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|Well it's finally here! This is the sequel to Cobalt. In this Cobalt meets his father and learns the horrible secret of his parents. Also many probably think Cobalt was based in medeival times but it actually isn't. For further clarification see 'The Cataclysm'.||
Sins of the Father
Cobalt tucked his blue and silver lined wings in slightly to help protect the membranes from the worst of the storm around him. Bright lightning flashed all around and flared brilliant colors off of his metallic scales. Gale force winds buffeted him from all sides and threatened to tear at the leathery membranes of his wings. Cobalt was fully grown now and a credit to his species. Of course it is easy to become a credit to your species when said species population is one. He had grown up strong and well. He was easily the equal of almost any dragon he came across, as of course he had to be. Countless times during his childhood and early adult years members of the draconic species had made attempts on his life. Cobalt struggled with the raging tides of air that flowed around him. He had always had a slight affinity for flight. It made him feel above it all, as though up in the air he was normal, just like any other dragon. It also made him feel as though his problems couldn’t catch him. Consequently he had spent a great deal of time in the air, a trait his mother, Gemgira, assured him was from his father’s side. Cobalt’s thoughts flashed back and forth like the bolts of lightning streaking from the clouds to the ground. He worried that perhaps he would be next. The winds were too strong to allow him to land anywhere but in a large field, and his acute draconic vision detected only trees beneath him. More lightning flashed in his eyes and small rivulets of rain water found their way across his slick scales and mingled with a single tear from his great golden eye. Cobalt found the storm reminding him of a similar storm he had once lived through long ago…
Another place and another time Cobalt found himself inside his mother’s cave. The wind outside howled off of the entrance walls and the damp rain made its way into the very mouth of the cave. Cobalt hunkered in the back, away from the cold. He was still young, far too young. It had been merely days since his first few flights and the storm angered him. He cast his baleful glare at the torrent of rain that pounded away outside and wondered to himself when his mother would be home. She had gone, “hunting” again. Cobalt had always found it strange that whenever his mother got a certain look in her eye and said she was going hunting she seemed to spit out the word as if it were a curse. And during such hunts she never did bring back any food. In any case Cobalt knew he couldn’t fly today, couldn’t be with his mother, and didn’t have any friends to visit, and so he sat in the back of the cave waiting, bored.
Silently Cobalt decided to spend his time a little more constructively and concentrate on his magic lessons. Slowly the outside world faded as he turned his attention inward and opened his mind’s eye. There he stood alone within the confines of his mind. Around him was a cave complex. He knew it was only a representation, a facsimile to make his hunts easier. His mother had taught him how to make this place in his mind out of the fabric of his thoughts. How he would have to use both his meditation and the sanctum of his mind to find his magic. She had explained, upon Cobalt’s incessant questioning, that draconic magic was unique. A spell in draconic magic was not learned. Instead, she explained that Cobalt already knew all of his spells, that they dwelled inside his head like wild animals waiting to be caught and tamed. Some would be hard to find, like squirrels, while others would have to be fought for mastery, like bears. She had assured him that once he had caught a spell he would be able to call on it whenever he wished, that it would be as easy as flapping his wings. But she had warned him as well. Should he use his magic too much he could tire, and as with flapping far too much he could hurt himself. This really hadn’t excited Cobalt too much. What had really peaked his interest though was when his mother showed him her human morph spell. She had explained that he was to be on the lookout for that spell most of all for it would allow him to travel to the human village.
The concept was intriguing especially when he thought of all the human playmates he could have if he could just catch that spell. Cobalt sniffed at the floor of his mind cave. So far he hadn’t caught any, not one. He could sense them though, there within his mind. They were indeed like animals, some powerful, some stealthy and others swift. All of them were different shapes and sizes. And all Cobalt had to do was track down the right one and catch it. He thought of all the friends he could have then and redoubled his efforts. The cave was dark. There was no sun in the realm of his mind. Cobalt hadn’t gotten around to designing one yet. Besides he could see as though it were daylight anyway, if not because of his great dragon eyesight than because of instinct. It was his mind after all. Cobalt’s nostrils flared and his golden eyes flashed with an inner fire, he had found the trail of a spell. From the sense of it though it might not be the one he was looking for, still it would give him some practice and might help him catch the human spell.
He set off down the paths of his mind like a shot. Ahead of him the spell caught wind of its pursuer and began to move down the tunnels of his mind. It was pretty fast. Cobalt could sense that the spell was airborne and flying within the caves of his mind. That had been one of the reasons Cobalt had formed his mindscape into that of a cave complex in the first place, so that his spells wouldn’t be able to fly away if they could. The chase was on as spell and dragon careened down and around the caverns of his mind. The spell twisted this way and that, flying down side passages and twisting up and down tunnels. Cobalt was gaining on it though. He was locked on now and wasn’t going to give it up. Finally the two burst into a large storage cavern where Cobalt kept some of his fondest memories. All around him ghostly images of his mother and he were strewn about like a child’s play room. There was the memory of his first birthday, here one of the numerous times his mother had defended him against a dragon purist who viewed Cobalt as some sort of demon, and there the recent memory of his mother watching him on his first flight.
It saddened Cobalt a little that all of his good memories were only he and his mother. But that would all end as soon as he caught that spell! Now that the spell was out in the open Cobalt got a good look at it for the first time. It was a dove of such the purest white that it seemed to glow in the dark of his mind. Such a promising spell had to be great. Cobalt gritted his fangs and leapt into the air. He spread his wings and flew after the little bird. Where the bird had been keeping up a tentative lead on the young dragon now that gap quickly closed. Cobalt found himself just about above the little bird as it tried desperately to evade him. Carefully he aimed a strike and with one of his claws, snatched the bird from the air. In the same space of time as a heartbeat he landed hard on the ground of the mind cave with his three free legs. Inside his talons the little dove struggled. He had caught one! Finally! But was this the one? Was this the spell that would allow him to walk among humans and finally make friends? Cobalt pushed that thought aside, that didn’t matter. He had caught one! Even if it wasn’t the right one it might help.
Cobalt gazed at the tiny creature through the cracks of his talons. It was pecking and scratching at his still soft scales. It hurt a little but Cobalt dared not let go. So he had caught one, but now what was he supposed to do with it? Cobalt considered, his mother had told him each spell had to be tamed differently. Some needed to be beaten, others needed to be caged, and still others… Cobalt looked again at the bird. Still others needed you to care. Cobalt sat back on his hind claws and cupped his other hand around so that he held the bird in a gentle but firm grip. Then he began to make little soothing noises, he clucked and he sighed and spoke soft draconic and human to it, saying things like, “There There.” And, “It’s all right. I won’t hurt you.” And stroking at the birds feathered neck with one gentle talon. Eventually the bird stopped fighting and Cobalt gently opened his talons. The bird didn’t go anywhere. It just sat on the palm of his outstretched claw and cooed softly. It was clear that he had tamed it. The little bird was his friend now and would let him access it whenever he needed. Of course the bird was only a metaphor created by his mindscape. In reality the spell really had no shape. “I wonder what kind of spell you are.” Cobalt said to it gently. The little bird seemed to ignore him and continued to coo in harmless joy. Then it saw the lines of blood that it had gouged out of his claw. Cobalt followed its gaze and said reassuringly “Don’t worry, it’s just a scratch.” The bird wasn’t listening; it just kept looking at the wound. Then a look of such profound compassion and empathy crept into its eye and as the bird watched the cuts sealed themselves up. Realization dawned on him. He had caught a healing spell. That would be useful. In the real world a movement caught Cobalt’s eye. He quickly put the bird down and snapped out of his trance.
He was once more in his mother’s cool, damp cave. Outside the rain formed a curtain through which sight was near impossible. From this curtain rose the shadowy outline of a dragon. At first Cobalt assumed it to be his mother, home from her “hunt”, but the horns were all wrong. This was not the shadow of his beloved mother. This was someone else. A wave of fear washed over Cobalt’s young heart.
A few dragons had tried to take his life before, Purists they called themselves, but his mother had always been there to protect him. Now his mother was nowhere to be found, and Cobalt felt as though he was looking death straight in the face.
The deep rumbling of a male dragon coaxed at him from the shadow. It was low and kind and gentle like his mothers. There was a hint of age to it. The slight feel of seasons passed and knowledge gained.
It called his name from the darkness, “Cobalt? Son, are you there? It’s alright; I’m not here to hurt you.”
The words reminded Cobalt of his encounter with the dove. Except this time he was the bird. A burst of realization hit and Cobalt uncurled from the back of the cave.
“Teirok? Is that you?” Cobalt said tentatively to the shadow.
“What, you can’t call me Father? “
At the sound of these words Cobalt finished uncoiling and streaked out of the mouth of the cave, in his rush he forgot to judge how far away from the mouth the shadow was and crashed headlong into the hard scales of Teirok’s chest. The rain was on him now and it pelted at him from the side. Teirok stretched forth one sky blue wing and near instantly the rain could not touch him.
Beneath the umbrella of his father’s wing Cobalt beheld his sire for the first time. He was large, easily bigger than his mother, he was also lean and more refined, an adaptation to prolonged flights. His scales were the color of the sky in mid afternoon on a cloudless day. At their edges though showed the faintest hints of white and his blue underbelly was slowly turning purple.
Cobalt’s father was an ancient. Unlike most creatures dragons only grow more powerful with age. Their health never deteriorates and they grow wiser, sometimes living for over a thousand years before time catches up to them. From the looks of him Teirok was well into his sixth or seventh century, quite a contrast to Gemgira’s two centuries but such things as age didn’t mean much to dragons. His fathers deep green eyes looked into Cobalt’s. There was a kindness there, acceptance. “Come Cobalt. We haven’t much time.” Teirok murmured as Cobalt rubbed his father’s chest scales.
“Where are we going?” Cobalt asked, climbing onto his father’s back.
“Somewhere near, but where your mother won’t catch us.” Teirok replied as he readied himself for takeoff.
Cobalt stopped in mid climb, his mother. “I can’t stay long. Mother will be home any time now and I’ll have to be home to greet her.” Cobalt said hurriedly. He would not abandon the only dragon who had ever loved him.
A soft chuckle rumbled from within Teirok’s throat. It carried a sadness with it that seemed to threaten to transform it into weeping. Then Teirok said, “Don’t worry son. I’m not here to take you away from your mother. I just want to explain a few things to you.”
Cobalt figured this was okay and finished climbing onto his fathers back. There was no way he could fly in this storm. Cobalt dug his small talons into his fathers back scales.
Teirok waited until he was sure his son was secured and then turned and leaped into the air. His great blue wings beat the air for lift until he caught a good breeze off of the storm. Teirok used it like a thermal and soon he and Cobalt were soaring through the thunderheads.
Cobalt was amazed by the mastery his father had over the air. Every time a strong current ripped across their path and Cobalt thought for sure they would falter his father merely twitched his wings a certain way and the current became a blessing. Together they rode the savage, untamed wind and danced amid the lightning strikes. All the while Cobalt clung to his father’s scales and stared in awe at his prowess. Finally Teirok beat his wing back and they made a gentle, if buffeted, landing on the outcrop of a small cliff. Next to the cliff ledge was a cave. Teirok moved inside easily and Cobalt slid down from his perch on his father’s back.
The cave was very similar to his mother’s. And it’s location was indeed not very far away. In fact Cobalt felt sure that he could fly the distance himself in clear weather, maybe with a few rest stops. Teirok moved to a curved and worn rock formation. It was oddly shaped and when his father lay down onto it Cobalt figured out why. His father had fashioned a couch.
“Cobalt, do you know what it is your mother is doing right now?” Teirok asked in a voice that told of hidden secrets to be revealed.
Cobalt sat on the hard stone in front of his father and curled his tail over his front claws. “She is out hunting.” Cobalt answered.
For a moment it seemed Teirok couldn’t bear to meet his gaze. He concentrated on the walls instead for a time, and then he turned his attention back to Cobalt. “Yes I suppose you could call it that. Tell me Cobalt, does your mother always go “hunting in a thunderstorm?” Teirok asked.
Cobalt cocked his head before replying, “No.”
Teirok seemed to expect this answer and continued in his deep voiced draconic, “And do you know what it is that your mother hunts?”
Cobalt kept his head cocked in confusion. He could tell that this was leading somewhere but he couldn’t tell the conversation’s destination yet, so he merely replied, “Animals I imagine.”
A tear threatened to come to Teirok’s face, “No son. She hunts me.”
Cobalt was taken aback by this. Sure dragons came after him but why would his own mother hunt his father? Cobalt couldn’t stand to remain ignorant of this any longer. “But why!?” He stammered in shock.
Teirok seemed to settle into a more comfortable position, “You see Cobalt, your mother wants a divorce. That is what Human’s call it when a married couple breaks up, but we dragons have no such thing. For a dragon, once you are mated you are mated until either you or your mate dies. Your mother feels that I tricked her into mating with me, betrayed her, and violated her in ways that no dragon should be. She has vowed to kill me so that it will be as though we never mated.”
Cobalt swallowed hard at this news. His mother wished she and his father had never mated. “Does that mean that she wishes I was never born?” Cobalt asked. Bile burned in his throat, had all those memories been a lie?
Before Teirok could even answer Cobalt answered himself in his own mind, Teirok echoed Cobalt’s foregone conclusion. “No!” He thundered.
The cave vibrated and the echoes of his bellow could be heard chasing themselves down the cavern walls. “Your mother and I were so happy when we found out we were with child. She loves you and would give her life for you as I’m sure you already know. She believes that her blood purified you so that you would not become the monster she thinks I am.”
Cobalt sighed in relief at this reassurance, but there were more questions to be asked. “And how do you feel about it?” Cobalt asked.
Teirok reached out a claw and pulled Cobalt closer. “I still love her son. Sure if we had known what each other really were from the start we wouldn’t have let it get this far, but I’m glad for the time your mother and I had together. Those were the happiest times of my life, and that’s saying something. I just wish your mother could once more see through the color of my scales to the human she fell in love with.”
Cobalt saddened a little at his father’s words but a faint hope sprang in his young heart. “Why don’t you tell her?” Cobalt asked.
Teirok seemed to grow weary at the question, “I’ve tried. She won’t believe me. And she attacks whenever she sees me. Perhaps one day, when I’ve grown too tired to run from her anymore, I’ll give her what she wants and hope she’ll finally find happiness.”
Cobalt’s hope was washed away, but a tiny flicker of it remained. After all, his father wasn’t a bad guy. If only he could make his mother see then… Then what? They’d be a family? A vision of he and his parents living together as humans and watching Cobalt play with the other humanlings entered into his mind. They were such warm visions that Cobalt felt his hope for it rise just a little, but logic quickly set in, it was just a dream after all. “Hey! If Mother is out hunting you now then how can you be here?” Cobalt asked.
Teirok looked outside and his great eyes widened. “I’ll explain that next time. Our time is growing short the storm has almost stopped. Come! You must return.”
Cobalt scrambled up his father’s side and took his perch Teirok fairly ran to the mouth of the cave and launched himself into the empty air. They fell for a few feet before his heavy wing beats forced them aloft.
Cobalt spent the return flight in deep concentration. His face buried in his father’s back ridges. He flared his nostrils as he took in and memorized his father’s scent. He smelled of ozone and frost, thunderstorms and high ledges. The ride was over all too soon and Cobalt was climbing down from his father’s back as the sun began to peak through the surrounding rain clouds. Cobalt scampered toward the cave and turned,
“Will I ever see you again?” A slight tremble had entered his voice.
Teirok didn’t miss a beat; he turned around and swung his head over his shoulder to reply, “Yes, just wait for the next storm.” With that his great muscles heaved and he leaped skyward.
Cobalt watched as the coming sunlight illuminated his wings to match the blue of the sky, and as his father circled higher he heard the deep rumbling of his voice from above,
“Don’t forget that I love you too.”
With those final words he was gone. Cobalt’s smile never faded as he went to lie back down in the cave to await his mother’s return. She arrived a few long hours later. Cobalt scrambled forward and nuzzled her close her brilliant silver scales reflected the sunlight behind her and sent little shafts into the darkness of the cave.
“And what’s this all about?” Gemgira asked, “I wasn’t gone that long was I?” Cobalt looked up into her eyes, they were gold like his, and realized he could never tell her about Teirok.
“I, I learned a spell today!” Cobalt finally answered.
“Which one?” Gemgira asked, her curiosity evident.
“It’s a healing spell! There was this dove, and it flew, and I flew after it and…” Cobalt was suddenly all excitement as he related the events of his taming of the dove.
The days seemed to drag past. Every day his mother went hunting, for his father or otherwise, Cobalt hoped that Teirok would come again and he could spend some more time with his father, the only other dragon that loved him. But Cobalt wasn’t entirely surprised when his father did not come; undoubtedly he had to wait for just the right circumstances to chance a visit. In the meantime Cobalt tried to put Teirok out of his mind. For one thing he practiced flying. Often he would soar into the air with his mother by his side coaxing him on. It was times like those that Cobalt lived for, just he and his mother. But there was always something missing. Sometimes when his mother was coaching him in his flying he would imagine his father Teirok, in all his powerful airborne grace, on his other side taunting him with his antics and making him try even harder. Cobalt also dabbled in his magic to fill the time, but even the encouragement that learning the healing spell had given him it was still often a frustrating exercise. Gemgira often reassured him that she didn’t expect he’d catch very many until he was older, but he tried all the same. The time passed thus and Cobalt was happy but for the longing to see his father again and the faintest wish to have both his mother and father together again. It was a couple of months before another storm like that last one came.
Cobalt and Gemgira were in their cave watching the lightning dance on the clouds and listening to the rain patter on the outside of the cave. Gemgira was singing a soft lullaby to Cobalt in her native draconic. It was a comforting song that was filled with little trills and low growls. Few humans would have appreciated it unless they had grown up with it. It was a song about the rain outside. Gemgira was well into the chorus, “I’ll protect you, from the wind and the rain… Like a wraith I will keep you from darkness and pain…” Suddenly her nostrils flared. Cobalt smelled it too and realized it had always been there, just before. It was the smell of storms, ozone, frost, and cliff ledges, Teirok. Gemgira heaved upward and nearly sent little Cobalt tumbling. In her golden eyes he saw that look, the one that said she was going hunting but not for food. He knew what the look meant now. He could only pray that Teirok had given her his scent on purpose and that he would be safe.
Gemgira made a move for the door when she remembered her offspring. She swung around to check on Cobalt. Cobalt caught the movement and figured that she had to leave like she did before in order for his father to come. So he did the only thing he could think of, he closed his eyes and faked a deep sleep. His mother grunted softly in relief and headed out the mouth of the cave secure in the knowledge that her son would not miss her.
Cobalt didn’t actually see her go, but when the pouring rain drowned her wing beats out he chanced to open his eyes. She was indeed gone. He stretched on the hard ground and waited. In Cobalt’s mind at least some of the mystery about how his father was able to visit him was explained. He had seen his father fly and was sure that he could easily out maneuver his mother in this kind of weather, thus it was only in bad weather that he dared provoke a hunt. But how did he get away from her once she was on his trail? And why didn’t she just return when she’d lost him? Such were questions that Teirok had promised to answer during their next meeting. A couple of hours crawled by with little to distinguish their passing save the time between lightning strikes.
Finally a shadow appeared in the curtain of rain. Cobalt squinted and sniffed the air. The silhouette was definitely male and it smelled right,
“Father?” Cobalt ventured.
Teirok’s voice returned from the shadow. “Of course. Come son, we fly to my lair. I have someone for you to meet.”
Cobalt obligingly stepped out of his mother’s cave.
Teirok was as grand as ever, the storm around him lent a kind of elemental quality about him. Cobalt had gotten pretty good at flying and longed to show his father what he could do, but memories of the ease with which Teirok had conquered the storm last time prevented him from attempting the trip on his own, riding would be faster.
Cobalt deftly climbed onto teirok’s back and dug his claws in ever so slightly for grip. He was careful not to hurt him, although he doubted his un-developed claws would do much to the hard scales covering Teirok’s body anyway.
With a heave Teirok sent them skyward. Again they made their way to the cave. It was too loud for Cobalt to talk, but Teirok made himself heard above the rushing wind, pounding rain and periodical bursts of thunder.
Cobalt clung to Teirok as he listened to the story of his birth told from his father’s point of view. It was a story Cobalt knew well but never had he heard of the tragedy his father had gone through or the joy his mother had given him. It made him happy and sad all at once, happy for the times that his parents had enjoyed and sad for the situation they found themselves in now.
He listened to how his father had joined the anti human faction to protect himself from the other dragons, how he had gone to the village to destroy any buildings that might be used militarily, how he had met Gemgira and fallen in love, and finally how Gemgira had begun hunting him soon after Cobalt was born. By the time Teirok had finished his account of the past they had arrived at the cave. It was the same one as before, just a short flight from Gemgira’s but located so that the casual observer would never notice it.
Father and son stepped in out of the rain. The cave was dark as always but it mattered little to their dragon night vision. Cobalt expected his father to sit on the stone couch again as he had before, but Teirok took a seat on the floor next to it instead. Cobalt followed suit and stared at the figure occupying his father’s chair.
It was a black dragon. Its scales were darker than even the surrounding gloom. Hollow horns jutted from various strategic places on its hide Cobalt had heard about Blacks in his lessons and knew that Black dragons were poisonous as well as the leaders of the anti human faction. The jagged horny ridges traveled all the way up to the dragon’s head where they formed an intimidating crest. Two curved fangs ran down from the dragon’s upper jaw while a forked tongue tested the air. Cobalt had heard it theorized that Black dragons were somehow related to snakes. Seeing one in person with its poisoned barbs and fangs Cobalt realized that it could only be vaguely so since this Black dragon made any snake look harmless by comparison.
Cobalt shivered slightly as the fearsome dragon fixed its cold glare on him. Beside him Teirok said, “This is Malnef right lieutenant of the dragon council. Malnef this is my son, Cobalt.”
The black dragon shifted on its perch and bent lower to examine the dragonling.
“So this is Cobalt. An apt name, even in this darkness your scales show metallic.” Malnef’s voice was cool and smooth as though coached through years of practice. If Cobalt had been a little older and a little wiser he might have noticed the way he spat out the word metallic but Malnef’s smooth forked tongue quickly compensated and the hidden hate was disguised with practiced neutrality. Not that Cobalt would have been surprised to hear it anyway.
Cobalt bit back his apprehensions and replied, “Nice to meet you Luitenant Malnef.”
The black visage chuckled. “So polite! Please little one just Malnef. After all I’ve arranged for your father I feel as though I already know you.”
Cobalt was taken aback at the sudden friendliness in Malnef’s voice.
“So you’re the one who made it so my Father could see me? But how?” Cobalt said amazed.
Malnef straightened. “Yes child. It was mildly inconvenient but well worth the effort to reunite a boy and his father.” He beamed.
Cobalt wanted to know more and fixed Malnef with his best questioning look. “But how?”
Malnef cast a glance at Teirok, “He’s got his father’s curiosity.” He leveled his gaze at Cobalt again. “It was as I said, only a mild inconvenience. We got the idea when your mother lost track of Teirok in a storm. Seems he smells very similar to a storm. So all we had to do was wait for the appropriate weather. Then when your mother was distracted we switched Teirok for another blue dragon. In the storm your mother can’t pick up on the scent difference and the visibility is too low for her to tell by sight. Your mother is out there right now chasing a friend of ours to buy you this time with your father.”
Cobalt was shocked again. There was a conspiracy between at least three dragons just to let him talk to his father? Cobalt couldn’t help but voice his next question, “Why would you go through all that trouble just to help a half breed?”
Malnef actually looked a little hurt, or contrived to anyway. “Do you hear the rot your wife has filled this boy’s head with? HALF BREED!”
Teirok avoided Malnef’s gaze and Cobalt wondered what he had done wrong. “I guess that’s what you get when a child’s not raised properly.”
Malnef focused again on Cobalt and lowered his voice back to the cool, oily, and above all “sincere” one that he had used before.
Cobalt was totally taken in.
“You see my boy it doesn’t matter to us what color your scales are. You’re a dragon, member of a proud and noble heritage. Some of our brethren, like your mother, have forgotten this. They feel that Humans are more important, even though they hunt us at every turn. But I say that it is we dragons who are more important. And we of the United Dragon Conclave have sworn our lives to the health and welfare of our brothers and sisters, even those who have lost their way. Because we dragons have to look out for each other, don’t you agree?”
Cobalt was finding it hard to argue with this logic. He pictured all the dragon purists who had attacked him before; thus far they had all been metallic. And he did want to help his mother…
“Yes.” Cobalt said grudgingly.
Malnef towered over him as though in triumph although Cobalt couldn’t guess as to why. “It’s all right young one. You are too young to join the Conclave and we wouldn’t expect you to anyway. I just want to ensure that you can see your father whenever you wish. Would you like that?” Malnef continued.
“Yes!” Cobalt replied emphatically. “But we certainly can’t keep risking our friend’s or your father’s lives every time Gemgira’s in the mood to hunt them now can we?” It was a rhetorical question but Malnef paused for a response anyway.
“No.” Cobalt replied after an uncomfortable pause. “To that end, I have a solution. This,” Malnef pulled something up from behind him. It appeared to be a gem of some sort; it was sky blue and reminded Cobalt faintly of Teirok. “Is one of your father’s scales. It’s been treated with alchemy to retain its properties as though it were still attached.”
Cobalt looked closer at the gem. It was still shaped like one of Teirok’s scales, in fact for all intents it was only miniature and encased in enamel.
“But isn’t alchemy a human science?” Cobalt said curiously.
Tierok smiled, “He’s also got his mother’s wits Malnef.”
Malnef grinned in return to expose more of his sharp fangs. “Yes, it is. Humans do have their occasional uses. Now Cobalt. Next time your mother leaves for a good length of time just rub this gem and call your father’s name.”
Malnef held the jewel out and Cobalt reached for it. “But remember! Your mother still believes that your father betrayed her, should she catch him.” Malnef let the thought of the consequences hang in the air, “Just be sure you know how long she’ll be gone.” Malnef finished and placed the jeweled scale in Cobalt’s outstretched talons.
They spent the rest of the storm talking and joking together. Cobalt had to admit; Malnef seemed nice enough, once you got past the fearsome appearance. Besides who was he to judge a dragon by his color. Such would make him as bad, as Malnef pointed out, as those who would judge him. Indeed Cobalt had a lot to think about as Teirok deposited him back at his cave to await his mother’s return.
The lightning flash faded from Cobalt’s eye and the tear flew back. Cobalt shook himself mentally for indulging in a review of his past. Around him the storm still raged. Cobalt scanned the ground again for a clearing suitable for landing and wondered if his father had worried so during their trips through the storm together. If he had he disguised it well, just as he had disguised a great many things. Cobalt mused. Below him a farmer’s field beckoned. Cobalt pulled his wings in until the wind would no longer hold him aloft and plummeted for the patch of ground. The field seemed to rush up to meet the falling dragon, but Cobalt spread his wings full and slowed to a stop seconds before he crashed.
Cobalt’s talons sank gratefully into the muddy ground. With his great gold eyes he scanned his surroundings. In the gloom he could make out the corn that made up the crop of the farmer. It was a small field. Cobalt guessed the nearest trees were perhaps a few rods away on each side.
There in the distance stood the farmer’s house. A stout looking determined thing. It was little more than a glorified shack. Its timbers were gray with age and what few windows it possessed glowed from the inside to mirror Cobalt’s own reflective golden eyes. Above the small structure a cobbled together chimney puffed a steady stream of smoke into the air.
Around him the lightning flashed and more thunder soon followed. Cobalt had to get out of the storm and that house was the only logical place. In his mind he focused on one of his spells. Almost immediately his Dragon body buckled and turned inward. His wings shriveled and his form shrank, his legs straightened and his talons retracted into hands. In mere moments the transformation was complete.
Where once had stood a dragon now stood a man. He was wet and naked. He looked to be only twenty or so and built around a lifetime of fighting. His hair was long and reached down to his neck in wet tangles. It was blonde but not normally so. You might have called it platinum blonde but even that description didn’t do the man’s tresses justice. No, this man’s hair was definitely silver. Along the sides of his naked being one could make out what seemed to be blue tattoos on his skin. They repeated a pattern from his temples all the way down to his ankles. They most resembled blue tiger stripes. Cobalt opened his eyes. They were no longer gold; instead they were a more human blue. They also weren’t as good as his dragon eyes. Cobalt found himself shoulder deep in corn and unable to see through the darkness to the farmhouse. The rain pounded on his tender, human skin. It brought with it a cold that would have sent a normal man running and shivering for shelter.
But even under his human morph spell Cobalt was not an ordinary man. He still retained some of his draconic traits. One of those was a partial immunity to the cold. Cobalt started in the direction he had last seen the farmhouse. He was also partially immune to lightning. However, that only meant that he wouldn’t die if struck, it would still hurt.
As Cobalt made his way to the farmhouse he started constructing a plausible story as to why he, a human, was naked and alone in a thunderstorm. The soft mud squished between his toes as he made his way.
By the time he was nearly to the porch Cobalt had figured out what he would say. He was a traveler. He had been on the road when he had been set upon by bandits. He had been seeking shelter and clothes ever since and had been caught in the storm. The story seemed acceptable and Cobalt brimmed with confidence as he made his was for the porch.
Before he reached it though the door flew open and a short stocky man was silhouetted in the yellow light. Presumably it was the farmer. He had seen Cobalt making his resolute march toward his house and had come to meet this stranger.
“Hail sir! What are you doing in weather of this kind?” The farmer paused as the light fell on Cobalt’s bare skin. “And wearing nothing but the clothes God gave you?”
Cobalt opened his mouth to give his practiced reply, “I’m a traveler seeking shel”
The last bit died away as a bolt of lightning struck him. Cobalt reflected on the irony that he had flown through the storm, walked through a corn field, and had been on the threshold of safety when he’d finally been hit, as the blackness of unconsciousness enveloped him. While unconscious, Cobalt found himself transported back to the subject of his earlier thoughts.
The air was warm with summer heat. Even the cool of Gemgira’s cave could not hold out forever against the onslaught of warmth. Gemgira was fussing over her dragonling Cobalt.
“Why don’t you come swimming with me today?” She was asking. Her silvery hide was reflecting the sun again and making it hard to look at her directly.
Cobalt scowled. He had never been fond of swimming. He found it to be unusually difficult, besides he preferred flying anyway. “I just don’t. You can go without me. I’ll be fine I promise.” Cobalt replied.
Gemgira gave him an examining look. “You’ve wanted to stay home a lot lately. Are you okay?” Her words dripped with motherly concern.
“Yes I’m fine. I just don’t like swimming is all. You go ahead, I’ll stay here and study my magic.
Gemgira gave the draconic equivalent to a shrug. “Alright, I’ll be back in a few hours.” She said.
With that settled she launched herself into the air, her great silver wings caused dust clouds as she headed for a secluded lake. Cobalt waited until he was sure she was gone before running into his own cavern.
It was a little chamber that his mother had dug for him. It was just a little room for him to be alone in really but he used it for something much more important. He looked under a certain rock in the back of his cavern. Underneath it was a small hole and the gleaming jeweled scale that Teirok had given him a month ago. Carefully he rubbed it with one claw and whispered his father’s name. The magic scale glowed faintly as his father got the signal that it was safe to come. Cobalt grinned. Soon his father would be here and they could talk.
He spent the time that it took for his father to show by waiting patiently and cleaning his metallic blue scales. Shortly the dust at the cave mouth was disturbed again, this time by Teirok’s landing.
Cobalt ran out to meet him. “Hey dad!” Teirok settled and opened his claws for a human like embrace. Cobalt ran into it and clung to his father.
Looking up he said, “So what are we doing today? Flying lessons, combat lessons, history?” Teirok looked down a little guiltily. “Where’s your mother?”
Cobalt was taken aback. “Swimming, she’ll be gone a couple of hours. Why?”
Teirok looked up. Above him the silhouettes of two other dragons circled, waiting.
Cobalt could see their colors by the light illuminating the membranes of their wings. One was black, Malnef probably, the other was blue like Teirok.
Teirok spoke with purpose, “Listen! I can’t stay today. I have to take care of something. I promise I’ll spend more time with you next time, but until then, I must go.”
Teirok didn’t even bother turning around to leap into the air. Instead he sprang over Cobalt’s head and landed with incredible grace on the upper portion of the cave mouth, from there he launched himself skyward and once more over Cobalt’s head. His passage and wing beats blew up more dust. Cobalt spread his wings to follow. Then the voice of Malnef boomed down from on high,
“Stay! This is Conclave business and we don’t want you getting hurt.”
He folded his young wings back and watched the retreating figures of Teirok, Malnef, and the unknown blue.
Cobalt was lost in thought as he awaited his mother’s return. Then he heard wing beats outside. He quickly tucked the jeweled scale back into its hiding place and started for the entrance. He was almost there when he heard the sound of more wing beats. His mother was home, and she had a guest. He crouched low and kept close to the wall as he sneaked closer. Outside the cave he could see a large, male dragon talking with his mother. He was by far the biggest dragon Cobalt had seen yet. His scales were a bright gold, the kind that kings craved. Of course they weren’t really gold. If they were he would be far too heavy to fly. Instead they merely looked like gold. They shone in the sunlight like a king’s ransom. Beneath those scales huge muscles rippled with the slightest movement he was clearly a ground fighter. Gemgira stood next to him. Her silver scales were a stark contrast to the gold of the other.
“Reynart! What brings you to my cave?” Gemgira was saying.
Cobalt kept close to the wall in hiding. He knew when a conversation was to turn serious and he didn’t feel like being asked to stay in his cavern.
“I bring grave news. While you were out today another village was attacked.” The gold, presumably Reynart responded.
Gemgira recoiled and gazed at the ground,
“It’s not your fault Gemgira. We don’t expect you to be able to watch over the humans all the time. That would be impossible.” Reynart soothed.
Gemgira gritted her fangs and swelled with anger, “What’s impossible is that this is the sixth village destroyed while I was away! It’s almost like they know when I’m not around to protect them!”
Cobalt almost reached a sickening conclusion, but thought better of it. Even if Teirok did attack a village he wouldn’t hurt anyone unless they attacked him. He’d merely destroy all the military stuff.
Outside the conversation continued. “Give me the details. What was the damage to the humans? How many did they lose? And did anyone identify the attackers?” Gemgira asked she seemed calmer now.
Reynart shook his head, “All dead. They killed everyone and destroyed all the structures.”
Gemgira looked disheartened, “Then we don’t know the culprits.”
Reynart almost smiled. “Actually we do. You know Carole, the Green dragon mage in the woods a few settlements over?”
Gemgira clearly did not.
“Well anyway I convinced her to talk to the hawks in the area. Seems one of them saw the attack.” Reynart was saying.
Gemgira interrupted, “That must have cost you. We all know Greens value their neutrality.”
Reynart seemed to smile wider, “Naw, she owed me for helping to build her lair. As I was saying, we couldn’t get any names just some general descriptions.”
Gemgira brightened, “and?”
Reynart seemed to enjoy trailing her along but the frown that crossed his face extinguished his merriment. “I’m sorry. The attackers were three dragons from the Conclave. Two ancients, a black and a blue, and one younger blue, we have reason to believe one of them is your, um.”
Gemgira got that all too familiar look in her eyes and Cobalt felt his heart sink. “It’s all right Reynart. You can say it. My mate!”
Cobalt couldn’t bear to hear any more. He slinked back to his cavern. There, alone, he slumped to the ground and cried.
He had been betrayed. His father hadn’t meant what he had said about wanting to see him. Malnef hadn’t really wanted to help him. They had used him. Cobalt had spent the rest of that day sulking. He made an effort to hide his tears from his mother but she was so busy because of the massacre she wouldn’t have noticed anyway. So Cobalt was left alone. His sadness soon gave way to hate and Cobalt plotted. Two could play at this game.
Night spread its raven black cloak over the landscape. The moon was full and the cloudless sky shined with thousands of tiny pin points of star light. The pine trees around the clearing in front of Gemgira’s cave stood resolute as always and whispered their secrets to each other in a soft night’s wind. Cobalt stood alone at the cave mouth. His bright golden eyes shined with reflected moonlight and his metallic blue scales made him look as though he were clad in the robes of a blue pond beneath a moonlit sky. He was holding the jeweled scale in one claw and whispering his father’s name. Fireflies began to come out of their hiding places and performed their illuminated dance on the gentle summer night’s breeze.
The air stirred and the great form of Teirok landed in front of him. The sudden entrance of the great dragon scared the fireflies back into hiding for a few moments before their need for the dance chased them into the open again. Cobalt looked up at the dragon he had called Father.
“What is it Cobalt? You don’t usually call me this late.” Teirok said, his voice laced with concern.
Probably more trickery Cobalt figured. “Hello Teirok. Did I wake you?” he said, he fought to keep his voice cool but it was turning into a losing battle.
“Yes actually. I had a big day today.” Teirok sighed and stretched to illustrate his point.
“I bet.” Cobalt nearly sneered but he bit back the words just before they leapt forth. Not yet. He thought.
“Where’s your mother anyway? It’s not like her to leave you home alone this late.” Teirok cast a worried green eye around the clearing.
Now Cobalt thought. “Oh, she didn’t.” Cobalt said tipping his hand.
Teiroks eyes widened and he lowered his voice, “What do you mean?” he asked.
Cobalt cast a sly smile. “She’s inside asleep. She had a rather hard day too. It seems some dragons have been killing humans while she’s away.” Cobalt peppered an accusation into the words.
Teirok dug his claws into the ground in nervousness. He dropped his voice to a whisper, “You have to understand son. I”
Cobalt interrupted and shook the jeweled scale in his claws, “STOP! Stop with the lies. Your tongues as forked as Malnef’s.”
Teirok hung his head. “But,”
Cobalt glared, “You USED me! You used me to hurt Mom. Get the poor, lonely dragonling to spy for you so you can kill humans right under her nose! That was your plan all along wasn’t it? Did you really think I wouldn’t figure it out!? Did you think I was stupid?” Cobalt was raising his young voice with every rhetorical question.
“No,” Teirok began but Cobalt continued anyway,
“Well there are a couple things you ought to know Teirok. One is I’m nobody’s pawn!”
Teirok shook his head, “You were nev,”
Cobalt continued, “And the other is that I have a rope tied to my tail!”
Teirok blinked in incomprehension as Cobalt gave his tail a firm pull. Behind him and to the right of the cave a small wedge was yanked out of place and a large pile of rocks slid noisily down the side of the cave. From inside Teirok heard the sounds of Gemgira waking.
Quick as a lightning bolt Teirok sprang skyward.
“I promise you’ll pay for this Teirok! From now on my Mother won’t be the only one who hunts you!” Cobalt called to the retreating form of his father.
Gemgira emerged moments later. “What is going on out here?” Then she caught the smell, the smell of ozone, thunderstorms and cliff ledges.
Cobalt didn’t miss a beat, “There was a strange dragon watching the cave Mother! He looked at me funny and then flew off that way. Who was he mother?” he said in his best innocent voice.
Cobalt knew he was still too young to fight his father. He would leave that up to his mother for now.
“I’ll tell you later. Just get in your cavern now!” Gemgira said as she too leaped into flight.
Cobalt scowled as she went full speed after Teirok. He didn’t like lying to his mother, but how could he tell her the truth. How could he dare to reveal his role in the murder of hundreds? He swallowed hard and threw the magic scale to the ground.
He opened his mouth and flexed the muscles around two of the glands in his maw. Twin chemicals sprayed from his mouth as he exhaled at the scale. They combined with each other and the oxygen in the air before igniting. The effect was to turn his breath into a flamethrower. The fire raced from Cobalt’s mouth and enveloped the scale. Cobalt kept up the flame as long as he could and when the scale remained he breathed more fire at it. He continued this process until the scale was nothing but ash. Then he gave a hopeful glance to the night sky wandered back to his cavern in Gemgira’s cave. Inside he finally lay down again and added more tears to the puddle he had made earlier that day. Then he prayed. He prayed that this time, she’d catch him.
|Cobalt: Innocence Lost||Crystal Dragons|
|Hero Quest: Impatient||
|The Cataclysm||B-Movie Survival Guide|