It was pain, inconceivable, unthinkable, pain, of which my hide was branded with. My wings melted and my blood boiled. The skin burned off my bones and my muscles and tendons snapped as they dried. Venus screamed a high pitch death rattle, and I watched her burned alive next to me before the last vestiges of my sight fled me. My lungs seared as they were exposed and my bones were bleached white.
Agera awoke screaming and thrashing. Venus moaned loudly close by as she stumbled around the edges of sleep, but she quickly nuzzled into Vienzo's warm belly plates, sighed deeply, and drifted further into her dreams.
Agera gasped for breath as sweat poured down her body. Her eyes darted around the darkened barracks, over the slowly rising and falling bodies of her fellow dragons, looking for any enemies hiding in the corners. A smaller, familiar shadow a couple beds over was also up, eyes alert.
"Fuck me." Agera whispered back, rubbing a paw up and down her muzzle. It was wet. She had been crying in her sleep. Again, "How do you cope, Six? How do you even get enough sleep to function?"
"A lot of naps. You alright?" she whispered back.
"I'm fucking tired, and I'm fucking stressed." she whispered. She got up and walked to the latrine unit now running off an external water tank. Outside, the rain pummeled the canvas of their tent. Agera shivered.
"It was just a dream." she said, her voice shaky.
"Sure doesn't sound like it was 'just' a dream." Jiza said quietly. Agera walked to the entrance and threw open the flap, standing there and listening to the rain fall.
"You want to go for a walk?" she asked, looking back into the tent.
"How's your brother?"
"Freezer if I know. For all I know he's dead. But he wasn't a very good brother to begin with. What about you? Do you have any siblings?"
Agera snorted, "It's bad enough having one of me around. You want more of me shouting at you and cussing at everything and bringing doom to everyone?"
Jiza laughed, a crystal clear sound, "Good point. I might tear my horns off if I had to put up with a second hopelessly grumpy commander."
"Oye! Watch it six. Evening." Agera nodded to a guard as they walked past, shielding themselves from the storm with their wings perched over themselves.
"Does it always rain on this planet?" Agera asked.
"Always, to varying degrees. Three weeks ago we had an absolute monsoon here, and all the tents started to flood." Jiza said as the rain intensified, "That was a fun day."
They continued to walk in companionable silence until Agera absentmindedly looked down an alleyway behind the chow tent. She was almost startled to see a tail spade slink around the corner. It belonged to Kiesah.
"Now what would you be doing up late at night, sneaking around?" Agera said out loud, turning slowly down the lane.
"Huh?" Jiza said peering around her flight leader to the next street over. The golden dragoness turned down the lane and followed her surrogate mother.
"Agera! What're you doing?!" Agera was definitely stalking Kiesah now. She dropped her wing to her side and folded it in close to her body so it didn't knock anything over. Dragons could be amazingly quiet when they wanted to be, despite their size.
Agera spotted Kiesah taking off as she left the northern edge of the camp, her glistening arctic blue scales throwing off motes of what little light there was.
"Where are you going so late at night?" Agera whispered to herself. She looked back to Jiza, "Hope you know how to run as well as you can fly."
"Agera, I really think we should report this!" Jiza hissed at her.
"Two dragons are noticeable enough as it is. We don't need a whole battalion trying to shadow her." Agera turned and darted off into the night across the hilly muddy terrain, kicking up bits of dirt.
They ran for the rest of the night, and all next day. Kiesah quickly left them behind since she was flying. But Agera had watched her glide silently and easily on those wide majestic wings. With so little flapping, Agera figured that the Ice Guardian was spearing straight towards her destination. And so they followed the direction she had gone.
It didn't take long for them to catch up. And it wasn't like they could miss their destination. The monolithic citadel rose from the grounds just like the mountains, looking as if its walls pierced the overcast skies. Agera and Jiza approached with caution.
The palace looked upon closer inspection to be made of living stone. The light that darted across it shimmied and shivered as if reflected from a deep pool, the spider-webbed veins glowing in the night. The ramparts atop the foreboding walls were guarded by void draped in the golden fabrics of the Queens royal guard.
"Great. Do you think Avila is here?" Agera scanned the walls as Jiza and she lay in the mud, keeping their heads low. The walls were guarded, but the numbers were sparse.
"No. This must be just a contingent. Perhaps she will be doing an inspection soon." Agera said quietly. The two of them slithered closer in the darkness, the rain masking their approach.
"Agera." Jiza pointed with a wing to the spot where the wall joined a mountain. At the base was a portcullis with water flowing through it, a fresh water supply, "With my element and enough strength, we can get through that."
They cautiously neared the area. Few guards were here. They all thought no one could approach them here because of the mountains flanking the castle. A flash of lightning lit the sky, and the pair froze. When the landscape had dimmed, they continued their infiltration.
When they had finally reached the opening, Jiza quietly sprayed ice over the cast iron bars sunk into the rocks. Agera waited for a flash of lightning, and when the thunder came a second later, she struck the bar with a single hard blow, using her element to accelerate her tail. The grate fell with a clang, and Jiza and Agera froze, ready to flee had any sentinel heard the clamor. None showed tail nor talon.
The portal had only one guard fortunately, and they managed to slip to the far side of the wall, where Agera froze.
Ten thousand voids, of all types, waited in utter silence, either sleeping or sharpening claw or spade. They were organized into their battalions laying in perfect formation, and clad in full battle armor.
The pair dared not move. If they left their shadowed hiding spot, they would most certainly be spotted. They waited for what seemed to Agera to be at least two hours before some silent signal had them rise to their feet. There was a commanding shout, and as one, the void threw up their wings in salute. They waited another twenty minutes, when suddenly, the rain stopped and the front gate opened, and silhouetted by the blue gas giant was Avila and her shadow dragon consort.
The time dragoness looked far different than when she and Agera had fought. She walked with a detonate limp, because of her amputated leg. Half her jaw was exposed because of the lack of skin. Her rib cage was gaunt where new skin had been grafted on and her wing was covered in a stitched canvas covering, allowing her to fly. She had no scales on her right side. Her right eye could barely open.
Each of them had taken their toll on the other, that was for sure.
"Ronaaaaaan!" Agera jumped at Avila's incredibly loud voice, "Step forwards!"
"Someone's in trouble." Jiza said in a whisper. Agera gave her a look that said "shut up". Ronan strided forwards confidently. Avila was easily triple his size. Somewhere deep down, Agera admired his courage to approach that banshee.
"I hear you've taken a captive." Avila said quieter this time as they met in the middle of the void presentation. Ronan turned to walk next to her, slowing down to match her limp.
"I apologize for the violation of your laws, ma'am. Lord Lucien has a personal connection with this female, and he would not listen to my objections." Ronan replied.
"He is as foolish as he is stubborn." she hissed, "This does not surprise me of him."
"With respect, your Majesty, this female IS special. She has many ties, and even holds a guardianship." Avila stopped and looked at the smaller male sideways, out of her good eye.
"Ignus et Glacias." Ronan said smiling, "Lord Lucien is far more cunning than he lets on, ma'am."
"At last, the Arctic Storm. We've been after her and her mate for years. Since Moscow. They are major political figures and leaders in this war. How was she captured?"
"She walked in of her own volition." Ronan said, shrugging.
"This I must see." as Avila turned her back, Agera nodded to Jiza and beckoned with a claw. Using Agera's element, they snuck through the courtyard as everyone’s back was turned, and in through a door. They found themselves in a storeroom.
"Why would Kiesah just SURRENDER?!" Jiza said loudly.
"Six, shut the fuck up!" Agera hissed. Jiza clamped her mouth shut, "We're still in enemy territory, so keep it down. Whatever's happening, it's beyond your scope. So we're going to need an exit strategy. You go and find something, and for FUCKS SAKE, stay quiet. If either of us is detected, then the game is up."
"Where are you going?" Jiza asked at the door.
"To find Kiesah, solve this massive clusterfuck, and get her the hell out of here." Agera cracked the heavy wooden door slightly, peeking out the crack. She only saw a torch lit corridor beyond. The both crept out and Agera grabbed Jiza's tail.
"You've got two hours. If you're not back at this spot by then, I'll assume the worst." Jiza nodded at her solemnly, "And -"
Agera looked the other direction, then back at Jiza, "Be careful, Jiza."
Jiza stood gaping at her, but soon, Agera was gone, having slipped off into the shadows.
It wasn't long before Agera realized she was in a labyrinth. The corridors were long branching and cumbersome and they ALL looked exactly the same. Same grey stone, same torches, same cold. But that didn't mean Agera wasn't impressed. The structure was built out of the mountain with exquisite detail. The walls may have been smooth and spartan, but they were flawless as well, with no ruts or divots, and met the floor at a perfect ninety degrees. There was no dust or dirt anywhere.
She checked multiple rooms as she went. Most were empty. One was another storeroom like the one she and Jiza had hidden in. One was set up like a kitchen. The last had several sleeping void, to which she closed the door very, very quietly.
Finally, she came to the main hall, with walls so high they disappeared into shadow. A long low polished table made of an odd looking stone was laid out with ornate dishes of animals she didn't recognize. Several void, all of whom were draped in purple fabric were there. At the end sat Avila, on a raised cushioned dais. Her consort stood behind her. On her left hand side was an odd looking dragon. He was by far and away the largest dragon Agera had ever seen, and would have towered over Pyrrus had he been there. He also looked to be the strongest dragon Agera had ever seen, corded muscles rippling as he took a deep whooshing breath. Despite this though, he seemed to be made of pure crystalline onyx. His skin was as a starry night, inking black with beautiful sparkles all over. Agera had seen handsome dragons, but she had never seen quite so beautiful a dragon as this one.
And then Agera spotted Kiesah next to him. This time she was bound, although not tightly. Her wings were wrapped and pinned to her sides, but aside from that she was free to do as she pleased. The bindings didn't look uncomfortable; they just limited her ability to fly.
On her right was Ronan, who looked to be enjoying the void actors at the end of the table, who were playing out a comedy. He was the only one enjoying it though. The black giant looked to be trying to usher Kiesah closer to him, with the female resisting. And Avila looked downright bored. At least the half of her Agera could read looked bored. After another fifteen minutes she stood.
"Enough! This play-writing is dull. It makes my scales drop. Lord Julian! I assume you have entertainment as well?" Ronan went to speak, but the giant cut him off.
"If course your majesty. I anticipated your disappointment and set up my own show, although this one is far more real and enjoyable." Julian said. Kiesah took the opportunity of his distraction and edged away. Agera didn't think the black dragon looked dangerous, but she trusted Kiesah's judgment. Whoever this male was, he was someone to be feared. The drake motioned with a wing, and eight male void proceeded through a door on the left side of the room while the actors, cowed, absconded to the right. In the center of the new ensemble was a ninth dragon, a tiny female who literally had wet wings. She had only sprouted them in the last forty-eight hours. She had a strange coloring, with the traditional void grey, but with multi-color stripes down her sides and wings.
As soon as she entered the hall, cat calls and jeers started. At first, Agera thought the void surrounding her were a guard for her wellbeing, but after watching how likely they were walking around her, they were more likely there to prevent escape.
"With all due respect your majesty, I do not approve of this at all. It is vile and vulgar and repulsive to me and I detest it. I would much prefer we banish these people, instead of humiliate them." Ronan said quietly.
"Hush Ronan. She'll make a fine example. Besides, everyone loves a hybrid tragedy." Avila said quietly.
A hybrid? What dragon would mate with a void? Agera wondered to herself. She had an excellent view of the room from the darkened second floor balcony. The female was dressed up with a mask and body paint, and she reminded Agera of the butterflies back from earth. She was far better decorated than even some dragons at formal parties.
The hybrids guard left, and a new male entered from the opposite side of the room, also a hybrid. He also had a mask and body paint, and was also young, though not so much as the female. What came next was something Agera was not prepared for.
It was a play, a tragedy, a tale of a young void, conscripted, gone to war, and the female that chased after him.
The problem was the acts were incredibly vivid. In the first act, where the young male took part in his first battle, four void died, and the male was wounded down his side. In the third act, when the female finally caught up to him, running through a war zone and going behind enemy lines, they had sex, in full view of the dinner table.
To say that Agera didn't enjoy the entire show from beginning to end would be a lie. Words didn't do it justice. The fact of not acting but doing made the play all the more enjoyable, lifelike, and emotional, all the way to the final act, where, amid the war torn battlefield, the male and the female, both about to die to nuclear armaments, fell upon their opposites tail spade, sharpened to a razor point.
There was applause and cheering and jeering. Agera didn't know whether to be impressed or repulsed. She decided on the later.
Fortunately, she didn't have to see any more.
"I hope you enjoyed that your highness. Now if you'll excuse me, I and my mate shall retire." Avila gave him a half nod, and the massive dragon stood and ushered Kiesah out of the main hall via the largest door. Agera followed silently, listening to them speak.
"I'm not your mate, Julian. That time has flown." Kiesah said coldly. The giant smiled at her.
"Oh come on Kisa, I know somewhere in that cold exterior you still find me appealing." he rumbled.
"I didn't say I didn't find you appealing. What I said is I don't love you. That's your problem, you can't tell the difference." she said growling, "I'm tired. I'm going to bed."
"You don't want to slip into my chambers for an hour or so?" Julian said, gesturing to the end of the hallway at an over large doorway. Kiesah growled and took a step backwards.
"Julian, the only reason I'm here, the only reason I haven't slit your throat yet is because you have an assassin at our camp and you threatened Enzo. So don't think that if you intend to rape me, that I'll go quietly." she took another step back and Agera thought she might be planning to run. Julian's smile widened.
"I thought you might say that..." that was all Kiesah needed, and she turned and bolted, running as fast as her legs could carry her. Instead of chasing after her, Julian sank into the floor, the rock enveloping him, and Agera suddenly realized this was HIS complex. He had carved it right out of rock, and he was PART of it. The massive dragon sprang from the floor in front of the diminutive female as if springing out of water. The stone flowed smoothly and reformed into a solid flat surface beneath him. Kiesah skidded to a stop but couldn't react fast enough. Her legs slid out from beneath her as she collided with the ancient, and he pinned her on her back. She went to protect herself from him with her tail, but he pinned that as well. His dragon hood was already emerging from its sheath. It was likely as long as Agera was.
"Julian, please don't do this." Kiesah said quietly. Agera had seen enough. If Kiesah was begging, then it was time to act. She kept to the shadows she was hiding in as she crept closer, and then leaped silently towards the ancient male.
So focused was she on her quarry that she failed to notice the silver blur that was rushing down a side passage. She collided with the larger mass at high speed in a bone jarring impact, and grappled with the foe, trying to gain the upper hand. There was a roar, a massive snarl, and then Agera was atop the interloper.
It was Ronan.
"Fucking hell! Ronan, you have the worst possible timing!" Kiesah groaned, rolling Julian's body off of her. She dislodged her tail spade from his chest with a squelch, and then looked down on him with disgust and disdain on her face.
"Good fucking riddance." she said quietly, whipping her blade clean on his skin. Agera still had her claws at Ronan's throat.
"I have bad timing?! You got in my jump! Are you gonna kill me or not?!" Ronan growled up at her. Behind his curled lips and bared fangs though, she could see he was terrified. She had a sudden vivid image of crouching in a hat shop, hiding from a hundred thousand enemies, tired, beaten, and broken.
"No, I'm not. But I am taking you with Me." she said quietly.
"So I can be tortured into betraying my kind?" he growled at her.
"No, so you can be asked to help mine." Agera growled back, "Now, MOVE. Or I really will slay you."
She nipped at his tail and he snarled, leaping forwards.
"Is that really necessary?!" he barked at her.
"No, but I enjoy it." Agera said grinning.
Ronan traveled between Kiesah and Agera. Twice while making their way down the dark halls they were nearly discovered. All throughout, Ronan kept his mouth shut, which surprised Agera. She could not understand why he was cooperating so well. He even once warned them of impending doom.
Finally, an armored quartet of void walked by, and Ronan gave off a low growl. Agera clamped her claws around his jaw, but it was far too late.
Surprisingly, the alarm was not immediately raised.
"Lord Ronan! It is my honor, sir!" and the male gave a bow, as did the other three, their gray armor plates gleaming in the torchlight, "Who be your escorts?"
"They are Lady Kiesah and Lady Agera, formally of earth, now of no-place." Ronan growled back. Agera had never been called a lady before. She sort of understood how Kiesah felt now. She didn't see herself as very lady-like. They bowed again though anyways. Agera was baffled. She had never been treated this way by void before.
"They are my troops." Ronan said to Agera's confused face, "And loyal only to me. I only take true warriors from my villages, and I actually pay them, unlike Lord Julian. My men are the finest warriors in the dark lands, equipped with armor, and trained to perfection." Agera was forced to agree. She had never seen armored void before, nor void that look so presentable. Their armor was spotless as was their scale. When they moved they were silent, and yet Agera could tell these were some of the strongest troops she had ever encountered.
"Sir. An alarm has been raised. Lord Julian was found dead just outside his quarters. We have orders to bring Lady Kiesah to the main hall." the soldier said. Agera took a half step forwards, trying to bar the way.
"Peace, m'lady." Ronan said, placing a paw on her wing shoulder, "The anger is not necessary. Soldier, you are to report you never found us. Return to the main hall and tell all you see that this way is clear. After the alarm has been lifted, alert as many troops of mine as possible to prepare for a fast march to the badlands. You will lead them. You are to deliver a notice to queen Avila that one of our scouts found a small group of one hundred defectors to the south. Take the contingent, fly south for half a day, then proceed to the badlands."
"Understood, sir, and congratulations on your bonding." he said, half turning.
"Thanks, but I'm still trying to figure out if my bonding is a good thing or not." Ronan said with a wry smile.
The trio arrived at the storehouse with only a few minutes to spare. Ronan peeked outside into the snow first.
"Damn. Agera, you need to see this." he said quietly. Agera peered around his wing and swept her vision through the cracked door. A large assembly of void was there, including Avila, and several Shadow dragons.
"Lord Julian's personal guard." Ronan whispered. And then Agera spotted Jiza at the center of the vast ring.
"Fuck!" Agera whispered loudly. She went to step forwards, but Ronan stopped her, "Get out of my way, void."
"No." Ronan said evenly, a hard look in his eye. Agera grabbed him around the neck, but Kiesah cracked her tail across her snout.
"Don't be a petulant child, Agera. You can't save Jiza, both you and she would be dead before you got to her. She knew what she was getting into." Kiesah said.
"She was following orders! My orders!" Agera retorted.
"She filed for the transfer herself." Kiesah said. Agera growled and paced back and forth. She stopped several times at the door then went back to pacing. Finally, they heard Avila speak.
"AGERA!" her voice was loud. Louder than it should have been, "I know you're here! Show yourself, or this lovely young thing will have her blood on your hands!"
Agera hopped from foot to foot, watching the event, "Fuck. Damnit!"
"Let's see if we can't draw her out captain. Have your way." Jiza started breathing even harder. Her bindings had already chaffed through her scale, and the cloth tied around her muzzle was red from the abuse. The captain, all together too much enjoying the show, nodded. Agera forced herself to watch as they took turns mounting her.
Suddenly, the ground shook violently. Clouds of smoke and fire plumed from within the fortress as the explosion caused a further collapse. Agera could almost see Jiza grin a sadistic smile from beneath one of the larger males. The shockwave tore him right off her.
"Way to go Girl!" Agera said under her breath.
"Captain! That blast came from the lower storehouses! Get down there! We may still be able to catch these assassins." Avila said. She turned to Jiza, who appeared to be quivering from the repeated violations, but even still, she stood, letting blood and snow run off her, and proudly puffed her chest out in front of Avila.
Avila stretched out a paw, and twisted. Jiza instantly grew, larger and larger. In twenty seconds she was larger than Kiesah. In forty she was larger than Avila. By the time a minute had passed by she would have rivaled Julian in size. After three minutes had passed, she fell to the ground, shaking violently, and then lay still, eyes closed. Avila continued to age her and her scales fell out, her skin rotted off and her flesh decomposed, leaving only the bones. Eventually, even they turned to dust.
And so passed Jiza Ra, Omega 6.
The trio waited there a long time, until everyone was out of the courtyard. They crept out and along the far cliff edge until they reached the wall. Agera however stopped and turned towards where Jiza had been slain. Several glistening white scales, and Jiza's medical pouch, lay in the snow. She darted out and scooped up as many scales as she could carry in one paw, and grabbed Jiza's pouch, flinging it around her neck, and ran back to the other two. They slipped silently out of the camp, and flew south.