To all you random internet peoples who are fishing for good stuff. This story is MINE. Steal it from me and experience for yourself that the phrase 'hell hath no fury to that of a woman...' to be a complete and utter truth.
Here's the beginning of my NaNoWriMo Project I randomly titled 'Tokaresh'ket' (I made up a language for the dragons... because I'm a NERD. Torkaresh'ket means 'strongest' or 'too strong')
Swords swung in her hands. Deftly, deadly, and full of the grace that comes with years of practice with a blade. Only the Faern and the Drugen could boast such skills because of their long lifespans, and the Anaweem; dragon riders. The blades swung in arcs and slashes as she switched hands and flipped one end over end in order to turn and make a mighty cross body slash. At the end of the harsh movement the sword clattered noisily to the stones that paved the training grounds atop the Guardian Pillar. A slender hand went to the feminine breast plate painted gold with a copper slash from shoulder to the tip of the ribcage on the other side. With a clang and a crunching sound the woman fell to her knees and looked to the sky. She couldn't breathe. Off flew the helm. The winged gold plated shape toppled through the air like a lamed bird before bouncing off the stones and careening into a weapon rack. Golden rimmed brown eyes looked unseeingly into the sky as she forced her breathing to become even once again. “I can't believe I'm here.” The voice was quiet, hoarse, and tight. Memories assailed her and she crashed to the unforgiving stones, golden red hair spilling around her armor like blood.
3 years ago....
The night was cool and calm. Even the sweet night lilies were unusually fragrant. It had been a long and happy festival day and many of the town's inhabitants were now sleeping like the dead. Soft moonlight from an unusually bright crescent cascaded into one of the many thatch roof houses. This house was different from the others, yet matched the two that flanked it. All were simple dwellings attached to barns that were too large and made of stone. These were the dragons and their riders, sent by the Kersh themselves to protect it.
A woman lay tangled in the moonlight that cascaded into the Rider's house. The man beside her holding tight to her arm. She may have been the only one awake in the entire village at that moment. She looked at the man with a gentle gaze before slipping her free hand into his messy brown hair. He mumbled something in his sleep at the touch. “Richette.” She couldn't help but smile. Her well balanced lips turning up ever so slightly at the corners. “Talon.” She whispered back. It had been a long day for her man and his golden dragon, Tokaresh. They had flown without stop, doing daring feats with the others and taking to their task of keeping watch. Not that the days were dangerous, but marauder parties had been increasing in tenacity as of late. She remembered them well and a hand touched her side where the memory would forever be.
“You should be asleep.” Tokaresh's purring voice said to her in the silence of the night.
With a deep sigh Richette twisted a lock of soft brown hair between her fingers. “I know. My mind is as full as the Winding Works. I should tell Talon.”
“Only three more days and you can tell him the way you'd planned.” The dragon chuckled. When there was no response other than the tight high pitched hum of the woman's sudden emotion he stopped. “What is it avoee?” It was a title he had made up for her since her position was very unusual. Dragons and their titles about as inseparable as lovers and their kisses.
“If, if he... what if he gets angry?” Richette bit her lip as old fears welled up into her eyes making them feel like they were going to pop out of her head.
Tokaresh purred in the space between, the Winding Works, the place Richette had always been able to touch but not use. “All will be well.”
“I have a bad feeling Toki.” The dragon cringed at the old name but knew she hadn't meant to revert to it. The woman was upset, she was afraid, he understood why. “A really really bad feeling.”
Before he could respond his wingman, Lokai, was in the Works. “I smell something.”
“What?” Both Tokaresh and the human woman asked at the same time.
Lokai sucked in a deep breath. “Brimstone.”
Richette sat up like one struck with a lightning bolt. “Talon!” She cried shaking him awake. “Talon! Black dragons are here! Talon wake up!” She jumped out of bed and flung open the chest at the foot of it.
Talon was up and bleary eyed. He made to run out the door in nothing but his skivvies. His wiry frame was lined with cut, efficient, muscle. Richette couldn't help but give it an appreciative glance before taking hold of his arm. “Wait, wait. Armor.”
Blue eyes struck with veins of lightning and flecks of sapphire cleared as they met her light brown eyes. “Yes, I knew that.” Talon said with a lopsided grin that set Richette's heart aflutter every time.
In minutes they had him dressed in his heavy studded leather rider's armor and ran to saddle Tokaresh. By the time the gold dragon and the blue eyed warrior were ready to go the first blossoming orange flame was on the horizon. Probably one of the grain silos at the edge of the farmland.
Talon took her hand in his and kissed it before drawing her into a tender kiss. “Get the women and children to the Hope Stone.”
“I will. Come back to me.” Richette never wanted to let go of Talon's strong hand.
He smiled and kissed her again. “Always.” Talon jumped into the impressive height of the simple leather and chain saddle with all the grace and power of a mountain cat. “You too, Tokaresh.”
The golden dragon chuckled before beating his wings in a mighty gust that knocked Richette on her butt. The other dragons and their riders were just coming out with their riders as Richette picked herself up off the ground. She waved to them before taking off into the center of town.
There was an old church in the center of town. The bell tower stood like a spike to send prayers piercing into the heavens where the Maker lived with his hoard of other worldly warriors and seers. She ran, ignoring the fact that she was still in her night dress, and slammed into the side door of the church with all the force she could muster. “Vicor! Vicor Romley!” She cried as she tried to force her way into the white marble building that was so incongruous with the little thatch, wood, and stone buildings surrounding. “Ring the bell! Void dragons are coming!”
There was no response, not a stir nor a whisper. Then the sound of window panes opening behind and above her. She turned to see the round face of the smith looking down at her. “Richette, have the dragons gone?”
Richette turned her body to face the smithy. “Thank the Maker. Calus, I was called to get the women and children to the Hope Stone.”
Calus nodded and closed his window. Within minutes he, his wife May, and their sons were out of the smithy and on the street. “We'll split up. You get the Hope Stone ready.”
With a nod Richette took off towards the cliff the village was built against. There were four Hope Stones, one in each cardinal direction. The one against the cliff face had always been thought as the most reliable. Usually an invading army couldn't get archers on the cliff and if they did the tangle of wood and brush that was purposefully left around the cliff would keep the arrows from striking true. It's where Richette assumed the majority of the villagers would run. From there she'd go around the village and activate the other stones on her way. Just in case the heavy feeling in her chest was right.
Branches scratched and tore at Richettes white night dress as she pushed her way through the thicket to the pair of stones that stood beside the other like sentries. They were covered in runes that stayed clear and newly carved even as the stone was worn by time. Richette touched the right stone and closed her eyes. Touching the space between, the space where magic and thoughts moved in a torrent like an underground river, she brought the runes life. The hum and glow of magic successfully cast met her ears and her warm brown eyes when they opened.
“So this is where they kept the other Hope Stone.” A deep rich voice purred from behind Richette.
Slowly she turned to face the one who had spoken to her. He was tall, tall as a half Faen, but dark in every way. Except his eyes. His eyes were completely white, save a black slash down the center that reminded Richette of Lokai and Tokaresh. “No.” She whispered as she backed violently into the Hope Stone. “No, you can't be real!”
“I assure you, lady. I am very real.” The cascading black shadow that was his hair swished like individual threads of silk as he rushed towards her.
Richette wanted to move but couldn't. Her legs were rooted into place as if they'd become one with the stone beneath her bare feet.
He stopped inches from her face. Those unsettling eyes ever on her own. Was he trying to see int her soul? Could he really suck the soul out of her face if he found the deepest part of it? “You're wise to fear me, lady.” He purred in a mocking rendition of Tokaresh's comforting tone. “Move away from the stone and you might live through this.”
Richette shook her head. “No.”
“You're no virgin, you don't have the necessary purity to keep me from my goals. I will go through you if I must. You know this. You listened to the dragons too well not to. Though it'd be such a waste to have to rend your lovely form.” He ended his threat with an appraising gaze that made Richettes throat go cold. The feeling cascaded into the pit of her stomach and clenched painfully at the sound of the approaching villagers.
Heavy, cold, afraid, Richette's emotions buckled the stone her legs had become and slid her down to the base of the Hope Stone. Her hands splayed out beside her over smooth rock that had been washed from the cliff face years ago. She bowed her head and felt the sting of fresh tears prick her eyes before rolling over her cheeks.
Laughter rung above her causing her to look up. The abominable creature held up a hand ready to click his fingers. It was a favorite motion to mages who played with fire. 'I'm sorry Talon.' Richette thought with resignation as she clenched her fists around the sharpest rock she could find. With as much speed as she could muster the small woman flung into the false man in front of her bringing the rock up into his elbow. If she remembered right then this would give the villagers some time, if she remembered right. For an instant she felt her hope drain from her and leave her limbs cold as she looked into the enraged eyes of the monster in man form. Then the satisfying crunch of breaking bone reverberated through the rock and into her fingers. “Click your fingers now.” Her mouth taunted as she dropped the rock and sped away from him.
A roar followed her, a roar of rage, a dragon's roar somehow distorted and strange. He was seeing red, he was seeing only her, and that was what made her wonder why she'd thought the plan was such a good idea only moments ago.
Richette's night dress was in tatters by the time she broke through the overgrown wood with a scream. Blood trickled from the deeper scrapes down her arms, legs, and face. She felt the stinging only a moment before adrenaline wiped it from her mind. Another roar and an explosion behind her reminded her to keep running. Richette's bare feet found every sharp object and broken bit of stone as they propelled her between buildings and out of the flow of spells that sent torrents of acid through alley ways like water through a canal, flames rushing like the breath of a great red, or peals of sound that knocked everything forward into heaps of wreckage. The Winding Works kept Richette from bearing the brunt of the attacks made in blind fury. But she was not entirely unscathed. Her left arm was bleeding from where acid droplets had splashed and eaten away her skin. Pulses from her heart beat could be felt along the outside of her right elbow from the burn that bubbled her skin. And her feet could no longer be ignored even with the force of adrenaline coursing through her veins. She knew then that she was going to die.
The sound of wings buffeted through the pain and sent Richette down an alley that lead to the fields. Maybe if she could get the man shaped manifestation behind her into the open Tokaresh and Lokai could deal with it. The tall grass, even the thorned weeds that hid therein, was soft to her battered feet as she ran into the open field. The sun was on the horizon, greyish with a tinge of orange, it gave her hope. The old stories said that he couldn't be out in direct sunlight and she could see no clouds. With renewed vigor Richette sprinted onto the rocky hill that separated the cucumbers and the squash. Suddenly he was in front of her. White eyes aflame with a hatred she couldn't have imagined. Shock halted her steps and jolted her to the ground.
She heard her name from far away.
Something gold crashed beside her and cried out.
Nothing could tear her gaze from those horrific eyes. That pure unadulterated emotion that promised her pain in ways she'd never considered before. A sword came down and tore his eyes from her to the new comer.
The young man wailed on the creature shaped as man with the kind of strength and purpose borne from chivalry. Talon beat it back to the edge of the rocky hill. The sky was more gray than black now. Pink tinged the horizon behind where the woman and the wounded dragon looked on at the one sided battle. White eyes looked to Richette and the slitted pupils narrowed dangerously. “I tire of this avakka.”
Tokaresh growled indignantly.
The dark man's hand turned to a blade made of shining black dragon scales, clear as crystal, deep as ink. The blade easily parried Talon's and slashed.
“NO!” Richette screamed and ran forward. Her eyes wide in horror even with the burning light of a new day directed into them. She held out her hands and caught the top half of Talon with a choking scream. She didn't hear the mocking farewell she didn't notice the blood that was quickly pooling in her lap or the fact that the part of Talon she clung to was missing an arm and the lower half of his body.
“Shay, I love you.” Talon gurgled through blood that leaked from his mouth. “Take care of Tokaresh.”
“I will.” Richette promised. “I will.” She bent her head and kissed him. “I love you.”
The tingle of magic touched her lips even as Talon's rent form settled more heavily against her. Pain blossomed in her chest and she heard Tokaresh's roar of agony from behind her. The soul bond had been torn and reassigned to save the dragon from his rider's fate. The pain was too much, all of it. She couldn't cry, she couldn't scream, she couldn't see anything but Talon's peaceful, empty, face. Richette laid her head on the good part of Talon's cooling chest, closed her eyes, and let the darkness take her away.
Tokaresh pushed himself upright and tucked the broken wing gingerly to his side and winced at the tear in his chest. Black eyes looked over the split form of his anaweem and the woman who had loved him as she lay clutched to his neck. The monster had left with dawns first true rays of light. He hoped it had thought both he and the woman dead from the amount of damage they had taken from the Soul Tare.
Lokai landed beside him and shook out his shimmering white scales. “Tokaresh! What did this to you?” His ice blue eyes looked to where his wingman's eyes were glued. “Shk'zk!” The drake cursed in his native tongue. His rider, a woman in her mid thirties slid out of the saddle and walked slowly forward. “Oh Lokai. What do we do?” Tears stung her bright green eyes as she knelt over Richette. Her brown braid's tassel caressed the young woman's face as she leaned forward to check her pulse.
Lokai looked Tokaresh over for a moment before letting out a sigh. “We take them to the Guardian Tower and come back for the body...”
“Talon.” Tokaresh interrupted so firmly the name was nearly a barked growl.
“Talon.” Lokai amended softly. “We'll send some one back for Talon.”
With a numb nod Lokai's rider began to gently peel Richette from to the top half of Talon. A sob broke through her own lips when the unconscious woman clutched to the body tighter. “Come Richette.” She said in a watery whisper. “It's only me, Adelaide.” She started to pry her off again. “We need to get you to the healer.”
Richette hummed something unintelligible but relented her grasp on Talon's neck.
Adelaide held Richette close and turned to Lokai. The dragon turned from his Anaweem to his wingman. “Can you get to the Hope Stone?”
Tokaresh nodded his head slightly. “I wasn't named thus for nothing.”
With a sad smile Adelaide lead the way through the smoking heap that was the southern half of the wood. They passed through the light of the Hope Stone and appeared in the huge open hall of the Guardian Tower.
Richette woke with a start crying out for her love, her heart. There was a moment of fog which was quickly chased away by the icy clarity of Tokaresh's wounded form. Tears burned warm brown eyes that now held a ring of harvest gold blurring vision. “Oh.” The sound was quiet, small, and seemed to come from far away. One hand came up to her chest and pressed. Pain shot through her body like lightning and blood welled between her fingers. “Aahhh.” The sound was small and strangled. It lead to a sob that wasn't borne simply from the pain of the body. “Tokaresh, will you be alright?” The words eeked out of her tight throat like a goblin through a drain pipe.
“Yes, avoee. My Anaweem, I'll be alright.” His voice wavered but it was clear. “Will you be alright?”
Richette felt her stomach and tentatively touched the Winding Works to see what others could not. The light that had been flickering brightly had vanished. It was gone along with the one who'd lit it. Her eyes glazed over and tears fell like rain. “I don't know.” Then she felt herself sob so hard it should have been a scream.
Richette vaguely remembered the proceeding weeks. Adelaide had told her that her collar bone and ribs had been shorn through but her guts were fine. It was the same for Tokaresh and that they'd be aided in their healing by the white robes; riders who had lost their dragons and somehow survived. They lived long and had gifts for healing. It was one of the many interesting ways the Maker moved through the world, Talon had said.
Richette didn't know how many days had passed before she and Tokaresh were allowed to move. Her legs felt like jello and her soul felt numb and almost as if it were missing chunks. She was ever aware of Tokaresh and wondered if it were the same for him. If a wave of sadness hit her and she began to cry he would apologize and tuck his head beneath his good wing. It was a comforting thing, odd, new, unwelcome to be sure, but somehow comforting. Her misery had intimate company.
More days passed beyond grasp or real comprehension before Tokaresh and Richette were summoned to see the Kersh. Gold brown eyes met the deep black of the dragon. “It's rude to keep the Kersh waiting.” Tokaresh's voice vibrated through her head like it had for the last few years.
With a forced smile Richette rubbed the warm, impossibly smooth scales of his upper forearm. “Lead me?”
A narrow snout settled lovingly atop the human woman's tattered hair, burned unevenly by the fire and other magics she had out maneuvered. “Always.”
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