The last of the Esgyll fell from the sky under heavy focused fire of Dragon flame. Zemi watched the charred body drop and land somewhere outside of the town’s borders, followed by the victorious swoop and flourish of his Dragons in the night. Having secured the skies, the winged armies of Ceiswyr could maneuver out into the battles to their fullest.
Now, we begin to push back.
ShinRe also arrived, leading a swelling rank of reinforcements into the fray – the people from the Exile Encampment. The divide that parted the two groups of Spiral people was suddenly nonexistent as they fought back to back against the Marked in the streets. In fact, aside from minor differences in armor, it was hard to tell the two groups apart.
~Douse some of these fires! Make it easy for the ground troops to maneuver!~Zemi commanded to the skies. Instantly, the Dragon forces swerved and broke formation, off to carry out the newest order.
We have to get this battle under OUR control.
The Dreigiau stood in the midst of smoke and ash, dazzling white War Dragon against the shadows of the sky. His teal eyes reflected with a deep inner fire, long tail lashing as he overlooked the battles below. Waiting for his foe to come.
This time, I won’t give in to Zerom, no matter what!
Shimmers of light spun low over the rooftops, hinting at the movement of the winged troops. They descended on the core of battle, scattering the groups of Marked with an unexpected sky ambush. Side by side, the Spiral warriors and the Clans of the North began to edge forward, spreading out from the central point of the Lion’s Keep and winning ground.
This time, you will be the one to pay.
The Dragons, too, swept down from the sky and took aim at the fleeing groups of Marked in the streets. They divided the dark hoard and destroyed it piece by piece, the death shrieks of Zerom’s minions ringing in the air.
We have learned from our last defeat, brother.
Zemi could see it all through the senses of his Dragons. The driving rush of battle. The heat of the flame. The stench of Marked decay. The triumph of the hunt. Tearing them down time and time again.
We have grown strong in our numbers.
The cheers of the living as the Marked were pushed back. The city, stone by stone, was defended. Retaken.
We have everything left to fight for! We refuse to die!
Zemi’s head arched back as he blasted a trumpeting victory roar across the Spiral city. From the streets, the voices of men and women echoed his roar– Spiral, Exiles and North Clans alike. Glittering gold and white rushed forward over the shadow like a cleansing ocean tide. Dragon flame rained down upon the border of the city, blasting away at stragglers or any Marked that attempted to escape the massacre within the streets.
“Lord Zemi!” a shout rang from somewhere below. ShinRe strode up the side of the outcropping, pulling his dented helm off of his head. He was dressed in full armor now, splattered with the grime and dirt of battle. Victory shone upon his tired brow as he grinned up, “I see you’ve found your Dragon again.”
The Dreigiau lowered his head with a soft rumble, “Yes, I have. With much thanks to you,”
“None too soon, from the look of it,” ShinRe glanced back over his shoulder. There was a quiet sense of exhilaration, a warrior who had not seen real action for too long. “The Marked put up a good fight.”
“We put up a better one,” Zemi broke into a Dragon grin.
“It would seem so,” the warrior also broke a slight grin. “So where is this leader of theirs? Does he send his creatures ahead while he lingers, shivering in fear behind?”
“That’s a good question,” the Arweinydd replied with a flick of his ears. “I haven’t sensed Zerom anywhere.”
Nor have I seen Tsu.
“Perhaps he is testing the waters,” ShinRe planted the blade of his sword into the ground with one swift jab. “We certainly gave him something to think about.”
“Yes. I believe we have,” Zemi answered, shaking out his mane.
As the Dreigiau scanned the horizon one more time, watching the streams of dying smoke rise to the clouds, he sensed a different sort of feeling. The battle was his concern, up until now, and he was carried on the wave of victory and desire to turn back their enemies. But something else was there, something quieter and deeper than the cheers of the warriors in the street.
Something terribly sad.
Zemi’s ears perked forward, head turning slowly to look back towards the Lion’s Keep. It took him a moment to sort through the emotion. Then recognition struck him.
With the single thought, a flood of anguish and despair washed through his senses. Something terrible happened to his Champion, and he was so caught up in overseeing the battle that he wasn’t there.
Wings spread wide, the Dreigiau took flight over the startled ShinRe, gliding through clouds of smoke towards the Keep. The closer he got, the stronger the feeling was. A pain so rending that it choked his breath and knotted his stomach.
As he rose over the crest of the Keep, he saw a small gathering of people at the foot of the stair. The severed body of one of theEsgyll lay there, draped over the motionless form of one of his own Dragons. A pang of grief filled him at the sight, but his eyes were drawn to where his Champion knelt, in a pool of drying blood.
“Zento!” Zemi called to him, landing in the stone square.
Kudako was the first to look at him. The golden eyes were filled with a silent welling of grief. The Dragon said nothing at Zemi’s approach. He simply turned his head.
“Is he hurt?” the Dreigiau asked, trying to make sense of what was happening on the ground.
Before he could think twice, Zemi found his shape shifting, shrinking, condensing back into his person form. As he rushed forward, he felt his throat tightening at the vision of pure grief that lay in the Spiral square.
“SaRa?” the Dreigiau choked in disbelief.
Zento held her close to his chest, his blood-stained hand stroking her hair over and over again. Broken sobbing shook his body. It was a silent cry now, as if he already cried so hard that there was no sound left inside him. When the green eyes lifted to the Arweinydd, the Champion’s expression was one of pure pleading.
“Zemi,” Zento’s voice cracked. “Help her. Please!”
The Dreigiau’s limbs felt heavy as he staggered forward, staring down at the impossible. So much blood – was it hers? SaRa wasn’t moving. She wasn’t even breathing. He couldn’t sense a heartbeat or the flow of spirit life.
But she can’t be…
Last time Zemi saw her, SaRa was alive. She laughed and teased him, pulling on his hair tie. Then she scolded him for not tucking in his shirt underneath his tunic. She told him exactly what she was going to make for supper and chided him to try out the Earthian act of eating one day.
She can’t be…
Zemi’s knees shook making it difficult for him to keep his balance as he knelt down next to them. His hand reached out to touch her pale face. There was no life left there that he could sense. Nothing left at all.
She can’t be…!
“Help her,” Zento plead again, his face streaked with blood and tears. He leaned forward, shifting SaRa in his arms as if to hand her to the Arweinydd. Zemi stopped him.
“I can’t,” the Arweinydd choked out the words. The hardest words for him to say. After all, what was there that the great Zemi Dreigiau couldn’t do?
“Yes, you can!” he argued hotly. He didn’t want to believe it, either.
“Zento. She’s gone.”
Zemi felt something warm and damp on his face. He realized that his eyes were leaking — just the same as the Earthians’ eyes did – in an outward expression of pain.
I should have been here to save her.
The Dreigiau’s thoughts flickered back to all the times that he spent with SaRa. How he raised the two lost children in his cave. How they were, in some ways, the only somewhat-children he had. Despite their sibling bickering, the one thing that couldn’t be questioned was their love for each other.
I was more worried about striking back at Zerom than protecting my own children.
Zento stared mutely up into his Patron’s face, his expression so broken, so grief-filled that Zemi couldn’t bear to stay there. But neither could he bear to leave. He felt more helpless at that moment than ever before. There was nothing he could do to bring back a spirit that already moved beyond the living world.
I don’t have that sort of power. I don’t know what I can do to make this better.
“Zento. Please forgive me,” the Dreigiau’s voice was thick with new-found emotion.
Zemi reached his arms around the broken and drooping form of his Champion and simply held the two of them to his chest for a very long time.