Grays #27 - The Night Embers
When the first of us fell, the stars were silent. By the second, they were already singing the songs of our demise.
Simple creatures of short memory, no one care if we razed them all to the ground. Yet some of us pitied the mortal welps. We gifted them knowledge, council, aid. And they took this and fueled their ships, their sky wars, and cities. I'd venture that we were happy, even impressed, by the courage shown by so many against so much, but let's be honest. Every necromancer, druidic general, or pirate lord that threatened the known mortal realm...is only a blink in the eyes of an ancient dragon.
The world's canvas and the grand clock of the Many strikes in eons and ethos, and we remember all. Jenora gave us choice, and Grumakon the flames of purpose, but these insects of our ages have forgotten the gods of their grand design. We gave them life, and now, with our guidance and aptitude, they hunt us for sport.
I remember when we left. Retreating to our Kin in Arkhosiana; the clustered fortress of the Dragonborn. My siblings had taken refuge in the Feywild, but with the Seal broken, their home was siphoning into the Material World. And so the Scion caste protected us. For many years, we sequestered ourselves, hoping others would complete the pilgrimage and find us. Dissatisfied, my sister ventured out with other Skyborn, returning with more and more. Each time she left, I'd watch the horizon; for the flaming whip of three tails. And each time she returned, she'd have a few more scars.
But this last time was different. This time she returned with only three wyrmlings. This time she returned crying.
"Volicia, what did you see?"
And her golden eyes stared back. "I found Kashana. He gathers them. Something is coming. He doesn't know what, or when, only soon."
My brother, the Timber King, is alive! "Why didn't you bring him to us?"
Her eyes grew dark and red. "He will not leave them! He...loves them."
"They hunt us and wear our skin as armor! How would he love such a creature!"
And her eyes. Her beautiful eyes spoke so much more than her draconic tongue. "Not all of them, my brother. Not all are cruel. They are...flawed. ...Just like us."
She did not speak to me again. I watched her leave that night, whispering wordless promises to the skies.
I was stubborn then. I waited for her to return, but there was only silence.
So I flew to brink of Io's Edge. To my brother's tree, and the great seed within. And then I saw them.
Thousands of them. Pilgrims of warriors and sages, armies and ships. They stretched for miles in every direction. I thought them flocking to such a temple - Ifa, the World Tree - but no, they stood as its protection. I scan the skies for a threat, and then I see her. My sister, the Rending Whip, as she floats above the canopy. I can still see her smile.
An eruption below us. Thousands of cracks in the earth surrounding the tree; foolish mortals being sucked inside. Another explosion beneath, fire and light rising from the scars across the continent.
The Tree catches fire. Golden and green fire. And I hear screaming. Deep within the marrow of the planet. Like millions of voices suddenly being rended into pieces.
And then Volicia screams. I dart my eyes to find her. She is above me. I watch in horror, beating my wings upward to her form, as purple tendrils tear her visage asunder. I scream her name and claw at the smokey remains of the banishing magic. And the storm begins to gather around my rage, a bellowing roar escaping my lungs. I fill my mouth with acid and lightning, breathe deep, and-
I feel a hand on my shoulder. A feminine voice, delayed and accelerated all at once, like it was fighting through time itself to speak. The crackling lightning surrounding me slows, and I watch the horror below me grind to a crawl. The carnage continues, but in immaculate clockwork detail, seconds passing as minutes. And then I see her.
An endless shroud of black feathers; a void that stretched across all my horizons. And there, at the center of my vision, impossibly massive - the porcelain mask of the mistress of the ravens.
Lightning still crackling at the edge of my lips, I seethe. "I am a dragon of three worlds. I answer to no god."
"I HAVE SEEN THIS OUTCOME." Her voice fights for presence, as if at any moment it will be hurled back through the gate of the grand clock. "YOU DO NOT SURVIVE THIS, ENDRAGAL."
"Like hell I don't. I have lived through worse-
"THE WORLD IS BREAKING THIS TIME. THE COSMOS WILL FOREVER CHANGE. AND A CREATURE BANISHED WITHOUT A HOME WILL BE TORN FROM EXISTENCE."
Volicia... "I must save her..."
"SHE IS ALREADY GONE. AND SOON, SO SHALL YOU. BE AT PEACE WITH THIS FATE."
And time began to return, the rays of light becoming burning columns up from the chasms beneath me.
"OR. TAKE MY HAND."
I stared at her outstretched hand, and in that moment I saw my brother. The kind Timber King. The Seedkeeper. He was patient, and was always willing to play the long game.
"Very well, Exiled One. But how will we survive?"
"WE SURVIVE AS A MEMORY. AN IDEA. AND WE WAIT TO BE BIRTHED AGAIN."
And her feathers enshrouded my vision, carrying me to the Astral Stars.
And it is here I remain. On dark nights, you might see the dozens of gemstone stars that burn bright through the storm. Her little Night Embers.
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