Al’ev’s mind raced as though it was trying to keep up with his feet as he rushed through the streets of Halar with Mel in his arms. Mel had been unable to keep up with his pace after they had seen the explosion. Her choice of outfit for the night didn’t allow it and so he had been forced to pick her up in order to keep a good pace. His home wasn’t too far away and he knew he had to get there a quickly as possible if they were going to have a chance of surviving.
The dragons had begun their assault on the far side of the town. But even from where Al’ev was now running he could hear the cries of terror as they ricocheted off the walls around him.
He was horrified. Goblins he knew he could fight. But dragons? They weren’t a creature one should fight if they had the choice not to. Fleeing was usually preferable as it yielded better odds of survival. Or so he had read in a book once. Now that he had seen them in person, he agreed. He needed to find his mother and get everyone he could to safety. Fast.
Another explosion ripped through the night sky from behind him. Al’ev didn’t turn and look but Mel, who had been facing that way in his arms, screamed in terror then buried her face in his chest.
This girl I like…no that isn’t right…this girl I love is in danger. This thought caused him to gain a pool of strength he had never realized he possessed. His strides became longer and more rapid and his body tired much slower. Mel had been light in his arms before, but now he could hardly tell she was there.
They were just in sight of his house he heard another roar followed by shouting, this time in the elven language.
“SHOW YOURSELF, NALEF. WE’LL DESTROY IT ALL IF YOU DON’T BRING ME WHAT I CAME HERE FOR.”
What is that dragon talking about? Maybe I didn’t hear it right, but it certainly called mom out by name.
“Al’ev, are they talking about your mother?” Mel asked. “Al’ev?”
Al’ev realized he had stopped in his tracks when he had heard the roar. Before he could answer Mel, he was nearly knocked over by a small crowd running out of his house. They must have heard that dragon’s words as well. He put Mel down but kept hold of her hand then he forced his way through the people piling out, allowing them to wash around him. Finally getting inside, he found his mother as well as Mel’s parents in the process of running about the house, trying to keep the few people remaining calm. It didn’t work and they all filtered out of the room past Al’ev in a panic.
“AL’EV!” His mother shouted as she saw him.
“Mom, What’s going on? The town, I think its being destroyed. What did that dragon mean?”
“Not now. We need to get out of here.”
“Mel, are you hurt?” Tanidor rushed over to his sixteen year old daughter.
“No. Al’ev picked me up and he ran here. Dad, it’s awful. Fort Halar…it’s…”
“Shh, shh. We’re going to get out of this.” He turned to Al’ev. “Thanks for getting her out of there Al’ev. She’d be dead now if it weren’t for you.”
“We’re not out of anything just yet.” Nalef said.
Another roar shook the walls of the wooden house and Al’ev watched in horror as the homes right across the street, from his burst into flames. That horror doubled when he saw someone jump out from the window on the home’s second story, flames trailing them as they came crashing to the ground below. The person was burning alive.
“We have to help that man!” Al’ev said, making for the door. His mother stepped in front of him, effectively barring him from getting any further.
“No, we can’t. We need to leave. NOW. No arguing. Let’s go. Back door. Everyone.”
“But Mom! People are dying! Maybe if we made it to the garrison I could help them fight back!”
Nalef sighed and then said “They are here for you. They will burn it all down no matter what we do. We must go now or everyone in the town will die.”
“What?” Al’ev asked in shock.
“Why do they want Al’ev?” Mel asked, her eyes full of terror as she grabbed onto his arm.
Nalef looked at Mel and was about to say something when the house shook again and flames flew washed over the window. Al’ev smelt the smoke coming from upstairs and knew their house was on fire.
A large wooden beam that supported part of the second story started to come creaked once, ominously then there was a snap as the house rumbled with another dragon passing overhead and it was only Nalef’s well honed reaction time that saved Al’ev and Mel as well as her parents from being crushed. With a flash of light, the beam disintegrated before it could cause any harm.
“Ms. Reldin? Was that magic.” Mel asked with her eyes wide.
Nalef nodded then pointed towards the back door. Al’ev was already clearing debris out of the way. He was joined by Tanidor and together, they forced a path through debris to the back door.
Perhaps it was surreal feeling that had come over him as he stepped outside, but it didn’t dawn on Al’ev just how dangerous and real the situation was until he turned to watch his mother, Tanidor, Raiya, and Mel emerge from his childhood home just before it collapsed. It was as though the force holding it to the ground had finally overwhelmed the framework that had held it up his whole life.
Flames shot up higher from the wreck as more roars filled the night air and Al’ev found himself searching the night sky with his sword drawn.
His search stopped immediately when his eyes they fell on the further reaches of Halar. What he saw brought tears to his eyes. Flames shot out from almost a full quarter of the town now, most appearing to stab higher into the sky than some of the fireworks had flown earlier. The smoke had already blocked out the moon that should havee risen high into the sky by this point. From the far side of the town, Al’ev watched as a massive dragon tore a chunk of the solid wall that had protected the city and proceeded to drop it into the Church of Sarenrae. The Church crumbled under the massive weight it had been hit with as though it were made of a thin parchment. Anyone inside wouldn’t have had a chance.
From the other side of town his eyes were caught by the flashes that were characteristic of spells being cast. They came from various levels of the Arcane Library of Halar. The tree hadn’t yet caught flame. The sight of someone fighting back briefly filled him with hope but even as he watched another large dragon let loose its flame upon the mid section of the giant tree, overwhelming the defensive spells he knew were in place to protect it. Many of the areas where the flashes had been coming from were engulfed entirely. The spells were becoming much less frequent from all around the tree and were silenced all together when two massive dragons, working together, rammed into the colossal tree from the air.
The once proud arcane learning center teetered for an eternal moment then it surrendered to gravity, the top half of the tree crashing into the marketplace Al’ev and Mel had just been in earlier that morning. The dragons then began unleashing flame into the now exposed heart of the library where Al’ev could see tiny pieces of parchment shooting into the air and out the windows. With sudden revulsion he realized he shouldn’t be able to see parchment from this far and comprehension dawned on him that those were pieces of furniture…and probably people.
His eyes followed another flash from the right of the library and fell on what remained of Fort Halar where he saw another pair of younger looking dragons attacking everything within using their own jets of flame. They used the walls like cats would, balancing on the top of them as they circled. The remaining walls would have acted like a gigantic oven. All within would be melting alive if they had survived the initial explosion.
Lieutenant Farfellow…Lieutenant Grayson….Captain Greil….
“Al’ev, come on. Shake out of it. AL’EV!” He realized someone had been shaking him. He found her blue eyes and in doing so, managed to find his center.
He also saw the dragon coming in from behind her.
He gasped then grabbed Mel and dove to the side as a dragon landed where they had just been with a loud thud that briefly shook the ground. This one was large, but not nearly as large as several others he had seen attacking the town.
“So here you are! Brelzic will be happy to know it wasn’t just a rumor this time.” The dragon had spoken in the red dialect. It turned it’s scaly head towards his mother and Mel’s parents. “Surrender or don’t. I could use a good meal after all this exercise.”
“Al’ev, run. You too Mel.” His mother said then she turned to her parents. “Get out of here. I’ll handle this.”
“Dear you couldn’t possibly…” Raiya was saying.
The dragon wasn’t about to wait around as they discussed what they should do. It took in a deep breath and then flame shot out of its mouth towards Nalef and Mel’s parents.
“No! Stop it! No!” Mel screamed and then started crying. Al’ev held her and didn’t know what to do. If his mother had just died, there was no escaping for either of them….
After a few moments the dragon’s flame finally relented.
“That should take care of…” The dragon started to say smugly.
A lance made of pure ice launched out of the smoke that rose from where Nalef and Mel’s parents had stood. The dragon saw this and managed to step back just in time to avoid a fatal blow to the chest, but the icy missile found still found its mark in the beast’s wing. The lance then continued into the wall behind the house and shattered against stone as the beast screamed in agony.
“Go!” Nalef yelled.
Al’ev didn’t have to be told again. He grabbed Mel’s hand and darted down the back alley behind their yard, knowing that his mother could handle that particular dragon just fine. Tanidor and Raiya were just behind him as he ran.
“This pathway is one that stays away from the main roads of the town and winds its way through several yards before it hits the main entrance.” Al’ev yelled back behind him. “It should help keep us hidden if we’re careful.” It didn’t dawn on him until after he had spoken that Mel’s family was trusting him with their lives. He didn’t know exactly why, but guessed that it may have had to do with winning the tournament of the swordsman. The Captain had told him the night of his victory that the people of the town may look to him in times of hardship.
“That sword marks you one of us, as I have mentioned. But it does more than just that. The people will see its symbol and know that you are someone they can trust their lives to. Don’t be surprised, Reldin, if you find yourself protecting innocents against the evils of this world using this blade someday. A Champion of the Swordsman can and will do nothing less than that.” The man had said.
Al’ev’s eyes were tearing up as he raced through the back alleyways. He’d miss Captain Greil.
After a few minutes of running and hiding between buildings from the passing dragons that swooped by overhead every so often, they finally were nearing the midway point to the town’s main entrance. The town square, where Al’ev and Mel had just shared their first dances together, was devoid of people. Tables and chairs had been scattered about and a few of the buildings in the area had been lit on fire, but the center of the town had been largely spared so far.
Al’ev noted that the smoke from the fires in the area should have made ground searching from the air more difficult. He decided they should try to dash across the empty town square in an attempt to shorten their escape route. He had just stepped out from between a pair of buildings when he froze.
Ahead of him, rounding a corner from the direction of the garrison, came several town guardsmen. They all stopped and drew crossbows. Then several knelt down and one of them yelled out.
“Ready! Wait for the bastard…and….FIRE!”
A dragon few over a building, letting loose more flame. The bolts launched towards the beast, but none of them reached the target before they, and the guardsmen who had fired them, were incinerated.
Al’ev didn’t have a chance to react before the flame caught several crates full of fireworks. The resulting explosion threw Al’ev off his feet. He landed on his back with his ears ringing and stared up at the sky for a few moments. He knew he was okay, and if he was then the Rolovirs, who hadn’t yet left the alleyway, would be fine as well. His mind shifted to two individuals he had last seen in the town square.
Joshua and Nelya…they had to have gotten out of here by now. Oh please let them have escaped.
He didn’t know who he was pleading with but it didn’t matter at the moment. His world and everyone in it was burning around him and he had a girl that he loved to protect. This thought gave him strength allowing him to stumble back to his feet.
Al’ev moved back into a side alley just as another dragon flew overhead, strafing buildings on the far side of the square with more flame. He waited a few moments, using the time to look into the eyes of Mel and her family, then he gathered himself again. He was about to step out from their hiding spot for a second time when he caught sight of a dragon flying towards the buildings they were hiding between, a massive chunk of the town’s wall clutched in its claws.
Al’ev dove back into the alley and landed on top of Mel and her parents, knocking them all over as the dragon released its missile. Knowing this was no time to hide his own abilities, however novice they were, he used the spell that had deflected the undead beast months before and was shocked when several large chunks of the building’s wall bounced off the invisible force field. He got back up and helped the Rolovirs to their feet.
“Al’ev…you…that was…but I thought you were normal.” Tanidor said.
The way you said that…
“Yes sir. I’m sorry I couldn’t say anything. My Mom made me promise. She said people would be afraid of my abilities.” When no response came he continued. “Come on, we need to get out of here.”
Al’ev turned back to the alleyway after realizing that there would be no short cuts. Hoping that this would lead to a way out, he was jubilated to see that the stone bomb had been taken from an outer wall section not too far away. It was the first break they had caught in the several minutes they had been trying to escape the burning town. He could see the forest from where they were and knew it would be better to run that way than to make for the front entrance which was likely being watched.
We can hide in the forest until these evil creatures leave this place.
More roars forced him into action. Once more he grabbed Mel’s hand, a feeling that he was becoming increasingly fond of, and made a dash for the collapsed wall. It took a bit of effort to get over several of the massive blocks that had remained near the wall’s foundation, but he scrambled over and helped Mel to do the same. Then he jumped off the small pile and found himself outside the town’s wall for the first time since the incident with the goblins.
He briefly shuddered at that realization then started to move forward towards the tree line. They had to get across the open plane between the wall and the forest’s edge before they would be able to breath any sighs of relief, but it would only take moments if they hurried.
Then another dragon, this one larger than the one who had nearly crushed him in his backyard, dropped down from the sky and landed a few yards before him. The ground shook harder this time and Al’ev as well as Mel and her parents fell as it did.
The dragon looked them all over as it sniffed the air in their direction.
“You’re the runt we came here for, aren’t you? You’ve grown quite a bit since I first saw ya in Brelzic’s arms all that time ago.” The dragon chuckled looking down its snout at Al’ev.
“What are you talking about? Why are you destroying my home? What did I ever do to you?” He said, standing up and drawing his blade, prepared to fight the creature if it meant giving Mel a chance to run.
The dragon began to shift its shape then and Al’ev couldn’t help but show a bit of shock when, after a few moments, an elf stood where the beast had been.
“You look so surprised. Never read about dragons? I find that hard to believe. Word has it you are quite the scholar. Or was that warrior, oh mighty Champion of the Swordsman.” He said gesturing to his blade.
“How did you…”
“The red flight has eyes and ears everywhere.”
“Too many eyes and ears if you ask me. A problem I’d be happy to rectify, beginning with you.” A cool sounding voice said from behind him.
The dragon looked past him. “Ah Nalef. It’s been a while. You’re looking as wretched as ever. Brelzic asked me not to kill you, but I think I may just let my breath slip a bit.”
Al’ev saw his mother stride past him towards the dragon, her clothing a bit tattered and she was bleeding from a small cut on one of her arms. The magic that was radiating off of her body now made her pale skin appear to take on a light glow. It made him get the same tingling sensation he had felt when he was in the arcane library.
Al’ev stood in awe. He had never realized how powerful she was until that instant.
“I’m looking better than you’re about to in a moment.” She said, continuing to advance.
The dragon chuckled again. “Doubtful. With as much magic as you’re giving off, Brelzic should be here shortly.”
“Which is why I’m ending you now.” Her hand shot up and she said two words that Al’ev didn’t recognize. The light that Nalef was giving off dimmed and Al’ev watched as a strange blue orb launch from her hand and ram into the dragon. Al’ev realized he was suddenly looking at a block of ice encasing an elven form.
His mother stepped over the block of ice, looked back at Al’ev and the Tanidors. “You don’t want to see this.”
Mel gasped and Al’ev felt her bury her head in his back. But Al’ev couldn’t tear his eyes from his mother as she reached out to the ice with her bare hand. She touched it for a fraction of a second then said another word he didn’t recognize. The block shattered and with it so too did the elven dragon within.
“Come on, he’s right about Brelzic sensing us. We need to keep moving.”
They made for the tree line in absolute silence, chased by the sounds of destruction from behind, and didn’t stop for several minutes until they were at the edge of a familiar looking clearing.
This is where… Al’ev thought.
“Al’ev…” His Mom said looking into his eyes. She started to say something, then stopped. Her eyes welled up with tears and she hugged him.
“Mom? What’s wrong?”
“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry I couldn’t tell you.”
“Tell him what, Ms. Reldin?” Mel said from behind Al’ev. Al’ev noted that the girl seemed to be using him as a shield from his mother. Perhaps she feared her power as much as Al’ev was amazed by it.
Nalef let Al’ev go and said “Everything, Mel. I couldn’t tell him everything. You heard what that dragon said, right?”
“Well…. Gods how do I explain this?” She looked into his eyes and sighed. “Al’ev, they came here looking for me, yes. But what they really want is you. You’re my son…and the son of Brelzic, a very powerful red dragon.”
He wasn’t sure he heard his mother right. Throughout his life he had been told that his father was an elven man who had died shortly after his birth.
“But I thought Dad died just after I was born. You said he was handsome elven man who worked with the royal family for some time before he died.”
“I lied. He’s a red dragon. You’re a half-dragon. He came here looking for our son, for you. I stole you away from him just after you were born. He was going to use you to do terrible things, Al’ev.”
“But…why doesn’t Al’ev look like a dragon then?” Mel asked.
“Because he hasn’t reached the age for him to take on any of the physical characteristics. Al’ev, you have the potential to be a very powerful magic user someday. It was the main reason Brelzic tricked me into falling in love with him. He used me, the bastard.” His mother paused and a look of absolute hatred appeared on her face.
Al’ev had never seen her this upset over something. But given the magnitude of what he was being told now, he thought he could understand why.
If he was not in shock anyway.
Finally a thought seemed to calm her features as she looked him over. “He used me and the only good that came of it was you. He wanted to groom an heir who would be so powerful that none would dare strike at the red flight. The red flight could then dominate all of the other dragons in the world. The things I heard him say in the hours after you were born. Well those words hurt me a lot. But I knew I had to save you from the fate he wanted for you. Nothing else has mattered since.”
She grew quiet and they all listened as they heard the screams of terror and agony echoing out from Halar.
“He can sense magic, Al’ev. When you were younger, I could suppress your abilities. That’s why I never let you use magic when you were away from me. Brelzic can sense it when magic is used and he can sense the potential in others when he is near them. That’s why he chose me. You’ve seen now that I’m very powerful. He is drawn to me by my own power just as he is drawn to you now by yours.”
“So why didn’t he find you two sooner?” Tanidor, who had been very quiet until that moment, asked.
“Because of the Arcane Library. Its power masked our own. But Al’ev grew older, and his power grew with it. I fear that Brelzic first learned of where we were after you tried to bring Brox back to life, Al’ev. The power you had to dip into for that spell…”
“He did what? But raising the dead…that’s…vile!” Tanidor stepped forward and grabbed Mel. “No daughter of mine shall be seen with a necromancer.”
“Calm down. Al’ev learned his lesson that night. He’s no necromancer.” Nalef said.
“No, I don’t believe you. You’ve both been lying to us. Our home, our LIVES are destroyed because of you.”
“But Daddy. Al’ev isn’t a bad person! Stop it!”
He looked down into his daughter’s blue eyes with pain. “You’re telling me that the necromancer son of a red dragon that just destroyed everything we cared about is not evil?” He looked into Al’ev’s eyes. “What have you done to my daughter? Release her from your spell, monster!”
He lunged at Al’ev but hit an invisible wall of force about a foot away from him. Al’ev looked over at his mother who had been responsible for the spell. She looked very upset with Tanidor.
“I suggest you three leave. Being around either of us is no longer safe…for several reasons.” She said glaring at Mel’s father as he slowly stood up.
“Dear…perhaps we should listen to Nalef. They wouldn’t do anything to intentionally harm us. You know this.” Raiya said, grabbing her husband’s shoulder.
“Fine.” Tanidor looked at Al’ev again as he finished getting to his feet. “You stay away from my family. If I so much as see you again, I’ll kill you myself.”
“Daddy!” Mel began to protest.
“We’ll get you free of that monster’s spell. Come on dear, let’s go.”
Mel was being dragged off by her father and her mother, who looked torn, was following. Al’ev started forward but was stopped by his mother’s hand on his shoulder. He turned back to face her.
“She’ll be safer this way, Al’ev. I didn’t lie. Brelzic will continue hunting us until he is either dead or we’re caught.”
“But Mom. I love her.”
She smiled. “I know you do. I’ve known it since you first laid eyes on her. That’s why you have to let her go.”
“Daddy, let go!” Mel cried out.
Al’ev turned back towards the Rolovirs and Mel’s eyes met his own. Her father hadn’t managed to pull her more than a few feet from Al’ev yet, much to his surprise as the man wasn’t without muscle. Mel surprised Al’ev again when she managed to break free of her father’s grasp and rushed over to him.
She latched onto him and pressed her lips against his. " I can’t leave you. We can get through this together. I don’t care what everyone says you are. I know what you really are and I love you."
He wanted desperately to stay with her. It was all his heart was screaming at him to do. But after all he’d seen over the past twenty minutes, he knew his mother wasn’t lying. For Mel’s own safety and maybe even his own, he had to let go of her. Still, he couldn’t let her words go unanswered.
He kissed her one last time, gently, and said “I know. I love you too. I always have. But Mel, it isn’t safe around me anymore.” She started to sob. “Run Mel. We’ll see each other again someday. I promise.” He saw her tears flowing down her cheeks and felt the tears welling up in his own. “Please go. I don’t want you hurt.”
“Fine.” A gasp for air and another sob. “But promise me you won’t get hurt.”
He smiled as he remembered that she had the same thing before the Tournament of the Swordsman.
“Only if you promise to see me again someday.”
“Then I promise too. Here. I want you to take this.” Al’ev said taking his sword belt off and handing her the Halarian Blade. “Captain Greil told me that when someone holds this sword, they hold all of Halar with them. That means that as long as you hold onto this, I’ll be with you no matter what.”
“Please take it. It will keep you safe until I can find you again.”
“Okay.” She took the blade from him. “Then I want you to take this so you never forget about me.” She handed him a yellow ribbon that had been holding some of her hair in place.
“As if I could ever forget you.” he chuckled for a moment then hugged her. “Goodbye Mel.”
“Goodbye.” She returned into his ear then let him go.
He watched her walk off with her family towards the road that lead to Quellion’s capital city. He prayed to any of the gods who would listen to him to protect them on their journey so that he might see her again someday. His gaze didn’t leave her until her figure was indistinguishable from the pines that the Rolovirs vanished into.
“I’m sorry you have to go through this Al’ev.”
Having forgotten his mother was still there, he was startled by the sound of her voice. Al’ev turned to look at her and knew what she was about to say next.
“Al’ev, we can’t stay nearby each other any longer either. Brelzic can sense us now and there isn’t anything I know of that can stump that ability of his for long now that the arcane library has been destroyed.”
“No Mom…don’t tell me you’re leaving me too.”
The skies shook as another dragon roar filled the cool night air.
“Yes. I have to go, Al’ev.” She put her hands on either side of his face. “You’ve grown up so much since I brought you here. Remember all that I’ve taught you in the time we’ve had together. And keep dancing! It will keep you safe when time comes.” Tears were now inching their way down her face. “Always remember that I love you and that someday we will see each other again.”
“I love you too, Mom.” Al’ev hugged her and the two of them stayed close until another roar , this one from closer by, rang in their ears.
She stepped back from him and he watched her weave a spell he did not recognize. “Goodbye Al’ev.”
And with a bright flash, Nalef Reldin vanished from her son’s life.