Putrid ash hung in the air, clinging to the girl’s throat. The world around her burned. The princess watched as her country crumbled under black flames that danced upon her empire. She watched as the traitor, the Black Dragon Shrine Maiden handed over their entire nation to that wicked sorcerer. How could she? They were raised together, trained together. She had thought they were...friends. She wanted to cry but the air was so hot that no tears would come, though her eyes stung anyway. She wanted to save them. Children screamed and ran in terror as the black fire crept closer and closer. The princess tried to move, to run after them, but she fell to the ground choking on the thick smoke. Her vision grew blurry as her breathing became more haggard. Her head hit the ground hard. Just before the world went dark, the last thing she could make out was the traitor and the sorcerer disappearing, no, combining...to...form…
Ryula awoke from the dream. Not with a start. This nightmare was not a surprise. It was the same one she saw every night. Dragonoids were not given to dreams the way other creatures were. She had never had them until the betrayal. The draconic blood in her veins still surged in anger, it would not let her forget.
Ryula’s prison was a room of damp, smooth stone. A few small puddles pooling in spots where the elevation of the ground sloped lower. Her manacles where cold iron etched with ancient runes that inhibited her strength. Their magic stung her flesh, even to this day her wrists were worn raw from their presence. Her room, as it were, was a small alcove carved into an underground stone passageway. No bars or door to keep her, the shackles were more than enough. As she awoke, Ryula’s eyes were met with thick darkness. Why would she expect anything else? No one was ever coming back for her, why would there be any need for light?
How much longer? She wondered. How much longer until they finally destroyed the world?
From somewhere down the passage, Ryula could hear the slow, echoing sound of water falling from the ceiling. This place was once a sacred temple. A secret place of contemplation deep in the earth where one could feel the natural forces, the life of the world. But no longer. The sorcerer had tricked them, taken its power for himself and left the holy ground in ruins. And now she was doomed to suffer in this desecrated place until the end of time.
Drip drip. The sound of water falling through the cavern echoed.
I am forgotten.
I will die here.
That was odd. Ryula’s thoughts were interrupted as she noticed that the constant pervasive sound of falling water had stopped. Change was not something she had experienced in at least a thousand years, her stomach suddenly swelled with emotion. Was someone there? Had the sorcerer come back? She listened intently for any sound coming from down the stone chamber.
“Are you sure this is the right place Nyarl?”
“Are you doubting me? It’s not my fault it took so long to get here. You kept lagging behind.”
“It was your wolves that carried us.”
“Yeah, and it was only the one you were riding that lagged behind. Now why could that be, little princess?”
“What are you implying!?”
“Come on Aunt Lumia, please don’t start fighting now, you know how she gets.”
“Hehehe, Millium’s got the right idea. It’s no lie.”
“Wha! Don’t start cozying up to my nephew!”
Definitely not the sorcerer. Ryula thought. These people talked way too much. That wicked magician never spoke unless necessary, and the world shook when he did. She could hear the sounds of their footsteps descending down into the underground prison. What were they here for? Wayward explorers? She opened her mouth, but found that after years of silence, no words would come out.
Their footsteps grew louder and eventually something blinding pierced Ryula’s eyes. It stung with a weight and presence she was not used to.
“Nyarlathotep, Aunt Lumia! I think I found her!” A voice called from within the blinding light. “Hey, are you alright?” The light drew closer as it asked her.
“P-please...” Ryula managed, speaking her first words in centuries. “Light...so strong...”
“Oh gosh, I’m sorry!” the voice said and the light lowered itself, dipping behind some kind of cloth, muting its painful radiance. After a moment, Ryula’s eyes finally began to adjust to the light and she could make out the face of a young man, human, a curious look on his face.
“My name’s Millium.” he said, a warm and gentle smile breaking out across his face. “What’s yours?”
“Ryula” the word fell out of the girl’s mouth before she had realized it.
“This might be a bit strange, but you wouldn’t happen to be a dragon princess, would you?”
“You know of me? How? Is this a trick? Are you a lie?” Ryula backed away, her manacles rattling against her frail form.
“Did someone say ‘lie’?” Another voice called from somewhere else in the subterranean temple. Two other pairs of footsteps grew louder and Ryula made out the shape of two others behind the one called Millium.
“This is her?” One of the others asked.
“Shouldn’t you know? You lead us here.” Another voice protested.
“I only said I knew where she might be, I never said I’d been down here. Hehehe, it’s no lie. No one even asked you to come.”
“There’s no way I’m ever letting you go off unsupervised, red girl.”
“You came...looking for me?” Ryula interrupted, and the three figures turned their attention back to her. “Why?” At her question, Millium leaned down close to her, and she finally got a proper look at his face.
Kind. It was...kind. With eyes the color of the sun she had thought all but forgotten.
“We found an ancient magic stone and were told that you knew the truth about its power. The world is in serious danger, and we need your help. Hold on, let me get those chains off.” Millium reached and grabbed something from his side. Whatever it was suddenly ignited with a glowing blue light and Ryula shielded her eyes.
“Ah! Sorry about that, I should’ve warned you it would get bright again. Just, uh, hold your hands out here, I think I can cut the chains with my sword.” At his words Ryula held up her hands, and Millium took one in his open hand to hold it still as he severed each manacle.
“Th-thank you.” said Ryula, still coming to grips with the situation.
The four quickly made their way back to the surface, Millium leading Ryula and holding on to her hand, making sure her weak legs did not falter or give way.
“Hold on.” Lumia suddenly stopped the others just as they were nearing the mouth of the entrance to the cavern like temple. ”Looks like there’s some people waiting for us out there.” She explained as she peeked out the entrance.
“The chains.” Nyarlathotep chimed in. “They must’ve had some kind of spell to alert the Alteans when they were broken.”
“What do we do?” Millium asked.
“Leave this to us.” Lumia declared proudly. “Let’s go, red girl. Time to prove your worth.”
Almost as if rehearsed the two dashed into the open, quickly combining their powers and loosing an radiant bolt of crimson light that struck one of the surprised Altean soldiers and the subsequent explosion catching several others. When the smoke cleared a single woman remained. She had tanned skin, long black hair, and her glowing red eyes were narrowed. In her hand was clutched an enormous spear like weapon that opened up like a fan at the end.
“Now where are you little mice all scurrying off to?”
“Viola!” Ryula shouted from the cave, still unable to venture into the bright sun.
“Ryula. So it’s true, you really have escaped. And conspiring with lesser beings no less.”
“You’re one to talk! You fused with that monster! I’ll never forgive you, you traitor!”
“Who is that?” Millium asked, looking on as Nyarlathotep and Lumia stayed still, but prepared to defend themselves.
“The one who killed my people. The murderer of all dragonoid kind. The maiden who fused with Alhama’at.”
“Traitor? Is it really treachery if I was never on your side? My heart and mind, everything is for Alhama’at. We let you live with the hope you might be useful to us, but it is clear now that was a mistake.” Viola lifted her spear-like weapon and focused her power into it. She thrust it forward like a lance and a powerful bolt of violet energy sped forth towards the entrance to the ancient temple. Lumia and Nyarlathotep moved to react, but couldn’t catch the attack in time.
“I won’t let you!” Millium shouted, shoving Ryula away in time and raising his sword to block the attack.
“Ngh...” Millium had failed to parry the attack with his blade, but did manage to block the attack with his shoulder. Blood ran down his side and he gritted his teeth.
“Millium!” Lumia shrieked in terror. Running to aide him, she called upon healing magic to tend to his wound, but the damage from the Viola’s spear wouldn’t seem to heal.
“Don’t bother struggling.” Viola taunted. “This is a power granted by Alhama’at. Your frail modern sorcery cannot repair its damage.”
“But I can.” Ryula answered.
“You would fuse with this...lesser creature? Adorable, but a wasted effort. There’s no one alive, but Alhama’at who can accept our power.”
Ryula ignored Viola’s words, instead turning to Millium. “Millium. Do you have that stone you mentioned before with you?”
“Yes, why?” Millium said through gritted teeth as his aunt attempted to stanch the flow of blood.
“I was skeptical before, I thought it was another cruel trick. But I could sense that dragonoid stone resonating with you the moment you appeared.”
“Millium...align your heart with mine, and accept my power.”
“Ryula?” Before he could say anything else, the frail dragonoid girl embraced him from behind, resting her head on his back.
“Ah, hey!” Lumia exclaimed as a light began to emanate and envelop the two. Eventually the light grew beyond the mass of Ryula and Millium, growing larger and larger as it quickly began to form the unmistakable shape of a dragon.
“Impossible.” Viola spat. “Only Alhama’at should be able to...” Viola’s thought was interrupted as the newly formed gigantic dragon bellowed a powerful roar that sent a shimmering bolt of light at Viola. The treacherous dragonoid only barely managed to avoid the attack, but recognized when she was outclassed, immediately retreating. She quickly flew away in the direction of Altea.
From far away, Lapis watched the conflict, pleased with the progress of events. “This has gone better than I could’ve hoped for.” he smiled. “Time to begin the ceremony.”
-Lore written by Rajadeem the Seer, Last of His Order