Baragil stood proudly in the centre of the village, everybody was there to see his coming of age party, Baragil was now fully an adult, at sixteen it was the tradition of the wood elves to reach their majority, it was also their official naming day, until now Baragil had been named Tana, a non name given to most younglings in the woods and meant, "born of the trees".
It was the time of gift giving to be shortly followed by the final feast, after which he would leave the village on his adult pilgrimage, something every boy on reaching his majority had to do, Baragil watched as the first of his gift givers approached him with a huge and proud smile on her face.
His Mother laid before him the full dress of the wood elves, there was a jerkin, trews and soft hide boots of deer skin as were his other clothes, all had been died with the colours of green and brown in a pattern that would make him almost invisible in the forrest, his Mother gave him a light tap on the cheek and then stepped back to allow the next giver space to approach.
The next giver was his first Uncle, even at six feet, (somewhat short for a wood elf) Baragil was still towered over by the nearly seven feet of his first Uncle, in his Uncles hands was the black and silver recurve bow of the elves, the timber for the bow was found only on the edge of the swamps far away on the coastal regions of the Continent of Siava, his homelands.
Baragil's Uncle handed him the heavy recurve bow, patted him heavily on the shoulder, which made Baragil feel as though a tree had fallen on him, and then his Uncle stepped back for his second Uncle to approach.
In the hands of his second Uncle was the long quiver of black shafted arrows, each was tipped with a silver head and had been endowed with magic from the Messadine artisans that had made it all for him, each bow was custom made to the warrior it went too, after enduring another heavy handed pat from his second Uncle, no less taller than the first, Baragil's Father stepped forward.
Baragil's Father was also near seven feet tall, at first his Father had had doubts about Baragil making it to his naming day being as he was so short and slim for a wood elf but, now he was only full of pride at how hard his first and only son had worked to make it to this time in his life, in his hands he carried the penultimate item of gifting.
Baragil watched as his Father stopped in front of him, the pride showing through the normal stoic face of his Father gave Baragil a warm feeling, he had never been close to his Father and often thought it was due to him being born shorter and lighter than his peers but now he could see the pride his Father held for him, in his Fathers hands was the thick staff of reddish wood taken from a tree that was almost impossible to find in this day and age, Baragil knew this staff had been handed down from Father to son for over ten generations.
As his Father handed him the old staff, he also reached his other hand to his belt and drew his own dagger and gave it to Baragil, the last gifter was his Sister, she was ten years older than Baragil and had watched over him when things got tough with the other boys in his peer group, she laid a well made pack on the ground in front of him, Baragil knew it would contain his fine hooded cloak made from Terris vine fibres which were light weight and impervious to rain, it would also be his blanket at night, there would also be a small cooking pot and wooden dish for his meals along with a fire starter and other nick-nacks to make his journey more comfortable.
After Baragil thanked all his gifter's his Father took over and called for the festivities to begin, it took little time for the people of the village to begin with the food and drink which was soon followed by dancing, the day drew on until near night fall, this would be the last night Baragil spent in his village until he completed his pilgrimage sometime in the future.
Just as the first rays of sunlight hit the forrest the following morning, Baragil settled his new pack on his back, took up his new bow and quiver and laid them over his shoulder, the staff he took in his hand and his dagger went on his thin belt, he was dressed in the garb of the wood elf and his long raven black hair was plaited and hung half way down his back, he was ready to begin his pilgrimage, as was tradition there was no one in sight when he left the village that had been his home for the last sixteen years.
Baragil left with a light footed step, the sounds of the new day filled the forrest with its many and varied songs and calls, as he strode along with a renewed feeling of youth and vitality, Baragil looked at the ancient staff, it was a little heavier than he had expected, at each end there were fine silver filigree in the pattern of vines and leaves, about two hands width down from the top was a one inch band of solid gold with a very fine engraving of a mythical Dragon.
Baragil well knew that Dragons existed, after all he had seen them fly high above the massive forrest of Siava, one of the largest continents on this world, but the wood elves had not seen a true Dragon close up so they were still inclined to think of them as mythical beasts, he had no idea why one would be engraved on the old staff.
Baragil knew he had a long way to go, the forrest of Siava were known to be the largest of all forests, they were said to span most of the centre of the continent and could take over a thousand days to walk from one end to the other and almost the same from side to side, while there were the usual dangers in such a large expanse of forrest, Baragil was not worried, he was well trained in the law of the forrests and knew what to do and when to do it.
It was not the animals that could cause him problems but the other elves or at worst the slow encroachment of humans although most of them were sited at the far outside of the forrest and held little danger to him at this point, his main concern was for other elves of his similar age group, he was a good six to eight inches shorter than the norm for his age which could make him a target for some devilment if others chose to make it so.
Baragil travelled for five days without even meeting another soul, he had used all of his dried meat and most of his store of nuts and berries, it was time to replace what he needed to continue, time was not a problem, he had all the time in the world as there was no limit on his pilgrimage, he decided to take a couple of days off from travelling and replenish his stores.
He had arrived in an area which showed many varieties of berries, higher in the huge towering trees there were signs of nuts and on the floor of the forrest were plenty of animal tracks, he would set snares and traps while he went to gather the nuts and berries, nearby he could hear the faint trickle of fresh water from a small stream, it was an ideal place for a few days rest.
Baragil shrugged off his pack then emptied the contents into his cloak and tied them securely, he hung his cloak at head height in a tree, next he hung his bow and quiver on another branch of the same tree and leant the staff against the trunk, he had no worries about anyone stealing them while he was gone, it was the law among the wood elves that taking that which did not belong to you was punishable by death or anyone doing such a thing would be banished from family and village on sight.
Baragil replaced his pack and then went off a little distance and began to lay his snares and traps after which he started to walk around looking for the ripest of nuts, he would gather the berries after the nuts as he did not want the weight of the nuts to spoil good berries.
For more than an hour, Baragil collected his nuts and berries, when he had a good store of them he returned to his small glade and set about sorting everything out, he would stay a couple of days and prepare any meat he caught before moving on, while there were many elves in the forrest of Siava the vastness of the space most times seemed uninhabited, rarely did one meet with others for days at a time, Baragil felt safe in the green surroundings.
At the same time Baragil was settling down in his small glade, on the far off continent of Ferringol another youth was getting ready to leave home or such as it was as he was little more than a slave to his Uncle and Aunts wishes, Davin was now fifteen, he had been taken in care by his only relatives when his Mother and Father had fallen to thieves one night when he was not much more than a baby, he had been taken in only because his relatives did not want the village to talk about how callous they were with one of their own bloodline.
As soon as he was able, Davin had been put to work on the small holding, at first it had been the chickens and pigs along with any other chore he could handle, failure to do all of his chores each day led to no dinner and quite often a heavy handed smack on the back of the head, later, as he grew older, the hand was replaced with a belt then a thick cane or cudgel, now Davin had had enough, it was just past the midnight hour and he was getting out of here before the beatings became more severe.
More quiet than a mouse, Davin crept around the two roomed house, taking only what he needed in the way of a change of clothes and a little cold food, Davin looked around to see if there was anything else that would help him on his way, he knew where his relatives hid their small bag of savings but Davin felt he was not a thief and left the coins alone, he would make his own way in the world without resorting to that sort of life, as a last thought Davin decided to take an old walking stick that had sat in the corner of the house ever since he had arrived there, no one knew where it came from, his Uncle had once said it belonged to his Father long ago.
Its main use nowadays had been as a cudgel for Davin's back and legs, he decided to make use of it in another way, it would help him to walk away from here and he would use it as his walking stick and as a means of defence if it ever came to that, it was an old knarled piece of wood and looked as though two thick vines had wound themselves together to make the one solid piece, at the top was a large knot where the wood had curled up together.
Davin took the stick in hand and silently left the sleeping house, a small old sack strapped to his back as a pack, on his belt he had an old rusty knife he had found out in the trees close to the edge of the farmlet, in the sack was a little food and one of the tin plates as well as a few pieces of flint to start his fire with.
Davin left with little qualms, as he closed the old door he looked at the large cattle dog lying on the stoop, it lifted its head and Davin was sure it gave him a look as thought to say it was glad to see him leave, Davin left without a backward glance, when he got to the rough dusty roadway at the edge of the field, he sped up his pace, he wanted to be well away from this place of misery before the sun rose even if it meant travelling all night.
Davin directed his steps in the opposite direction of the village, he was going into the wilderness, once there he would decide where he would go after he was free and clear, he had little doubt that his relatives would bother to chase after him, to them he was just a convenient labour force and nothing more, they would probably celebrate his leaving.
Davin walked and trotted all night long, when the first hint of dawn showed in the East, Davin began to look for a place of safety for the morning, he was now at a stage where he needed sleep and food, after a short time, Davin spotted a small alcove of bushes that formed a sort of hut, he moved towards it and saw it would make a fine place to sleep and rest after the long hard night of travel.
Taking great care, Davin found enough stones to make a small fire ring, there was plenty of dry wood around and he soon had a small fire going, using the little black pot, with a few pieces of salted meat and an onion, he had meal going, the flour he made into a round loaf which he placed on a flat stone at the edge of the fire for baking, it was rough fare but would be filling enough for his needs.
Davin had hung his old sack on a branch close to the artificial hut, he sat now waiting for his meagre meal to cook, it was not much but it would do for now, he would keep his eyes open for better things as he travelled, for the first time in all his life, he felt happy, free and happy, it was a heady feeling for a boy like Davin, he looked forward to the future with a renewed hope.
Davin was slightly short and had a stocky build from the hard work he had done all his young life, his brown hair was a little lank and untidy but did not detract from his bright hazel eyes that flashed with a life of their own when he smiled which had not been all that often.
The sun had risen to midmorning by the time Davin had eaten his fill, his eyes were now feeling heavy as the long night caught up with him, it was time to get some rest, he hid his old sack in the bushes for a pillow before following behind and wriggling deeper into the bushes, to anyone watching he had disappeared from sight, he felt fortunate that it was a warm and windless day, he well knew he could not expect his future to always be the same as this first day.
Davin was woken up in the late afternoon to the loud shouts of men chasing something, being careful not to give away his hiding place, Davin peered through the bush to the open ground beyond, what he saw made him pause, a small looking boy was running as though his life depended on it, with the two large angry men close behind, his life probably did depend on his fast moving legs, in his hand he held a rough old leather bundle, it was about four feet long and not much thicker than a man's arm.
Davin watched as the boy tried for all he was worth to get some distance on the two rough looking men but his shorter legs just did not have the power or length to outdistance his chasers, Davin watched as he tried to work out if he should try to help the small boy, he then saw one of the men held an old rusty sword in one hand and the other man was carrying an old battle axe.
As he watched the strange tableau, Davin saw the smaller boy stumble on a tuft of thick grass, next thing the boy was head over heels on the ground, as the two men closed on him the boy tried to regain his feet, the sword holder took a vicious swipe at the boys head, barely missing by more than inches as the boy frantically rolled out of reach, Davin had had enough, with less fear than he thought he would have, Davin charged out of his hideaway with the walking stick held tightly in his hand.
Yelling as loud as he could Davin charged the man with the sword, why he picked this man he had no idea, his loud yells must have shaken the man who was obviously not expecting the head long rush from the bushes as he paused and turned, Davin kept charging until he was within reach, he then took a mighty swipe with the stick, much to his surprise he caught the man full on his sword arm, everyone heard the loud snapping of bone as the man cried out and then collapsed in pain onto the ground.
The second man stopped in his tracks, he had not even seen the new boy appear and the sight of his friend on the ground holding a broken arm and whimpering in pain only went to make him less assured of continuing in their chase of the young boy, as the new boy turned on him with the thick walking stick raised above his head, the second man started to edge backwards.
The young boy was still on the ground but now slowly trying to get to his feet once again, where his saviour had come from only the gods knew but he was thankful for any help at this stage, he was holding his Fathers old sword for dear life, it was all he had left of the man whom had sired him and watched over him for all his fourteen years, now it looked as though he had a new protector.
Davin approached the small boy after he watched the second man help his friend from the ground and the two men struggled away from the mad boy and his cudgel, Davin looked closer at the boy, he was doubtful now if they boy was as young as he first thought.
"Hello, my name is Davin, what's yours?"
"Ahh, I'm called Sprat."
"Sprat? What sort of name is that?"
"Don't know, everyone just called me that cause I'm small I guess."
"I'm fifteen, how old are you; you look as though you should still be home with your parents."
"I'm fourteen and don't have no parents anymore."
"Why were those men chasing you, did you steal that thing in your hands?"
"Never did, it was my Pa's he give it to me, said it was all he had to pass on, I have to take it to the Western Islands, if they get it back they will give me a new family."
"Sounds like a bit of a story to me, like one of them old tales Grandma's tell little kids."
"Tis not, my Pa said it was a real story so I'm going West and finding the Island where there are Dragons and a new family."
"Dragons, now I know your Pa was just telling tall ones, Dragons don't exist, they're just baby stories."
"They do to; everyone knows they live far away on large Islands."
"You ever seen one?"
"They don't come here but they are real, my Pa said so."
By this time both boys were getting a little hot under the collar and their eyes were flashing as each dared the other to call him a liar, it was a repeat of teenage dares, who was bigger, who was boss, who was tougher, an age old system for teens to get to know each other.
Davin stood close to Sprat, they were almost nose to nose as they glared into each other's eyes, in the back of Davin's mind the first glimmer of respect for the much smaller and weaker boy began to grow, Davin outweighed him and was taller, he also held a thick stick whereas the smaller boy had nothing yet the boy was not prepared to back down, Davin began to relax, he had to admire the smaller boy for his determination to stand up for what he believed in.
Davin broke the staring match and stepped back, slowly a smile formed on his face as he looked the boy over once again, short, thin, scruffy rags and hair that could do with a good washing, his small hands were dirty and had broken nails but there was something about him that caught Davin's attention.
"So who were those two men?"
Sprat by this time had relaxed a little as Davin had stepped back from the staring competition.
"What are Pressers?"
"Theys a gang that go around and capture boys for the mines, once they got them at the mine they're not allowed to leave, they don't even get paid for working neither."
"But what about the Mayor, doesn't he stop that sort of thing?"
"Where you come from? Everyone knows the Mayor owns the mine."
"So how come they were after you?"
"They want to press me, now my Pa is dead they wanted my Pa's house and everything else he had worked for, he was at the mine as a crusher operator for all his life since he was sixteen, more than twenty years and all they wanted to do was steal everything he had. He only left the mine for two years to go and fight a long way away, that's where he got this old sword, he made me promise to take it back to this Island place where Dragons fly."
"So you going to go all that way to some place no one knows of just because your Pa said you have too?"
"Yup, I gave him my word and Sprat don't break his word to no one, now where are you going?"
"Don't know, I just run away from home, well it wasn't much of a home, more like a slave place really."
"Why is that?"
"My Ma and Pa was killed by robbers, I was only a baby so my Aunt and Uncle took me in, I don't think they wanted me but the village would have talked a lot so they did, as soon as I was big enough I had to work on their farm for free, sometimes my Uncle would get angry about nothing and then he started to give me a beating, it started to get worse a few months ago so I decided to take off on my own."
"So where you going now then?"
"Like I said, don't know just getting away."
"I like you Davin, you saved me from the mines or a bad beating, you want to come with me to the Westward Islands, it might be a great adventure if you got nothing else to do."
Davin though for a few minutes, what did he have to lose, he didn't know what he was going to do or where he was going, besides, it might be a real adventure and he did like Sprat's go ahead attitude.
"Sure, why not, say you hungry, I got a little stew left from this morning and a half of bread come on, I'm hiding in those bushes over there, we can rest and talk some more about your imaginary Dragons."
"Theys aint imagining, theys real I just know it, besides my Pa would never lie to me, never did and never would."
Davin thought he saw a small tear fall from Sprat's eye as he turned away and led Sprat back to his hideaway. Davin watch Sprat eat the leftovers from his morning meal with a speed that astounded him, it was now obvious the smaller boy had not eaten in some time, when Sprat had finished he lay back and sighed with contentment, Davin could only smile.
"So what now?" asked Sprat.
"Well it's going to be dark soon, we might as well stay here for the night and move on first thing in the morning, I have enough food for one more meal then we will have to hunt as we go."
"Sounds good to me."
Davin set about rekindling the fire and getting out the last of his food supply, he would make another loaf of bread and another stew, it was not fancy but it would be filling, during the night he would have to give some thought on how he was going to replace their food supply, in the old sack he had some fine wire he would use as snares but that was all, as though a light went on in his head, Davin got the wire out and told Sprat to wait for him.
Davin left the small hideaway with the wire, the stew would take some time to cook so he had plenty of time to find some runs and place his snares, with luck they might have some fresh meat in the morning.
When he returned to Sprat, Davin had laid out five snares in places that showed a lot of rabbit prints, even one would see them through another day, as he settled down after checking the stew and turning the bread on the stone, Davin asked Sprat.
"So how far away are these fabled Islands of yours?"
"All I know is that they are a long, long way away, Pa said it took the army nearly a full year to get to the other side of Siava where the battle was, he was on a ship that got caught in a storm and he saw the Island but he didn't land on it, there was a huge fight high in the sky with hundreds of Dragons, one of them, he said it was all gold and the others were brown coloured, well the gold one fell out of the sky right beside the ship, it was all bloody and a small boy on its back was dead in a chair on the back of the Dragon, when it fell into the water, this old sword fell on the deck of the ship so Pa took it and wrapped it up, I never even seen it, he hid it high in the rafters of the house and wouldn't look at it ever, he wouldn't let me see it neither."
"That's quite a tale, so you want to look at that old sword now, it seems like a bit stupid not to look at it now you've been running and fighting for it."
"Good idea, wait while I unwrap it."
Davin watched as Sprat got the old leather bundle and began to carefully unwrap it, slowly the sword was revealed in all its glory, neither boy had ever seen anything like it, they could not even have imagined something like this sword ever existed.
Both boys looked at the sword with awe, the handle was solid gold and the blade was made of something like red glass but both boys knew it could not be glass it would be too weak for fighting with, it had to be something else but they had no idea what.
Sprat gasped in surprise, his father had worked all his life until the accident at the mine and he had this valuable sword all the time, he had only been earning four silver coins a month and this sword alone must have been worth a King's ransom, hesitantly, Sprat reached for it, it was as though the sword was drawing his hand towards it, Davin held his breath and had done so for some time without realising it.
As Sprats hand touched the golden hilt of the sword, their small place of concealment suddenly glowed with a red fire like hue, both boys felt something magical grasp them as the sword glowed and shimmered in the dim light of dusk, next thing they knew they were both lying on their backs and full night had fallen, the stew was now a burnt offering and the bread was blackened and inedible.
The only other thing that began to scare the boys was their surroundings, yes the small bush hide, their fire and food were there but, outside in the darkness was a new smell and a lot of sounds they did not recognise, Davin got to his feet after scrambling out of the bushes, Sprat was awake but still lying on his back inside, the red and gold sword held tightly in his hand.
From the darkness around him Davin could smell fresh grass and the heady smell of oak and pine trees, something they did not have in his home although he recognised the smells from somewhere deep in his senses.
Davin realised they were not at home anymore and they must have been unconscious all night as he could now see the faintest glimmer of sunrise in the East, it would soon be morning, as these realisations took hold he began to feel the first pangs of fear gather in his empty belly, somehow he knew he was in another land and that both he and Sprat had no food and no idea where or what to do.
As the light brightened in the East, Davin began to make out the land around them, it looked to be a vast place, the grasslands went on forever and in the distance were the darker green of a huge forrest, nothing was moving as the light brightened, only the sounds of newly awoken birds could be heard in the distance, around their little place, there was nothing, no animals, no sounds and no indications of where they were, it was a totally alien landscape for him.
A scuffle of sound behind him made Davin turn around, he was just in time to see Sprat wriggle out of the bushes, with a surprising ease, he swung the sword, which at first sight should have been far too big and heavy for his slender frame, over his shoulder as though it was meant to be there, Davin looked for his walking stick but it was nowhere in sight, Davin just shrugged his shoulders and watched Sprat join him in looking around at the new vista.
The land rolled on further than the eye could see, there was no sign of life of any kind, the sound of rumbling from the stomachs of both boys soon caught their attention, they now had no food and, Davin doubted that his snares had come with them when they changed places, they now had nothing but what had come with them to this strange place.
"Well we can go hungry for a little while, let's get my things together and we might as well head for the West, that's where we were going anyhow."
Sprat nodded his head as he looked around this strange and new place, neither boy could work out how they came here but one thing was for certain, it had to involve something like magic, even though that was impossible, Magic did not exist, but then again, nor did fancy gold and red swords that glowed in the dark.
Davin went back into the bush hide out and gathered what little he still had, underneath his old sack he saw his walking stick, as he picked it up he saw something that caused him to take in a sharp breath and his body began to shiver, his old wood walking stick had a narrow split right down the centre, from the crack in the wood came a soft blue hue of something hidden inside, Davin's hands shook as he tried to look closer, Sprat's voice from outside brought him back from his astonishment.
"What you doing, Davin, you got everything, we should make a start or we might not find food or water in this huge place."
Davin scrambled back out of the bush and stood up, his sack was on his back but his attention was held by the soft glow from the cracked walking stick, with shaking hands he held it out for Sprat too see.
"Look, look at this, its cracked and starting to glow blue just like yours was red."
Sprat bent closer to the old wooden walking stick, once his eyes were close to the thin crack he too made out the soft shimmering from inside the wood.
"What is it?" Sprat asked.
"I don't know, let me see that sword of yours, I think this old stick is about the same size."
Davin matched the stick with the beautiful sword in Sprat's hands, it was almost identical in the length and thickness, as he touched the sword with the old stick, there was a loud shattering sound, with their eyes wide open in fear, the boys looked at the old wooden walking stick, except it was no longer a walking stick, the old wood had disappeared and in its place was a fine sword with a blue shimmering blade, its hilt was of the finest silver and in Davin's hands seemed to weight nothing, again the two boys felt a pressure on them, when they awoke it was close to night time again, however this time there was the smell of fresh cooked food filling their nostrils.
The boys struggled to their feet and looked around, on the ground in front of them was a feast fit for the nobility, it was laid out on fine metal salvers and plates, the many meats were steaming hot and mounds of vegetables and fruits filled many bowls, as boys are wont to do, they sat down and began to eat before thinking or worrying about how it all got there.
Once filled to bursting, Sprat turned to the grinning Davin, his belly distended with the good food.
"We have to stop doing this."
"Doing what?" asked Davin.
"This thing with the swords, each time we found one and touched it, strange things happen, mine took us to this new strange land and yours must have found the food for us, they have to be magical swords, there's nothing else to explain it."
"But who would give away magical swords, besides you know that there is no such thing as magic."
Sprat huffed and looked at Davin.
"So what do you call all that's happened to us since we held these ones then?"
"Well, er, yes, maybe, so what are we going to do now then, its nearly night again and we are still in this wide open place with no hut or protection?" replied Sprat.
"Well if these swords are really magical you could always take us to a place for the night."
"Ok, but how do I do that?"
"I don't know, how did we get here in the first place?"
"Well when I was taking the sword out of the leather bundle I was actually thinking about how we would get to Siava."
"Do you think this is Siava then?"
"I don't know, it could be, it's very large and it looks like a huge forrest way over there on the horizon, we don't have anything that big on our lands."
"Well why don't you try to see if the sword will take us close to the Forrest, we might find a place to stay the night."
"Well ok, if you think it will work."
"We have to try something, here, I'll hold your hand and you think about being close to the forrest."
Davin had no sooner grab a hold of Sprats hand than he found himself and Sprat standing just in front of the huge forrest, around them they could hear the sounds of day birds settling in for the night, in the undergrowth were faint sounds of animals looking for a place to rest the night away.
"Well that worked, now what?" asked Sprat.
"Let's find somewhere safe to sleep, if mine can supply us with food then we are going to be ok on our travels, we may even get to the Islands of the Dragons sooner now we have your sword."
"That's true but I don't want to use it too much, it might use all of its magic and then be nothing more than just a sword, that could be dangerous if we get into trouble."
"Yes you could be right, we should not use them unless we really have too, ok, look, see that big tree over there, the lower branches would make it easy for us to climb up higher, we could tie ourselves in and sleep up there for the night, we can think about things more in the morning."
"Yes a good idea, Davin!"
"Thank you for being my friend, I don't know what I would have done if they had taken me back to the mines, I'm sure they would have stolen this magical sword as well."
"That's ok Sprat, I like having you with me as well, I never had a real friend before so you are my first and only friend, we can go on this adventure together and watch out for each other."
"Well you're my first real friend also, by the way, how did you get all the food to appear?"
"While I was unconscious I was having a dream about a massive feast, I was sort of really hungry before so I guess the sword just followed my dream."
"Oh, ok, come on, let's get up that tree and get some sleep, my eyes are about to fall out."
The boys climbed the huge tree and found a place between two large forks, just enough space to cuddle together and settle down, they were both asleep within minutes.
In the last hour of darkness before the dawn, Kashin sent out his groups of Dragons and Riders, it would not take them long to hide in the familiar valleys and canyons under the thick carpet of grey mist, with Howudino under him, Kashin lead the mass of other Dragons high into the heavy clouds in preparations for the coming fight, he had given Seb a smile of confidence as his Consort stood at the opening of the Weir with his ten Browns in full armour ready to defend the home Weir.
The females had left earlier and had spread out over the supposed line of approach of the enemies, Kashin hoped that Howudino's supposition that the three different groups in the enemy army would start to bicker amongst themselves when things began to go wrong, if this happened then it would only add to their own strength.
It had been arranged that all of the females reports would be sent to Howudino as he was able to hear them all, he would then pass them on to the others, the first report came in and told of the approaching enemy forces, they had changed their line of attack so that now there were only five forward groups of ten Dragons, quickly, after hearing this, Kashin revised his sniping attacks.
When the first groups came over the low lying mist, five groups of three of his Dragons would power up from below, cause as much damage as they could on their headlong climb, and disappear into the clouds above, as soon as the first wave disappeared, the second wave would charge upward, when the second drive came up through the clouds, the first would return by driving back downward taking any enemy Dragons into the mist with them.
He hoped by this time there would be total chaos in the forward ranks of the enemy, when the third drive came to an end, Kashin and Howudino would lead the first downward drive through the centre of the main army, using the same tactic of hit and run and into the mist below, again, as they disappeared, the second main attack force would hit the front line, the same would occur for the rear lines, if all went as planned, the enemy forces should be in quite some disarray.
The battle began and, as planned, everything went perfectly, the front five groups of attackers were broken up and scattered as well as being depleted to only a few trying to escape the sudden onslaught from the much bigger and faster Dragons of Tallas Weir, apart from the odd small burn of lost scale, Kashin's forces came through the attack virtually unharmed but the losses to the enemy army had been nearly 60%.
Kashin and Howudino looked through the thick clouds at the remnants of the scattering van guard, it was now time for them to hit and run, Kashin felt a flutter of doubt in his stomach as he felt Howudino gather his strength and power for the high speed dive into the massed ranks below, the main enemy force was now in the narrow band of clear space between the heavy thunder clouds and the swirling grey mists, it was easy to see there were the beginnings of disruption in the enemy ranks, some were trying to slow down to take stock of the situation, others were trying to fly closer to each other for support, the tidy ranks were becoming loose, at the head of the massed ranks were the three Princes, their gold scales standing out amongst the brown of the army.
Kashin had time to notice that, even from his hiding place well above the massed ranks, the Golden Dragons of the Enemy looked to be no larger than his own Browns, Howudino would dwarf all of them, his thoughts were interrupted by the sudden spinning turn of Howudino, they were now committed to the battle, calling Dragons Claw to his hand, he led the eighty Dragons of Tallas Weir into the centre of the massed ranks of the enemy, his sword shining brightly as though with a power of the very sun.
Fifty metres from the enemy ranks and Howudino led with a long blast of fire directly into the enemy ranks, they were diving in a V formation so the other Browns of Tallas Weir could also send their blasts into the enemy, there were only a few that tried to return with fire blasts but they lacked the distance of the larger Tallas Dragons.
Suddenly a Dragons head came slashing at Kashin as they drove further into the mass of enemy Dragons, without thought he lashed out with Dragons Claw and saw the head severed from the long neck, at the same time he felt a heavy thump below him, with a quick glance downward, he saw the Howudino had clamped his front talons onto another Dragon, its Rider was underneath the left talon and the right was buried deeply into the flanks, Howudino had the Dragons long neck in his massive jaws just behind the head making it impossible for the Dragon to fight back, as they dove lower, Kashin saw that they were entering the mist, the Dragon still clasped in Howudino's talons.
Breaking through the mist into the clear air just above the valley floor, Kashin watched as Howudino released the badly injured Dragon to fall like a twirling leaf to the hard ground below, with a twist of his huge body, Howudino led his Dragons to the East under the cover of the heavy mist, when he thought they were well clear of the fighting, he spun upward and drove for the thick clouds above, they would then return to the battle again.
The second squadron of Tallas Dragons were attacking the front line just as Kashin disappeared into the mist, by the time he and Howudino were back up above in the clouds, the third squadron had hit the rear ranks hard, as he and Howudino looked down through the clouds, they could see total chaos and disarray in the enemy army, the three gold Dragons at the front were trying to organise some sort of defence against this new form of fighting, they had expected the battle to go as it always had over the last hundred years, this new form of fighting was too foreign for their old fashioned tactics.
From his high vantage point, Kashin could see that the enemy had had great losses, at this time he had no Idea about their own losses, he had no more time to think as Howudino spun over and began another drive towards the disrupted enemy, Kashin could see that they had lost all cohesion as an army and it almost looked as though the three Gold's at the front did not know what to do next, Howudino made up their minds for them by leaving the rest of their squadron to continue the attack on the faltering centre while he and Kashin went after the three smaller Princes.
Now Kashin began to feel a little more comfortable in his role but still, it was now going to be three on one, Kashin called on his magic for a protective shield as Dragons Claw glowed with power, the three smaller Gold's in front of them turned en-mass towards the larger oncoming Gold, they too had a magical shield but it was not as strong as the combined magic of Kashin and Howudino.
They came together in a mighty blast of fire, Howudino's thick stream blasting easily through the thinner shield of the Dragon in front of him, as the shield shattered under the mighty blast, Howudino raked his thick black talons along the belly of the enemy Prince, golden scales flew in all directions as Howudino's heavy body crashed into the smaller Dragon with a force that knocked the small Rider from his seat, his scream of fear as his thigh straps broke under the impact could be heard as he fell ground-ward, another heavy blast of fire from Howudino into the wide wings of the Golden Dragon and he too was falling quickly behind his Rider.
Kashin had little time to watch the mayhem of Dragon Battle, he suddenly found himself under attack from both sides by the other two Riders, their swords crashing heavily into his magical shield as they tried to break through and kill him, without thought, Kashin slashed out with Dragons Claw, much to his surprise his magical sword sliced through the shield of the Rider on his right cleaving the Riders armour and shoulder, as the blood spurted from the badly injured Rider, his sword dropped towards the ground, he was now totally unarmed and at the mercy of Kashin.
Kashin took pity on the Rider, he was no more threat so he turned towards the Rider on his left, he could quickly see that this Rider was not at all happy about what was happening, by this time Howudino had grasped the other Golden Dragon behind the head and was shredding his scales with both front sets of talons, as Kashin struck out at the last Rider.
The Riders Dragon tried to pull away after it had sent a blast of fire at Kashin, Kashin's shield held but it put his aim off a little and he only managed to slice deeply into the Riders thigh, as the Dragon attempted to flee for its life, Howudino sent out a long and fearful blast of roiling fire, it caught the fleeing Dragon on both wings, without its magical shield, the fleeing Dragon had no defences, its wings blackened and the last of the Golden Dragons fell headlong towards the hard stony ground below, Howudino let out a long and very loud roar along with a fire stream that leapt fifty metres into the early morning air.
With little more delay, Kashin and Howudino turned back towards the main battle, much to their surprise, the battle was nearly over, General Dargoss had taken command, he sent General Albussi with eighty Dragons to block off any escape back to the coast, with the remaining forces he split them up into smaller squadrons of twenty or so, using the same tactics but with added variations, he continued the attack on the faltering ranks of the enemy.
When Kashin and Howudino returned to the site of the main battle it was just in time to see the remnants trying to flee to the coast and then homeward only to find General Albussi waiting for them, most immediately landed on the plains in surrender, some tried to break through the heavy lines of General Albussi's ranks, this only caused more deaths, as the last of the enemy Dragons landed in surrender, Kashin and Howudino called all their Dragons to contain the captives.
The sight that met Kashin's eyes was not pretty, most of the enemy had missing scales, large scorch marks and a few had dead or dying Riders still strapped in their saddles, their new tactics had been nothing less than a massacre, unknown to the Dragons of Tallas Weir, this battle would be retold many times over the following years, it would go a long way to bringing a long time of peace for Tallas Weir.
Howudino landed not far from the remnants of the enemy army, the atmosphere was heavy with defeat as Kashin and Howudino settled on the ground surrounded by ten Browns, Kashin and Howudino held a quick mental conference on what to do with so many captives, it became obvious they would no longer have any Princes to rule them and they could not stay on their Island home, it was General Dargoss that came up with an answer for the problem once it was discussed amongst themselves.
"We have to send them back to their homes, we cannot have them crossing with any of our Females, they have lost their Princes and will have to take their chances with other Weirs attacking them, it's only what they deserve."
As Howudino and Kashin considered this turn of events, four Messadine suddenly appeared in front of them all four bowed to the Royals, Howudino spoke to them first.
"Honourable Messadine Elders, what is it you wish of us?"
"Most honourable Princes, we bring news for your consideration."
"What would that be, Honourable Elders?"
"While the battle was on we had a mass vision of what may be in the future, if we may be so bold, we would suggest that the forces of Prince Kordon and Prince Grevlar be combined into one Weir, the numbers of Prince Mastik could hold their Weir against attack as they still have the numbers, the vision showed us two that are travelling this way that will fill the void of Princes, on their journey they will find their Dragons, there is a third with them but we cannot see him clearly, he carries a magic within him that is not yet revealed. The two new Riders will vow fealty to your Weir, that is what we have seen Your Highnesses."
"But what will we do until these two are found, we can't leave these Weirs unattended for others to take advantage of?" replied Kashin.
"We would suggest a small contingent of our Dragons be put in charge until the new ones arrive."
"That sounds like a good Idea, General Albussi, you will stand as Regent for the Weir of Prince Mastik, general Dargoss, you will stand as Regent for the combined Weirs until these strangers arrive to take over, whoever or whenever that may be."
The two Generals bowed to Kashin and Howudino, they then turned to select twenty of the Tallas Dragons as escort, Howudino stood to his full massive and overpowering height, in a loud and authoritive voice he told the captives of what had been decided, any that did not want to change their ways and follow Weir Tallas were told to take up arms and decide their fate here and now, none did.
After a few more preparations, the two generals and their escorts led the remains of the enemy army into the air and out over the coast, many were injured and some Riders were barely able to stay in their saddles, but all took to the air, the age of the long bloody Dragon battles was, for now, over, they had escaped with their lives and the news that new Princes were on their way lifted some spirits.
Although it was just a little after midday and the two Royals had dispensed with the heavy clouds and mists, everyone was feeling the weight of the battle, all over the mountain sides and deep in the valley lay those slain in the furore that was a Dragon Battle, for Kashin and Howudino the losses had been relatively light although both of them would have preferred to not have lost a single soul, the enemy had lost more than four hundred Dragons and Riders in the fast hit and run attacks while Tallas Weir had lost only twenty seven Dragons and Riders, while any loss was horrific it was far better than if they had tried to fight in the old ways.
As they flew back to the Weir, the hundreds of Messadine were already at work on the dead, armour weapons were stripped before the dead were given a funeral pyre, only the Dragons and Riders of Tallas were given the honour of cremation in the live Volcano as a symbol of their sacrifice to the Weir, the highest honour that could be given those lost in battle.
Even though there was a huge celebration for their massive victory, it was also tempered by their losses, the dead were saluted with cups full of mead and wished a speedy journey to the afterlife, the victory was celebrated with stories of valour and how well the new tactics of their Prince had saved so many lives and decimated the enemy so easily.
Later in the evening, when Kashin and Seb were finally alone and wrapped in each other's arms, did the frightened look of total fear of the two Gold Dragon Riders faces as they saw their deaths approaching, leave Kashin's mind, it was a picture he did not want to ever see again, Seb felt something was wrong with his Prince and all he could do was hold on tighter and try to ease whatever was bothering his love.
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