April 1, 2000
Brooding in the darkness of his lair, Shutan, a ruby dragon, pondered his existence. How, he thought, could such pathetic creatures control us? Humans, Shutan stifled a laugh, the world would be a better place without those parasites. Shutan perked up, as though struck by a bolt of lightning. Rising to his feet, he began to devise a plan to unite the dragons of the world and rid the planet of the filthy humans. As he prepared to speak to his brethren, he felt a tap on his shoulder. Cocking his head to one side, he saw a small, red firelizard, holding a sizable amount of gold. "What is it now?" Shutan shouted, rage saturating each word.
The thunderous roar of his voice filled the cave with a stir of echoes that resonated off of the dank, stone walls. "Sir," came the meek reply of the firelizard, its squeaky voice was a near opposite of the race of dragons whom he served, "A human requests your assistance. He offered you this."
Shutan shot an evil stare at the scrawny firelizard, "Who requested me?"
"Kunal, sir. He's waiting for you at the Fortress of Shadowclaw right now."
"Very well," Shutan said, anger still evident in his voice. The firelizard bowed to his master, holding the deepest gratitude that Shutan's temper had granted the firelizard another day of life. As Shutan made his way toward the surface, he reflected on his plan. "The humans are a plague that must be cleansed from the planet. Ages from now, my people will revere me as a god for the liberation of our kind. Kunal will be but one of many," he thought, "He will be the first to die."
Stumbling from the moss-covered walls of the fortress of the bandit Shadowclaw, a battle-weary traveler dreamed only of his much-needed respite. Kunal leaned against a nearby wall in order to summon the focus required to call a firelizard. As the disgusting creature appeared in a blinding pop of light, Kunal withdrew a large sum of money from his purse. Wasting no time, the firelizard grabbed the money, much as a starving bear would a fresh kill. Disappearing as quickly as it had arrived, the firelizard was gone. Sheathing his sword, Kunal rested against the proud fortress and closed his eyes. "I'll be home soon enough... " Kunal sighed as he wiped the blood from his face, "Before I know it, I'll be home."
Shutan grit his fangs in anger as he thought about the humans he had been forced to serve. So arrogant, so conceited... and they smelled. A lot. Casting his gaze downward, he saw his victim; there would be no mercy.
Hearing the rhythmic beating sounds of leathery wings, Kunal glanced skyward. The ruby dragon was closer than Kunal had thought. Gaining support from the stone wall, Kunal stood and prepared to mount the creature. Raising a hand to block the sunlight, he realized that not only was the dragon not slowing down, it intended to ram him. While not the most intelligent of warriors, Kunal understood that such a collision would be detrimental to his health. Wasting no time, Kunal sprinted through the wilderness, avoiding monsters as best he could. His feet pounded the soft earth rapidly as adrenaline coursed through his veins. Growing nauseous from lack of breath, Kunal came to the startling revelation that he could not maintain this rate of speed. With great hesitation, Kunal looked back and nearly screamed at the blood red eyes that seemingly stared into his soul. More terrifying was the proximity of the creature behind those eyes, only meters away.
Turning his gaze forward, Kunal tapped into his innermost strength, running faster than he ever had in his life. Unfortunately for Kunal, it was far too little, as the skull of the enraged beast landed squarely in the small of Kunal's back. Kunal's limp body shot forward, his back contorted at an angle that snapped his vertebrae nearly in half. With his last ounce of energy, Kunal managed to force his eyes open and see that which he had prayed to the gods was not there. "Wh...y?" Kunal asked in a tone barely audible to the most sensitive of ears. The dragon's eyes narrowed to slits, Shutan reared his neck back, indicating the force of the blow to come, and plunged his fangs into the torso of his victim. The triumphant roar that followed could be heard throughout Medievia.
It felt good. Very good. The twisted pleasure of stealing a life was almost too much for Shutan to bear. Along with the death of his so-called master came a sense of liberation, a freedom he had not experienced since birth. Soon, Shutan would disclose his plan to the rest of his kind and he alone would be credited with the emancipation of the dragon race. With a massive stroke of his wings, he shot skyward and turned back to his lair, where he would disclose every gory detail of what he had done. With each beat of his massive wings, Shutan's mind raced with ideas, each more intricate than the last. By the time he had reached his lair, he had concocted a speech so powerful, he thought, that it would draw the sympathies of even the most peaceful dragons in his clan. At the entrance, each member of his clan awaited his arrival in solemn silence. "I am glad to see that you are all here, I have incredible news!" Shutan began.
"But first, we have something that we must tell you," Dyrgak replied in an irritated tone, "Glek, our pet firelizard, has told us of your displeasure with the humans. When we heard you a few minutes ago, we expected the worst. .."
Shutan cut him off, "Don't worry, you have received the best of news. I have sent a message to the humans. We will no longer carry their burdens."
"Please," Zeksagmak burst out, "Please tell us that you didn't..."
"Ah, son, but I did! I have killed one and will do the same to countless others if it means gaining our freedom."
"You don't understand, Shutan!" Dyrgak broke in, "The gods expressly forbid killing humans!"
Anger overcame Shutan, "The GODS? You dare say that to my face?! What kind of gods would make us servants? What kind of gods would make us suffer for such pitiful creatures?" his eyes glowed blood red, daring anyone to interrupt him, "I defy ONE of you to prove to me that these 'gods' exist! I DEFY any of you to explain to me why these 'gods' didn't save their precious HUMAN when I attacked! Answer!"
His son, Zeksagmak, peeped out a reply, "The gods said that they would never directly interfere with the lives of humans."
Shutan's eyes turned toward his son, "That was something the humans made up to explain why the gods never saved them! These 'gods' are a LIE and if you don't believe me you are a FOOL!" Shutan paused, "The gods are a crutch for the blind and stupid. An empty promise that something is looking out for them. They made up these gods in order to keep us from rebelling! THOSE, son, those are your 'gods'."
Defeated, Zeksagmak managed to speak, "What he says sounds true enough... does anyone agree?"
A murmur overtook the crowd and after much deliberation, they reached a consensus. Dyrgak stepped forward, "We will assist you... but we will only kill the amount of people necessary to gaining our freedom. Understood?"
Shutan nodded at the white dragon, "Then let us go! May the blood of our foes pave the road to freedom."
The clan turned and looked at the origin of the noise, "How could you defy the gods so? You who once so solemnly preached of the salvation that the gods would provide for all, human and dragon alike!" Shutan turned away, "I was but a child, Lothvon. You cannot possibly believe that I think now what I thought then."
"You were to be my apprentice! You vowed to be my heir!"
"Never will I follow YOUR heresies again!"
"You and I cannot coexist. I encourage any of you who desire salvation to do the same. If not, you are signing your soul over to pain eternal." Lothvon spread his wings and took flight toward the setting sun, unaccompanied by those to whom he preached.
"You have made a wise decision," Shutan shouted, "now, let us break the human shackles that once confined us!"
"Read all about it! Fifteen mutilated! Dragons to blame!" The young town crier shouted. An unsettling atmosphere settled over the Medievian streets, each pondering that which they dared not say - "Who would be next?" Upon nightfall, the city grew pitch black. At a glance, one might not even see the city itself; if they did, they would think it uninhabited.
Circling overhead, Shutan twisted a smile. His plan had worked; he had gained the support of his clan. "Time for part two," Shutan muttered.
"One 'o clock and all is well!" shouted a Medievian guardsman, "For you all, anyway." he muttered. As he turned on to Enterprise Avenue, he yawned. "This can't be happening. Everyone is inside, warm, asleep..." the guardsman sighed. "Gods, if only I wasn't out here freezing to death..." Little did the guardsman realize the irony in his last words until it was too late. Swooping down on the city was a ruby dragon; the guardsman drew his sword. Devoid of training on what to do in the event of a dragon attack, he readied himself for battle.
Stupid human, Shutan thought, not even smart enough to run. Rearing his head back, Shutan spewed forth a massive fireball. The guardsman was instantly engulfed in flames, as was an entire quadrant of Enterprise Avenue. With a single beat of his wings, Shutan gained altitude and circled the city for another pass. Unleashing a second fireball on Guild Row, the intense flames poured down on the Mage's Guild and the unrelenting heat overwhelmed the building. The resulting explosion bathed the adjacent buildings with red-hot flame.
Triumphantly soaring away was Shutan, bellowing a roar equal in magnitude to the destruction he had just unleashed. Vigorously beating his wings, he began his journey home.
"The havoc that we wreak is having a powerful secondary effect; the human paranoia is turning neighborhoods, even cities against each other!" Shutan began, "I have witnessed this, brothers, the humans are weakening as we speak. As of right now, the world is ours for the taking. All that remains now is for us to crush the survivors. In so doing, we could wipe out the humans for good!"
"Shutan, I thought we agreed that we would only scare the humans!"
"Ah, Dyrgak, why should we continue to live with those who have oppressed us so? All too soon, the humans will return to their old ways! Do we really want our children to live through what we were forced to? I want my son to grow up without the humiliation of servitude to the humans!"
"We all do... but... destroy the humans? Even if the gods don't exist, I still believe that wiping out a species is wrong."
Shutan sighed, "Was not your mother killed by human poachers? The humans are not as frail as we have come to believe. They are a resourceful, opportunistic species, one that will return to power if we do not do something."
Dyrgak hesitated, but Shutan's words made sense, "Very well, the humans will be extinguished by sundown."
As the clan marched to the opening of the cave, a bright flash of light appeared behind them. Without turning to look from whence the light came, Shutan shouted, "Who dares summon me?"
"That which does not exist cannot summon you, correct?"
Turning to look at the origin of the voice, Shutan was blinded and turned away quickly, it was as though the sun had manifested itself within this figure. "Who are you?" As the figure drew closer, Shutan dared a quick glance. Seeing that it was bipedal, Shutan scoffed, "A human. Pathetic."
"You lie to yourself," The figure mused.
"Why do you say that?"
"If you thought I was a human, you would have attacked by now," It paused, " You are afraid."
"I fear no man!" Shutan shouted, fear buried in his voice.
"Which is why you fear me."
Shutan's blood boiled, "You wish to fight me, then? You will not survive."
"You can't kill a god, Shutan," this voice was different, almost familiar.
"Who's there?" Shutan no longer tried to hide his panic.
"It is I," a bronze dragon crept forth from the shadows, "the 'heretic'."
"Lothvon! What are you doing here?" Shutan stammered.
"He is here to see to it that your heresies go no further," the Figure stated, its words devoid of emotion, "Through his days of prayer, I realized his devotion to us. When I saw what you were about to do, I answered his prayers."
"You don't understand how we have suffered! Our lives are dedicated in service to the humans!"
"On the contrary, we understand perfectly. We dedicate our existence to the servitude of all. The only difference is this: dragons die. Our service is never over. We toil endlessly, whereas dragons gain the respite of heaven for their service. All dragons... except you."
"B-but! You can't interfere in the lives of humans!" Shutan cried.
"My Master granted me this one exception. As for the rest of you, you are free to do whatever you wish. Repent your sins, and you will be the chosen ones. Never have we turned our backs on you. Follow us, and you will receive your reward. Those of you who would cause another human pain, will suffer in the next life." the Figure said. In a blinding flash of light, Shutan and the Figure were gone.
As the dragon clan reeled in pain from the light, Lothvon trod forward, immune, "Despite what they have done to us, we must continue our service. Such is the way the gods have declared." he said in a grave voice.
Casting a gaze to the dank wall, something caught his eye. Letters had been carved in the sturdy stone walls, forming the words WE ARE WATCHING.
"The gods have spoken. Who will repent their evil ways and follow the path of truth?" Lothvon asked.
After much hesitation, a copper dragon stepped forth, "I will, holy one," she said as she bowed her head. Shortly after, a second copper dragon approached the dragon priest, "I, too, will repent my ways."
Minutes after the repentance of the first dragon, the clan had segregated itself. Nearly every brass, copper, silver, and golden dragon chose to return to their pious leader.
"Fools! All of you!" Zeksagmak bellowed, "The humans are all but extinct! With a mere gesture we could extinguish the human's fire!"
Lothvon sighed, "My followers and I will continue to serve the humans, you and yours may do as you see fit," he turned toward the writings on the wall, "You may do as you wish, but do not forget what happened to your father. Should we ever receive word that you have harmed a human, my followers and I will destroy you without a moment's hesitation. Come, chosen ones, let us pray before we leave."
All of the holy dragons bowed their heads and begged for the gods' forgiveness. Adjourning the prayer with a quiet "amen", the holy dragons took flight in search of a new home. As Zeksagmak watched in anger at the human sympathizers, Dyrgak approached him, "I'm sorry." Zeksagmak remained silent for a long time before he muttered a response, "Father... no..."
Dyrgak drew closer, "He was my friend too. I would like to see this revolution through, as your father would have wanted."
Still reeling in shock from the loss of his father, Zeksagmak silently vowed revenge on the gods and the humans whom they so dearly loved. Never again would a human live without fear as long as he lived and breathed. Never.