• Published 3rd Jul 2019
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Fire and Steel - shirotora

A man finds himself in a strange world in a body he knows very little about. Now, with a little help from his reluctant acquaintance Ember, he must either find a way home, or a reason to stay

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Chapter 5: Dungeon Crawl

The only sound besides the rushing wind was Ember’s yelling as we fell, somehow managing to grab hold of one another.

With a splash, we landed in an underground river and were instantly swept away. The world twisted and tumbled, slamming us against rocks and the riverbed, knocking what little air we had out of our lungs.

Somehow, through all that, we managed to hold onto each other.

I didn’t know how well dragons could hold their breath, but my lungs were starting to burn and my head was getting fuzzy when we were shot out into open space.

I barely had time to fear for my life when we once again hit the water, this time a calm, but deep, lake. We managed to struggle to the surface (Or, I struggled. Ember was apparently a pretty good swimmer) and suck in precious air.

“Th-th-this w-way!” Ember stuttered, her teeth clacking together.

I couldn’t see anything, but I trusted Ember. Dragons lived in caves, after all. So, I followed her, using my spirit sight.

Thankfully, we managed to find dry land and hoisted ourselves onto it. As soon as we did, Ember curled up, shivering.

I crawled to her and grabbed her, pulling her into me. I had expected her to resist, but instead, she clung to me like a lifeline. I focused on my qi, trying to will it to warm me, and through me, her.

It was a trick I picked up over the winter.

“I-i-if y-you tell a-anyone about th-this...” She tried to threaten me.

“Tell anyone about what? We’re on opposite sides of the cave.” I stated, as if it were obvious.

“Y-yeah... w-w-we are.”

We stayed like that for a while, until Ember could will a little fire from her breath. Once she could do that, her body warmed quickly to the point where she was warming me.

“Alright. I think we’re warm enough,” she said.

“But you’re so comfortable and warm.”

“You wanna be warm for the rest of your life?”

I let her go and got to my feet. As tempting as it was to keep messing with her, I wasn’t going to call her bluff.

Mostly because I wasn’t sure it was one.

I focused my qi into my hand, creating one of my psy-balls. The light wasn’t much, but with our enhanced night vision, it was enough.

“Where are we?” Ember asked, spouting a little fire on her hands.

“I don’t know. That river could have taken us miles away,” I replied.

Ember scoffed. “Great. So how do we get out of here?”

I squinted my eyes, looking at something on the other side of the shore. “What is that?”

I formed another ball, a smaller one, in my other hand and launched it. It flew to the anomaly, lighting it up.

“Is that... masonry?”

We gave each other a hopeful look before rushing toward it. Sure enough, when we arrived, we found a man made (or whatever other race made it) tunnel, lined with stone bricks and unlit torches.

“Someone built this. And that means it has to have a way out, right?” I asked, hopefully.

Ember looked at me, then back into the hallway. “There’s only one way to find out.”

With that, she walked in. I moved to stop her, but I was too slow. However, instead of the trap I half expected, the torches on the walls suddenly lit with a soft glow. What was strange, though, was that it wasn’t fire, but they didn’t seem like light bulbs, either. They seemed almost like a powerful bioluminescence.

Still, it got Ember to stop. Plus, it gave us plenty of light, so I could extinguish my light-ball.

“Okay, let’s take it slow.” I told her. “That could have easily been a trap.”

“Y-yeah,” Ember said. “You think your weird sight thing can spot and traps?”

“There’s only one way to find out,” I said.

I activated my sight, but all I really saw were the lights.

“I’m not seeing any traps, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any.” I said, taking the lead as we took our first steps into the structure. “Still, keep your eyes open for anything on the floor or walls that stands out.”

“Right,” Ember complied.

We slowly made our way through the hallway. My sight was wide open, but I couldn’t see anything out of the ordinary. That just made me nervous. At least if I had seen traps I would know they were there.

We walked for at least half an hour before we came to a large stone door, covered in some kind of glowing red writing and symbols.

“Well, that isn’t ominous, at all,” Ember said, voice dripping with sarcasm.

As we approached though, she squinted her eyes. “Wait a minute. I think I recognize some of these words.”

“You can read this?” I asked, more than a little surprised.

“Not really, but I know a couple of the words,” Ember corrected. “Dad’s cave has a lot of writing on the walls, and these are the same letters.Heck, I know some of these words.” She pointed to one. “This one mean ‘dragon’. And this one over here... I think means ‘value’? Or maybe ‘treasure’? That one there, I don’t remember what it actually means, but I remember it has something to do with old legends.”

I pondered that for a moment. “So, it has something to do with dragons, something of value, and something else associated with old legends...”

“That doesn’t really tell us anything,” Ember grumbled.

“No, it tells us something very important. This place was likely built by, or for dragons.” I explained.

“Great, and that helps us, how?” Ember asked.

“Because you're a dragon, meaning it was made for your people,” I stated.

“I guess. So, what are we waiting for? The sooner we do this the sooner we can get out of here.”

“Agreed,” I said. “So... any clue how to open this thing?”

“How am I supposed to know?” Ember asked.

I shrugged, “You have a better chance of figuring it out than me.”

Ember looked back to the door and sighed. “Can’t argue with that. Let’s see...” She approached the door to get a better look and places a claw upon it.

Immediately, the door shuddered, the runes glowed brighter, and the door slowly slid up into the ceiling.

“Well... That was easy,” Ember said. “So... I guess we go inside?”

I looked past the opening.

Well, I tried to. It was so dark, I couldn’t even see the floor after less than two feet. Considering how much light was in the hall, I knew that couldn’t be natural.

“Might as well,” I said, hesitantly.

We walked in, and as soon as we did, the door slammed shut behind us.

“What the heck?!” Ember shouted, accompanied by the sound of a scalie fist pounding on stone. “Darn it, why’s it so dark?”

As soon as she asked, torches lit up the room. It was just like the hall outside, with polished marble floors, walls, and ceiling, however, in the center of this room was something I could only describe as an altar.

I was quite large, taking up the majority of the room, at least twenty feet wide. It was set like a curved wall, with a mural carved into it. It depicted what I could only assume were dragons. They were all decked out it armor, wielding rather impressive looking weapons.

Though, it was what was in the center that drew my attention, and apparently the reverence of the dragon warriors in the image. It was a dragon, floating above the rest, claws aflame and ringed in runed circles.

“No way...” Ember gasped. “That’s not possible. Th-that dragon... she’s using magic.”

“I take it dragons can’t normally use magic?” I asked, turning back to my companion.

“No,” Ember replied, moving closer to the image. “The only magic we have is our fire breath, but that, what she’s doing, is actual magic. Or, at least it looks like it is. Don't know what else it could be.”

As she neared, I felt the fur on the back of my neck stand on end.

“Ember!” I mind-shouted, rushing forward just as the eyes of the wizard dragon began to glow. “Look-”

Light flooded the room.

“Dren vor’kah torgol,” A voice rang out. “Na tema voltu kinasat, Meg’eela.”

“Wh-what?” I heard Ember say. “Who’s there? Luke is that you?”

“That isn’t me,” I said.

Again, the voice bellowed out into our minds, it was... loud, for lack of a better word, and ,more than a little suspicious, but it didn’t seem hostile. “Who are you, that intrude upon this temple? A fallen dragon and a creature not of this world? How did you get here? How did you find this place?”

“I-I heard singing,” Ember replied. “It lead me to a hill, and then the ground opened up and we fell.”

There was silence for a time before the voice responded. “You heard the song?”

“We apologize if we are intruding.” I tried to broadcast my thoughts, hoping the voice would hear. “The door opened when Ember touched it. We assumed it was an invitation.”

When the voice ‘spoke’ again, it was much softer. “You heard the song, and the door opened for you? interesting... Tell me, little one, why are you accompanying this creature?”

Ember’s tone became surprisingly angry. “Luke’s not a ‘creature’, he’s my friend, and I’m accompanying him because I’m trying to help him get home.”

Suddenly, the light faded and we found ourselves in a grand chamber, decorated in polished marble with ebony columns and fine red carpeting leading to a raised throne carved from the largest diamond I ever saw.

And upon that diamond throne sat a dragon.

She was only slightly taller than Ember, but she radiated power and wisdom. Her scales were like polished gold and the horns sprouting from her head like a crown looked like they were cast from platinum. Finally, she wore robes of the finest lavender silk.

Ember and I looked up in awe at the dragon that greeted us, neither of us knowing what to think.

“You surprise me,” The dragon began with a warm smile. “You truly became angry when I called this being a ‘creature’ and declared him to be your friend.”

“Y-yeah, what of it?” Ember said, trying to act like she wasn’t nervous.

The golden dragon stood as gracefully as a ballerina and descended from the dais. She flowed to us, circling around us as she studied us.

“You, young one - Ember, I believe your friend called you - are different than I expected,” the dragon stated. “You are not like most of the other brutes our kind has become, are you?”

“If you mean I actually use my head for stuff other than smashing rocks, yeah,” Ember said. “But I can still smash plenty with it.”

The gold dragon stopped and stared at Ember. “Yes... I see. Perhaps you are the one I’ve been hoping for. The one I need.”

“What do you mean?” I asked. “What would you need her for?”

She looked back at me with a kind smile. “Why, for an heir, of course. My legacy must be passed on, and I refuse to pass it on to one who is unworthy.”

“And what is this ‘legacy’?” Ember asked. “Why’s it so important?”

Goldie smiled. “It is the key to returning dragon kind to greatness.”

Ember and I shared a look.

“But what is this key? How will it help dragon kind?” I asked. “Or, even better, if it can make dragons great again, why haven’t you used it to do just that?”

A sudden sadness fell over her as she answered, “Sadly, I cannot leave this place. Not until I pass on my legacy. My time has passed. It is time for someone new to take the throne.”

“And you think that should be me?” Ember asked, still a bit skeptical. “You just met me.”

“Yes, but I can see your soul,” the gold dragon said. “You have a pure heart, and a desire to see our people stand tall once more.

“Let me give you my gift, so that you may bring the dragon race back from the shadows.”

I looked to Ember, speaking only to her, “It’s your call.”

Ember thought for a bit before giving her answer. “Alright. If this will help me become Dragon Lord, then I’ll accept your legacy.”

The gold dragon smiled. “Then receive the blessing of your bloodline. Ascend, Ember, Archon of Fire. And you, Luke, I offer you a blessing as well. You shall be her guardian, her companion, her right claw. Take your place at her side, Luke, the Steel Soul.”

Her eyes began to glow bright white and I felt a warmth flow through me. My spirit sight was flooded with the energy flowing around us. The power swirled like a storm, lifting us off our feet as it infused out bodies.

"Oh, and do be careful on your way out," Goldie said. "Some rather nasty things have moved in to my old home."

Then the energy burst and all I saw was white.

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