The Dragons of Keanna - Book II
by Jandar Tyr
Back in the Golden Griffin, Jax and Atol entered the inn. The place was empty now because of the late hour. Innkeeper Marik greeted them and asked if they would be needing anything. Jax waved him off but Atol thanked him and they headed up the stairs to their room. The innkeeper had given them three rooms. Aramis had taken the middle room. Jax knocked and Alee opened the door and let them in.
"Three of my favorite brothers in one room." Atol smiled and hugged Alee.
Aramis looked at him like he didn't know him, and he didn't. Atol reached for him for a hug and Aramis pulled back.
"He doesn't remember us." Alee told him. "All those years down there struggling against her scrambling his senses."
Atol walked around him.
"How can I help?"
[Give him back his memories.] Jax sent. [Remind him who we are.]
"I'll have to dig around in there to bring them out." He told them. "It won't be easy."
"Do it." Aramis said, "I need to know who I am."
"That's easy." Atol smiled. "You're my oldest brother, the god of life. Vitale."
"But I don't know this Vitale, or you."
"You will when I'm done." Atol pulled over two chairs, one for him and one for Aramis. "Get comfortable. This may take some time."
The sun blazed behind the mountain as hell came to the city of the gods. Muerte was home again, back in the cloud city the gods called home. As she walked power burned through the air around her. She was here to bring her special gift to the gods. She smiled. Death walked here even for the immortals. The path she took led her through the gardens of beauty that surrounded the city. A gray field of death extended in front of her as she walked. Everything wilted and died as she passed. On the lower levels of the cloud city lived the lesser gods. Children of the elder gods like Liset, called the daughter of dawn. She ran from her small manse and into Muerte. She stopped before her with fear in her eyes and looked down. Anywhere she moved would take her onto the gray area. She saw Muerte standing among the dead flowers.
"No!" She said as Muerte stepped toward her. She fell to the ground all the vitality drawn out of her.
"Don't worry." Muerte said. "The rest will soon follow."
On she walked passed the manses of Raine, god of Spring and his wife Cleo a river nymph. They died in each other's arms as she passed. All along her field of death moved before her. Soon the lower ranks were desolate and void of life. Above, the more powerful gods made ready to fight her. They cast their magic and threw their sacred weapons at her. But none of them could pierce her death field. So one by one they died. Some were smart and abandoned the fight and ran to earth. They knew she was unstoppable and thought maybe another time might be a good idea. So Sazar the god of the seas and Serina the war goddess fled leaving the rest behind to fight. And fight they did or at least they tried. All through the cloud city, Muerte sent lesser gods to their deaths, Finally she came to the steps of Fortis. The palace of her father and mother. The most prestigious palace on the mountain. Muerte walked up the marble steps and pushed open the doors and entered. There she found all the servants to her father. In the forefront stood Jorek, god of invention.
"What have you done, Muerte?" He screamed at her. "You have to stop this. This is your family your killing."
"Yes." She said. "But I am death. How can I do anything else?"
"But death should come at one's time." Jorak pleaded. "Not like this. You're killing everything that lives."
"That's right." She stepped closer to them. Everyone there looked down at her death field and moved back.
"As I said, I am death. And this is my gift to the world. I will empty this world of the living. Then move on to find the next world and kill everything there. The more I kill, the more powerful I'll get. My plan is to rival my father. Death will be eternal. Once I'm as strong as he is, it will be his turn."
"You're mad!!" Jorak said. He raised his staff and shot a blast at her. It hit her in her chest and she laughed. It had no effect on her. "Rimnar will not let you get away with this!"
"Now it's your turn." Muerte reached out her arms to them and the death field enclosed them. All immortal life drained from them and they fell to the floor.
She looked around at all the bodies in the front hall of her father's palace. None of the major gods were there, but almost all of the minor ones were. She smiled. She would hunt down the others in time. But now, she had a planet to kill and there was someone she needed to find. So it was time to move on.
From his castle in Vasagi, Balthazar watched the sun slip past the horizon. One of his nightwalkers had reported back, He had found where Valkar was hiding. He knew he better get to him for his own protection. If Muerte showed up, he wanted her attention on them instead of him. So he sent someone to make contact with him. He hoped he would hear something tonight.
Back in Prafa, Valkar sat with Jandar and Rage talking about how things were moving along. Reports from the scouts said the sighting of nightwalkers were becoming less and less. This pleased them but confused them to. For some reason Balthazar was pulling his nightwalkers back to Yadessa.
"This means he's pulling his army close to him."
"You think he's up to something? Jandar asked.
"I think he's a devious schemer." Valkar said. "He could be up to anything."
Just then the door opened and Azeal ran in.
"Father, you have to come quick!"
"What's wrong?" He asked."
"There are nightwalkers outside the gate."
"Are we under attack?" Rage asked as they all jumped to their feet.
"I don't know." Azeal said. "There's only three of them."
They all looked at each other.
"Three?" Valkar said as he headed for the door with Rage and Jandar following.
"It could be a distraction." Rage said.
"I guess we'll see soon enough." Jandar summoned his staff just in case and all three of them ran for the gate.
Up on the wall they looked out to see the three nightwalkers wait for them. It seems they had come and asked for Valkar by name in Balthazar's name. Once there, Angela and Arturus joined them. They wanted to know what was going on out there.
"We're about to find out." Azeal told them.
Down in front of the gate stood three nightwalkers. They were dressed in rags with no weapons or armament. Pitiful creatures Jandar thought.
"We have come with a message from the King of the Vampires." A nightwalker called out.
"I'm the King of the Vampires." Valkar called back. "Not your master. What does he want?"
"My Master wants a meeting with you as soon as possible." It called from below.
"Why?" Valkar asked. "Does he plan to give up?"
"He did not give us a reason, just the message." They answered. "What shall I tell him?"
"To go to hell." Athene said as she appeared at her mother's side. They all smiled.
"What do you think?" Valkar asked.
"You can't be serious?" Angela pulled Valkar around to face her. "After all the things he's done? You can't trust him!"
"You know I don't trust him." Valkar said. "Not for a second. But we have to see what he wants."
"No you don't." Arturus said. "It's a trap."
"Maybe." Rage said. "But maybe not. We don't know, that's the point. Besides, we'll protect him. He's not going alone."
"Damn right, he's not going alone." Azeal said. "I'm going"
"So is Sting." Angela said.
"Anyone else?" Valkar asked.
"Yes, us." Jandar raised his hand.
"Let's make it a party then." Valkar through up his hands.
"Be serious Father." Azeal told him. "We go or no one goes."
"Aren't I the king here?" Valkar said sternly. "I could order you all to stay."
"You could." Rage said. "But do you think we would follow that order? Take it from me, my clan wouldn't obey.
"But my people will if those are my orders." Valkar said sternly. "I am king and I expect to be obeyed. Is that clear to you all?"
"Yes father" Azeal said. "We will obey your wishes."
"Very well." Valkar turned back to the nightwalkers.
"Tell your master, we'll meet him in Jorania." Valkar called to them. "There will be six in my party. If I find that he brings even one more, he won't find us there waiting. Tomorrow, noon."
"He may not agree to a meeting during the day." They called back.
"Then there will be no meeting. Now get away from my city."
"As you wish."
The nightwalkers turned and swiftly ran off into the forest and out of sight.
"You think it's a trap?" Valkar asked as they all left the wall.
"I don't know." Jandar said. "But we'll be prepared. Jorania is a good choice, it's deserted now. I'll have Jayce send his sunbirds to check it and cover our backs."
"Great idea. As a matter of fact." Valkar waved Azeal over to him. "Send some people out to check the forest. I want to be sure they're all gone."
"Right away father."
Aramis took his seat in front of Atol. He was very nervous, he had no idea exactly what Atol was going to do to him. He knew he was about to enter his mind and look for past memories. Memories he wasn't sure were even there.
"Relax Aramis." Atol told him. "I'll try not to hurt you."
"Yes." He said. "The mind is a very delicate thing. And this is not something I like doing."
Aramis looked from one brother to the other. He wanted to get up and forget the whole thing. But he needed his memories back, and he needed it now.
"Let's get this over with." He said as he griped the chair.
"Look at me Brother." Atol told him. "Into my eyes. I'm going to go into your mind and together we will try to bring the real you out. Relax and listen to my voice. Find peace in it. Feel the love I have for both you and Jax. When I tell you to close your eyes we will both dive into the past. Close your eyes now."
Aramis closed his eyes and saw memory sparks firing off. He saw himself as a young man. drifting in and out of the clouds. He was flying with Jax. They were laughing and looking at the world from up high. He saw himself sitting in a field growing flowers, He could smell their fragrant scent in the air. He then saw himself in the ocean creating plants and different types of fish. This was something he could feel he loved. Making life. Breathing life into different creations.
Then he saw himself in a marble palace standing in front of two people. A beautiful woman with stars in her eyes and hair. Her breath was like a spring breeze. He knew this was his mother, Sailia. He remembered being with her in the winds as they created beautifully colored birds. Then the man he learned what life really meant from, his father Rimnar, the high father. Rimnar sitting on his throne teaching him compassion and loyalty. Bravery and sympathy, all the things the god of life would need. He remember his sister Rhee and growing plants and trees for the mortals to feed on. How pleased she was with his help to feed the world. Then he saw Alee and Alea and he rode with each of them on their journey through the day and night skies. One by one the faces of all his family passed through his mind. Then he saw the beautiful Muerte and a stab of pain went through him. One look in her eyes brought back his love for her. He remembered their palace in the cloud city of the gods. Laying together and making love. Then he saw her kill. A bolt of pain ripped through him as again and again she destroyed things he created. He remembered their arguments and fights, her mad ambitions to rule the underworld.
[We're almost done brother.] He heard Atol say. [There's only a few more things to remember.]
He saw the wonderful island continent of Tolcantia filled with its handsome people. They had roads and machines that took them to a higher level of civilization. Then Muerte destroyed it all and sank the island killing everyone. He saw her laugh and he felt the death of all those millions of people. He knew then she had to be stopped.
He saw himself bring her to the underworld and trap her there. He remembered their years in confinement and then her escape and his release.
He opened his eyes and looked and them.
[Well?] Jax sent. [Did it work? Does he remember. Is Vitale back?]
"Vitale will never be back." He said. "He's gone. I am Aramis now. But yes, brother. I remember everything."
Jax jumped to his feet and hugged him.
[Welcome back!!!] He said.
"Thank you Jax." Aramis held his brother. "For staying with me."
[Of course I'd stay with you. Who else would be by your side.]
Aramis turned to Atol and hugged him.
"You to Atol. Thank you for helping me."
"Glad to big brother." Atol smiled. "What now?"
"We find the Dragons and get on with putting Muerte down for good."
"You mean that?" Atol looked at him in shock. "She's your wife?"
"Not anymore. She's hurt toomany people for me to protect or give her any quarter. She must die!"
Late in the night, Valkar walked through Prafa. It was his habit to walk all through the town at night to assure himself that everyone there was safe and sound. Suddenly he heard his name being called.
He looked around hoping that it wasn't someone needing help from an attack. From the air he saw his great grandfather come sailing down. He looked like he'd been through a hard time in the underworld.
"Grandfather, you're back."
[Yes I am.] He said. [We have trouble. Get the others, I have a lot to tell you.]
Gathered in Luther's house, Jandar, Rage, Cutter, Eheren, Athene, Valkar, Azeal and Tanis all greeted Baron Valkar on his return.
"We're all here, Grandfather." Valkar said. "Tell us what you found."
[You were right.] He sent. [She's not interested in making vampires. She has something even worse in mind.]
"What could possibly be worse than that?" Eheren asked.
[She plans to kill everybody.] The Baron said.
"You mean except the vampires?" Azeal asked.
[No.] He told them. [I mean every living creature on the planet. Animals, plants, insects, men, women, children, everything dead. She wants to make the planet dead and barren.]
Everyone in the room looked at him with their mouths open. They had to have heard wrong. That was insane.
[She's the death goddess.] The Baron said. [She now thinks it's her job to give the world her gift of death.]
"But that's insane!" Jandar said. "She can't mean everyone!"
[You think so?] The Baron said. [Once she's done, she's going to move on and find more worlds to give her gift to, and she's a goddess. And she can do it. There are other worlds out there far beyond ours. It's possible she can get to them.]
Everyone in the room began to talk. Shouting at each other their disbelief at what they had just heard. Standing next to each other, Jandar, Rage and Valkar turned to each other.
"I'll bet that's what Balthazar wants." Rage said. "He knows her plan and he wants to join us now."
"He thinks we're the only ones that can stop her." Jandar said "And he wants to be safe."
"I still don't trust him." Valkar frowned. "But he may be able to help."
"So what do we do about Muerte?" Cutter asks." Rage? Valkar?"
"We need Aramis and Jax back to help fight her." Jandar told them. "Only they can match her powers."
"Then we have to find them, but how?" Azeal asked them.
"We can look." Eheren told them. "But I think their going to have to come find us."
Two days ago Jayce had awoken and felt a strange urge to head south. He asked Graym to come with him. He felt something was wrong, he had no idea what it was. But he knew they had to go.
All that first day they flew south passing cities and towns and small villages. Everything looked normal, but the further south they flew, the more troubled Jayce felt.
"Do you feel it Graym?" He asked. "I don't know how to describe it. It's like a feeling of doom and depression."
"Yes." Graym said flying next to him. "I feel pain and it's getting worse the further we go."
"How bad is it?" Jayce asked.
"Don't worry about me." He said. "I can handle it."
"Then we go on." Jayce said. "I want to know where it leads."
That night they made camp in a clearing. Graym hunted while Jayce built a fire and found a stream and got water for them to drink. Graym returned with a deer they butchered and made their dinner. Having flown all day, they were famished and ate the whole thing.
"I can't believe we ate all of that." Graym said rubbing his stomach.
"I know." Jayce smiled. "Sometimes I'm shocked at the amount I can eat. Jandar says I'm bottomless."
They laughed at that then fixed tea to drink. Suddenly Jayce stopped to listen.
"What is it?" Graym asked.
"Shhhhh, listen." He told him. But there was nothing. The forest was quiet. No crickets, or insects. No animal sounds or rustling of the trees. It was silent
"I've never been in such a quiet forest." Jayce looked at Graym.
"Strange." Graym said.
"If I wasn't so tired, I wouldn't stay here." Jayce told him. "We sleep in shifts. You first, I'll wake you in a few hours. Get some rest."
Graym opened his bedroll and made himself as comfortable as he could. It didn't take long before he fell asleep. Jayce put himself in a position to meditate and sat with his ears alert for any disturbance. The next morning Graym woke Jayce from a sound sleep at dawn. He really didn't like being in this forest. There was something wrong with this quiet place. He wanted to leave as soon as possible.
After washing up at the stream and a lite breakfast they were off back into the sky. That morning they both felt even worse. They noticed there were no birds flying in the sky. Jayce could find no animals in the forest. The air even smelled strange. Finally they saw a small village below them. But there was nothing moving down there. Then they saw the dead cattle.
"Look!" Jayce pointed at them. All over the field were dead cattle. Twenty or thirty of them.
"Let's land." Jayce called to Graym. "I want to see what happened here."
So down they went. On the ground they walked through the field. It looked like the cattle had just dropped dead. There was no sign that any animals had come along and fed on them, and there should have been. Jayce knew there had to be wolves in the area. But none had come to feed. Over in the corner of the field they found two dead dogs,
"I don't like this." Graym said.
"Neither do I." Said Jayce. "Come on. I want to check the village."
As they walked through the village they checked each house. All the people were dead. There was not one living soul in the village. Jayce stopped to check the bodies. There was no sign of trauma on the bodies. Again, no bite mark or anything that could show how they died. That means it wasn't vampires.
"What could have done this? A sickness maybe?"
"I don't think so." Graym told him. "There would be some sign of a sickness. Vomit, sores, discoloration, something. There aren't even any flies, and these people have been dead awhile now."
"Let's get out of here." Together they ran and launched themselves into the sky. Back in the air they moved on. Soon they came across a few more towns and villages in the same condition, everyone was dead.
"There's something really bad happening here. We better get back and warn Rage and Jandar." Turning back toward home, Jayce called out to Jandar. But there was no answer. They were too far away.
"We have to hurry Graym." Jayce said. " This thing whatever it is, is heading for home."
They weren't going to stop anymore and now they were going to fly as fast as they could. There were a lot of people counting on them. All the way back, Jayce and Graym called out again and again. It took them hours before they finally got an answer.
[Jayce, Where are you?] Dreik asked. [Jandar's been asking for you.]
[Tell him we have a problem.]
[Great, another one] Dreik moaned. [What is it?]
[This is serious Dreik! There's something coming out of the south, and it's killing everything it passes.]
Dreik was silent for a second. He knew whatever Jayce was talking about, it was real and on its way.
[Tell me what you found.]
[Less than two days south we found every town and village full of dead people. And I mean everyone's dead, Dreik.] Jayce sent. [There's something coming, something really bad. Tell them now. We'll be back tonight.]
[I will pass this on.] He said. [You better hurry back. We're going to need you.]
At the gates of New Keanna, Aramis, Jax, and Atol appeared. Aramis was glad to be back at what he now considered his home. He knew he couldn't stay long, she was out there and now that he remembered, he had to find her.
"This is a nice little place." Atol said. "This is where the Dragons are?"
[Yes.] Jax told him. [You want to know something? I could be happy here with them.]
"I don't understand." Atol stopped. "You're a god, you can be anywhere you want, do anything you want. Enjoy every celebrations all over the world. But you'd rather be here with them?"
"These people are so different than most mortals." Aramis said walking through New Keanna. "First, they accept everyone as they are no matter what they are. Look there."
Aramis pointed to an ogre, sweeping the streets of all debris from the day before. There were children all around him playing. One was riding on his shoulder, giggling and laughing. He had the biggest smile on his face. A carriage came rumbling down the lane and he stopped it and got the kids out of the way before it moved on.
"They let their children be around him?" Atol asked. "That's not very smart."
[That ogre would die before harming any of those children or allowing anything to happen to them.] Jax told him. [Two of those kids belong to a Dragons as a matter of fact. He's the best babysitter here. Those children couldn't be safer anywhere else.]
"The point is these people all trust each other, and work with each other to make New Keanna great. We have all kinds here. Dragons, werewolves, vampires, an ogre, witches. All living in peace." Aramis stopped in front of the manor. "After this is all over. If we win, stay for a while and see. The god of love should witness New Keanna."
"I just might do that." He said.
Suddenly the doors to the manor burst open and Ono came running out right into Jax.
[Hey what's your hurry.] He sent. Ono looked up at him a little surprised.
"Aramis, Jax!!" He smiled. "Your back!!"
"Yes, we're back. Where's Jandar and Rage?"
"They're in Prafa." Ono said. "You better come, I think She is involved. Ariel and some of the other dragons will fly us there."
"No need." Aramis told him. "We'll meet you there."
And off they went in a cloud of dust leaving Ono standing there with a surprised look in his eyes.
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