Dragon-Touched Book Two
Angel in the Mist
An endless fog filtered through the streets, culminating near an ancient, collapsed cathedral, and the crowd that gathered before it. Odd forms of humanity filtered in from the darkness, hunched, shifting beings, sliding toward the grand entrance. They gathered in anticipation, nervous curiosity etched into their ashen, misshapen faces.
Around every corner, a breath of despair whispered through the shadow of an ancient civilization. Its only remnants: rough, widely hewn corridors of ash, the jeweled streets of Valshyr. Stone walls collapsed into oblivion as erosion and time conspired to desolate the beautiful city. The mist hovered above endless dunes, weaving through structures not yet given in to the sands of time. These creatures congregated for a single purpose…to accept the arrival of the one who would bring them salvation. They came to meet their new leader.
She would not keep them long.
Within moments, a toned, onyx figure emerged from the cathedral ruins. With supreme belonging, Kryxys stepped before them, cresting the massive stairs that bound the structure to the ashen street below. With no hint of modesty or reservation, the obsidian being surveyed her subjects. They were not unlike her; at least, before her transformation. Dirty, soot-covered, indecent, like-minded creatures, dwelling within the sewers and darkened, stone corners of an ancient city. These creatures abided by a different code, a different set of beliefs, yet all culminated in the same spot, in the same moment, as it was prophesized so long ago.
As she surveyed her subjects, her sickly amber eyes began to glow. First, a dim luminescence penetrated the mist; in time, two specks of brilliance burst forth, rivaling any sun the streets of Valshyr had seen in centuries. Those that gathered quickly recoiled, unable to bear the amber flames before them. The mist once again intensified into a vortex around the nude, blackened being. Before their eyes, the body of Kryxys transformed once again. She maintained her sleek, imposing form; though the lean muscles and connecting tissue curled around her body. Elongated plates formed around her wrists and ankles. Intricate chain, woven from the shadow, forged a shell around her chest and shoulders. Silken fabric, born from the darkness, intersected her bare waist, a slim sash stronger than any steel known to man.
Her alluring, onyx frame dawned a sinister armor, sewn from her very flesh, born from smoke and shadow. She was an angel, a warrior, a leader, and a bringer of death. Her majestic wings unfolded, and all trembled before her. They bowed. They worshipped. She was theirs to command, and instilled terror as she emerged from the broken cathedral.
From the parapet of a crumbled watch tower, overlooking the sight, came a soft whisper. “Ever seen anything like this before?”
A well-armored, female warrior inched closer to the rocky ledge. Syndra’s black hair was meticulously braided, woven through her helmet. It cascaded down her back, over armor of interlocking bone. Her brilliant silver eyes focused, never leaving the blackened, winged form. She stared with morbid curiosity, marveled by the spectacle before her, awaiting her commander’s response.
Raelin also stared into the streets of Valshyr; yet her expression differed from her fellow sentinels. She gazed upon the gathering with a sense of dread, as a scientist on the brink of a horrific discovery, or an archeologist at the birth of a grim revelation. Her long, brown hair fell across her face, wrapped in crimson feathers, each woven more intricately than the next. Her tight braids gently nudged her cheek as she gazed upon the viral horde, studying them, dissecting their plans from afar. Raelin’s head never moved as she scanned the horde, or the winged abomination before them. As a gentle breeze filtered through the watch tower, so did her words.
“Something is wrong.”
Kryxys held her subjects for a long moment, letting the revelry soak in, heightening the sensation of awe and power. Finally, with merciful release, the blackened, armored angel of the mist spoke. Her words were chilling, her cadence steady. She spoke as though she were meant to lead, with all the prowess of a seasoned orator.
Kryxys scanned the crowd: hundreds of dirty, ashen-faced beings had amassed, all bearing the same look of awe and the same expression of hope.
“My children,” she began, the opening crescendo to her masterpiece.
“We have all arrived, on this day, at this moment. We all came to bear witness to something extraordinary, a miracle, our prophecy fulfilled.”
She paced while she spoke, enthralling her subjects, meeting their eyes with every syllable of every word. Her pace steady, she continued, “We have lived in the sewers and alleys of this fallen city for too long. The grand citadel of Valshyr did not serve our ancestors, and it does not serve you now.”
The winged warrior began her pace once more, and once more, her audience obliged with their enthralled gazes. “But. On this day, our Lord has awakened. Within you is a candle of change. And together, we are a torch of revolution. United, we are the fire that will burn this world to the ground!”
Her hands clenched and her fists shook, imploring her followers, “With our Lord behind us, we are unstoppable. Empires will fall, the Old Gods will kneel, and the world will once again belong to its rightful rulers!”
The crowd screamed in accordance, and Kryxys let loose one final call to arms. “I implore you…take your candle, light your flame, and decimate those that would stand before us. For the Bloodsworn!”
The screams turned into a frenzy as the ashen, lecherous army exalted their new leader. Torches ignited and rose above the crowd while cries of “Kryxys” and “Bloodsworn” echoed through the remnants of Valshyr’s streets. The haunting echoes reverberated through the ancient stone, around corners, and settled into the ears of the sentinels perched high above the crowd.
Syndra scoffed, eyeing the mob with disdain. “A few hundred angry rats with torches. Shall we dispatch them now or wait for her to finish the show?” She awaited Raelin’s response, itching for the chance to prove herself once again in battle. Her grin of satisfaction faded, however, as a response would not come. She turned to her sentinel leader, sensing the struggle within.
Fear gripped Syndra’s heart. She had never sensed doubt within her commander. Raelin had never faltered, yet as she stared at her leader, it became clear. Something was very wrong.
“The Order of Myyrh stands ready to defend,” Syndra said, though her words lacked vigilance…or hope.
With hesitation, Raelin complied. “We must act quickly. Prepare the sabres.”
Syndra motioned to the rear guard, all of whom snapped to attention. Without a word, the band of female warriors moved in unison, preparing their enormous cats for battle. Striped, with serrated fangs as long as a man, the sabres stood poised. Equipped with armored plates across their forehead and legs, these creatures were born for battle. The sentinels quickly mounted their giant cats, snapping to formation.
With precision, the sentinels moved out, hugging the old highway as it snaked through the ancient streets of Valshyr. When the last sabre disappeared from sight, Syndra returned her gaze to her leader, speaking in hushed tones.
“Rae, we’ve purged these insects for centuries.” She turned to the growing crowd, matching her friend’s gaze. “We’ve spent our adult lives cleansing our home of these things.” Syndra knelt before Raelin, drawing her gaze away from the winged abomination.
“I’ve never seen despair in your eyes.”
Raelin’s teeth clenched and her slender eyes narrowed. The sentinel commander took in a long, steady breath, and exhaled. Whispering under her breath, she met Syndra’s gaze, stating simply, “he’s awake.”
Syndra gasped, snapping her head to the old cathedral. Her mouth dropped open, unsure of what words would follow. “It can’t be,” she staggered. “You said he would never…”
“I was wrong!” Raelin snapped. “He knows we’re here.”
Syndra shook her head, determined her leader was mistaken. “But—how can you be sure?”
She turned back to the mob, following Raelin’s intense gaze, back to the fallen angel that would provoke them. Two, amber beads of light stared back, blazing through the evening mist. Kryxys raised her palms toward the crumbled watch tower, inviting the sentinels forward, contempt dripping from her wicked smile.
After a long silence, Raelin sighed. She turned to Syndra and whispered.
“I can feel him.”
With a cry of battle, the sentinels charged, riding through the ashen dunes atop their majestic sabres. Syndra drove, slaying most with a single strike. The skirmish began like countless others, yet evolved like nothing she had ever seen before…or would ever see again. For hours, they clashed, the Sentinels challenged by the divine vigor of the Bloodsworn hosts.
Bloodsworn corpses littered the street, their torches doused with a sizzle and a whimper as they dropped to the dunes. In time, however, sentinel bodies fell alongside. The conduit through the heart of Valshyr turned into a battle like none other, and it soon became difficult to determine which side would be the victor, or if either could stake that claim. Sentinels, misshapen figures, and gigantic cats lay strewn across the street, blood soaking into the ash. Yet the winged creature standing before the cathedral merely smiled, a fiendish, malevolent greeting for the Order of Myyrh.
Raelin and Syndra came together, both exhausted, both soaked in the blood of their enemy. The pair scanned the street, the same, horrific expression across each of their faces. Neither said a word. After dozens, if not hundreds, of prior victories together, neither had to. They each knew what the other was thinking, and as they turned to Kryxys, they each knew what had to be done.
“This only ends one way,” Raelin said with determination.
Syndra charged first, clearing a path to the cathedral while Raelin galloped behind. As Syndra turned, Raelin leapt from her sabre, vaulting to the base of the stairs. Smoke and shadow erupted as Kryxys unfolded her horrific wings. Her eyes burned a brilliant amber, her fingernails grew to malicious blades, and her smile grew ever wider.
Raelin engaged without hesitation. Twin blades and sinister claws pierced the night air, their weapons clashing in rapid succession. Syndra watched in awe…the duel of the century had commenced.
Syndra had the honor and privilege, training under the greatest warrior in the history of the Order. She had fought alongside Raelin in countless victories, her commander’s skill and prowess unmatched on the field of battle…until now.
The pair fought with fury, a fire born from within as the duel to the death played out before Syndra’s eyes. Each exchanged blows that would fell a hardened soldier, yet their fire burned, each second more intense than the last.
Syndra knew not to interfere, but as the duel raged on, she knew it was the only way. She yelled to her sabre, urging it forward to seal the victory.
“Vasha, charge!” she cried, and the loyal sabre quickly obliged, leaping past dozens of Bloodsworn. Syndra leapt from her sabre, withdrawing her weapons and thrusting forward with all her might.
“Syndra, no!” Raelin commanded.
Kryxys spun, slicing across Raelin’s face as a pulse erupted from the winged abomination. An unseen force struck Syndra, like a stone wall, materialized from the mist itself. She flew backward, her weapons flying from her hands, as she tumbled to the ashen dunes of the street.
Syndra’s vision blurred. Her ears rang and blood poured from her nose. She turned to the cathedral and the battle raging before it. To her horror, the duel was over. A lean form lay crumpled beneath a broken pillar and a blacked, winged beast stood triumphantly atop the stairs, her maniacal smile returned.
Syndra scoured the dunes for her weapons, prepared to confront the abomination herself. She called to her sabre, and any sentinel still drawing breath. Vasha charged the cathedral stairs, as did several of her fellow sentinels. Yet as they neared, Kryxys stood to face them, raising her palms to the sky. She flexed her arms and clenched her fists, drawing the mist from the streets. It turned yellow and swirled, twisting into to a vortex of ashen debris.
While Syndra charged, bodies around her began to stir, the fallen bodies of Bloodsworn and Sentinel alike. The mangled, bloodied corpses gained their footing and turned, their eyes glowing a dim, dull amber.
“No,” Syndra whispered in disbelief. “Rae!” she called, but there would be no movement, and no response from her dearest friend. The risen corpses advanced, one methodical step after the other. Syndra clutched her weapons, calling once more. “Vasha!”
The ashen dunes billowed before her as three hulking forms rose from the street. Salt and pepper debris fell from the dunes, revealing giant sabres. Their fur was mangled and bloodied, their fatal wounds glistening in the moonlight; yet their eyes burned a brilliant amber and their bodies angled Syndra’s direction.
Her heart sank while the risen masses encircled her.
“Vasha!” she called again, desperation in her voice. Her giant cat did not respond, however. It continued to stare forward, fixed on the winged creature atop the stairs, and its insidious smile.
“Vasha!!” Syndra screamed, swinging her blades while the risen closed in.
Her striped sabre finally turned, much to Syndra’s relief, until it came full circle, staring her down with its cold, burning, amber eyes.
“No,” she whispered. Her shoulders slumped and her arms fell to her side.
Without hesitation, the sabre charged.