Drakenstead — Part 1
Editor(s): Speedphoenix, Joker
The first impression I got of Drakenstead was that it was equal parts terrifying and awe-inspiring. Even the air itself appeared to grow heavier as we approached the massive, jaw-like gorge—a sensation I often experienced when I happened to run into one of the Wicked Forest’s more powerful creatures.
It was a sense of presence, an invisible pressure that superior life forms exerted simply by existing, and it came from the village’s inhabitants. Many of them were in sight already. They were flying around in a panic, seemingly because they had realized that Lefi had returned.
“Until we depart, do not leave my side, Yuki. I do not believe that you will be in danger, but I wish to remain by you to ensure your safety. And I know well that Enne intends the same.”
“Mhm. Standing guard.”
“Will do. Thanks, both of you.”
I knew through and through that compared to dragons, I was nothing but a weakling. I was going to need to sit tight and let Lefi do all the heavy lifting. Enne was always going to have to be there as well, just in case, as it basically wasn’t possible for me to go all out in a fight without her. Talk about a pathetic showing on my part…
Upon arriving at the village’s entrance, I stopped wallowing in my own misery in order to better observe my surroundings. It was exactly as Lefi said. The dragons barely made anything. Only a few tools and structures were strewn throughout the entire settlement. But if anything, the lack of artificial creations only served to add to the atmosphere.
Something about this entire area almost seemed holy. The way the mountains shot beyond the sky led me to think of Olympus, Ida, Othyrus, and many other places of worship, places in which gods separated themselves from men.
The community was actually spread out over a rather large amount of space. The dragons lived on the mountain’s various cliffs and ledges, in which they’d dug holes large enough to fit their massive frames with ease. Some of them even extended outwards to support a sort of outdoor living space. Aside from the scaffolding that made these spaces possible, there was only a single, obvious artificial structure, a dragon-sized flight of stairs that led far into the mountains. It’s almost like this whole place is some sort of shrine.
Naturally, my eyes found themselves caught by more than just the scenery. The dragons that occupied it constantly pulled my gaze. All in all, there seemed to be somewhere around 150 of them.
Though literally all their eyes were on us, none dared to speak, let alone approach. They were much like the Wicked Forest’s dragons in the sense that they looked at Lefi with a mix of awe and fear, with the biggest difference being that, here, both emotions seemed much stronger and more pronounced.
“So this is where you grew up?”
“It is where I spent my first six hundred years.” The humanoid dragon spent a few moments gazing upon the valley before raising her eyes to the sky. “Upon departure, I wandered the world for another hundred in search of a new place to make my nest. That particular century was one that I spent aiding the old fool that you know as the Spirit Lord.”
“Wait, you were helping him? With what?”
“His duty is to maintain the order of the natural world through the elimination of those that seek to disturb it,” she explained. “Do you recall that Hadean Helldrake we spoke of?”
“I was to eliminate it and other similarly powerful foes in his stead should he ever fail.”
“So you were basically a merc?” I frowned while nodding in approval. “That doesn’t sound too bad. Honestly pretty cool if you ask me.”
“Mhm. Very,” agreed Enne, telepathically.
“If the two of you believe so, then I suppose I’ve little choice but to one day thank him for the opportunity.” Once we reached the center of the village, Lefi took a bit of a turn to the left. “This way. There is one we must meet.”
Following her lead eventually led us to an old dragon, who unlike the others, only raised his head to look at us once we approached. Every part of his appearance screamed ancient. His scales were dull, their lustre lost with time. His claws were cracked and dry, and his eyelids were wrinkly and droopy. Even his beard, which was tinged grey and white showed naught but signs of age. But his eyes alone were different. They burnt with a passion so fiery that they alone were able to make him seem the human equivalent of several decades younger.
“Now… who do we have here?” He spoke slowly, softly, majestically even. But though he used a tone not too different from Lefi’s, his voice lacked the near divine quality that hers so obviously carried. “It has been many long years, Leficios.”
“Hmph,” Lefi snorted. “And I see that, despite the passage of time, you have yet to die, Rhodunus.”
At a surface level, her words appeared to be filled with venom, but they contained no real hostility. It seemed that, despite all appearances, she didn’t actually dislike him.
“I have every intention of living for another three thousand years.” Rhodunus blinked several times in succession. “But… while I am exactly as I was, I see that you are not. The change in your size is the most surprising thing that I have seen in a millennium.”
“That is no part my fault and ten parts yours, all of yours,” responded Lefi. “Here, change is too infrequent, and your expectations too unrealistic when placed alongside the happenings of the world at large.”
“Truly… our way of life is one that rarely walks alongside change.” Once he finished responding to her, he turned to me with a long, curious gaze. “So this… this demon lord, he is the one that showed Gyogarr to his grave? I was convinced that it was you who eliminated him.”
“I took no part in his demise. It was, in its entirety, my husband’s doing,” she said, as she glanced at me. “Gyogarr was but an annoyance. What manner of incompetence was it that led you to allow his departure?”
“There is… little to say in our defense. We are sorry for any of the trouble that we caused. A peculiar individual, an outsider, had influenced him to behave recklessly. I will be refraining from a more… detailed explanation for the time being, as it would be quite a lengthy one indeed.” The ancient dragon paused for a moment. “Truth be told… I never thought that you would one day find a mate… especially not after your departure.”
After reopening his eyes, he let out a hearty chuckle and turned back to face me yet again.
“I am Rhodunus… the eldest dragon that inhabits this village. Might you tell me your name, Dragonlord?”
I took a moment to both return a solid, unwavering gaze, and to analyze him.
Race: Ancient Dragon
Wait. Seriously? Holy shit… this dude’s on level 900’s doorstep. He isn’t Lefi tier, but still… Talk about absurd. The thought prompted a whole sequence. I soon realized that I had the tendency to compare anything stronger than me to my beloved wife, which seemed a bit odd, if anything. Eh, her fault for being batshit OP.
At the end of the day, what mattered was that the dragon was so powerful that crushing me would take him no more effort than swatting a fly. I should probably stay on guard while we’re here, just in case.
“I’m Yuki, nice to meet you,” I said. “Oh and uh, if you don’t mind, I was actually hoping to ask you something.”
“If it is something that I can answer, then by all means.” said Rhodonus.
“How old are you, exactly?”
“Hmmmm…” He lowered his head and closed his eyes, as if to reflect on a long distant memory. “I cannot tell you exactly, as many of my older memories have grown vague and hazy. But the oldest event I recall is one from six millennia ago. And since then, there have been ten… yes, at least ten major shifts in the cultural paradigms of the races.”
Six thousand years? Six thousand!? Man… that is a long time. It certainly is way more than long enough for countless empires to rise and fall. I wonder how many ancient legends he’s in… Hell, his age is probably worthy of a legend in and of itself. Like, man, Lefi’s lived a long time, and talking to her about time always makes me feel that she’s basically been around forever, but this guy makes her look like a child.
“So…? To what do we owe the honour of your visit?”
“Well uh… one thing led to another, and I kinda ended up becoming the Dragonlord, so I figured I should probably drop by to say hi,” I explained. “Oh, and I married Lefi, er, Leficios, and that sounded like something you guys might want to know about too. Soooo yeah, here I am.”
“The latter is of much more importance,” said Lefi, smugly. “I wished to return so that I could demonstrate that, contrary to your beliefs, I have been wed.”
The old dragon chuckled.
“I see, I see… I am glad that you are much… more cheerful than you were before.” He cast her the sort of proud, deeply emotional gaze that one would a daughter upon her wedding. “Welcome home… Welcome home, Leficios. And I welcome you too with open arms, King. Now… let us begin by carving your name into the Dragonstone Ledger.”