The door shuddered within its frame just seconds before shattering into thousands of tiny splinters. The woman inside the room barely had time to cover her face before being showered with the demolished remains of her front door. An overwhelming scent of decay hit her, and she looked up as a cloaked and hooded figure stepped inside the room. The shadow creature, known as a Varekejo spoke with a low gravelly voice “Kylia Ztalpo, bow before her Majesty, Queen of the Enkali, Andharia!”
Kylia could hardly believe what she heard, but she considered the red glowing eyes of the Varekejo and complied without question. She fell to her knees and bowed her head towards what remained of the door to her hut. Queen Andharia stepped through the doorway and glared down at the woman before her with a look of pure contempt.
“Human woman, do you know why I have come to you?” asked Andharia.
Shaking with awe and fear, Kylia spoke, her voice faltering and cracking. “My Queen, I know not why you have come to my humble home.”
Andharia shook her head in disgust. “I am not surprised that he is as deceitful with you as he always is with me. The man you have lain with these last three nights is my husband, your King, Bahaar.”
“No! I did not know! He did not tell me he was the king! Please do not kill me, your Majesty!” Kylia’s eyes were wide with terror and her hands were raised in front of her face as if to ward off an attack.
“Child, I will not harm you.” Andharia placed her hand on Kylia’s stomach. “His seed grows within your belly. Even I dare not kill a child of Bahaar, but this act cannot go unpunished.”
Kylia felt her entire body tingle as the ancient magic flowed from Andharia and into Kylia’s abdomen. Kylia gasped, ” What… what are you doing to me?”
Andharia stood over Kylia and spoke. “Your child will be born healthy and live the long full life of a child of the Enkali, however he will be cursed with a deep hatred for all those around him. The blackness of his soul will be reflected in his outward appearance.” With that said, Andharia looked once more at Kylia, then turned and left the hut.
Kylia huddled into the corner of the room and cried for the dismal fate of her unborn child. She would not see Andharia or Bahaar again until the day she gave birth.
Screams filled the air, echoing throughout the village. Word reached the Enkali that Kylia was in labor. Bahaar, Andharia, and two of the Varekejo gathered just outside of her hut, awaiting the birth. As the sun passed the midpoint of the sky, the screams inside of the hut reached a crescendo and then stopped. A midwife, looking extremely pale and fearful, staggered out of the hut carrying a baby wrapped tightly in a bundle of cloth. She bowed her head and extended the baby towards Bahaar.
Bahaar looked at the baby and recoiled in disgust. “What is this monstrosity? Where is my child? Take this beast away and give me my child, human!” The king was enraged and glaring at the midwife.
Andharia spoke from behind Bahaar. “That is your son, husband. I warned you that your infidelities would have dire consequences. Your child is as grotesque as the act which created him.” Andharia smiled even as Bahaar grew even angrier.
“You will pay dearly for this, wife.” Bahaar scowled as he turned away from Andharia. He motioned for the two Varekejo to come closer to him and he gave each a command. The first one he sent to the northern mountains to summon Colossus, the ancient dragon. To the other Varekejo he said, “Go into that hut and dispose of those two humans. I cannot kill my own son, but none can know that this deformed beast is of my blood.”
The first Varekejo mounted his horse and rode off to the north as the second entered Kylia’s hut. Moments later he returned to King Bahaar. “Master, the humans fled. Their tracks lead to the eastern forests. Shall I follow?”
“Go. Track them down. Do not return to me until both are dead.” said Bahaar. The Varekejo turned and left, following the tracks into the forest.
Colossus could smell the stench of the Varekejo before he saw him. He despised the Varekejo. Colossus thought about older times while the unnatural creature made his way up to the dragon’s den. Colossus was among the last of the dragons who remembered when the Varekejo and Enkali came to this land. He longed for the old days when it was just the dragons, the dreigiau, and the elves. The elves took heavy losses in the war between the Varekejo and Enkali. Before the war was over, the elves decided that enough was enough and had left Talamh Arsa, never to return. Sometimes Colossus wished he left with them. He tried and failed to convince the other dragons to leave Talamh Arsa with the elves. The other dragons argued that they could not leave their smaller dragon cousins, the dreigiau, alone in a land now filled with powerful magical races at war with each other. Colossus thought that the dreigiau were more than capable of defending themselves, but he stayed with his kin. Dreigiau are much smaller than dragons but are fierce fighters. Dreigiau, about twenty feet in height at the shoulder, have small legs in comparison to their body size which gave them a low center of gravity and make them nearly impossible to beat on the ground. The dragons, on the other hand, are fifty feet at the shoulder with longer legs and large heavy wings. The air belongs to the dragons. Colossus’s thoughts were then interrupted as the Varekejo reached his den and called out to him.
Colossus wrinkled his nose in distaste as all he could smell was the foul odor of the dark magic eating through the skin of the Varekejo from the inside out. Colossus only tolerated the creature because he knew Bahaar sent it to him. Colossus stepped into the light at the entrance to his den and spoke. “What is it that the king asks of me this time, foul creature?”
After listening to what the Varekejo had to say, Colossus stepped past him and with a thrust of his heavily muscled legs and a flap of his enormous green wings, Colossus was airborne and flying quickly to the south to where Bahaar waited. Minutes later, Colossus landed on the outskirts of the human village. He bowed his powerful neck low to the ground. “Your Majesty, you called for me? How may I be of service?”
Bahaar told Colossus about the birth of his son and of the effects of Andharia’s curse upon the boy. “Colossus, my old friend, I cannot kill my own son, but I cannot have it known that this wretched beast is of my royal blood. Take him far away from here but watch over him. If he does the evil deeds that the curse suggests that he may, do what you judge appropriate. I would not ask this of you if I did not feel that it was of the utmost importance.”
Colossus bowed his head again. “It shall be done, my King. I will take the beast past the eastern desert and will find a suitable place for him in a new land. I will watch for any signs of evil that he may cause.” Colossus carefully took the baby in one giant claw and flew back towards his den.
The Varekejo called Ihlvo, tracked the two human females deep into the forest. Soon after entering the forest, he did not even have to bother looking for footprints. The smell of blood overwhelmed his senses. He could have tracked it from miles away. Ihlvo heard screams off in the distance, in the same direction as the blood smell, and quickened his pace. Ihlvo entered the clearing unnoticed and watched the human called Kylia give birth to another baby. He saw that this baby was not malformed like the other one, but he could sense the dark magic of the curse flowing through the baby. Ihlvo, being a creature of dark magic himself, could sense what happened to Andharia’s curse. The curse was directed at a single child. Because the woman had given birth to two, the curse split between the twins. The first child had the effects of the curse flowing on the outside of his body, therefore this one must have the dark magic inside of him. Ihlvo smiled to himself as many thoughts went through his mind. His centuries long search for a way to free himself and his brethren from their enslavement at the hands of the Enkali may be at an end. Maybe, just maybe, Bahaar’s own child could turn out to be the key to their freedom. Still unnoticed by the two humans, Ihlvo stalked up behind them, snapping the neck of the midwife before either human was even aware of his presence.
Kylia heard a cracking sound and then a loud thump. She glanced up from looking at her baby and saw the midwife sprawled at her feet with her neck bent at an unusual angle. Standing over the body was a Varekejo. Kylia screamed in fear, clutching the baby closer to her chest.
Ihlvo stepped over the fallen body of the midwife and stood directly over Kylia. “Give the child to me, human, and he will not only live, he will accomplish great things. Bahaar banished your other child from the kingdom, but I will hide this one from him. Bahaar will never know he exists.”
Kylia looked at Ihlvo in confusion. “Why would you want to help my baby? What would you get out of this? Have you not come here at Bahaar’s orders to kill me?”
“Yes. I have been ordered to kill you. However, Bahaar knows nothing of your second child. Therefore, I was not given any orders at all concerning him. I sense great potential in him. Give him to me if you want him to survive.” Ihlvo reached towards Kylia.
Kylia shuddered as the Varekejo reached for her. “I know I have no other choice. Take him. His name is Bartholomew. I know I will die but I want my sons to live. If it is not too late, please hide his brother as well. Name him Zachariah. I saw what he looked like before he was taken away from me, but I do not care. I love both my sons and want them to live.”
“The dragon, Colossus, has taken Zachariah away already. There is nothing I can
do for him even if I wanted to. He will not be killed but he will be taken across
the eastern desert, far from this kingdom.” Ihlvo reached down and took
Bartholomew from Kylia’s grasp. With the baby cradled in one arm, he drew his
sword with the other and plunged it deep into Kylia’s chest.
Ihlvo withdrew the sword and slid it back into its scabbard. Holding the baby close, he disappeared into the forest.
Colossus arrived back at his den still thinking over the instruction given to him by King Bahaar. His mate, Atlantia, greeted him, the late afternoon sunlight sparkling off her bright blue scales. The ice dragon looked up at her mate. “You seem anxious, dear one. What has the King asked of you this time?”
“You know my moods better than even I, my love.” Colossus nearly purred. Then he sighed and dropped a cloth covered bundle from his left foreclaw onto the ground in front of her. The bundle moved and then started to cry.
She nudged the bundle gently with her snout. The cloth moved and revealed the baby’s face. Atlantia pulled back quickly, a look of shock on her face. “What is it, Colossus? Why has the king given you this beast?” Before he could even reply, she sniffed the air and bent down close to the baby again. “I smell the taint of dark magic.” She looked questioningly at her mate, waiting for an explanation.
“The beast is Bahaar’s son by a mortal woman. The dark magic is a curse cast by Andharia. The king could not bear to destroy his own son, so he has asked me to take him out of this land and across the Endless Desert.” Colossus said.
Atlantia shook her head. “Cheating men and jealous women. Even the gods are not immune to such things. When shall we leave?” Atlantia asked.
“Not we. Me. I need you to stay here, Atlantia. I sense momentous events unfolding. I need you here to lead the other dragons and defend the dreigiau. They will follow you the same as they follow me.” Colossus said.
Atlantia looked thoughtful. “I don’t like the idea of you going across the desert by yourself, but I trust your judgement, dear one. Hurry with your task and come home to me.”
“I may have to stay there for quite some time, but I will send you dream messages with my progress. I will come home as soon as I can be sure that the beast will cause no harm.” Colossus said.
“Be safe, dear one.” Atlantia disappeared back into the den.
With that, Colossus turned and disappeared into the bright blue sky.