Rogue Stranger - The Mist - Chapter 22
"The first part of my tale I know only as last words from my dying mother, or at least who was a mother to me. I was part of a small tribal race that never lasted long, Raugrím they were called. I was only a small child of four when they began to migrate to avoid the spreading growth of fell creatures in their land. My family had been killed earlier, leaving me to travel by myself among the mass of people. The only mistake was, they tried to go over the mountains. There resided a dragon keep, home to a large group of red fire-dragons. They had lived there in solitude for many years, but recently had been continually bothered by the fell creatures that sprang up, trying to push the dragons out of the mountains. So by the time the Raugrím began to travel over the mountain, the dragons were infuriated at this last intrusion. The mountainside erupted in a great fury of flames that night as the dragons swooped down on the slow-moving Raugrím, devouring them and taking them back to feed their young. I was carried back to the den of a recent mother whom had lost all of her children but one to the cruel tricks of hideous creatures. She put me down as a meal for her child, who was about the same size as me at the time. Then she settled down back to her mourning sorrow for her lost ones. Her child, a male dragon, sniffed me curiously. He did not know what to do, he had never hunted, and his mother was too busy in sorrow to think of this. I, being a roughened little orphaned girl, bit his nose as he sniffed my face. I think that one action may have saved me, for from then he figured I was a new sister and playmate for him. My skin grew tanned and rough from our wrestling. When his mother finally noticed, it seemed to her that I reminded her of her lost children. So, she raised me with her son, in place of her lost ones, and in hopes that I could one day be used as a tool for revenge. In time, darkened and toughened by fire and fights, strong, clothed in red-dyed leather, I began to look more or less like any other dragon in my new mother's mind. As we got older, my brother had the unfair advantage of using fire in our fights. So, our mother took dragon gold and welded it to my wrists, infusing it with dragon-magic. With the bands, I could produced and manipulate fire from my hands to join my sibling. I used this to create the burned designs on myself, though some are the work of my brother, and weld the other gold bands on my arms. Other things I was taught to protect myself, even though my mother knew one day I would be killed as the dominant males of the group grew bigger and stronger. My brother could not protect me forever.
But the end of my forever came sooner than anyone could fathom. One night the keep flooded with gushing water, manned by cruel elves. They shot the dragons with innumerable sharp iron bolts and cascades of water: the bane of fire dragons. I was too small to be hit with the iron bolts, and water did not hurt me, though I shall never forget how it sucked me under and I could not get out. I was saved by slipping through a narrow channel hole, now filled with water, which rocketed me out. When dawn came I trekked back up the mountain and into our keep. The water had receded down to my knees and I waded through, though I loathed the touch of it. The water was red with blood. I found my mother in the pool, eyes closed, her clawed hand holding tight the dead body of her last son. As I splashed closer, she opened her eyes, though it pained her. She told me of my life, told me she no longer thought of me as a tool or a meal, but as a daughter. She told me to live among people and learn as they did, and perhaps revenge them one day for my brother.
Off in the distance, I could hear the cruel voices of the elves coming back to collect the rest of the dragon gold. In gasping words, she told me that dragon blood was flammable. She told me the elves should not have the benefit of our gold, which sat in the pools of bloody water. I understood her. In her last words she bade me to run, and, crying as I went, I ran outside to where the pool began, and put my hands in it. I used all my strength, and it worked. The bloody water ignited and rose in blistering heat, consuming my family with it, and slowly the gold melted under the incredibly extreme heat. The blast of heat had knocked my off my feet and down the mountain. Everything was consumed, the mountain peak entirely in a blaze. Below me, the earth shook. I ran. The sudden heat triggered magma deep in the earth, for the mountain was volcanic. The magma surged, destroying the elves, the gold, and the remains of my family. I fled as the lava began to reach the top and spill over. But the tremor was small, and the eruption did not make it far down the mountain. As for me, took my mother's word and lived with people, learning as they do."
From there, Rowen told of what had happened when she met Jack and from then on, right up until the current moment. Her mouth was dry and raspy from so much talking, but the Natarinturnan had not moved at all. As Rowen finished, two blue Natarinturnan brought forth water in a stone basin for her to drink. They sat in quiet evaluation of her story.
Even as Rowen had first heard the scratching in the east wing, Larenteth joined Castamir on a tall tower above a deep pit, halfway filled wit a river of magma. Far down below, a group of three infant dragons played together. "Aren't they beautiful? Born this morning, very much like their father. They are strong and will grow quickly. They already killed off their sister. But, come, we have to provide them with a meal to begin their rivalry." Castamir said, then led Larenteth down below to a large chamber full of elves. Larenteth thought grimly of Rantar's dead body and the gross end his remains would have.
Castamir and Larenteth took a place along he long lines of elves that lined the edges of the room. It had a fathomless drop between each side-ledge and the middle, which was a narrow stone strip that headed straight from the door to a large, heavy gate that was the divider between the chamber and the dragon tunnels. The door on the opposite side suddenly opened. Larenteth, who was expecting to see a cart with the severed body of Rantar, barely managed to hide a gasp when the figure of an elven woman walked through, backed by three spears. It was Austel.
She walked toward her doom with her head up, refusing to be pushed by the spears but walking at her own pace, shoulders back and chin lifted. Larenteth followed her with his eyes, no other expression betraying the crushing pain he felt.
The gates opened in a rush of hot air, fire ripping through. Right before the gates, Austel turned around and sought Castamir out of the crowd with her eyes, speaking in a loud, clear voice, "You and others have told me to stay out of business that is not my own. You were right, and it is my bane. But the winds will someday blow the fire back to you, and you will be crushed by it." With that, Austel turned and walked into the red light, under the gate's arch and into her doom that lay beyond.
The gates slammed closed with a crash, slammed closed on the fire, slammed closed on Larenteth's heart, slammed closed on Austel's life. Grotesque sounds penetrated through the stone gate, but never a scream heard nor cry uttered. So ended the elven life Austel.
A single tear seeped past Larenteth's eyes, slowly dripping down his face as he dared not move. It landed fruitlessly on the dusty ground, and all trace evaporated in the heat. Doubts raced through his mind: was he himself really this cruel? Was this to eventually be Rowen's fate as well? Could he live with the guilt of not helping her if he had the chance?
Chapter 1: http://www.theonering.com/docs/9127.html
Chapter 2: http://www.theonering.com/docs/9141.html
Chapter 3: http://www.theonering.com/docs/9184.html
Chapter 4: http://www.theonering.com/docs/9263.html
Chapter 5: http://www.theonering.com/docs/9297.html
Chapter 6: http://www.theonering.com/docs/9307.html
Chapter 7: http://www.theonering.com/docs/9356.html
Chapter 8: http://www.theonering.com/docs/9422.html
Chapter 9: http://www.theonering.com/docs/9472.html
Chapter 10: http://www.theonering.com/docs/9530.html
Chapter 11: http://www.theonering.com/docs/9566.html
Chapter 12: http://www.theonering.com/docs/9603.html
Chapter 13: http://www.theonering.com/docs/9616.html
Chapter 14: http://www.theonering.com/docs/9629.html
Chapter 15: http://www.theonering.com/docs/9658.html
Chapter 16: http://www.theonering.com/docs/9678.html
Chapter 17: http://www.theonering.com/docs/9772.html
Chapter 18: http://www.theonering.com/docs/9847.html
Chapter 19: http://www.theonering.com/docs/9949.html
Chapter 20: http://www.theonering.com/docs/10087.html
Chapter 21: http://www.theonering.com/docs/10112.html