Drakenstead — Part 2
Editor(s): Speedphoenix, Joker
“What, precisely, has happened here?” Lefi addressed Rhodunus in a questioning tone. “Many of the elders are nowhere to be seen, and even the younglings have decreased in number.”
He had taken the lead in our formation, with her following right behind him, and me behind her. Of the three, I was the only one that didn’t seem to know exactly where we were going.
“Only seven tenths of us remain,” admitted the older ancient. “A demon… a demon with red hair visited us some time ago. He asked us… to join him in remaking the world. It was a clear play for our power, so the Dragonlord of the time… he rejected it with a snort.”
Red haired demon… red haired demon… Why does that sound so familiar? Wait… wait! I bet it’s that pussy ass motherfucker! Gojim! That spineless cocksucker had red hair too! Fuck him!
“So he conned the more foolish ones into action?”
The question, surprisingly, led Rhodunus to shake his head in denial.
“No… I do not believe that to be… quite right. It was not a con. I sensed that he… he truly did desire for the world to change. It was a foolish request, but one backed by some manner of passion… conviction.”
Change the world, huh? You know, in the end, I never did figure out what exactly the fiends really wanted. Oh well, no point thinking about it now. I’ll probably find out eventually, since they’re clearly still up to no good. Nell’s been telling me that they’ve not only been doing shit in the demon realm, but also started meddling with the humans and whatnot more often as well. It’s only a matter of time before we face off again, and I’m not all that keen on wasting my time thinking about them until I really need to.
“Some of the younger ones… the ones who were dissatisfied with our way of life… they were swayed by his words. Gyogarr, especially,” said Rhodunus, regretfully. “He was the strongest of the younglings, and started proclaiming that it was time for we dragons to take over this world.”
Who was Gyogarr again? Oh right. Yeah, the fuckface I killed. Didn’t realize someone as dumb as him was actually supposed to be on the stronger side. Analyzing the villagers had actually returned some rather surprising results, namely, that half the dragons stats were similar to or even lower than my own. Though some of them, like this old guy, are absolute units.
My guess was that age and power level were at least loosely related, and that most if not all the weaker dragons counted amongst the young.
“Many of the younglings began to… emulate him, but we chose to ignore them. We thought that it was a phase they would eventually grow out of… that they would stop, even if we did nothing to stop them.” He heaved a deep sigh and furrowed his brow. The memory seemed to be a bitter one. “But Gyogarr was far more ambitious, far more foolish than we had ever thought. One night, he entered the forbidden sector, the cave off limits to all but the elders and the Dragonlord. And the next morning… he emerged crowned. His predecessor was gone. Left as just a bloody corpse. It was… an act of treachery, one that would not have been possible if he did not catch him off his guard. Gyogarr was not nearly that powerful.”
“If you knew of his crimes, then why did you allow him to continue to do as he pleased?” asked Lefi.
“It was too late… Gyogarr had already left the village by the time we discovered that the title had changed hands. We considered chasing him, but ending his life would likely have led to countless bloody conflicts… between those of us who have grown older, and those that have yet to mature.”
So basically a civil war, but with dragons? That sounds kinda terrifying…
“Not even a group of younglings would be a match for me. But… wishing for a war against one’s own is absurd. It would lead to the destruction of our species.” He turned to look at Lefi and I in turn. “I am sorry… sorry that the decision caused you trouble. But I would rather see the rest of the world fall into a hellscape of flame and madness than lead us to our downfall.”
Lefi paused for a moment to think.
“I take it the elders have left as they are unwilling to deal with the trouble, and the younglings out of spite for your decisions?”
“Yes… you are exactly correct. Our lives are long… very long. There is no harm in both the younglings and the elders doing as they please. That is what it means to live. Some… some will be like you. They will acclimate to the world outside of our village and change for the better. Others… those that find themselves incapable of adapting… will likely return. That is how it has always been.” Again, he closed his eyes. “And that is how it must always remain. If this village was to fall, then there would be nothing awaiting those who have left tens, hundreds, if not thousands of years ago, and wish to return. We would have no place… no place to call home.”
“Home, is it…?”
She glanced at me, right as I glanced at her.
I bet we’re thinking the exact same thing right now…
“That is a bit of an… emotional note to end on, but it is time we moved on,” said Rhodunus, who then turned to address the only person who didn’t know where we were going. “We have arrived.”
I’d been too caught up in listening and analyzing dragons to realize that we’d flown all the way up the massive flight of stairs and reached the cave that it led to. Wow uh… I was NOT paying attention. When the hell did we get here? And aren’t the stairs kind of pointless if everyone can just fly? We literally didn’t use them.
“The forbidden sector…” Lefi smiled to herself as she gazed into the cave. “Be careful, Yuki, it is quite easy to slip.”
Upon following the dragons inside, I found myself facing an artifact that could only be described as an ancestral temple. Draconic and otherworldly as it may be, it very much resembled a mix of an ancient Confucian construction used to define a Chinese lineage and a modern Japanese shrine. The centerpiece was surrounded on all sides by large, naturally-formed pillars of stone, with thick hemp ropes hanging loosely between them.
Though no sunlight could permeate the cave, the inside was not nearly as dark as it could have been. Countless tiny balls of light floated around our surroundings, illuminating them in a seemingly mystical fashion. I couldn’t tell where they came from, but I suspected that magic was the nature in which they were based.
So holy was the forbidden sector that I was almost expecting to find myself face to face with a god or vessel therefor. But the shrine-like structure was empty. It contained nothing but enough space to easily fit a dragon.
“Dragonlord, this is the forbidden sector, the residence meant only for the king. There is very little here, but from today onwards, it is yours… yours, and yours alone,” said Rhodunus.
“Pay it no mind, Yuki. This place exists only for fools who wish for vanity.”
There be Lefi, rude as usual. I smiled to myself. Her lack of manners was something that was sure to never change.
“So what’s the Dragonstone Ledger thing you were talking about earlier?”
“It can be found within.”
I followed the old dragon’s gaze into the shrine’s very depths. And upon doing so, I realized that it wasn’t actually completely empty. An old, worn out structure made of an incredibly ancient stone was situated in its innermost sanctum.
The monument, which stood at about twice my height, had a number of words, names, inscribed into it in a sort of hieroglyph-like, ideographic script.
“Are these… all Dragonlords?”
“Yes… they were,” confirmed Rhodunus. “These records list the names of our kings.”
I took a moment to look up the list, which seemed to be a fair bit over a hundred names long. My eyes stopped only once they reached the very top.
“How long has it been since the first Dragonlord showed up anyway?”
“Both your predecessor and his served unusually… short terms. It normally takes between four and five thousand years for the title to change hands,” said Rhodnus. “To answer your question, it has been around six hundred millenia since the first.”
…Six hundred THOUSAND years? Bro. What? That’s long enough to predate history, for fuck’s sake. I bet the races hadn’t even started farming by the time a Dragonlord first showed up. The length of the average reign prompted me to realize that, for a dragon, Lefi was actually quite young. Er, wait, is she? I mean, like, is that still young? I thought she was an ancient dragon. I can’t tell. Because it’s still a thousand years… Damn it, the timeline we’re talking about here is so long I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around it… Fuck it. I’m just asking.
“Hey Lefi, do you count as being young, in dragon terms?”
“I am quite young compared to the others. The term ‘ancient dragon’ refers not to those of a certain age, but rather those with enough power to match the dragons of old,” she elaborated, as if reading my mind. “I have remained an ancient dragon since the moment of my birth.”
Oh… Wait a second… I think I’m finally starting to understand why they call the old dragons elders instead of referring to them as the ancients or something. That would make a lot of sense.
“Now, King, it is time… it is time for you to do as all Dragonlords have throughout the centuries and inscribe your name upon the ledger,” said Rhodunus.
“How am I supposed to do that? Do I just like, grab a rock and literally carve it in?”
The question came from a place of confidence. I was fairly certain that I’d be able to perform the feat with all the finesse and polish required as to not leave a shameful mark on the ancient artifact.
“No, no, nothing like that,” chuckled the old dragon. “This relic was made for recordkeeping. You only need to channel your magic through it. It will read and transcribe all the information it requires after verifying that you are the reigning Dragonlord.”
Oh, so it’s enchanted. That makes this whole process much easier. After thinking to myself, I pressed my fingers against a blank spot underneath the final name in the list. I guess this is where my name goes…
Touching it really allowed me to sense how old it was. Something about it just made it very clearly feel like it came from a long lost age. Still, it was in perfect working order. My name almost appeared to dig itself into the massive tablet the moment I poured my magic through it. Once it stopped reacting, I looked over the result and read it in my head.
Uhm… Tablet? Hello? I’m pretty sure I don’t have a dumb-looking demon lord-based last name, thank you very much.