Rogue Stranger - The Mist - Chapter 38 - Fire Lord
Animal hides were stretched over old shields and helmets to make drums, except they amplified louder than seemed possible. Fire blazed all around, jumping off the drums and sticking on the walls and shouting out sounds of brass. It was manipulation of fire to the highest extent: fire for creation. Fire was only used for destruction, but the dragons hold the secret for creation by flame. In this case, the creation was music. It roared and crashed like nothing else, like nothing anyone had ever heard.
In the center of the drums sat a figure, lividly wreathed in flame. Two old swords were clenched in the figure's hands, white-hot with fire and flying at inconceivable rates as they struck the series of drums. Fire flew out as well, striking even more drums to make an aurora of sound like ten percussion sections beating at once. The drums were beating out a pattern of ancient sorts, well known and intricate.
She sat steady as her arms flew with amazing speed over the patterns of beats. Deeper in the cave, a roar was heard: the Master Dragon was awake.
Castamir and the Seerganash looked on as the flying embers around the undisturbed Rowen settled themselves in the air to give the impression like she herself had horns and wings of living flame.
The ground thudded with the approach of the Master Dragon, called by the drums.
Just then Rowen looked straight up at the ceiling - at them. Her eyes were blankly glowing gold with no pupil nor white. Despite her glowing eyes, Rowen's searing gaze was still obviously directed at the onlookers.
Without disturbing her drum beat, Rowen raised one glowing-banded arm and shot a blast of powerful fire at the opening in the ceiling. The Seerganash ducked for cover as their station collapsed on itself, closing the skylight to the cavern below. They were left in the dark, both literally and figuratively, as the drum beats and approaching dragon-steps grew in volume.
All over the caves of the Seerganash, in every tunnel and every hall the drums echoed - quite a feat considering the miles and miles of tunnels that existed. Far below everything the drums resounded even in the tunnels of the Natarinturnan.
The Vantranack churned and groaned as the beats reverberated throughout it. Jack, up to his chest in the bizarre stone, could feel the discomfort of Cathrandar.
"It's Rowen, isn't it?" Jack asked aloud. The response came several minutes later.
"....I had no idea she could ever know that. That drum pattern is physically impossible for the human body - or any race of elf, dwarf, hobbit, or man. She's using dragon magic or something. I don't understand... she's calling the Master Dragon. I suppose that's what Castamir wants, but why would she do what he wants?"
The Vantranack moaned and fell silent as Cathrandar lapsed into thought. Jack smiled to himself that even at great distances, Rowen could still manage to cause chaos and confusion in mass amounts.
Rowen sat up stiffly with her blank yellow eyes, staring unblinkingly and fixedly at the deeper columns to the vast dragon keep. Her arms moved in a blur around her, twirling her drumstick-swords and shooting spits of fire simultaneously. She could feel the ground shaking - and not just vibrating from her drums. Huge footsteps shuddered the rock, though she could not hear it over the music.
The Master was coming.
Never altering her pattern, Rowen sat perfectly still except for her arms as something enormous rounded the corner. Two red nostrils, each almost half as large as Rowen, appeared, twitching as they smelled the air. That gave way to a long snout - scaled, thick, and massive. Two long fangs, taller than Rowen and almost twice as thick, protruded from the vibrantly crimson muzzle: a small preview as to what else lay behind those curled red lips. With another step forward, an awesome paw appeared. It was huge beyond compare, delicately scaled along straining tendons right down over massive knuckles that bulged into the lining of thick, long, black claws. The lethal claws tapered down to a point sharper than seemed possible, being worn on stone ground. Each of the four huge claws glistened in the firelight.
The snout snorted, blowing smoky hot air in clouds that swirled in dark masses. Finally, one enormous yellow eye appeared and looked around, then directly at Rowen. The pupil dilated and constricted, forever focused on the whirl of fire that surrounded the beater of the drums and glinting malevolently. With confidence, the head rose and the rest of the body revealed itself.
The sight was staggering, and even Rowen almost faltered. Had she not prepared herself for what this might be like, she surely would have. Even as it was, she never expected something so colossal.
Massive muscles rippled strongly underneath layers of scarlet steel-like scales. The scales undulated with the flow of the muscle masses underneath them, ranging in gradual size depending on location. Scales as tiny as a human fingernail to scales as big as doors could be found. Sleek spikes rose gracefully, protruding from the flawless scales and running in thin, flat, curved blades down the mammoth thick neck and over the spine-curve of the back, all the way down to the very tip of the broad, thick tail that twisted and curved. That tail was twice as long as the body of the beast, sleekly scaled and muscled as any other part of its body. In fact, it was pure muscle and bone, flexing as it twisted this way and that. It terminated in thick, heavy, cylindrical long spikes like barbs of steal, tall as columns and sharper than any tool of man, elf, or dwarf. They gleamed in the heat.
Enticed by the drumming, it arched its back, rippling the muscle and spreading two immense wings. The wings rooted themselves with thick black stumps to the shoulder blades, smoothly curving up and arching over its back to span into two great, black, leathery wings. The hind legs flexed their sheer muscled as the toes spread, clawing the stone ground as if it were sand.
The neck of the creature swooped up, letting out a roar that was heard even above the drums. The roar echoed up its throat and out over the two black, curved prong horns that swooped gracefully over its head. The yellow eyes fixated on Rowen, red at their depths.
It was sheer muscle. It was sheer beauty. It was sheer fatal perfection.
This was the Master Dragon.
Rowen continued beating as the beast closed the distance between them. The great domed room of the cave was lit, even at its immense height, by the glow of this dragon. As it neared, Rowen was hit with a blast of hot wind like being near a high-powered furnace that radiated fire-laced air. Rowen raised the ancient swords in her hands high and let her arms fall with a final beat on the largest bass drums.
Time seemed to slow for a moment as the crash rang. Everything went in slow motion. Rowen's blades bounced off the drums, shattering from the sheer impact and noise, but the pieces seemed to suspend in the air and suddenly were engulfed in fire. When the fire dimmed, two full swords still rested in Rowen's hands, reforged in a fraction of a second. Still in a smooth rhythm, she twirled the hilts over her wrist once and then slammed both into the ground in front of her with a whoosh that brought time back to its normal pace. All of that had transpired in a matter of five seconds, though it seemed much longer. The white-hot metal slid easily into the stone, ringing metallically as the swords stayed stuck half way up their blades. Silence followed.
The drums, broken of their enchantment as Rowen stopped beating, shattered and melted. Only then was it evident that during her fire song did all the gold around her melt due to her extreme heat.
The Master Dragon eyed her with both yellow eyes as Rowen stared right back. Those huge eyes roved over her burned markings, lingering on her gold bands. One great paw lifted, its claws coated in liquid gold from what had melted. He looked at his paw, then at Rowen, then put the paw back down. The head dropped down, then pulled itself gracefully up along the curve of the neck as the back arched. His chest expanded, and suddenly the Master Dragon dropped his head down and let loose a roar that would be enough to make any person deaf.
Rowen, though, had grabbed hold of the two sword hilts in front of her and held on as her body was lifted off the ground in the wind of the roar. As it stopped, she dropped heavily. Without a word, she stood back up and stared back at the beast. She held her hand to her mouth for a second, then opened it, palm up, and blew across it. A stream of fire seared out from her palm and licked the dragon's forehead. To him it was nothing more than a pleasant tingle, but the message was clear. It was Rowen's form of a roar.
"Haahhnn nahh ssssshae....hessshanahk kantaniaahhhh sssssssahhrraahn..."
The forked tongue of the dragon flickered out of his incredible mouth, hissing out words in dragon linguistics. With each syllable the mouth opened a little more, revealing a double-lined mouth of spiked teeth that glistened with saliva. How could something so enormous exist and nourish itself? Surely there was not enough to eat.... The answer to that riddle was self-evident by looking at the teeth themselves. Other red and black scales, not his own, were stuck in some places inside the two rows of his bottom jaw, and more still on the double top. The Master ate other dragons.
"Iiiinotep ssssahhranikar, filossssehk hieron." Rowen answered boldly in return, her syllables, like the dragons, rolling out in a hissing sound and with more harsh emphasis from the back of the throat than common speech.
The dragon considered her for a moment with his head drawn back, then leaned in up close to her and hissed out words that sounded awkward for the dragon to pronounce, and he said them lyrically like they belonged in a song.
"Uum betar miacararar filae miro treeachknaramar, layhero mietarrar an duumle pelirrarrientarnarnor."
Rowen stared back at him, knowing it sounded almost familiar a tune but having no idea what it meant. The dragon took in her blank reaction and flicked his tongue, then surprisingly talked to her in the common tongue.
"You be not the one who sings this?" His voice was musical, speaking deeply and rumblingly in exaggerated iambic meter.
"No," Rowen answered back, ill at ease. Suddenly she remembered where she had heard the song. She had listened to that song many nights during her recent travels, but only that small beginning. Never the end. "Jack sang it."
"Jack? The hated-one's son? Arhhcchk, ssshhhenohar!" The dragon cursed, hissing back into his own language with a deep-throated sound. "I put hisss father long away in the stone. Jack had run away."
"Yes! Jack is good. It's Castamir you have to worry about."
The dragon laughed, a laugh that rocked the walls and sent dust falling on Rowen's head. "Worry? I do not worry. Seerganash can hurt dragons, but I am no mere dragon. I am a red dragon, and the master at that. I am not some scaly black dragon, or puny green serpent. I am a red fire dragon. I do not worry.
Castamir, he was the other son. I never saw him much a threat, though his father turned him into something awful.
Now that song, you say Jack sings, he sang it here less than a day ago, did he not?"
Rowen pondered if it was the same song. Perhaps he finally finished it, but what was he saying? "Yes... I guess. He's locked in the Vantranack."
The master paused. "He is in the Vantranack? How is this possible?"
"Err... I swam through it with him."
"WHAT?!" The dragon roared, accidentally spitting out a small ball of flame as he snapped his head back.
"Terasshnar! Relohahk nahc!" Rowen spoke softly, trying to calm the dragon to explain. Dragons by nature were temperamental and hotheaded, easily turned onto rage or whims. He studied her intently and bent down to listen.
Together, the two conversed in the language of dragons; all the while the Master Dragon's muscular spiked tail kept swaying back and forth, leaving lines of fire in the stone.