Sisters of Westwinter
The First Law of Atla
Prologue III – The Sky Above
The smoldering ashes of the cabin cooled over the course of the long night until, by sunrise what remained were piles of ruined wood and a billowing pillar of arid smoke that poured from the rubble. The creeping of the morning sun cast over Emry as she stirred. Her quiver and tunic in a pile a few feet from her, she pushed from the riverside and rose beside the slumbering dragon, Balshenai’s golden chest heaved with each breath. Emry raised her arms and stretched as the dragon’s warmth surrounded her. Taking care to not wake the beast, Emry hoisted a leg over the trunk sized tail that had curled around her in the night and kept her warm. On the other side her feet sunk into the mud of the river, and she jolted back to watch the dragon, afraid of waking her.
Balshenai’s incredible jaw quivered as she murmured out sounds from within her unconscious. Her eyes spun and dashed vividly behind her eyelids. Uniquely shaped flaps of skin, three lids that closed in opposing directions and sheltered the Dragon’s eyes flitted open and closed.
Convincing herself she hadn’t disturbed her new ally, Emry continued the climb over her tail and slowly stepped away, taking another look at Balshenai as she went. Curled beneath her were her hind feet, kicked out beneath her hips slightly, her entire torso covered by the massive wings laid flat, relaxed along the sandy shoreline. One of the long talons twitched and curled as the dragon whimpered.
Despite all the terror she instilled, at that moment Emry was reminded less of a fearsome, fire breathing legend and more of a young puppy freshly weaned. The dragon continued to mutter and murmur amid the throes of a nightmare as Emry crept to the river to gather her things.
Her balled up tunic remained undisturbed on the sand, and a few steps away from her, Balshenai had hooked her quiver as to prevent it from running downstream. In the final moments of twilight before the sun rose, she retrieved her quiver and dressed before she made her way back to the ruins of her home to look upon the heap of earth and ash that remained. She stepped through what had, hours before, been a hand made fence gate and into the garden of her mother’s creation. She found a place that had been relatively undisturbed by the ash and took a seat, her legs crossed beneath her.
As if by habit, her fingers drew themselves to the weeds that had sprung between the matted, scorched grass, and she began to pluck them one at a time while she slipped away into a memory. In her mind, which had become the only place her family still lived, they gathered a final time around the fire pit beyond the patio. A few steps from where she sat, her mind conjured the image of her family. Merely spirits that took the place of the faces she’d come to adore, her father stirred a stew within a cast iron pot. His strong arms worked their dinner over as her brothers ran circles around the house along the patio swinging sticks at one another. Every few moments a crack echoed from their skin to the trees and back again and her mother, with a small leather book in her hand, took spare glances toward her father with adoration each time he turned away to focus on the food.
It was a distant memory, but every detail she recalled appeared crystal clear before her as her parents and brothers gathered together and sat with wooden bowls on the steps of their patio as her father poured a helping of stew for each of them with a smile on his well-worn face, his long beard tangled in a thick braid that threatened to submerge in the stew with each scoop full. As her brothers giggled to one another between mouthfuls of stew, their teeth gnashed apart soft potato and tough venison steeped in blood broth. They looked back and forth and found Emry, sitting in the garden that day in her memories. She plucked weeds and stray blades of grass from the earth and fawned over her mother, a slender, strong willed woman who was quick to temper and quicker to guard. Her mother laughed at the circus that her family had created and her soft eyes with long oval pupils looked out to each of them. In many ways, Emry was told she was like her mother. Save for the curly mat of blonde hair and regular, circular pupils that had always made her jealous of her mother.
Her family took spoonfuls of food into their mouths and tell one another stories as a wind picked up from the south of the canyon and blew through the valley, taking flakes of soot along with it as it flurried through the images of her family and their spirits disappeared into the morning light. On the tip of her tongue, she tasted her father’s “famous” stew once more. The thick blood of the day’s hunt carried the vegetables soaked in ground Lingervine to give it a sweet and spicy flavor. As soon as the tingle of the broth came alive on her tongue, the wing whipped the memory away and with it, the sound of her family’s laughter over the evening fire.
As the taste left her tongue, the first tear rolled silently down her cheek. More followed as she curled into herself and felt the weight of the medallion pull against her neck, trying to drag her into the mulch. Her undershirt hung heavy with the weight of her father’s journal, waterlogged and likely ruined from her trips in and out of the river. As she curled forward and pressed her forehead against the garden, she slid the book from her shirt and laid it beside her. Each sob came, more violent than the last as her chest seized with pain and her tears absorbed into the grass before her. As the pain from her lungs began to crawl up to her neck, a shadow grew over her.
She rolled onto her side and reached for the sheath as she turned her puffy eyes to meet the owner of the shadow. Her fingers found the sheathe empty and before her mind had caught up to her, she raised balled fists at Balshenai who had crept up behind her while she mourned.
“Brave of you to challenge a dragon unarmed, child.” The sparkling golden scales glittered against the sunlight brilliantly as she sat on her haunches. Emry squinted to make eye contact with the dragon as she turned back to face the river. “Come, there is something I must show you.”
Emry pushed herself from the soot covered earth and followed, plucking the journal with one hand and wiping her puffy eyes with another. She caught up with the slow plod of the dragon, who stopped at the riverside where they slept.
“Look, it is growing weak.” Balshenai spoke quietly, her jaw at the surface of the water with each breath sending ripples across the surface.
“What is happening to my home?” Emry asked, turning her face to the glittering scales and squinted again.
“My father is… dying.” The dragon paused between each word, each one longer than the last. “I was not untruthful about that.” She spread her wings and craned her neck to look at Emry. “I should return to him.”
Balshenai’s wingspan shaded much of the clearing, for a moment before she leaned back and crouched in preparation.
“Then we will go.” Emry slipped her father’s journal into her tunic before she took one of Balshenai’s spines into her hand and hoisted herself onto the creature.
The dragon inhaled, no doubt preparing a protest, but instead she exhaled. Then with a shove, Balshenai launched them both into the sky. Emry clutched the short spines that lined her back firmly as the dragon paused midair, the massive wings that had shaded her moments before keeping them aloft with powerful strokes. She stared down at the forest valley she once called home and realized that it could be her home no longer. All through the valley, outside of her father’s lovingly maintained hunting grounds she’d long been forbidden to pass beyond, various clearings remained where the forest had been mercilessly carved into. Balshenai flapped her wings with great force and sent them propelling forward as they flew over what had once been a thick and full forest that had been reduced to splotchy and mottled outcroppings by the hands of men like the intruders from the night before.
Emry’s eyes focused on the groups of men and women that dotted the forest as Balshenai pushed against the sky toward Jokull’s Ridge. Below them the trees and mountaintops whipped past them in a flurry of jagged points. With each beat of Balshenai’s wings, they spanned what would have taken Emry hours to traverse on foot. The nearer they grew to Jokull’s Ridge, the more the forest had been attacked. As if sores had burst on the surface of the valley, swathes of trees had been cut down and divided up into piles of stripped logs. The men and women below spared no greenery, stripping the land of all but the trampled blades of grass that still withstood their force.
“What would people want with this much wood anyway?” She spoke aloud, the wind forced itself into her mouth as she opened it. Below her, she pondered how many trees had been removed and how many more were necessary. “Our cabin only took a few to build. I don’t understand this.”
“Progress.” Balshenai returned aloud, her voice boomed in the sky as she angled downward toward the ledge of Jokull’s Ridge. They descended to the stone outcropping as Balshenai folded her wings back and landed against the cliff whose stream of water had grown to little more than a trickle. The dragon didn’t wait for Emry to dismount before she charged into the cave that housed her suffering father. Her impressive gait clearing the stretch of tunnel between the mouth and Jokull’s den with ease, and as she rounded the final corner and came to a halt, Emry’s eyes fell upon the Gray Dragon.
He laid much the same as he had when Emry first met him, the gigantic creature rested calmly on his side, both of his wings lazily folded on top of one another. His eyes stared straight forward toward the entrance of his cave. Beneath him, the lake that he’d once laid within had grown dry, merely a puddle beneath Balshenai. The women approached the great dragon and Balshenai lowered her shoulder to allow Emry to dismount safely before she stepped forward and curled herself beneath Jokull’s jaw.
Emry’s feet fell against the cold stone as the Golden dragon raced to her father’s side and curled beneath his neck. She pushed her head gently against his jaw and let his long beard drape over her horned crown as the two dragons spared a moment in the damp cave for silence. The father and daughter suspended in time for a short moment as the golden dragon wailed in anguish.
Emry stepped around the pair and placed a hand on the great Gray dragon. Jokull didn’t move, as she placed her fingers upon his cold, dry scales. She walked along his underside, fingers tracing the scales that covered his gray body. The chill of it soaked into her bones as she passed by his chest, laboring in awkward breaths as he fought to remain with them. As her fingers traced over the tips of broken scales, some fell loose and clattered to the ground, which broke the sound of Balshenai’s sobbing, but did not stop it. Emry took another few steps, observing the dragon as he heaved. She turned to glance back at Balshenai, to find her curled tightly still beneath her father, her whole body barely smaller than his head. She continued to nuzzle him as she choked back her tears. On the ridge of Jokull’s face, teardrops formed and rolled down onto Balshenai’s body.
Emry turned away to give them as much peace as she could as she continued along the underside until she met once more, the wound. The leather straps that had held it closed had snapped, and the hooks that she’d driven through his tough skin remained attached, leaving the wound to stretch and elongate down toward his hind legs. The wound had grown longer than last she’d seen it. Two hand spans of fresh skin had torn open, and from within the mark the once full flow of water had diminished to a trickle. As Emry inspected the wound, Balshenai crooned from her place beneath Jokull’s neck.
“Father, you can’t go.”
A whisper that echoed in the cave, low to the stone and racked with pain, Balshenai choked a sob. In response, Jokull’s weak voice rumbled through their shelter.
“Protect the Child, Shenai.” Jokull lifted his head slowly, and turned his milky eyes. Toward Emry. “She is Naomi’s pride and joy.”
Emry’s heart skipped a beat. “Mother?”
She glanced to the side and found Jokull’s eye watching her as Balshenai continued.
“Her home is gone, father. Her brothers and Garrus are dead.” Balshenai paused, the words caught in her throat.
“I felt their spirits in the evening. Do not give up simply because I will not be with you any longer. You have fought hard, Shenai. Do not let that battle go to waste.”
Emry turned away from the dragon’s gaze and stepped further into the sprawling cave, toward his tail. Whether he was exhausted or uninterested she couldn’t tell, but as she turned away, Jokull did as well.
“Where can we go?” Balshenai shuffled, the scrape of her claws drowned the cave as she dug into the stone.
“It is time, perhaps, you returned to The Peaks. Emry would be safest there with us.”
“Father,” Balshenai’s voice shot back through tears. “There won’t be an ‘us’.”
Emry paused when she heard it and leaned against jokull’s massive tail. The stench of the cave pierced through her nose as tears returned to her. The smell of rotting flesh permeated the back of the cave, where Jokull’s tail rested on an outcropping of stone that had long been dry from the reservoir he’d created. Long strips of skin and sales on his tail had dried and begun to peel apart. She pushed a tear from her cheek as Jokull lifted his head once more to adjust, and to peer through the darkness toward Emry.
“I will always be with you both. I am the very water you drink. Do not be afraid to return to our home, my daughter.” A heave of his chest interrupted him as the dragon coughed and sent a burst of wild hot air into the cave that whipped out of the entrance. “Child, come to me.”
Emry obeyed, immediately making her way back to his head where she paused and patiently waited for him, her eyes filled with tears.
“You too, Emry of the River, are a treasure to this valley. Your mother knew, and your father did too. I can still feel them in the rushing of the river, the love they carried for you.” Jokull offered a kind smile, his stained teeth jagged in his mouth. “I will be gone soon, child. My spirit is drying as we speak, and I have served my duty to you and your family. I have kept you safe, according to your mother’s will, but it is beyond my grasp now. It is your decision to obey her parting wishes.”
Emry stiffened with a frown and replied. “How do you know my mother, Jokull. Tell me.”
The dragon chuckled, a low, weak rattle. “She came to me one day, much like you did. Curious and seeking understanding. She climbed here and found me years ago, before you were born. We shared much time together. I loved Naomi as if she were my own youth, and when the time came for her to leave my company she asked for safety. I promised her I would do everything I could, and I have. I fought to keep that promise, too. You come from a long line of curiosity, child. Do not let go of it.” The dragon let a long sigh escape him and bathed her in hot breath.
“What are The Peaks?”
Balshenai stood, interjecting for her father. “Whitefang, as your people call the mountain, is a haven for our kind. A place of safety from the destruction the mortals cause. The Peaks of Hjeldin is the last sanctuary for us.”
Emry crossed her arms. “If they are so safe, why do you live here?”
Balshenai rolled her eyes and blinked away her tears. “Now is not the time for prodding questions, child.”
Emry paced around Jokull’s head, to his clear eye, and stared at it. “If there was a safer place, and you’d kept a promise, why did my family remain here in these woods, if there is a place where my mother wouldn’t have been attacked?”
Jokull lowered his head, and his eyes from Emry’s. “I am not welcome there, but my daughter is.”
Emry shook her head. “Jokull, I need more.” She shot a glance back and forth between the dragons. “Surely you can’t expect me to go off on a whim like this when I know there are people out there who killed my family and are looking for me. Besides…” She balled her fists. “Should I leave and let them continue to destroy this forest, my home?”
Jokull attempted to speak, and Balshenai interrupted.” You are free to make your own decisions, Emry. Neither of us will stop you. Far be it from me to question your mistrust of mortals.”
Jokull shook his head.
“This debate is foolish.” He growled. “Your kind will never cease to surprise me. This valley is no longer ours. When I am gone it will be burned and destroyed and there is nothing you can do to stop it. The water that gave birth to it has dried away and there is nothing you will be able to do to stop it. In a few years, There will be no valley.”
Emry clenched her fists tighter. “What of the murderers who found my father when I came here?”
“What about them?” Jokull replied.
“Who are they?”
Balshenai stepped around Jokull and into the open expanse of the cave. “They are hunters, by the look of them. They seek out and kill us for sport, and harvest our bodies for tools. Perhaps your father knew something they didn’t want him to know.”
Emry shook her head. “Impossible. My father was raised in this valley, he had nothing. Nothing they would want.”
Jokull raised a scaled eyebrow. “You know who would know?” He sneered at her. “The Dragons of The Peaks.”
Emry shook her head once more. “Jokull, if I go to these peaks, will I even have a life worth living, or will I be destroyed by your kind?”
He closed his eyes. “Balshenai will protect you, I know this much.”
Emry sighed. Testing a dragon would likely not be wise, but she had so many more questions. “Should I expect a welcoming party, or for there to be more hunters?”
“No Hunters.” Balshenai replied, “The Whitefang Mountains are devoid of danger from them. Our kin patrol and rout anyone who might be an adversary.”
“Wherever you go,” Jokull roared. “Go with haste! I don’t have much time.” The great Gray Dragon rolled onto his feet and stood, imposing his incredible size on them both as hot air filled the room, the water beneath him began to steam.
He returned to his side as Emry fell silent, and craned his neck back to cough once more. As he did, Balshenai spread one of her wings to shield Emry from the blast of hot air that emerged from his tunnel-like throat.
“Jokull,” she began. “I am afraid.”
He smiled and rested his head once more on the stone. “I know you are, child, but you were born within the Mountain. You are what they should fear.”
Emry stepped back as the dragons spoke. Balshenai once more beside her father, the perilous dragon of magnificent size. He stretched himself our and dragged his tail across the massive cavern, sending puddles of water splashing and sloshing as he wrapped his tail round them both.
They remained there for some time, warmth spilling over from their bodies onto hers, before Jokull unfurled himself and spoke slowly to Emry.
“Child, I must share a word with my daughter before I cannot again.”
Emry nodded and glanced at Balshenai, whose eyes streamed tears. She stepped away from the pair and toward the mouth of the cave. From the depths of darkness she emerged to a sunny morning that overlooked the valley where she’d claimed her youth. Below her, trails marked paths that the wildlife all but ignored, dirt paths that wound through the woods and through clearings of hewn trees and flower patches. Figures shambled through the spotted clearings below her as she found a smooth spot and sat upon it to view the destruction below. As her eyes paced across the stripped logs that lined mule led carts and passed through the underbrush, the pine trees had never seemed quite as tall. Scattered around the valley were collections of fallen trees overgrown with moss, and near each of the clearings figures worked. Far below, near the head of the river, a group sawed at a lone pine tree in a clearing, the heave of their bodies in rhythm as they worked their way through the trunk.
A moment passed before a crack echoed through the Valley and the pine gave way beneath its own severed limb and it toppled onto one side. It crashed through the other trees and into the ground which sent birds and animals of all kinds scattering to the winds. Many of the birds flocked to other, still standing trees and looked down at the clearing with their heads tilted. Shocked at the event but uncertain what it really means, their home had been destroyed, and they are forced to resort to finding a new place to make their beds.
“Will that be what comes of me?” She wondered, the voice in her head did not sound at all like herself. “To move from tree to tree and rebuild my nest over and over? What then, if I go to The Peaks and am turned away?”
Emry’s growling thoughts were interrupted as Balshenai emerged from the depths of the cave, her scaly face wet with tears as she paused and sat. Together in uncertain silence they watched over the forest as the sun crawled across the sky. Both of them remained there with the occasional sniffle from the dragon’s snout, and the crash of cut trees until nightfall began to threaten them. Like clockwork, every few minutes another would collapse and each time one did, the birds fled the valley. It was then, just before the sun began to dip behind the mountaintop that Balshenai spoke.
“We should make our way. The Peaks are many miles, and we should do most of our travel beneath the cover of nightfall.”
Emry nodded. “If we have no other choice.” She gathered her things, including her hunting knife which she’d left in the cave upon her first visit, and hoisted herself atop Balshenai’s back when the dragon paused.
“Child, can I ask you something?”
Emry muttered an acknowledgment as another tree crashed below them.
“What do you want to do?”
Emry paused. “I want to find those who sent the killers to my home.”
Balshenai nodded. “That is not the way to the Peaks, I want you to be aware.”
Emry nodded. “I don’t care.”
Balshenai nodded and launched from the cliff side. Once more they were on the air and whipping past the tops of the trees. Balshenai ascended higher and higher into the sky, until the clouds themselves were just out of reach above them. Emry released her grip on the dragon’s spines and raised her hands to feel the mists break against her fingers, leaving curled trails in the clouds behind them. To the west, a thunderhead boiled over a dreadfully tall ridge, the peaks of the highest mountains there stretched into the sky far beyond the cloud cover. A giggle erupted from Emry as she stared in awe along the vast mountain ridges and forests that spanned the world beyond her valley, a world which she’d never seen. Across the landscape, farms and fortresses dotted the verdant grass and thick forests, rivers ten times the size of hers spanned and stretched into lakes as through the countryside as Balshenai continued to take them higher, through the clouds.
As they passed through the thick cloud cover and out into the sky above, Emry’s eyes met the top of the great mountain she’d seen, jagged cliffs decorated with white stone buildings as if they’d been carved into the mountainside stood on the ridges and in the sky there were many other dragons, each of varying sizes, colors and shapes that flew in and out of the clouds as if they were swimming through the misty storm building below them.
“The Peak of Whitefang.” Balshenai’s voice echoed into Emry’s mind.
“How did you do that?” She looked around her, wind whipped her face and dragged her hair behind her as she rotated.
“Because child, I am a dragon.”
Balshenai came to a slow halt in the sky, the drifting clouds sluggishly moved below her. “The men that found your family were sent from a small city on the other side of your valley, if you truly wish to go there, I can’t take you.”
“Why not?” Emry shot back. “Don’t you want revenge?”
Balshenai shook her head. “Revenge is what I want, not what Jokull wants.”
“Balshenai, Jokull is not you.”
“I am still his daughter.” The dragon fired back, ending the conversation.
“I understand. I would still like to see it, if we have the time.”
“As you wish.” The dragon dipped her nose downward and sent them through the clouds once more. Balshenai carried the two of them over the peak of the mountain, and revealed a city far below. Stone walls surrounded stone buildings alight with torches. On one side, a rocky outcropping held a massive building that was lit well, and surrounded with armed men and women. The flickering torchlight reflected off of their blades as Balshenai dove the side of the mountain, straight toward the city.
Excitement built within her as they drew near enough to make out more. The buildings were carved and decorated beautifully, spiraling designs and images of knights and farmers were scrawled into the outer walls. In the streets, people passed by one another, dancing and singing along to musicians that appeared to have been posted on every corner. Her jaw hung agape as Balshenai pulled back and began to coast, high above the city, but close enough for her to see large banquet tables covered with all manner of food. Fruits and candies, roasted fowl and beef and venison. The tables were lined with seats. Before each seat was a plate and beside each plate was a bottle of liquid, some wine, some brandy, others merely filled with water. Emry stared down as the people below her turned to look into the sky as they passed.
“There must be food there to feed hundreds.” She thought to herself.
“They are a gluttonous people, yes. Banquets for the masses, and yet still with people starving in the streets.”
She shook her head. “How can they live like this?”
“It is all for the sake of their progress, child.”
Balshenai carried them over the city as the people below returned to their dancing and their merry-making as the men that surrounded the fortified building scrambled in and out. The dragon suddenly altered her course and nearly threw Emry from her back as she did so. Emry’s eyes locked a band of men, one of whom wore his hair in a long blonde braid, his body was adorned in an ankle length leather coat and beneath that he wore a thick steel chest plate. Behind him, a man in thick steel armor hobbled to a massive contraption unlike anything she had ever seen before. It appeared to her as a bow mounted on a horizontal beam, with a chair at one end.
“We must run.” Balshenai’s voice echoed into her mind.
“Go.” Emry replied as the second man hobbled into the seat and began pulling levers and turning wheels that were attached to the end.
Balshenai shoved her wings back and launched them away from the city as the people below scrambled at the sound of horns. Emry whipped back to find two massive arrows sailing through the air toward them. Before she could think, they slammed into Balshenai’s wings with dreadful force. As she flapped to get away, the arrows hooked into her thin skin and tore it to shreds.
“Hold on” Balshenai whispered into her mind, and spun in midair, twirling the cables attached to the opposite end of the arrows around themselves.
Without her wings keeping them afloat, the pair began to sink. In a frenzy, the dragon frantically kicked at her wings with her back legs, and through luck more than anything else, removed one of the arrows as they descended beyond the canopy of trees. Branches and needles scraped her skin as Emry clung to the spines, stuck between her companion and the rapidly approaching ground. She closed her eyes and forced a breath as Balshenai rotated back and nearly threw Emry from her a second time. Moments after, the two of them crashed into the ground. Balshenai slammed into trees and knocked a handful over as she slid and bounced along the ground. Emry, unable to hold on, was thrown from the back of her friend and bounced on to the soft ground. A sharp pain shot through her side as her rib landed on the ground, and she rolled further away from her friend.
“Run!” Balshenai called out, and Emry opened her eyes to meet the gaze of the dragon. Her wings had been entangled and broken amid the trunks and branches of the trees. Sharp, jagged sticks impaled her friend all over. Numerous scales had shed on the collision with the ground, and looked as if they were piles of flower petals behind them. Further beyond the edge of the forest, the city gates opened as a handful of figures poured out on horseback. Emry stood, her hand to her ribs as she tucked the medallion into her tunic. Her father’s splintered bow fell from her shoulders and onto the ground. Balshenai lifted an arm to pull herself forward, but was unable to do so as blood poured from her numerous wounds.
Emry’s heard slammed into her chest as armed men and women approached with weapons drawn, led by the blonde man. They dismounted when they arrived and surrounded Balshenai, who watched them carefully.
“So a witch come from on ‘igh, then?” He grinned.
Emry didn’t respond as a second group arrived, led by the man in steel armor. He dismounted and stood beside the blonde man as they directed orders to the group.
“Don’t let ’em run.” The blonde man shouted, spittle flew from his lips as he spoke. He stood a head or more taller than most of the other soldiers, and wore two axes on his hips.
Fury boiled inside of Emry as she reached into her tunic and withdrew the medallion.
“Don’t take another step.” She interrupted the blonde man. He and the man in steel didn’t budge, but the rest of the guard glanced at one another nervously. “I vowed to burn you all in dragon’s fire, and that is precisely what I will do.”
The blonde man grinned. “O, ye’ then prove it.”
Emry locked eyes with him and her face flushed.
“Come on” She thought to herself. “Hurt them.”
The guards chuckled amongst themselves as the steel plated man approached her.
“You don’ ‘ave the wits, lass.” He came to a stop before her. “Do it then!” He barked.
Emry held the Medallion up and began whispering under her breath, nonsense, but anything was better than nothing.
As she spoke, she felt the air round her begin to warm. With it, she topped whispering as the Medallion began to grow hot in her hand.
“I am Emry of the River,” she began. “For what your kind has done to my family and my friends, I will burn you all alive from the inside out.”
As she finished, a moment of silence fell among the group, many of the guards affixed their attention on her and adjusted their stances, preparing to run. But as the medallion continued to heat up, nothing came.
The guards began laughing, some of them lowered their weapons and relaxed as Balshenai had fallen completely still. The man grinned.
“You don’ ‘ave the wits, lass.” He repeated, and grabbed her hand into his own. His strength tremendous as he yanked her to the ground.
“You will not harm the child.”
Between the fat, steel plated man’s legs Emry saw Balshenai lift her head and point her mouth to the ground when she spoke. From the depths of her razor filled maw, her companion ejected a fountain of white-hot flame that spread across the ground in all directions. It swept through the underbrush and turned the surrounding vegetation to ash instantly. A few guards dropped their weapons to run, but none were fast enough. Balshenai’s flame erupted from the ground in pillars that devoured the city guards in a blinding flash of white light. In moments, the guards were incinerated, all of their armor melted into piles of molten steel that bound to the charred corpses of the guards who stood too close to one another. Balshenai’s flame took to the forest and climbed through branches, spreading quickly.
When the flame faded, Emry was left standing, the medallion in her hands crumbled to dust as the man who held her screamed in pain. His armor glowing with the heat of the flame and the smell of burnt flesh soaked through everything around them. The man collapsed, his armor melted to his body. On the other side of Balshenai, the blonde man stepped forward, untouched.
“Been hunting ‘ol girl for some time. ‘Ave a debt to repay.” He slipped a much smaller medallion from behind his tunic. It was affixed with a gem similar to the one Emry had held, but his was different. The gem in the center appeared opalescent, and perfectly oval shaped. Emry’s was a hewn chunk of stone that had been polished and cut to size.
Balshenai craned her neck forward and shouted. “Emry, run!”
As she stood and took a step back, the blonde man withdrew one of the axes and slammed it down into Balshenai’s side between two ribs.
“I ain’t finished.” He turned to face Emry. “Now Lass, make this easy for me.” His face warped into a sinister grin as he yanked the ax from Balshenai’s side and threw it at her. She crouched, barely avoiding the blade as it whirled past her and into the trunk of a charred tree. Emry turned and took a step back when Balshenai returned to her mind.
Behind her, she heard the blonde man’s ax come down once more on Balshenai’s body, and a familiar flame ignited in her heart. She turned and charged toward the blonde man, bounding over his companion who had stopped screaming and instead laid in the grass with his hands to his face. She jumped over Balshenai’s claws and caught the man in the side, slamming him to the ground.
“I told you not to hurt her.” She withdrew the knife at her thigh and spun it between her fingers before jamming it down into the man’s leg. He grimaced and balled his fist, slamming it into her abdomen and launching her off of him back onto the grass.
“Never said I’d hurt ‘er, lass.” He lifted his ax from Balshenai’s thick neck and turned to approach her. “I’m gonna make her wish she was never born.”
Emry pushed off of the ground and launched herself at the man once more as Balshenai spoke weakly into her mind.
“Emry… why didn’t you run?”
Emry growled and clawed, realizing the man in melted steel had taken hold of her ankle. He dragged her back toward him as the blonde man raised his ax again.
“Because you are my friend.”
He slammed the ax down onto Balshenai’s neck and the dragon howled in pain as blood gushed from the wound. The man in melted steel lifted Emry and bound both of her hands in rope, before he raised his fist over her head. Before he came down upon her, Balshenai whispered once more into her mind.
“Thank you, Emry. Seek… Westwinter.”
Then, it all went black as a gauntlet slammed against the back of her skull, and she fell to the ground.
Chapter One: Part I Sisters of Westwinter: Chapter One – Piecemeal
So that is the Prologue.
Emry has much, much more in store for you. I hope you are excited to come along for the ride. Next week will be the start of Chapter One! Keep your eyes on my socials (linked below) for any updates, plus some more content and info about the stories as a whole.
For those of you who don’t follow my page on Facebook, I posted last week about some big changes regarding my writing and my webpage — I’d encourage you to take a look over there. In the meantime,
I’ll see you soon. 🔺