Wings of Freedom

by Fossil-Dragon-Messiah

First published

The battle of Horn Valley... the end of Thanatyak and the beginning of Shadow Strike told for the first time ever

Horn Valley is a sacred place to the Changeling hive. Legend says that the large, spiky protrusion on the canyon's western cliff-face is the horn of the goddess, Queen Papillion, trapped under the rocks during a land slide. This sacred ground contains some of the hive's only fresh water in the harsh desert environment, so when the dragons come, looking to take the land for themselves, the changelings aren't going to give up their holy land without a fight. (A little clarification, this story takes place 12 years before the events of the show and Shadow Strike doesn't have a lot of things he has in my other stories with him. He doesn't speak in haiku and he doesn't have deception, because he learned how to do that AFTER deserting)

Cover art by the amazingly talented Swirling Line

The Promotion

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Thanatyak looked out of the entrance to the hive, gazing off at red sand outside. A warm wind blowed across the rolling dunes, scattering dust into the air.

"Thanatyak, you going to stand there all day?" a rigid voice called out from behind. The purple changeling glanced around and saw his brother Cocoonis, along with his sister Nymphia. Cocoonis was slightly taller than Thanatyak and had a carapace that shone in a brilliant an emerald coloring, a far cry from the typical changeling's ebony colored carapace. Nymphia was the smallest of the three siblings due to her being born a roach rather than a stinger. Her carapace was as red as the sky at sunset. They stood glaring at Thanatyak with more than a hint of irritation in their eyes.

"Oh, shoot," Thanatyak exclaimed. "Its time for training drills, isn't it?"

Nymphia pressed a shook her head, a look of disappointment in her brother on her face. "Yeah, you idiot! If we're late again, Commander Kilik is going to kill us!", The red changeling yelled.

"Come on, Nymphia, let's just go", Cocoonis said to his sister.

Thanatyak put a claw behind his head, "I tried to remember! L-look, I'm sorry. Alright?"

"Not sorry enough", Nymphia mumbled bad temperedly.

The trio made their way through the rocky and eroded halls of the cavernous hive to the training hall, bumping past many soldiers as they raced against time.

They threw open the doors to the training hall and nearly gasped at what they saw. Standing next to their commander was the Queen of the Hive herself.

"Queen Chrysalis!" They exclaimed as they bowed.

The Queen turned to the commander after eyeing the three changelings, inspecting them for any abnormalities or anything else that might have made them undesirable for duty. "Kilik", she began. "Are these three the secret weapons you've been telling me about?"

The commander bowed as he spoke. "Indeed, your majesty. I have crafted them into the perfect dragon killing machines."

"Hmm. And one is only a roach... How old are they, commander?" Chrysalis inquired.

The commander cleared his throat and dusted off his armor. "They were hatched thirteen years ago, your majesty."

The queen glanced back at the three soldiers, observing them very closely. "They are thirteen years old? They should have been on the battlefield for four years by now."
"Your majesty, I have conducted an experiment with this group. Cocoonis! What tool do you use to kill a dragon?"

Cocoonis stepped forward, speaking respectfully at the two superiors currently conversing. "Sir. A sword, sir."

Kilik smiled. "Exactly", he confirmed, turning back to Chrysalis, "Our previous generations have grown up with the idea that weapons are for the weak. Trying to get them to use a blade is like trying to squeeze water from a stone." He informed her in an angry tone. "When a situation arises where a weapon is required, we can't hope that they will somehow toss their pride aside and pick up a blade. For the past fifteen years I have trying to abolish these prejudices by taking a few hatchlings from each brood and training them in the ways of the sword, without exposing them to the biases of the rest of the hive. Now war with the dragons it seems that my work might be ready for field testing."
"If I may interrupt, Commander Kilik", Thanatyak interjected respectfully. "I get the part about the weapons, sir, but that doesn't explain why we haven't been deployed. We've been combat ready for four years and the dragon war has been going on for at least five."

Kilik turned to Thanatyak. "Do not interupt your superiors, Thanatya-"

"I also wish to know, Kilik" Chrysalis said. "Tell me why you haven't played your trump card yet."

The commander looked at the queen and sighed. "To be honest, I had hoped I wouldn't have to." Turning back to the three, "Only a few of my protégés have shown the amount of you three have. It would be a shame to put it to waste by sending you on a suicide mission", Kilik explained. "But after the attack on Titan Outpost, we're going to need every able bodied soldier we can get. You three have more than shown your ability with a blade and your ability to make split-second decisions in the middle of a fight, that's why effective immediately, I'm promoting each of you to the rank of squadron leader."

The three nodded, struggling to contain their excitement in a professional manner. At long last would they be able to join the rest of the hive's military and fight back against the invading dragon menace. They saluted their commanding officer and bowed before their queen, remaining silent until told otherwise.

"Rise", The Chrysalis instructed. Nymphia, Cocoonis and Thanatyak obeyed. "You three will be deployed along with your new squadron, The Wings of Freedom, to Horn Valley in three days time. Kilik will give you a full briefing tomorrow, but for now I merely wish to review the code Kilik has taught you."

The three spoke at once as they bowed her head in unison, "Yes, your majesty,"

Chrysalis turned to Kilik and nodded, giving him the go ahead to proceed. The commander turned to Nymphia. "Nymphia. Recite tenet number one!"

The red changeling stood up straight as she spouted out, "Sir, one cannot win if one does not fight, sir."

One word could be used to describe Nymphia. Soldier. She lived and breathed for the hive. She wanted nothing more than to drive the dragons to extinction for their arrogance and greed, and Kilik knew this.

"Excellent! Cocoonis. Tenet number two!"

Cocoonis locked his emerald eyes on his commander. "Sir, a sword drawn keeps another in it's sheath, sir."

Kilik beamed proudly. Cocoonis had always been a wonder to teach. Obedient, intelligent and a fast learner, perhaps even more so than Nymphia. He was definitely Tip-of-the-Spear material.

"And, now Thanatyak. Tenet number three!"

Thanatyak took a deep breath as he spoke. "Sir, a soldier's life belongs to the hive first and himself second, sir!"

While not as strong or as skilled as Cocoonis or Nymphia, Thanatyak was fast. With a blade in his claws he sliced with lightning speed and a sense of purpose that was almost terrifying. Once he set his mind to it, Thanatyak would do anything to accomplish it. He would fit in well with his new squad.

Commander Kilik beamed at his three students. "Very good. The rest of the day is yours to spend as you see fit. I've sent word to the mess hall to authorize you for your new meal plans and to the rest of the hive to make sure you aren't treated as grunts anymore. Meet me back here tomorrow at o-eight-hundred hours sharp."

"Yes, Sir!" The three soldiers said as they saluted once more before walking away.

Once the three left the Queen and the commander alone, Chrysalis turned to Kilik and spoke. "We have a lot riding on this little experiment of yours, Kilik. Do you honestly think three soldiers are going to turn the tides?"

Kilik sighed as he glanced back at his Queen. "I don't know if they can, Your majesty, only that they must. Besides, I have more than three of these trainees and my engineers are whipping up a nasty surprise for those over grown lizards as we speak."

"I hope your right, Kilik", Chrysalis said somberly. "If not... Papillion help us all."

Calm

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Thanatyak walked briskly through the hollowed out rock formation that housed the hive with a pep in his step and a song in his heart. At long last Commander Kilik was sending him off to battle, and that wasn't even the best part! Now that he and his siblings had higher ranking access to the mess hall, they wouldn't have to keep eating the same tatzlwurm stew every day. Not that tatzlwurm stew wasn't delicious to the omnivorous changelings, but eating the same thing over and over again everyday for thirteen years could leave a lot to be desired in ones palette.

Cocoonis and Nymphia walked behind their younger brother, just as ecstatic as him, but showing it in a much more restrained manner. Both of them had a pleased smile on their faces as they walked through the rocky caverns.

Where the three were heading, nobody could tell. They seemed just pleased to travel to where ever their legs and wings would take them. Nothing short of a dragon ripping open the hive and laying waste to every changeling inside could spoil this moment.

Nymphia seemed lost in her own little world, whispering to herself as she calculated the most efficient ways to dispatch different breeds of dragons. "Let's see here... Wyverns: Clip their wings and aim for the forehead. Basic variants: The stomach has least amount of protection. Sneak in close and stab away. Armored variants: Practically invincible except for one little spot where their head meets their neck. Orientals... Orientals... Orientals..."

Cocoonis turned to his sister. "Orientals are extinct. Remember? They have been for the past six years."

Nymphia shrugged. "I kinda wish they weren't. Could you imagine if we came back with ones head on a pike? We'd be legendary!"

Thanatayk jumped up and let his wings carry him as he turned to his brother and sister. "I wouldn't be so eager, Nymphia. Giant lizards that don't need wings to fly, but instead use telekinetic powers? Ugh... Just thinking about seeing those purple scales and green spines attached to a giant gaping mouth sends a shiver down my exoskeleton."

Nymphia's eyes lit up as she recalled the oriental's achilles heel. "Oh yeah! Now I remember! Orientals couldn't stand the toxic extract from the Venom Thorn cactus!"

Thanatyak and Cocoonis rolled their eyes. For as much of a hard ass she was on them, when she got interested in something she practically squealed about it. Nymphia threw back her papery mane as she trotted alongside her brothers, discussing the near future.

All three of them couldn't wait for their military careers to begin. Soon they would be using real swords instead of the wooden practice swords and they would finally be able to kill some dragons.

For the past five years, dragons had been terrorizing Chrysalis' hive, claiming that dragons have an inborn right to take from those they consider lesser beings. Any changeling outpost was fair game for them, but they seem to prefer attacking supply depots, sentry posts or any where the hive got fresh water in the harsh desert such as the recently demolished Titan Outpost. Even worse, the dragons seemed to relish in it as claimed by some of the few survivors of their attacks. Laughing as they burned soldiers alive and smashed through defensive lines.

The three had heard the stories, but they only served to stoke their will for battle. Such disgusting creatures didn't deserve to live on the same planet as the changelings, and they would be the harbingers of their extinction. They would be the last thing the wretched beasts see before they ended their miserable lives.

Thanatyak shuddered with anticipation as he slammed into a wall with a thud. "OW! Dammit!" He exclaimed. The purple stinger turned around and glared at the wall, or door rather. A door that led to the mess hall no less.

The stinger placed a claw on his stomach as he realized just how hungry he had been. A grumble sounded off as he felt the vibrations reverberate through his exoskeleton. "Hey guys", he said as he turned to the two changelings behind him. "You wanna grab something to eat real quick? I'm really friggin hungry."

Nymphia and Cocoonis looked at each other before coming to a silent agreement. Thanatyak opened the massive stone door and held it open for his siblings as they walked inside. They had arrived slightly later than average, catching the mess hall empty, but not to late as to annoy the cooks by stopping them from closing up early.

For some reason, the mess hall was filled with a most unusual aroma. As far as the three could tell the cooks weren't experimenting with any new meals, so they assumed they had a new appreciation of a smell that had once been subtle to them, but now that they were no longer restricted to only one type of meal, they took in every intoxicating smell. Meat roasting on the racks, the few amounts of vegetables they could cultivate being stewed. It all came together in a blissful aroma.

The three each ordered the same meal, a steak cut from the hide of the finest specimens of nemean lions, one of the most difficult beasts to hunt as their skin was impenetrable to everything but their own claws, making the only way to kill them strangulation, poison or getting another lion to do the dirty work, but the resulting meat was so worth the effort.

Thanatyak bit into his meal with a savage hunger, while Cocoonis and Nymphia took more polite and savory bites. The succulent juices oozing off the meat was pure bliss as it fell upon their tongues. The three ate their new meal no longer as trainees, but as full fledged soldiers ready to kill for the hive.

With a mouthful of meat, Thanatyak turned to his siblings and asked, "So... Where did Kilik say we were getting deployed again?"

Nymphia swallowed and responded, "I believe he said we'd be shipped off to a place called Horn Valley."

"Never heard of it", Cocoonis said bluntly.

Nymphia turned to the eldest brother. "I think I've heard the name before but I can't remember where."

Thanatyak shrugged nonchalantly, "Meh. I'm sure Kilik will fill us in during the briefing. For now let's just sit back and relax."

The rest of the night was spent relaxing. The three siblings goofing off and talking about nothing in particular. They sat enjoying the remaining hours of irresponsibility in their barracks.

Eventually, the curfew came, leaving the three siblings in the darkness, ready for sleep.