We'll never go back to that."
"You sound proud of what you are."
"I am." She said. "We all are, except those that want to turn the world into a terrible place."
"What do you mean?"
"My father and his people wish us to be the stalkers we use to be. Our King fights against that, and he's right to fight. Those days were dark and terrible. All the wars and being hunted by everyone and no sunlight. We couldn't breed while cursed. We're beyond that now and we'll stay alive. No more undead. You have traveled through Yadessa, You saw the people. What did you think?"
Bronson's tail switched back and forth as he thought about the journey.
"I didn't see many people when I was there." He said. "All I saw was some soldiers chasing after a white haired woman. I couldn't help her. There were too many after her."
Athene was shocked at what she had just heard. That had to be the woman in her dreams. The timing was just right for him to be passing through Yadessa. She needed to know where that had been and what exactly had happened.
"Where did you see her?" she asked. "This is important. I have to find her."
"I can take you there if you want." He smiled and held out his hand to her. Cheshire growled at Bronson. He didn't trust the newcomer, and there was no way he would allow her to go off with him alone. The dragoncat moved over and stood with Athene.
"It looks like he wants to come with us." Athene smiled.
"We should hurry." Bronson said. "The way she was treated, she may be in danger. Do you think your friends will want to help?"
Athene thought about it. Of course they would, but it would be quicker if just the two of them went. No, three. She forgot about Cheshire.
"I think the less, the better." She told him. "My friends will want to help, but I can't put them in danger."
"Then we leave tonight." Bronson said. "I will make sure you get there safely. After your friends go to sleep, meet me in the garden and we will be off."
Athene nodded her agreement and went into the cottage. Bronson waved to her and trotted off to ready himself for their trip.